Porsche 911 Carrera 3.4 996, 911 Carrera S 3.8 997.1 and 911 Turbo 996

2018 Andy Morgan and Drive-My

Bargain 911s legends from £13k… Is there such a thing as a bargain 911? We think so, and this 996 Carrera, 997 S and 996 Turbo trio would be top of our list. The 911s you an afford. Think the classic car boom has pushed used 911 prices beyond reach? Think again. We look at three enticing options in the £13,000‑35,000 range. Words by Adam Towler. Photography by Andy Morgan.

Amongst car enthusiasts, I reckon there are three main groups when it comes to the Porsche 911: those who have always wanted a 911; those who pretend they hate 911s but secretly really want one anyway; and those who are blissfully unaware of what they are missing out on, but who often – although not always – succumb when they try one. This rear-engined institution of complex contradictions may not be for everyone, but there aren’t many who can avoid falling under its spell at some point.

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.4 996, 911 Carrera S 3.8 997.1 and 911 Turbo 996

Porsche 911 Carrera 3.4 996, 911 Carrera S 3.8 997.1 and 911 Turbo 996

The trouble is, the words ‘value’ and ‘Porsche’ have become increasingly distanced of late, as you may have noticed. No marque has benefited more – or suffered, depending on your viewpoint – from the classic car boom. Aren’t old Porsches all about investment values and classic car shows now? All those rusty 911 SCs, once £10,000, now positioned as brilliant classics by specialist vendors determined to give you a history lesson of the type at the start of their ads before you get to the nitty gritty about the car itself. Those 964s, those same 964s that leaked oil like the Exxon Valdez and were received with lukewarm indifference by the press at launch, no longer sub-£15,000 cars but fifty thou’ and rising. And let’s not even mention the GT3 market; it’s too depressing if you’re of meagre means. Cars designed and built for track work, now often too valuable to risk on the track.

Yet here’s the thing: the ten-grand 911 is alive and well, and for a little more there’s a plethora of choices – as long as you’re prepared to go water-cooled. Twenty years on from the first 911 Carrera to feature a radiator, these are now terrific Drive-My cars to be had at realistic prices. So if that new 2019 991.2 GT3 RS has whetted your appetite, but your bank account is firmly anchored in the real world, then read on.

Where to start with the 996 Carrera? One half of the doubleact that saved Porsche the company; a complete re-imagination – bar the rear suspension – of the then 35-year-old 911, yet still unmistakably a 911 to the very core. A smooth, deceptively complex collection of radii and form that aged rapidly until it became ’90s passé, yet now looks as pure as a Highland spring. A car, let’s face it, with a reputation for, er, blowing its engine to pieces.

Do your homework and you’ll come to realise that the 996 isn’t the most susceptible of the water-cooled 911s for engine issues, although they all began with this car. They range from relatively harmless oil leaks – the RMS issue (rear main seal) – to the potentially much more debilitating IMS problem, where the bearing on the intermediate shaft (taking drive from the crank to the cams) fails, depositing swarf into the engine, with terminal results. It’s more likely to happen on later 996s, and there are ways and means to prevent it. Finally, and most troublingly, there are the issues with the bores themselves on the M96 engine. A few early cars experienced cracked blocks, but the real issue is scoring and ovalling of the liners. There are a million theories why this might happen, with no definitive answer, but a combination of Lokasil liners and a cooling circuit that should never be compromised have a lot to do with it. Treating the engine kindly from cold and making sure it never overheats is a good place to start, and there’s an old adage that says if it hasn’t failed by now, then it’s unlikely to do so.

The trouble for the 996 – and the 997 for that matter – is that its engine frailties have come, in many ways, to define it – certainly on the internet. That’s understandable in a way, because it’s a Porsche and expectations are always sky high, but most high-value/high-performance cars have engine or major component weaknesses at higher mileages that can be hideously expensive. Moreover, few in-period rivals will have amassed the same level of mileage as the average 911. So you need to take a view: be scared off by the screaming headlines, or do some homework and then buy one of the very best cars Drive-My has ever tested?

