A brand-new 996 for £34-grand? Well, perhaps not, but having notched up a mere 10K miles in 17 years, this particular C2 is virtually straight out of the box. It’s currently gracing Kenny Dunn’s Edinburgh showroom, where we assess the value. Words: Johnny Tipler. Photography: Antony Fraser.
A 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 2 996.2 with just 10,000-miles on the clock? We find it and drive it
You do see them from time to time; the low mileage, never-raced- or-rallied cars, one careful lady owner, always garaged and fully serviced. Pork pie in the sky? Besides, shouldn’t they be driven a bit? Alright, but we could all be tempted by the proposition of owning such a car, couldn’t we? Especially if the price is right. Here’s one that’s certainly food for thought – a 2003, gen 2 996 C2 that’s done just 10,000 miles – scarcely round the block, let alone round the clock.
We’ve come to Edinburgh’s West End on our North-of-the-Border perambulations to visit specialist Porsche dealer Kenny Dunn. The immaculate Seal Grey 996 fronts an eclectic assortment of Porsches in the showroom, plus Ferrari F12 Berlinetta and V12 E-type Jag curios, and we’ll take it for a run in the country a bit later, after we’ve soaked up the Scottish vibe. Kenny’s a veteran on the Porsche block, having majored in 911s since 1972. His original garage was located in the east of the City, where he started out in the motor trade in 1969. ‘I advertise as Scotland’s oldest Porsche specialist,’ he declares. ‘That’s a play on being 68, because in ’1969 I was 18.
“Objectively, it’s hard not to see the logic of a 10,000-mile 996 for £34,000”
I went from school straight into a business partnership. It was a case of “right place, right time”. I’d been working in a pal’s petrol station at night and at weekends, and they had a workshop on site but no experience of running a petrol station, and I ended up doing the admin and business side.’
His own auto business stemmed from there. ‘It was 50 years ago on the 1st September, so there’s a bit of history. I used to get Porsches from Glen Henderson, who was the Porsche distributor for Scotland. My first taste of 911s was in ’1972, when my original business partner bought a new 2.4S in Blood Orange, and I went to collect it because I was handing over the cheque – £5212 – and I got to drive it back to Scotland, and I really felt part of it from Day One.’ By 1973, Kenny had accumulated sufficient funds to buy his own 911, a 1970 2.2T. That was followed in quick succession by a 2.4T and a 2.4S Targa, a left-hand drive car in Blood Orange. He was hooked. ‘Glen Henderson wasn’t interested in selling secondhand cars; he sold new cars and demonstrators, and that was it, really. So, I used to buy a lot of secondhand 911s, and in ’1982 I had five or six in stock at any one time. That was quite a lot in those days, because there weren’t so many cars on the road.’
“They often end up with owners who can’t afford or aren’t “ willing to spend”
One of Kenny’s fortés is locating and selling cars with low mileage, as in the case of our 996 feature car, and they look more or less like new cars. ‘They are what I call special cars. You don’t often find them anywhere else; they really are one-off cars.
cI am deliberately hunting for them, but I can’t get enough of them, and that’s the hard bit: they’re easy to sell, but they’re hard to buy.’ Distance is no object. ‘I was speaking to a lady in Cornwall yesterday, and I said I would go and see her as she has a 996 C4S that’s done 11,000 miles.’
Kenny likes the general proportions of the 996. ‘The 996 Carrera 2 is nicely balanced, rather like the 986 Boxster is; it’s not too big, and it’s a really sweet, easy-going car. I think they got it right first time. I wasn’t doing 996s for a while, though, because of the engine problems, but they’ve firmed up, and people are appreciating how good the car really is, and its value for money. I also like the 997 3.6, a straight-forward Carrera 2, again just a simple spec, really. The traditional 911 style just looks so good, although I think they missed it a bit on the standard 996, whereas the standard 997 has a bit more flare.’
Another of Kenny’s specialisms is locating and selling Porsches in distinctive and complementary colour schemes. On one of my recent assignments (at Autostore, Cambridgeshire) I noticed a 996 Turbo in Seal Grey for sale, and the sticker in the rear window revealed it had at some point been in the care of Kenny Dunn. Most significant was its peculiar Nephrite green leather upholstery and carpeting, and I mention this to Kenny. ‘Yes, I remember that car. You couldn’t do the interior in a special colour at that stage, because the colours were only just out. That was the very first Turbo in the UK, and I saw it at the factory and it looked absolutely stunning in that combination, Seal Grey with a Nephrite Green interior. But the green leather doesn’t really wear very well; I think it gets shiny. And, anyway, I have a thing about all these colours: they must have a dark dashboard. When I did Midnight Blue with Savannah leather – which I did a lot of – I always got the upholstery people to do a Midnight Blue dashboard and a Midnight Blue steering wheel, or a dark blue steering wheel and dark blue carpets, and that transformed it. So, it is quite easy to recognise my cars.’
