PROJECT 996 We couldnâ€™t ignore a project 996 any longer. Pete Simpson puts his money where his mouth is
WE DON’T JUST WRITE ABOUT PORSCHES, WE DRIVE AND LIVE WITH THEM, TOO
PROJECT 996 THE TEAM
STEVE BENNETT 944 LUX Still haven’t got that bodywork sorted, despite the fact that the ugly gouge has been there for almost a year now. Still there have been other things bugging me, not least the chirping rear tailgate. It’s a common 944 problem but after some adjustment of the hatch pins, loads of grease and WD40, it was silent again.
JOHNNY TIPLER 964 C2 (PEPPERMINT PIG) A rattle from the Pig’s rump turned out to be not a loose silencer baffle, but the cooling fan, loose due to a seized bearing and jangling around in its casing. “Lucky you came in when you did,” said Matt at Autowerke, (www.autowerkenorwich.co.uk). Result? New fan, bearing and casing.
PAUL DAVIES CARRERA 3.2 TARGA Just 13 seconds spent with back wheels in a yellow box in north London has just landed me a £60 fine. Which is a cheek, as the pot holes in the capital have probably cost me more in suspension damage. Am I brave enough to refuse to pay until they mend the holes? Come off it Boris!
PETER SIMPSON CARRERA 3.4 TARGA I’m still working hard on the Targa although I have got myself another project! The Targa is moving fast and the front end is looking good – check out the picture. I need some help, I’m on the lookout for some headlights, they need to be early ones so they fit in the pre ’73 wings.
CHRIS HORTON 924S, 944, 996 CARRERA 2 With the 924S running well, and summer finally here, I’m even thinking of crawling under the long-dormant 944 to fit a new steering rack. The 996 needs a bit of remedial work, too: there’s a mysterious and rather worrying coolant loss to investigate, and someone (not me!) has kerbed the left-hand rear wheel. All good fun...
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We couldn’t ignore a project 996 any longer. Pete Simpson puts his money where his mouth is
his has been a tough car to track down. Thing is I’ve been after a 996 for some time. I know, I know, there’s issues with these cars, but in terms of value for money, a 996 makes a very good case for itself. To make the job of finding a car even trickier, I didn’t really want to spend any more than £12,000. They’re out there for that sort of money, but as I’ve discovered, you need to tread carefully. So for the past four months or so, I’ve been scouring the lower end of the 996 market and I’ve learnt a lot and certainly by the end of my search I could spot a wrong ‘un pretty quickly, and there’s plenty of those out there. It seems that 996s have yet to really fall in to the hands of the enthusiast Porsche owner. A lot of the cars that I saw were owned by people who just wanted a Porsche, and it showed in the condition. Shabby paintwork, tired interiors, rotted out air con rads and condensors and
worn discs, were typical issues. Silver and blue were the dominant colours, with black and grey leather interiors - grey being seemingly more fragile. At this price level any dealer cars were with non specialist traders, the 996 acting as a bit of showroom bling. You had to wonder, too, as to how much the dealer had paid in order to make his cut. Below £10,000 in most cases I would expect. I soon came to the conclusion the best car was going to be a private sale, but with all the uncertainties that come with that. As I said most were with non-enthusiast owners. They were selling but their next car could be anything. They’d ticked the Porsche box and frankly they were probably nervous as to any future costs. They wanted out, but I didn’t want their car. The search continued although with a slightly more focussed agenda. While a C2 was my preferred choice I was happy to consider a C4
PETER SIMPSON 911/996 Occupation: Studio Manager, CHPublications Home town: Horley, Surrey Previous Porsches owned: 1 Cars: 911 Carrera 3.2, 996 Years: 1989, 1999 Mileages: 107,657; 61,256 Owned for: 3 years; 2 weeks Mods/options: In total, far too much to list here! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org THIS MONTH IN BRIEF: I’ve gone out and got myself a lovely 996 C4
A sound lowish mileage 996 C4 for £11,500? Almost too good to be true, but it really is a very sound car
Engine is later ‘fly by wire’ version of the 3.4 flat six. Wheels are excellent and pads and discs are new. Interior is in great condition
(widebody S cars were out of the question) if the condition was spot on. Also, as I want to do some engine mods, I was advised by various specialists that whichever I chose, I would be better off going for a later ‘fly by wire’ throttle version. Why? Well, earlier 996s use a bastardised version of the 993 ECU, which is harder to get into and