Given you’ll no doubt gravitate towards a coupe, not a convertible, and a manual gearbox is a must, not the slushy old Tiptronic, then it is only just still possible to buy a car like Henry Powell’s R-plate 996 you see here for around £13,000, and probably for not much longer. This isn’t any old 996 either – it’s a piece of history. One of only 14 996s brought into the UK late in 1997, before any cars had reached customers, it is a true survivor.

The wonderful thing about the 996 is its Germanic pragmatism. It predates the era of Lane Change Assist and programmed-in exhaust burbles on the overrun. It’s gimmick-free, light (1320kg), compact, and almost entirely focused on driving pleasure. While the type grew physically over the 993, it retains the shallow dashboard, relatively upright windscreen and narrow width that are such a part of the 911 – and are diluted in the 991 – yet still feels like a modern car with all the usability and refinement that entails. To be fair, it has tested Henry’s patience. Not long after he bought it the very worst happened with the engine (although not, oddly, one of the usual issues), and it’s been a complicated and expensive road to get where he is today. But then I glance in the rear-view mirror of the car I’m driving, and clock the broad grin on Henry’s face as he uses a healthy dose of revs to stick on my tail, and I know he feels that every penny was worth the recovery price.

Driving it, I can see why. The 3.4-litre engine is revvy and potent (300bhp). Every control has that polish and uniformity of weight that’s the hallmark of a Porsche, and you soon find yourself picking cornering lines with the fingertips and savouring every gearchange. And that hydraulic steering… oh man. When you drive a car like the 996 you realise that Porsche’s current electrically assisted systems, however good they are for their kind, simply don’t impart the same sense of connection with the road’s surface.

So, it’s a great 911: purrs and yelps where a similarly powerful 718 Cayman sounds like a fairground generator, offers that ever-useful 2+2 seating and reasonable luggage space, yet manages to feel like a proper sports car. It’s unlikely to be hot-hatch cheap to run, but it is at least rising in value, not depreciating, and it doesn’t feel like a lot of money to acquire a definite modern classic.

Double our cash and we’re in 997 territory, and you’ll no doubt be drawn to the delectable shape of the Carrera S, with its meaty, 350bhp 3.8-litre motor (a close relation of the M96 known as an M97), bigger wheels and quad exhausts. These first-generation 997 Ss are perhaps the most likely to suffer bore issues of all the Porsches in this era, possibly because there’s simply less metal in and around the engine with the bigger bore size.

But beyond its potential to bring financial hardships, the Gen 1 997 has so much going for it. For many, the return to a more traditional exterior style was just what the 911 needed, and the car still looks glamorous today to my eyes. The interior is more conventional but obviously more ‘premium’, though it wears no better than a 996’s, if even at that. For taller drivers the ergonomics are improved, too, with the seat dropping lower, more adjustment on the wheel, and the pedals further away. It may be largely the same as its 996 predecessor under the skin, but the 997 is such a thorough evolution that it feels like a different car. Those die-hard 911 fans still had something to moan about, though: back in 2004, the 997’s switch to a variable-ratio rack was a major topic for forum debate, just as every new generation of 911 upsets the faithful somehow. It’s a heavier car than the 996, too, by 100kg.

This particular example, an early S in the default silver exterior/ black leather interior combination, was sourced from Porsche specialist RPM Technik. It’s a car RPM bought just prior to our photoshoot, on behalf of a customer as a donor vehicle for one of its CSR conversions. As such, it’s by no means ‘retail’ quality, but rather is an interesting window on to what you might find if you buy a ‘cheap’ 997 S privately. Having given it a safety inspection prior to our collection, RPM reckoned wear to the suspension and brakes was significant – the CSR conversion will replace all those bits anyway – and you can feel that from the moment you’re under way. The magic that means the 997 usually breezed a group test back in the day is still there, but it’s hidden under a veil of lazy damping, imprecision from worn bushes and general tiredness. At 13 years and 120,000 miles old this 997 needs a thorough renovation if the magic is to return, which is very expensive if you do it all in one go. You can find out the sort of figures we’re talking about in Fast Fleet over the coming months…

That’s the reality, but look past the negatives and I still think it’s hard to find a car that rewards on so many levels like a 997. It’s just so… right. From the way it looks to the way it sounds – all sonorous, chesty, then wailing at higher rpm – to the way it drives, the driving position… Heck, everything! I simply adore it. For the same money as a new Peugeot 208 GTi it is indescribably tempting, even if the purchase price won’t be the last cost.