Kenny thinks that ordering the right colour combination in the first place is important. ‘I just sold a 981 Boxster, which was Carrera GT Silver with Flamenco red leather, and you can’t really choose that combo – unless it’s a 987 RS60 version. It had red leather seats, red dash, red steering wheel, and I felt it was too much, because when you’re driving it, it’s in your face too much, although I did sell it very quickly.’ The same was true, going back in time. ‘The first 928 was a manual with 240bhp in Mocha Brown, which was absolutely right at the time, and when I ordered a new one in Minerva Blue it looked stunning, but when I picked it up at the factory I was actually a wee bit disappointed because they’d done the cabin in dark blue with Pasha, and I really wished I’d had a lighter interior. Because they were launch cars, you could only have them in the colours they came in.
Kenny witnessed first-hand the rise and fall of the front-engined water-cooled models’ popularity. ‘At the time, when Porsche were majoring on the front-engined cars, people thought that was the way forward, and that the 911 had had its day; everybody thought it was the end of the 911. I wasn’t aware of a turning point as such, but it did become very apparent in the late ’80s and early ’90s that the 911 was on the up again. The thing is, a different person was buying the 928, the 944 and the 924; it wasn’t a 911 man that was buying that car. Also, they knew that in America there was that big market for 911s, and they take more cars there than anywhere else, and the new boss at the time – Wiedeking – recognised that.’
As far as new car sales are concerned, Kenny is keen on customers taking delivery ex-factory. ‘I sold a new 997 to a chap and he picked it up at the factory; I push people to do the factory collection, even though I don’t sell new cars so much now, because it enhances the whole ownership experience. You’ve got it off the production line, and you do the factory tour.’ He also notices that the ratio of Tiptronic to manual transmission cars he sells has shifted. ‘I find that 85- to 90 per cent of the people that come to me now specifically want a manual car, because most modern cars are automatic in one form or another, and so they’re looking for a car for fun; it’s a toy, it’s a car to take out at the weekend or on high days and holidays and they want to have a manual car. Now, I don’t mean that I can’t sell a Tiptronic, and I don’t mean there’s not a person who Tiptronic is a good shift for; when they were new I sold lots of Tiptronics, but it’s a different person that’s buying these cars now, for a different reason. In my opinion a manual is probably worth 10 per cent more than a Tiptronic. And even more so in a 993 or a 964; people definitely want them with manual shift; they want the feel of that, the ability to change gear manually, even though the Tiptronic can be very good. It’s not nearly as bad as people think; there’s a misconception that you can’t drive Tip sportily, but you can if you know what you’re doing.’
His take on the 996 C2 versus C4 is also interesting. As is often remarked, the steering of the rear-drive only Carrera 2 returns more feedback and consequently feels more alive than the all-wheel drive C4 models. However, Kenny tends to sell quite a lot of four-wheel drive cars, ‘because of this being Scotland, where they do have an advantage when driven in the winter. But I always advise customers that they’ll consume a bit more fuel with a four-wheel drive car. Having said that, the C4S is the number one seller in the 996 range; people want to buy a C4S, not just for four-wheel drive, it’s absolutely because of the broad-shouldered body; that’s the main attraction, those hips!’
A lifetime monitoring Porsche prices and fluctuating values affects his take on a car’s worth: ‘With 996s in particular, and earlier 997s as well, because a lot of them have changed hands quite a bit, they often end up with owners who either can’t afford or aren’t willing to spend the money to keep them up to scratch properly. That means there are a fair number of cars out there that are questionable. If they have been looked after, they can be very good value, given the performance and handling they offer, but they do need servicing, even if they do very few miles, and they need to be used a bit as well.’
Indeed, but there’s the paradox: I’m driving a car that’s done 10,000 miles, so, clearly, it’s not been used that much. ‘Yes, he’s done under 1000 miles a year,’ comments Kenny. ‘We’ve put brakes on it, we’re putting new shock absorbers on it, and we’re just making sure it’s absolutely perfect.’ It’s on Michelin Pilot Cups, 225/40 ZR18 front and 285/30 ZR18 rear. It looks uncannily new from the outside, it even still smells new in the cabin, that smart grey leather, with hardly a trace of a backside crease, and the engine bay offers that eat-your-dinner-off-it possibility as well. Nothing worn under the kilt, to paraphrase a pun. ‘It’s a car that I should really keep,’ declares Kenny. Everything’s for sale, though, one way or another.