mess around with, whereas the later 996 has its own bespoke ECU with an OBD port, which can be plugged straight into. I’m seriously considering a TPC Racing turbo conversion from the States and the guys at TPC say the kit only works with the later car. However, I’m rather getting ahead of myself here. Finally I narrowed the
search down to two cars. The first was a 2002 Gen 2 996 in blue with the 3.6litre engine. It was high mileage at 140,000 miles, but had clearly been looked after, although perhaps slightly worryingly every panel appeared to have been painted at some point. I pitched in with an offer of £11,000, which was refused. A few days later it
was offered to me at £11,300, but by this time I was spooked by the mileage. The second car was a Gen 1, 1999 black C4 with just 61,000 miles on it. Owner, Colin, had bought it off a friend, but back problems were forcing him to sell. He clearly loved the car and it had been well looked after. Sitting there with new Continentals all
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round, new discs and pads, damage free split rims and new air con units, it was definitely making a case for itself. Servicing was a typical mix of earlier main dealer and latterly specialist. I must admit I hadn’t heard of Harvey Racing, but Editor Bennett confirmed that they were a good outfit. Colin wanted £13k for the car on ebay (a dealer would probably be asking £15k+). I peaked at
£11,200, but the C4 didn’t make its reserve anyway, stalling at £11,850. So the negotiations began. Colin said he would take £12,200 and there was someone ahead of me in the viewing queue. They didn’t bite. He hadn’t heard of Harvey Racing either apparently. he should have asked Steve! I was hooked on the car. The paint was good, the leather interior excellent and it drove well, but it
was over my budget. I needed something to negotiate on. The notorious 996 transponder key was playing up, and since that costs a few hundred quid to put right, and it has to be done by a main dealer, I used that as my bargaining tool. Colin said he would let the the car go for £12,000 and get the key sorted, I countered with £11,500, and I would sort the key. We shook
hands on the deal. So there you go. It took a while, I saw plenty of 996s that were on the cusp of slipping into finacially unviable territory in terms of cost v maintanence needed, but with some patience and perseverence, I got a good one and I love it. Needless to say it won’t remain standard for long, but that’s just me. Look out for the full 996 experiece over the next few months. PW
Can’t argue with black. maybe a pig to keep clean, but always looks the business. Car sits a little high, but we’ve got some Bilstein adjustable coilovers (below) so we can wind it down a bit. BBS wheels should make it look slightly more contemporary too
Rimstyle www.rimstyle.com The place to go for the 19” BBS CH-R wheels, that I’ll be bolting on Millers Oils www.millersoils.net The 996 needs a service and Millers is the oil of choice for 911&PW project cars TPC Racing www.tpcracing.com Seriously considering TPC Racing’s turbo conversion. It’s bolt on and we’ve tried it on both a Cayman and Boxster with amazing results Bilstein - Suspension email@example.com For the coilovers. They look so good it’s a shame they’ll be hidden away Powerflex www.powerflex.co.uk We’re going with poly bushes for the suspension Nine Excellence www.nineexcellence.com Ken and James at Nine Excellence will be our port of call for our project 996. They should have plenty to do!
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C4 IS READY AND WAITING!
The project 996 is ready for its first venture into the world of modifying. Nine Excellence are poised and there’s a massive pile of bits accumulating around Simpson’s desk
PETER SIMPSON 911/996 Occupation: Studio Manager, CHPublications Home town: Horley, Surrey Previous Porsches owned: 1 Cars: 911 Carrera 3.2, 996 Years: 1989, 1999 Mileages: 107,657; 62,456 Owned for: 3 years; 5 weeks Mods/options: In total, far too much to list here! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org THIS MONTH IN BRIEF: Everything is looking good on the 996 – lots of things are in the pipeline.
’ve put around 1000 miles on the 996 and I’m still loving it. It’s running as expected, pulling with real vigour and with real grip from the
four-wheel drive system and PSM. It’s a genuinely fast and useable car, which is of course why I’m going to modify it to within an inch of its life. Well someone’s got to! Partners in modifying crime are Crawley based Nine Excellence and they’re ready and waiting. First up we’re going to fit a Bilstein PS10 suspension kit. But that’s not all. Most of the bushes are past their best so it’s Powerflex poly bushes all round, plus H&R anti-roll bars. In last month’s issue we previewed the chunky billet aluminium lower suspension arms from American outfit RSS.
