Porsche 996 GT3: One of the last analog supercars. | Buyer's Guide

Photograph Courtesy Porsche

The 996 GT3 is a pure driver’s car,” says longtime professional racer Robb Holland. “No traction control and an old-school, H-pattern, six-speed gearbox. To be quick in one, you can’t just mash the pedals and flick a lever; you have to finesse everything.”

Porsche’s latest 911 GT3 packs a lot of top technology into a street car. For those seeking a more analog alternative, the earlier, 996-chassis variant is worth a look.

Porsche unveiled the all-new 996-chassis 911 for 1997. The big news: the move to a modern, water-cooled engine. Two years later, Porsche showed off the GT3, the day’s fastest naturally aspirated 911 variant. 

The GT3 looked rather tame, though: bigger wheels, lower ride height, some aero cladding and a wing that, by today’s standards, sat a tick low. You had to dig deeper. Even though the GT3 featured rear-wheel drive, Porsche built the car on the stiffer, all-wheel-drive Carrera 4 tub. No sunroof was offered. 

The GT3 got the bigger brakes from the 911 Turbo, along with a track-ready suspension; both the ride height and anti-roll bars could be adjusted. Where the standard 911 moved to that new water-cooled engine–one that has since been saddled with chatter involving the intermediate shaft bearing–the GT3 received an updated, water-cooled version of the famed Mezger flat-six that has powered the 911 since day one. Before the GT3 went on sale, rally legend Walter Röhrl drove one to a Nürburgring record.

The GT3 came stateside only for 2004 and 2005–about a thousand examples total–and, up until recently, operated in the shadows.

Why You Want One

  • The 996 GT3 possesses many traits common among today’s high-demand Porsches: It’s rare, it’s fast and it has strong ties to the brand’s motorsports program.
  • Older tech doesn’t mean it’s slow, as zero to 60 takes only about 4 seconds. A stock GT3 makes 380 horsepower and can pull more than 1g on the skidpad. Redline is 8200 rpm.
  • Unlike later versions of the GT3, this one keeps it on the D.L. with comparatively subdued looks.
  • As with all Porsches, there’s terrific support from PCA and Porsche Classic.
  • While you can add a body kit and more power to a standard 996, the Mezger engine infuses some magic into the GT3. Like the 911 Turbo and GT2, this engine also shares DNA with the Porsche GT1 race car.

Shopping Advice

Nathan Merz
Columbia Valley Luxury Cars
Porsche Club of America

The 996 GT3 checks a lot of boxes–it’s limited production, it’s got a performance envelope that is unbelievable, it’s got great history and lineage with Porsche, it’s something special–and I think always will be–and I think the design is aging well.

I’ve long thought one of the things that’s held values back on 996 GT3s is that they are visually the most restrained of any GT car of modern history.

People always jokingly ask about the IMS. Well, Mezger motors don’t have an IMS bearing. The motors themselves are unbelievably robust. You simply do not see failures. They just don’t have a lot of major foibles. Unlike air-cooled Mezger motors, they’re not generally leakers.

Everyone talks about rear main seal leaks. In my experience, a couple of them came from the factory with leaks early on, but if you look at a 15-year-old GT3 and it’s not leaking, I’ve yet to see one randomly start leaking from the rear main.

GT3s aren’t terribly hard on brakes if they’re not used on the track. They are, of course, very hard on rear tires. 

You’ll see a lot of cars that originally were carbon-brake cars that have been swapped to steel brakes. What I will say is in today’s world, where less people are tracking them, a very low-mileage, collector-quality car with carbons will bring a premium over a steel-brake car, but a driver-quality car with carbons gives people some pause.

For the cooling lines in the block itself, Porsche used a form of adhesive to hold those in place. We have found that over time they can fail, and if one fails catastrophically–meaning that it blows off at speed–that can spew coolant underneath and around the car, which could lead to an accident for either the car or someone following it. 

Here in the U.S., we did not get the Recaro buckets that were available in rest-of-world markets but are a pretty common upgrade if you can find them. Those are pretty slick.


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