UPDATED – The Porsche 996 Turbo – Why They’re Good Value and Why They’ll Never Be Collectable

In Porsche collecting circles, right now even a few months seems like an eternity. I originally wrote this article in 2011. In March 2016, I updated it to reflect the changes in attitudes towards the 886 Turbo. Buyers had realised that the engine was indeed pretty bulletproof and the cars were rising. I wrote with confidence, as you will see, that I thought the 996 Turbo was too numerous to become collectable……

Today, we’re seeing 996 Turbos that were previously £20,000 cars in the UK being offered for sale at £50,000. Some low mileage cars with great provenance are now being marketed at over £70,000. Whether these prices are actually realised is unclear, but one thing is very obvious. When it comes to predicting Porsche 911 values, you really, really shouldn’t be listening to me.

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It’s pretty well known that Porsche’s first attempt at a watercooled 911 didn’t exactly go down too well. Early reliability problems and a less than stellar 3.4 litre engine didn’t help. Plus, or course, the 993 that came before it was a truly superb car and became instantly collectable as “the last air cooled 911.” In the UK, that’s reflected in used car prices with right hand drive 996 Porsche going for very low prices, right down amongst scruffy 964’s.

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This post was first published in 2011. A lot has changed in the Porsche 911 marketplace since then, so an update was overdue.

So take the Porsche 996’s alleged poor reliability, add in the perceived complication of four wheel drive and twin turbos and the casual observer will tell you that you’ve probably got a money pit on your hands. They’re wrong.

Since I originally wrote this in 2011, it finally seems to have sunk in to the wider Porsche buying population that the 996 Turbo engine is not the same unit as the normally aspirated engine. So if you see a Porsche 996 Turbo for sale, should you be rushing to buy it?

I wrote in 2011:

“996 Turbos in the UK are currently changing hands for £20 – 25,000. That’s for a 400 bhp, twin turbo, four wheel drive car and in my view a bargain. The key issue that renders all of the early non-turbo 996 engine woes irrelevant is quite simple – it’s not the same engine.

That’s right, the twin turbo unit in the 996 is a different engine to the one afflicted with RMS bearing failures and an undeserved reputation for terminal engine explosions. The Turbo engine block is based upon the original 930 Turbo engine, with the ‘Mezger’ block remaining air cooled and only the heads being water cooled. At a stroke, the single reason for woes has been removed. This block is bullet proof and failures are rare. OK, so the plumbing supplying fluids to the heads is a little complicated and can leak, but regular maintenance should keep it trouble free.”

This all still holds true, perhaps apart from the values. Right now, it seems that everyone is jumping onto the Porsche Collectable stage. Porsche 944’s that just two years ago would attract casual interest are being optimistically marketed north of £10,000 in the UK. Some are even beyond £20,000. Not for me thank you.

So why won’t the Porsche 996 Turbo become collectable?

Will there be a Golden Age for the 996 Turbo?
Will there be a Golden Age for the 996 Turbo?

It will, to a degree. If you have a perfect, immaculate, low mileage car with a filing cabinet full of paperwork, or you own a Turbo S, then yes, it will be collectable. But you won’t really be able to drive it.

I read in a classic car magazine just last month that the 996 Turbo was the one to buy as a future classic and that values start at £33,000. While that should get you a collectable, low milage car, surrounding it are no end of more average 996 Turbos. These cars were very often bought as a daily driver, so ran up fairly average milages of 12,000 – 15,000 per year. Quite how they should become collectable, when there are literally thousands to chose from is an odd assertion.

But there’s one other issue.

Directly above it in the pricing ladder is the 997 Turbo. Again, a car in plentiful supply and more importantly, a car which is a much better drive.

The 997 Turbo has more power, a better chassis, certainly better looks and above all, a far superior interior in both design and quality of finish. A Generation 1 997 Turbo still has the ancestral Mezger engine and is good value. Whatever the collectors and auction houses may say, the combination of 997 Turbo, the excellent best selling 997 3.8 series and the plentiful supply should mean, in my view, that the cars should be a good car to buy, own and drive, but are unlikely to become truly collectable in the next few years.

Should You Buy a 996 Turbo? Yes You Should.

Despite being followed by the 997 Turbo, the 996 is still a good buy
Despite being followed by the 997 Turbo, the 996 is still a good buy

Quite simply, look after the basic common sense items and they’re tough, reliable and have an engine with true character.

So, how do I know that they don’t break? Over a four year period, I worked on track instructing in a black, 2002 996 Turbo 4. This particular car had the X50 pack option with different turbos, intercooler and a remapped ECU. Add in the heavily track based lifestyle and you have a very fit engine, but one that is driven hard.

Yet apart from the normal items you’d expect to wear – brake discs, pads and clutches – it never missed a beat. It happily lapped at a rate far in excess of more flamboyant and exotic machinery, chewing it’s way through tyres with a prodigious appetite. Somebody somewhere owns that car today.

So for around the price of an average 993, it’s perfectly possible to buy a car with supercar performance that once had a price tag of up to £100,000. Find yourself an X50 Pack car and you’ve got a real piece of kit. Whether you’re buying into a car that will rise in value is open to debate, but the worst case scenario is you’re buying a car that gives more power for the money than anything else I can think of right now and at the current values, they must surely have bottomed out now?

My view is to buy a Porsche 996 Turbo now. People are realising just what amazing value they are. Buy an average milage car with a good history and don’t just park it up. Drive it. That’s what Porsche built it for.

This article was originally published in 2011 and has been updated to reflect the changes in the marketplace

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Author: Neill Watson

If you love the sound of the Cosworth V8 as much as the V12 Merlin, the smell of Jet A1 as much as Castrol R and admire the late Ray Hanna as much as Sir Stirling, you’ll find you’re both on the same page. Neill's love of art deco buildings means that his ideal home would be a brilliant white, 1930′s control tower in Southern France, with crisply mown grass, biplane parked on the driveway and a Ferrari 288GTO in the garage. This is something that those around him tolerate, though it does concern them from time to time.

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