Needless to say we’ll be fitting a set of these all round too. So that’s going to be a full suspension makeover then. Under the arches we’ll be squeezing BBS CH-Rs, which have now been fitted up with a set of Yokohama Advans – 235/35x19 at the front and 285/30x19 at the rear. With the Bilstein adjustable spring platforms, we should be able to get the 996 good and low. I mentioned last month that we might look into turbocharging. Well, in case you thought I wasn’t being serious, or that I’m just mad, the kit from TPC Left: The BBS CH-Rs wrapped in nice new Yokohama Advans Right: RSS suspension arms look the business
in the States has been built up and is ready to be shipped. This is a proper bolt on system, that is conceivably a DIY proposition. Whether we’ll fit it ourselves is another matter, but we’re looking for 400bhp! Anything else? The plates were past their best, so I’ve got some new UK show plates from Anyplates. Niggles? I’ve still got the transponder issue with the keys. Apparently this is an OPC only fix, unless anyone out there knows better? Next month the work really begins. PW
Rimstyle www.rimstyle.com The place to go for the 19in BBS CH-R wheels I’ll be bolting on TPC Racing www.tpcracing.com The turbo kit is coming! Bilstein suspension email@example.com PS10 kit looks too good to hide away. Full how-to on its way Powerflex www.powerflex.co.uk We’re going with poly bushes for the suspension Nine Excellence www.nineexcellence.com Ken and James at Nine Excellence are ready... Yokohama www.yokohama.co.uk For the 19in Advans that wrap our BBSs RSS rss.rpmware.com Billet ally suspension arms look the business. We’ll be fitting the full set Anyplate anyplate.co.uk For show plates
Story and step-by-step photography by Chris Horton; additional photos by Peter Simpson
GETTING A GRIP Project 996 C4 now has a fully adjustable suspension system – and yours could have one too. This first instalment of what we hope will become a valuable chassis-tuning masterclass for all Boxsters, Caymans and water-cooled 911 Carreras looks at both the project’s overall aims and the initial rear-end dismantling and reassembly process
ou might well imagine that a complete 996 suspension upgrade would be a fairly straightforward proposition. You could, however, be more or less
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entirely wrong. The photos on this and the next three pages are just a few of this writer’s 500odd frames that between them cover the fitting to art editor Peter Simpson’s 1999 911 Carrera 4 of
four Bilstein coil-overs, a pair of H&R anti-roll bars, and a full set of no fewer than 10 American-made RSS control arms. Oh, and four new, originalequipment so-called trailing arms, and two OE
front-strut top mounts. And while those images certainly offer some idea of the broad scope of the project, they no less inevitably give little or no true picture of the almost Herculean physical effort
HOW TO: 986–997 SUSPENSION UPGRADE – PART 1 the task involved. The problem was not, we hasten to add, the above-named new hardware. Almost without exception that went together with the deeply satisfying precision of a Meccano set. And the finished conversion looks fantastic; almost too good to be hidden away inside the wheelarches. In fact, it was simply removing the old bits that gave Nine Excellence’s James Leaney such a fight. And that was with the car on a wheelfree lift, never mind all the other facilities of a fully equipped workshop, and not least the experience that comes from 15 years as a trained Porsche technician. I’m just glad that I hadn’t glibly volunteered to help Pete
do the job with the car on axle-stands on his driveway. It would still be there now. And I’d probably be in a padded cell. It’s all to do with our old ‘friend’, corrosion. Electrolytic or galvanic corrosion, to be more precise: the process that creates the void-filling and thread-clogging deadly white powder that quietly accumulates wherever you have two or more dissimilar metals (usually steel and aluminium) in close proximity to each other in the presence of moisture. It makes smaller fixings prone to breaking when you attempt to undo them, and in this case larger ones often almost impossible to turn, never mind push out without much use of brute force. In truth, few car
A cunning plan