The later Gen 2 997s are holding up well in terms of value. They use the completely different MA1 engine also found in the back of the Gen 1 991, which doesn’t suffer from the same issues as the M97. However, they’re also much more rare and considerably more expensive. And if you do have that budget – let’s say £35,000 upwards – then for similar money we can head back in time again to the mighty 996 Turbo, which is where things get really serious.

The 996 Turbo is one of the classic supercars. There have been louder, flashier, bigger 911 Turbos since, but it only takes a mile at the wheel of this lovely example borrowed from Harrington Finance to feel the magic that made it such a critical and commercial success at the turn of the millennium. Sadly, the days of the twenty-five grand Turbo have long gone. You’ll need £35,000 upwards for a higher-mileage manual Turbo (don’t even think about a Tiptronic – it blunts the car’s performance USP), and around ten grand more for a nice car with under 60,000 miles. Go for the run-out Turbo S, with its 450bhp ‘X50’ power upgrade featuring bigger turbos for the 3.6-litre motor, and ceramic brakes, and you’ll be looking at over £60,000 for the very best.

The cornerstone of the Turbo’s appeal is ‘The Mezger’. Named after famed Porsche engineer Hans Mezger, it is one of the great internal combustion engines, with its roots in Porsche’s racing units of the 1970s, and more recently, the 911 GT1. Designed for use in the 996 GT3, but adopted in adapted form for the Turbo (where it was coded, confusingly, M96.70), it brought economies of scale and enabled production of both models, right the way through to the 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0 and the 997.1 Turbo. Like the RB26 in the Nissan Skyline GT-R, the Mezger’s racing roots mean that it’s as hard as nails and capable of being substantially tuned: with uprated turbos you can get over 600bhp before you need to open the engine up for strengthening.

While there’s more lag than you get with a modern Turbo, there’s an awful lot less than with an original 1970s/’80s 930. Connected to a manual gearbox, the more traditional boosted delivery of the 996 Turbo actually makes it more exciting than its modern equivalent, more of a driving challenge. In fact, it’s perfectly possible to drive around without waking the turbochargers at all, and still keep up with traffic. (Another reason to seek out a car with the manual gearbox.) There’s a delectable kind of serenity from driving around thus, finessing the weighty but rewarding ’box and clutch, savouring all that feedback from the steering wheel, but knowing at any moment a squeeze of throttle will catapult you past slower traffic. And yes, the Turbo still feels massively fast, even with the standard 414bhp this car has. You see a gap, open the taps, and whoosh, there’s that weightless feeling that’s so addictive.

Naturally, the four-wheel-drive, wide-arched Turbo is heavier than the little rear-drive Carrera bobbing along behind (by 220kg). It’s a more serious, measured sort of driving experience, but with narrower rubber than a modern Turbo, it manages to combine immense security and traction with a lower ultimate threshold of grip, so when it does start to oversteer – which it will – it happens in a more progressive, manageable way. It’s not a car that feels ‘four-wheel drive’.

The Turbo was a car designed and built for the wellheeled who demanded that ultimate GT performance car from Porsche: a car equally capable of lapping the Ring, blasting across Europe for hours on end in terrible weather, or commuting into the city. That’s all yours for the same price as a new BMW 420i M Sport. Sure, the ‘Turbo tax’ on parts and the fact that it’s a 15-year-old supercar mean it’s still expensive to run – the intercoolers and pipework need looking after, and as with the Carreras, healthy bushes and dampers are key to a Turbo driving as you’d hope – but at least you don’t have to worry anything like as much about its engine.

