Why I Bought a 996

Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t buy my 996 because it was the most affordable 911, or the cheapest 911, or the only 911 that I could afford. No. I bought my 996 because it was the car I wanted, and best suited my needs and wants at the time I bought it (as well as the foreseeable future). And I have no regrets.

It’s true that price was definitely a factor, I had a budget I wanted to stay within. But, I could have extended that budget if I had thought a G-bodied 911, or a 964, 993, or 997 would have been a better fit. But after seriously assessing why I was buying a 911, and how I was going to use it, the choice became obvious.

I was saying good-bye to my Boxster because, despite how much I loved that car, I was absolutely tired of driving a convertible every single day. I would have loved to have kept it as a second car, but, then (and now) that just wasn’t practical. Since the Boxster infected me with the terminal Porsche virus, I couldn’t get anything else. A 911 was my only option.

Like a lot of folks, I’ve been a huge fan of the 911 since I was a child. I’ve wanted one ever since I can remember, and I was finally going to realize that dream. Naturally, the air cooled 911s were my first thought. I love them all, but one of my personal favorites was the G50 series, made from 1987 to 1989. That time frame also happens to be the point in my life when I started driving, and the G50 was the new 911. I wanted one so bad. But, would it be a good car for me… today?

I needed my 911 to be a daily driver. That’s code for “reliable” and “comfortable.” While there are plenty of reliable air cooled 911s in the world, the fact is, an air cooled engine really isn’t all that great in heavy traffic. And with the kind of traffic I have to sift through every day, an air cooled car just wasn’t going to cut it. Coming to that realization was really hard for me; there were G50s that I could afford. If I’m driving this car daily, I’m really going to need something comfortable with somewhat modern accoutrements. Air conditioner, power windows, smooth ride, comfy seats. Most air cooled 911s have air conditioning, but to say it actually cools is a bit of a stretch. Power windows, if they have them, aren’t usually very fast, and the ride just isn’t that smooth in the older cars. Again, the air cooled cars just weren’t the answer.

After rationally determining I needed a newer, water cooled 911, I now had to decide between the 996 or the 997. Appearance wasn’t really an issue for me, I had been driving a Boxster 986 for the past eight years, and it shares a very similar appearance as the 996 (at least from the front). Some people can’t handle the non-round headlights, but that’s really just another excuse the haters throw out to pretend they’re somehow superior. One concern between the two was size, I wanted a small car. Of course, the 996 and the 997 are essentially the same physical size, so that didn’t help me decide. My biggest concern was reliability. This may come as a shock, but, the 996 is ever bit as reliable as the 997 (or any other 911) as long as that pesky IMS bearing has been addressed. And, after owning that Boxster for a trouble-free eight years, I was pretty sold on the idea of a 996.

At this point, it really came down to price. I could pick up a pristine example of a 996 for $20k. The 997, at the time, was at least double that of a 996. That’s kind of a no-brainer when you really think about it. Now all I had to do was decide between the 996.1 or the 996.2. The 996.2 has one more issue to worry about than the 996.1, and that’s the bore scoring problem which affected the slightly larger 3.8 liter engines found in those cars. But really, at least for me, it came down to style. I just don’t like the headlights on the 996.2—gasp!

The 996.1 headlights (aka “fried eggs”) on the left, as compared to the 996.2 headlights on the right.

I know, I know, most people don’t like the 996.1 “fried egg” headlights. But the 996.2 awkwardly shaped, pseudo-round-with-a-strange-protrusion headlight just looks like Porsche caved in to elitist complaints and tried to make it look “more round” and “less Boxstery” until they came out with the next model. It’s a band-aid that wasn’t needed, and it doesn’t look well thought-out at all. Quite frankly, I think the 996.1 has aged better, it’s styling is a bit more timeless than its successor.

I’d still someday like to own an air cooled 911, but that will have to be at a time when I have a place to park more than two cars and can afford to have a “toy” that’s not my daily driver. The simple reality is the 996 is the best value, the best “bang for your buck” (to use an old colloquialism). Best of all, you still get the prestige of owning a 911.

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