This 996 is art editor Peter Simpson’s latest project, joining his 911 Carrera 3.2 Targa, and effectively replacing a 944S2. Peter bought the then standard 1999-model car (below) for just £11,500, and as usual for him immediately hatched plans to modify it with bigger wheels and ultra-low-profile tyres, lower and stiffer suspension, and ultimately some fairly substantial engine upgrades. For a little more detail on all of that see his Our cars reports in the July and August 2011 issues, or have a look at the project-car pages on our website – www.911porscheworld.com – where you’ll find all the recent how-to stories as an on-line free magazine. It’s fair to say, though, that opinion here in the 911 & Porsche World office was divided over both the logic and the likely results of this scheme. Pete, who cut his motoring teeth on Tarmac-hugging VW Golfs during the 1990s, is still young enough to put up with the uncompromising ride that can result from such suspension changes, but the older hands among us felt that for a road car likely to see only occasional circuit use he was being way too ambitious. There was no doubt that the height-adjustable Bilstein PS10 coil-over kit would be a good move (how can Bilsteins on a Porsche not be?), and there are plenty of 996s driving quite happily on 19-inch wheels and tyres. Put both of those elements together, though, and then add a full set of suspension arms with completely solid rod-end bearings, and you would have the makings – or so we believed, anyway – of a ride from hell. Surprisingly, though, it seems as though our hero might have come up with a winning combination – and the now ground-hugging car certainly looks the part on those classically styled BBS wheels and ultra-sticky Yokohama tyres (see main pic, opposite). None of we sceptics have (yet!) had the chance to drive the now fully installed and aligned suspension, but Nine Excellence’s James Leaney, who fitted the kit – and who had a number of reservations of his own – seems impressed. ‘I’ve put some miles on the car now,’ he wrote in an e-mail to Pete, a few days after finally setting it up on the company’s own geo rig. ‘And it feels good! Not as firm as I thought it would be. Think 997 GT3RS on the “hard” setting. But even in the rain I can feel that it’s going to have monumental grip, and it’s nice and neutral, too.’ We shall, of course, be conducting our own road- and track-tests, as well as experimenting with the many possible damper, anti-roll-bar and geometry settings, but in the meantime it seems that there’s a lot of truth in the old adage. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – or a modified Porsche 911 by its stance alone.
Because of the broad scope and (relative) technical complexity of this project we’ve taken a slightly different approach to the age-old problem of squeezing in the required number of photos and informative captions. (And what other kind of caption should there possibly be for a how-to DIY story such as this?) What you see on both this and the next double-page spread, then, is merely a representative and chronological sample of the author’s images, intended to give those few of you without immediate access to the Internet a rough idea of what’s going on. For the full and unexpurgated story, containing many more high-resolution pictures and (we hope!) usefully detailed captions, as well as additional text, go to our dedicated website at www.911porscheworld.com, and follow the link to the Project cars section. Shown below is what was involved in first dismantling the right-hand rear suspension (after the removal of the strut and anti-roll bars), and then installing the RSS control arms
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Nine Excellence – and then some
Peter Simpson’s chosen ‘partner’ for this far-reaching modification programme is one of the UK’s newest independent Porsche specialists: Nine Excellence in Horley, Surrey. (Call 01293 226911, or go to www.nineexcellence.com.) You might recall that it was proprietor Ken Napier and his general manager, James Leaney, who between them created the 205mph but still perfectly driveable 996 Turbo that so obviously impressed editor Steve Bennett in our August 2011 issue. As it happened, that same car was on the lift next to Pete’s when we there in early July, having its then newly rebuilt and even more powerful engine refitted. (Ken, who seems a calm and level-headed sort of chap, reckons 1020bhp and 1100Nm!) Needless to say, we shall be taking it back to Bruntingthorpe for another crack at the sound barrier as soon as possible. We also plan to take a metaphorical peek inside its MKB-rebuilt Tiptronic transmission in order to find out how this German company, working closely with Nine Excellence, cost-effectively upgrades these often under-rated automatics to withstand that level of energy passing through them; and how even a two-pedal Porsche in more or less standard road tune can benefit, too. All in all, then, a great bunch of guys, and our sincere thanks for their considerable assistance with this project.