So there you have it. The classic 911 ship has not sailed without you. It’s simply available now with antifreeze.

With thanks to Henry Powell, RPM Technik, and Alex Read at Harrington Finance.


Tech and photos

‘There’s a plethora of choices – as long as you’re prepared to go water-cooled’


Engine Flat-six, 3387cc

Max Power 300bhp @ 6800rpm / DIN nett

Max Torque 258lb ft @ 4600rpm / DIN nett

Weight 1320kg (231bhp/ton)

0-62mph 5.2sec (claimed)

Top speed 174mph (claimed)

Price today £13,000-29,000

On sale 1998-2001

Drive-My rating 5.0

{module Porsche 996}


Engine Flat-six, 3824cc

Max Power 350bhp @ 6600rpm / DIN nett

Max Torque 295lb ft @ 4600rpm / DIN nett

Weight 1420kg (246bhp/ton)

0-62mph 4.6sec (claimed)

Top speed 182mph (claimed)

Price today £20,000-40,000

On sale 2004-2008

Drive-My rating 5.0

{module PORSCHE 997}


Engine Flat-six, 3600cc, twin-turbo

Max Power 414bhp @ 6000rpm / DIN nett

Max Torque 413lb ft @ 2700rpm / DIN nett

Weight 1540kg (273bhp/ton)

0-62mph 4.2sec (claimed)

Top speed 190mph (claimed)

Price today £35,000-70,000

On sale 2000-2006

Drive-My rating 5.0

{module Porsche 911}

Above and right: early 996 Carrera is the most affordable of our trio, with prices starting around £13k for a coupe manual; it’s worth that entry price for the steering feel alone. Top and above: 997-generation Carrera S still looks, and feels, surprisingly modern, and rewards like few other performance cars; prices start at around £20k. Above and right: 996 Turbo combines compact proportions, a gutsy engine and four-wheel drive for stonking all-weather, all-roads pace; yours from just £35k.



Dai Davies realised a childhood dream when he bought a 143,000-mile C4… and he doesn’t regret it one bit… Words by Adam Towler. Photography by James Cheadle.

My Mate Dai Davies and I sing from very much the same hymn sheet when it comes to 911s. The want from childhood: the poster of the red SC with tea-tray rear wing, squeezing onto the Porsche stand at late-1980s motor shows, model 911s, the wonder of 911s in the movies with brick phones in the centre console, and that ludicrous black 935-alike in the hopelessly cheesy flick Condorman, with his 911-driving henchmen. In a way, the Porsche 911 has been an integral part of our lives, and as Dai says: ‘I always said, one day I will have one.’

143,000-mile Porsche 911 996 C4

Porsche 911 996 C4

‘Over time the 996 just grew on me,’ he reflects, ‘and I came to love its beautiful curves and compact proportions. It was unloved for a long time, but I think it now looks fantastic, and crucially, I could just about afford one.’

So early last year the pursuit began for real. ‘The essentials for me were a coupe and a manual gearbox. Ideally I wanted a “2” [rear drive], but would compromise with a Carrera 4 if I had to. Worryingly, I noticed there were fewer and fewer such 996s coming on for around £10,000.’

Eventually Dai spotted this silver C4 on eBay. The mileage was high at 143,000 but it seemed like it had lived a good life, and he was down there before any of us could say ‘what about the IMS bearing?’

‘At that point all the advice went out of the window!’ says Dai. ‘I looked it over in a train station car park; next thing I knew I’d bought it. For £9500. Driving it home all I could think was, “Oh my god, I’m driving my 911.” Followed by discovering the air con didn’t work, and thinking, “Oh no, what have I done?” It was excitement mixed with a bit of fear. Then I found a great stretch of road and thought “Yes!” Knowing it was probably worth £8k in parts was my getout, but I figured if it had lasted this long it must have something right about it.

‘I put 2000 miles on it in the first week on a driving holiday in Scotland. It was brilliant, warts and all. And now I use it for everything – work, taking the kids to school. It’s done 155,000 now.

