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Why the 1999 911 Carrera is a Porsche we should all be shopping for

Monday, September 24, 2018

Article and photos by Rob Sass

Just like no discussion of any British sports car is complete without a gratuitous reference to the “The Prince of Darkness” otherwise known as the Joseph Lucas-supplied electrical system, it seems impossible for most punters to say anything about the 996 without mentioning the headlights. It’s the first and last refuge of someone with little else of import to say about the car. Enough already. Nobody complained about the same headlights on the Boxster or the GT1. The 996 is a great Porsche, and the first year is particularly captivating. It’s a Porsche we should all be shopping for at the moment.

Because the 996 story has been well documented elsewhere, other than mentioning that a base Carrera has nearly 300 horsepower and will do 0-60 miles per hour in about five seconds, it should be noted that in nearly every performance metric, it was objectively superior to the outgoing 993. It was quicker, faster, stiffer, and stickier.  It’s the subjectives where the car is perceived to lag behind. A sizable number of Porschephiles prefer the looks of the 993 and the rawness of an air-cooled flat-six. We’ll not wade into that, but suffice to say, the 996, like the 928, seems to get better with every passing year and we’ll wager that in 10 years time, few people will be carping about the 996’s looks and just about everyone will be paying more than they are now for one.

First year cars are generally special in the Porsche world. In an earlier installment of this feature, we extolled the virtues of the 1983 944, with its delectable manual steering rack. The major part of the charm of the 1999 996 is that it still feels like the largely analog car that it is. Unlike later 996s, the 1999 has an honest-to-goodness mechanical throttle, rather than the e-throttle of later cars. Old-school cables open the trunk and the engine compartment, and early 996s are wonderfully light and compact cars — a Carrera tips the scales at under 3,000 pounds. 1999s also all had dual-row interemediate shaft (IMS) bearings, less failure-prone than the later single-row units, and many are still running around with over 100,000 miles on the original bearings.

As we mentioned, an early 996 Carrera is simply sublime to drive. Light, responsive, and supremely easy to place in corners, it’s also easy to steer with your right foot, and reasonably forgiving when you get things wrong. Other than the three horsemen of the IMS, rear main seal (RMS), and air-oil separator (AOS), few things other than normal maintenance items tend to go badly wrong if you get a sound car that hasn’t been abused.

As is the convention in the Porsche world, the original buyers/dealers tended to be super conservative in their color choices with blacks, silvers and reds being common. The secondary market, however, adores an odd color. Search out a Speed Yellow, Zanzibar Red, or Lapis Blue car or some other funky shade. You’ll be happy that you did at resale time or at the next cars and coffee. While the 996 isn’t likely to skyrocket in value any time soon, they aren’t going to get any cheaper and the ’99 is a thoroughly charming car.

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