By all accounts, readers of online automotive blogs are growing tired of endless Porsche 996 investment guides. Pretty much every website is crowing that “The 996 is the last great Porsche investment” as if nobody had thought to say it before.
And now it’s our turn, except I can’t pretend to offer any sage advice in buying one. What I can do, though is explain why the 996 is the only 911 I really lust after, and why you should, too.
I arrived on the planet in 1981, and it wasn’t long before I was familiar with the Porsche 911. It was an elementary, unmistakable shape – one so singular it could go in a child’s picture book (“This is a cow, that’s a house, that’s a Porsche 911”). I was turning nine when the 911 had its first real redesign and morphed into the 964 generation.
When that happened, there was still enough of the original shape left to reassure me, and life went on as normal. 911s were still 911s. In 1994, when I was a fully functioning teenager, the 993 arrived – and I remember thinking it remarkably boring.
It was inescapable, plastered on magazine covers for seemingly months on end, but I felt that I’d heard it all before. Of course, a huge amount of its content was new and cutting edge, but it was somehow just a ‘new 911’. And in truth, it was yesterday’s recipe but cooked with today’s ingredients. There was still quite a lot of 964 in there.
This was a time when some truly great new shapes were appearing at motorshows and on the road. Audi had unveiled the A8, which had clean lines that seemed somehow to have come from a time beyond. There were stylish rumblings from America, too, where the Oldsmobile Aurora was the most interesting shape to leave Detroit in a long time. And lets not forget Ferrari. The Angular, slatted excesses of the ‘80s were fast disappearing, and new, tapered, elegant forms like the 456GT were taking over.
Yet the 993 was, well, just a new 911. This was unquestionably the right thing to do – their oldest model was something of a sacred cow and, as proven by the 928’s failure to supplant it, not a formula to be messed with. But hormone-fuelled Haining, who was wading through a decidedly awkward phase at the time, wanted progress above all else. In every sense.
As I approached college, the 996 finally gave me what I wanted. At that time I was beginning to really focus on getting the grades I needed to get into car design at University, and my life pretty much revolved around concept cars. I was inspired by all the great ‘what ifs’ of recent years, the Ford GT90, the Chrysler Chronos and the Renault Vel Satis (the concept, not the ‘oops’ production model), and with the 996 it seemed that Porsche was finally risking a bit of creativity.
The biggest gamble of all was those ‘fried egg’ headlamps, which society quickly decried as hideous, but I always rather liked them. They neatly integrated several illuminative tasks, and still suggested the ages-old 911 aesthetic. They also mirrored the Boxster, which was my favourite Porsche of the era – simply through being the first all-new idea from Stuttgart in a long, long time.
The image at the top of this screed shows the 996 off to its best advantage, and somehow captures why it was the first 911 to truly excite me. Yes, the old preserved-in-aspic styling tropes were still there, but somehow the 996 had a taste of the concept car about it. It looked like a 911 that was ready for the future.
Handy, too, that it was probably the most indifferently received 911 of all. While 993 values soar and 997 values remain firm, the 993 sat in the doldrums for ages. Nobody much likes how they look, everybody’s terrified by their documented mechanical riskiness, and being ‘the first of the water-cooled 911s’ isn’t really the sexiest epithet a car can carry.
So they’ve remained cheap. Well, ‘for a 911’. This is great news for me – the one 911 I’ve always liked just happens to be the one I have the best chance of affording. Except, it won’t be.
Owing to spectacular underachievement on my part, I’m still some way short of being able to afford a 996, and – with every bloody blog on the planet now encouraging all and sundry to buy one, the prices are sure to stiffen in short order. So that’s that.
(All images stolen from various corners of The Internet. Please let me know if this upsets you in any way, and I’ll steal somebody else’s instead)