‘No, running it hasn’t been cheap. The first service cost £1200, and it failed its MOT on blowing exhausts and a shot damper. I had to find a cost-effective repair but we got there in the end, and I’ve never had a moment where I’ve wanted rid of it. It’s been a bit scary at times: it’s a cheap car to buy but still a Porsche to run.’

Any advice then, Dai, for the fellow enthusiast? ‘I’d say listen to your head. Do your checks. But overall it’s about how comfortable you are with risk – if you’re not, then the horror stories, the wondering about that noise it made yesterday, well, I don’t think you could live with it. But for me, every day I drive it, just walking up to it, knowing I have a 911 – that removes all of the worry instantly. Whatever the journey, I always take the 911: with my car every occasion is a 911 occasion. It’ll be interesting to see what it’s like at 200,000 miles.’

There you have it: 12,000 miles of 911-bred smiles in 12 months, for a third less than the price of the cheapest, most basic new Ford Fiesta. I’ve driven the car and it’s a beaut. The ten-grand 911 is alive and well. Get in while you still can.

The affordable 911: all you need to know 1998-2012 models were a colourful choice, both inside and out…



While the 996 was launched as just one model with the rear-wheel-drive Carrera, it wasn’t long before additional variants arrived. Buyers soon had the choice of the Carrera 4 drivetrain, which from the outside looked all but identical, and then Cabriolet and later Targa variants, the latter continuing the sliding glass roof idea first seen on the 993. The later C4S 996 (there never was a 996 C2S) used the wider body of the Turbo, and this was carried over with the ‘4’ 997s which used the wider body in both regular and S guises. All the cars were available with either a six-speed manual or five-speed Tiptronic torque converter auto ’box, with the latter replaced by the first-gen PDK ’box on the 997.2 in 2008 Both the 996 and 997 were made in the era when silver was a hugely popular exterior colour, and you’ll find most of the cars for sale so painted. If they’re not silver, then they’re usually black, or grey, or occasionally blue. Nevertheless, in the 996 era there was still some ’90s Germanic flamboyance going on with the colour palette, so Pastel Yellow and Ocean Jade can occasionally be found, amongst numerous other shades.

One infamous aspect of the 996, particularly when the cars were unfashionable, was its interior. While available in the usual (very) all-black finish, you could also order Graphite Grey, Space Grey, Metropole Blue, Savanna, Nephrite Green and Boxster Red, with Cinnamon Brown, Dark Grey and Natural Brown appearing on later cars. Being Porsche, the approach was not to incorporate flashes of colour on specific trim elements, but to drop a tin of paint into the interior and give it a very good shake. The resultant effect, punctuated by the stark contrast of black plastic switchgear, is an eyeful, to say the least.

Much the same approach was carried over to the 997, albeit perhaps with a little more success (but much more rare). On the mechanical side, the switchable sports exhaust is always popular and has a particularly sweet tone compared to many aftermarket systems. The sports suspension option on both models was a fixed-rate, lower set-up, so don’t expect the same level of comfort as a modern 911, although they are fun to drive. A limited-slip differential was a desirable option, as well, as were xenon headlamps later on (the standard lamps are weak), while the factory powerkits are very rare on the Carreras (X51) but more common on the Turbo (X50). The debate will rage on about which wheels look best, but at least with the 996 Turbo there was just the one hollow spoke wheel available.

911 996



One well-known area of concern for any water-cooled Porsche of this era is damage to the radiators in the car’s nose. Typically, leaves and general road detritus enters via the intakes and gets lodged against the rads, where if left to rot will then corrode the radiators. Expensive.


Damage to the engine’s bores, whether by scoring or them turning ovoid and even cracking, is one of the 996/997’s weaknesses. Lots of theories abound as to why this should happen, but it’s wise to get any potential purchase inspected with a borescope before you buy. Undesirable noises from the engine at idle can be an indicator, too, although most flat-sixes are a bit noisy with age.