manufacturers have ever bothered consistently to use any form of the assembly grease that could so easily prevent this natural phenomenon. But few cars seem to be quite as teeth-grindingly difficult to dismantle as these modern Porsches so often can be. OK, rant over. The point is that while ‘we’ had a hard time of it here, you certainly don’t have to. Forewarned is forearmed, and all that. And even those with no intention of tackling a project like this for themselves will doubtless be able to
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appreciate why the cost of the components could well be just one part of the not inconsiderable overall budget you’ll need. There is no doubt that the 996 and its derivatives have a fairly complex suspension arrangement, but seized bolts aside – and in truth those might here have resulted from the fact that this car had most likely never had a full suspension alignment, which would have meant periodically disturbing at least some of the offending fixings, and thus preventing them from seizing so solidly – it is in principle pretty easy to
It became obvious that we could never hope to squeeze this story into a single four-page slot – and certainly not if we were to do justice to both the beautifully made components, or the confidence-inspiring expertise of Nine Excellence’s James Leaney. Several further instalments it will be, then, with part two looking at the RSS coffin arms going on, as well as dismantling the front suspension; part three the Bilstein dampers and the H&R anti-roll bars; and the one after that setting everything up for the first road-test. After that, finally, will come the really fun bit: taking the car to the test-track, and further tweaking it for the optimum compromise between grip, handling and comfort. Or maybe just grip and handling… Either way, stay with us and find out!
work on. The only remotely special tools you’ll need are a scissor-action balljoint splitter (see also Q&A on pages 104–105 of this issue) and perhaps a roadspring compressor. And the plain fact of the matter is that if you’re serious about your 996 – or the essentially similar 986-model Boxster, or even the not so dissimilar 997 or 987 equivalents – this is an extremely worthwhile conversion. For speed, says the old adage, add lightness. And, we suggest, for both quick lap times and a vastly more satisfying cross-country
experience, add not lightness and power (or not just lightness and power, anyway), but grip. Here, without a doubt, that added grip must come at the expense of both ride comfort and the longevity of some of the individual components. (Completely ‘naked’ Rose joints, for instance, designed primarily for short-term competition use, plainly aren’t going to take too kindly to a winter on the M25. Needless to say, we shall let you know about that.) But you can within reason selectively fit as many or as few of the
HOW TO: 986–997 SUSPENSION UPGRADE – PART 1 items shown here as you wish – see future instalments for guidance on that – and with carefully chosen damper and antiroll-bar settings the ride need be little or no harder than, say, a 997 Carrera ‘S’ in Sport mode. Perhaps the most substantial benefit of a system like this, though, is the extraordinary level of adjustability it provides; more than you could ever really need for road or even fairly hard-core circuit use. That brings with it the risk of getting it all horribly wrong, of course, and conceivably ending up with a car that is far worse than standard in terms of both comfort and grip. But it’s always fun to experiment – in this case pretty cheap,
too; all you’ll need for that is a few spanners and perhaps a tape measure – and there’s no doubt that (knowledgeably and sensibly, of course) playing around with camber, caster, toe and not least bump and rebound offers both an added dimension to trackdays and a great way of learning about what all those settings mean. And let’s face it: you won’t – or shouldn’t, anyway – be doing anything that can’t be put right with another session on an alignment rig, such as the one we used to set this car up in the first place. It should, all things considered, be a hugely informative and entertaining journey. We hope you’ll stick with us and find out! PW
Who supplied what?
A comprehensive shopping-list of the various components that we planned to fit to this 996-model Carrera 4 appeared in Pete Simpson’s Our cars report on page 102 of the August 2011 issue of 911 & Porsche World, but it will do no harm to reiterate it here – and you will, of course, be seeing a lot more of the individual items in future instalments of this suspension-tuning guide. For the moment, then, suffice it to say that the combined damper and spring assemblies – so-called coil-overs – are Bilstein PS10 units supplied via this justifiably renowned German manufacturer’s UK distributor, Euro Car Parts (www.bilstein.co.uk; www.eurocarparts.com). The suspension members – four bottom or so-called ‘coffin’ arms with solid aluminium trailing-arm bushings, and no fewer than six Rose-jointed toe and camber arms for the rear hubs – were supplied by RoadSportSupply, or RSS, of Costa Mesa, California. More about both them and this company’s many other mouthwatering goodies at www.rss.rpmware.com. The two anti-roll bars came from H&R in Germany via Euro Car Parts (www.hrsprings.com). We also needed two front-strut top mounts, which came from Porsche Centre Mid-Sussex (01444 616979), and four originalequipment trailing arms. Those came from the nearby Crawley branch of Euro Car Parts (01293 643400). Last but by no means least, the 19-inch BBS CH-R wheels were supplied by Kent-based Rimstyle (www.rimstyle.com; 01233 503006), with 235/35 and 285/30 Yokohama Advan rubber (www.yokohama.co.uk) fitted by RSR Tyres & Wheels in Coulsdon, Surrey (www.rsrtyres.co.uk; 020 8645 2700). Our sincere thanks to all concerned.