He’s seen an awful lot of Porsches in his time, but the Porsche he misses most is a 1976 Carrera 3 Targa. ‘I think it’s disappeared now, but I did have it three or four times.’ Fascination with a particular model, he believes, goes back to one’s childhood. ‘I think you have a feeling for cars that you grew up with. People come in all the time, and part of the motivation is that they’re interested in cars that they had posters of on their bedroom walls when they were kids. I was really lucky that, from the age of 18, I was surrounded by all these cars, and by 21 or 22, I had my own 911, and in 1980 it was that particular car, the orange Carrera 3 Targa. It was a cancelled order at JCT600, and I tried to buy it a few times before I eventually managed to get it.
And it was a fantastic car, it was well balanced, it had 200bhp, which was a lot back in the day, and it handled well. Plus, it was so unusual, and the chances of seeing another one like it were remote as there weren’t many 911s around in the ’70s and ’80s.’
Cars do have a habit of coming around. Kenny fondly recalls an Arrow Blue 911SC Sport that he’s owned more than once and still wishes he’d hung onto. However, there’s one model that won’t go away. ‘I’ve had more Carrera 3.0s than most people, and one in particular. I feel I’ve got that car for keeps now. I bought it from the widow of the original owner, and I’ve sold it five times and each time it comes back again.’ The one he wishes he hadn’t sold is the ’1972 Blood Orange 2.4 S ‘We didn’t have any thoughts about potential future values then; the notion of these cars fetching hundreds of thousands 40 or 60 years later was not a concept that occurred to us. So, we sold it, in ’1974 or ’1975, and that’s the car I would probably have kept; it was a wonderful car, and it’s outlasted everything.
Never mind the value, it’s a fantastic car. I sold one recently for £225,000, and it had bills for £130,000 from a restoration seven or eight years previously. My white 911 Carrera 3 that I’m having done, I’ve spent £65,000 on restoring it.’ I ask him if that’s the keeper. He’s hesitant. ‘Not that I am going to sell it, but I’ve lost the enthusiasm for it; it’s taken too long, so there is a possibility it’ll go up for sale when it’s finished.’ I quiz him on what his personal perfect Porsche would be: it turns out to be a Boxster! He’d mentioned a 981 GTS in passing, as well as having had more fun in a 986 than a 993 on the run from London to Edinburgh. ‘I think I’ll have a Boxster again, but I don’t need a 981 GTS,’ he reflects; ‘I’d have a gen 2 987; it’s a very nice drive, in either 2.7 or 2.9, and with PDK, because that makes it more comfortable for me.’
Back to the low-miles 996 C2. We motor south-west out of Edinburgh to the Pentland Hills Regional Park for our photoshoot. It’s quick enough dashing from 0 to 60mph, but the 3.6-litre 996 really shines in the mid-range powerband. As Kenny comments, ‘Porsche always managed to excel in providing middle range torque. Every time they bring out a new generation or a new model or an uprated engine, it’s the torque as much as the power that makes it a pleasure to drive.’ The 996’s power delivery is effortless, and it takes off and storms the hilly lanes. Ride, handling and turn-in are perfect; I suppose I’m reminded of how it was driving a 996 press car alongside Hadrian’s Wall when I first started scribbling for Drive-My, the closest thing to a brand-new car I could wish for.
Given all the messing about that I did with my own 996, actually there’s a lot to be said for the standard car: you can’t complain about the performance, it’s plenty fast enough, the ride in standard form can’t be faulted, and there’s an unsullied purity to the unblemished look of it. Objectively, it’s hard not to see the logic of a 10,000-mile 911 for £34k. As Kenny says, ‘It may be a lot of money for a 996, but it is very cheap for a nearly new 911!’ I’m still struggling, though. Back in the showroom, I can’t help noticing the Guards Red 997 C2 that’s awaiting prep; it’s stickered at a shade under £30k – one he’s sold before, too.
CONTACT Kenny Dunn 5 Devon Place Edinburgh EH12 5HJ Scotland kennydunn.co.uk [email protected] Tel: 0131 4759111
A 996 engine with 10,000-miles on it. Ooh, better get that IMS bearing changed then, eh? Seal Grey is one of the most desirable 996 colours. The fact that this one looks brand new is because, with just 10,000-miles on the clock, it kind of is. 996 interiors sometimes don’t wear too well, but predictably this one is totally unworn. Below: Digital odometer tells the low mileage story. This gen 2 996 C2 looks impossibly narrow compared to the current generation 911 Kenny Dunn at the wheel. He’s sold more Porsches over the years than most and loves to search out a low mileage machine.