  1. THE IMS

The Intermediate Shaft Bearing was a constant thorn in Porsche’s side during the lifetime of the 996 and Gen 1 997, only disappearing when the all-new MA1 DFi engine was released in 2008. Porsche changed the design repeatedly throughout production, and today you have the choice of replacing like-for-like, or fitting an upgraded unit, with ceramic and independently oil-fed versions available.


With its complex multi-link rear suspension and beautifully resolved ride and handling, the 996/997 has much to lose by wear in this department. While springs and dampers aren’t especially expensive, the lower suspension arms have an integral bush and replacing all four is £1000 in parts alone. For a complete rebuild reckon on £5000.


PASM Porsche Active Suspension Management

PCCB Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes

PCM Porsche Communication Management

PSE Porsche Sports Exhaust

PSM Porsche Stability Management



Go easy on the options list and you’ll have the perfect new Carrera for little more than list price. Words by Adam Towler.

These days £77,891 buys you a new 911 Carrera, the root of the 911 family tree, and the lowest-powered, humblest version of the world’s favourite rear-engined coupe. On Drive-My, we never get to see such a car, because the press office likes to spec cars that show off the additional technology and customisation features available.

Similarly, walk into a Porsche Centre tomorrow and the salesperson will be only too keen to indulge your wishes for more of everything – at a cost, of course, noting that it ‘really is necessary for resale values’. And anyway, on a PCP finance deal it’s easy to tick boxes and worry tomorrow. This is why the £100,000 911 is the norm these days. Feels expensive, doesn’t it, for a ‘base’ 911.

911 991.2

911 991.2

Manufacturers rely on this back door inflation of the price tag to harvest significant profit (heard the one about Ferrari’s £2400 Apple CarPlay option?), and while you might be wasting your hard-earned, you may also be spoiling the car you’re buying. The standard car is usually, if not always, the car the engineers have sweated over longest to perfect, and adding goodies adds unnecessary weight and complexity.

Take the Carrera. We’ve never been completely convinced by Porsche’s first turbocharged Carrera models, but one thing we all agree on in the Drive-My office is that the standard Carrera gives you 99.9 per cent of the 991.2 Carrera experience.

To the configurator! There are four primary colours available. Either Guards Red or solid black is a fine choice, saving a minimum of £834 over metallic shades. Stick with the standard 19-inch wheels: they’re a good design (for once); you don’t want to try to make it look like an S or a Turbo, plus the ride will be nicer, and the car more usable, with a taller sidewall.

A black leather interior is a no-cost selection, although on a black car I’d be tempted by Saddle Brown (it’s very dark) to make things a bit more interesting (the salesperson won’t like that one). A £324 upgrade to the basic sports seats is worth it for the additional shoulder support, but sadly you can’t get manual – and hence lighter – normal seats any more.

Now to the ‘exterior’ options. LED lamps are £1835, but there’s nothing wrong with the bi-xenons. ‘Porsche Entry and Drive’ for £774? Privacy glass? I don’t think so. You’ll save £2483 by sticking with three pedals, and in spite of the seven-speed manual’s relative clunkiness, it’s still a lovely thing to have a manual Carrera, and an instant credibility ‘win’. You definitely don’t need ceramics at £6018. A sports exhaust? Unnecessary at £1844 – the turbo motor is hardly a naturally aspirated Mezger. I’d go without the mode switch, too – more endless fiddling, and for £1271, too.

Spending £228 on cruise control seems useful for those continental jaunts, but the active system is always a pain and not worth £1557. Seat ventilation? Oh come on. Sounds? That’s what the flat-six is for.

All in, that means a princely sum of £552 on options, and a retail price of £78,443. My one possible weakness? A £543 GT (smaller) steering wheel trimmed in Alcantara, with matching gearlever: driver contact points are crucial, electronic toys are not. Stand your ground and spec wisely.

{module PORSCHE 991}

911 991.2

911 991.2 Above: Porsche’s configurator can be a tempting, but bank account-draining, place to spend time.


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Additional Info
  • Year: 1997-2005
  • Engine: Petrol L6
  • Power: 300-414bhp at 6800rpm
  • Torque: 258-413lb ft at 4600rpm