The photos on this spread show both the right-hand rear trailing arm and the so-called coffin arm coming off – after much struggling with seized mounting bolts, let it be said – and being replaced by still more of those beautifully made RSS components. The key to a successful outcome in a job of this nature is a combination of good tools, plenty of penetrating oil, the judicious application of heat where necessary, and not least time, experience and lots of energy. Oh, and perhaps a wheel-free garage lift... Needless to say, we replaced all fixings only after they had been coated with a modest quantity of copper-based grease, so they’ll all come apart again in the future. They were all carefully torqued to the correct figures, too. Ideally, though, you’ll buy new nuts and bolts before you start – there’s a full list of all the relevant part numbers for this 996 C4 on the relevant section of our website. The final photo (below right) shows the completed right-hand rear corner of the car with both H&R anti-roll bar and Bilstein damper. More on these next time
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Story and step-by-step photography by Chris Horton
ARMED FOR ACTION The second instalment of our epic 996 suspension programme sees the 1999 Carrera 4’s front end stripped out, and then fitted with new lower control arms. Next time: struts and anti-roll bars
ast month we set the scene on our ambitious 996 chassis upgrade – which, broadly speaking, also applies to 997-model 911s, as well as 986- and 987-model Boxsters and the Cayman – by
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explaining the overall aims of the project. We then went on to show what was involved in replacing the car’s various rear-end control arms with high-tech fully adjustable items from RSS in America, including its superb billet-made
Lower Control Arms. We also touched upon why this part of the task was made so much more timeconsuming and awkward by the corrosion – and subsequent seizing – of several of the original fixing bolts. This time we shall be
looking at how Nine Excellence’s James Leaney dismantled the essentially similar front suspension – with more problems from our old friend, Major Corrosion – and then installed another pair of RSS Lower Control Arms. We’ll be
HOW TO: 986–997 SUSPENSION UPGRADE – PART 2 following that – in the issue after next – with the fitment of all four Bilstein spring struts, and then the two H&R anti-roll bars. In a subsequent instalment we’ll be showing what’s involved in the essential wheelalignment process, and finally taking the car to our test-track to find out how its behaviour responds to further subtle tweaks to the geometry and even damper settings. Why have fully adjustable suspension – and this set-up is about as adjustable as they come – if you’re not going to take full advantage of it? Such was the large amount of information that needed to be squeezed into that first
instalment that we took the unusual but – we hope – practical step of putting the same images up on our website, in conjunction with usefully detailed captions. (Go to 911porscheworld.com and follow the links to the Project cars section.) It goes against the grain not to publish the full story here in the magazine itself, but the fact is that if you don’t have easy access to the Internet you probably won’t be planning a project such as this in the first place. Space isn’t quite such an issue this time, but it’s a system that so far seems to have worked pretty well, and for that reason we have retained the same basic layout here. PW
Lowering the standard? Not a bit of it!
This 996 is art editor Peter Simpson’s latest project, joining his 911 Carrera 3.2 Targa, and effectively replacing a 944S2. Peter bought the then standard 1999-model car (below) for just £11,500, and as usual for him immediately hatched plans to modify it with larger wheels and ultra-low-profile tyres, lower and stiffer suspension, and ultimately some fairly substantial engine upgrades. For a little more detail on all of that see his Our cars reports in the July and August 2011 issues, or have a look at the project-car pages on our website – www.911porscheworld.com – where you’ll find all the recent how-to stories as an on-line free magazine. It’s fair to say, though, that opinion here in the 911 & Porsche World office was divided over both the logic and the likely results of this scheme. Pete, who cut his motoring teeth on Tarmac-hugging VW Golfs during the 1990s, is still young enough to put up with the uncompromising ride that can result from such suspension changes, but the older hands among us felt that for a road car likely to see only occasional circuit use he was being way too ambitious. There was no doubt that the height-adjustable Bilstein PS10 coil-over kit would be a good move (how can Bilsteins on a Porsche not be?), and there are plenty of 996s running quite happily on 19-inch wheels and tyres. Put both of those elements together, however, and then add a full set of suspension arms with completely solid rod-end bearings, and you would have the makings – or so we believed, anyway – of a ride straight from hell. Surprisingly, though, it seems as though our man might have come up with a winning combination – and the now ground-hugging car certainly looks the part on those classically styled BBS wheels and ultra-sticky Yokohama tyres. None of we sceptics has (yet!) had the chance to drive the now fully installed and aligned suspension, but Nine Excellence’s James Leaney, who fitted the kit – and who had a number of reservations of his own – seems impressed. ‘I’ve put some miles on the car now,’ he wrote in an e-mail to Pete, a few days after finally setting it up on the company’s own geo rig. ‘And it feels good! Not as firm as I thought it would be. Think 997 GT3RS on the “hard” setting. But even in the rain I can feel that it’s going to have monumental grip, and it’s nice and neutral, too.’ We shall, of course, be conducting our own road- and track-tests, as well as experimenting with the many possible damper, anti-roll-bar and geometry settings, but in the meantime it seems that there’s a lot of truth in the old adage. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – or a modified Porsche 911 by its stance alone.
As in the previous instalment of this necessarily long and involved story, there are far too many step-by-step photographs for usefully detailed captions in the limited space available, so we’ll be putting those up on our website as a permanent record. The group on this and the next spread shows the righthand front strut being removed – with similar problems from corroded fixing bolts (below) as at the rear of the car – and the new Bilstein being fitted. That might seem like a ‘continuity’ error, given that we’re planning to look in detail at all four of the struts (and the H&R anti-roll bars) next time, but you need something to support the hub while the RSS Lower Control Arm is being fitted, said James Leaney, and since it was he who was getting his hands dirty, who were we to argue? Larger photo at bottom right shows the new originalequipment top mounts and bearings for the front struts, to replace the horribly corroded and worn components James found on Pete’s car
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
Winning the arms race
Explaining how these modern Porsches’ suspension ‘works’ is like trying to describe the classic oversteer tail slide without all the appropriate hand gestures – and in practical terms about as useful. What is quite helpful, though, is to have a grasp of the task each individual component performs, whether standard or uprated, and most definitely of the terminology used to identify them all. Certain components – the spring struts and the anti-roll bars, for instance, together with the small-diameter vertical members that link them – are pretty much self-explanatory. The spring struts – here also known as coil-overs, because the coil springs are fitted round, or ‘over’, the dampers – have a dual role. The springs support the weight of the vehicle, and additionally determine its ride height. The dampers control (or ‘damp’) the movement of the springs (and thus the wheels) as the car reacts to irregularities on the road surface. Throughout the motor industry dampers are frequently – and quite incorrectly – termed shock absorbers, but in truth it’s the springs, and the springs alone, that absorb ‘shocks’ passing up from the road surface. In equally simplistic terms the anti-roll bars attempt (as the term obviously suggests) partly to reduce body roll, or sway, as the car corners. Hence their common US name of anti-sway bars – or sometimes (if rather less correctly) sway bars. They do this by connecting the two suspension systems across the car by means of a usually roughly ‘U’-shaped torsion bar – a spring, in other words – which has a natural tendency to resist the weight transfer to the outside of the vehicle as it turns in to a bend. Anti-roll bars can also be used, by altering the overall roll stiffness of the car, to fine-tune the front and rear suspension systems to produce, in conjunction with various other factors, the required amount of either understeer or oversteer. (More details at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/sway_bar if you’re up for it.) So far, then, so good. It’s the multiplicity of what – for the moment, anyway – we shall loosely call suspension ‘arms’ that here probably creates the most confusion. Bottom arms (control arms in Porsche terminology, and colloquially coffin arms because in plan view they look like coffins) permit the basic up-and-down movement of the hubs as the wheels follow the road surface. Each bottom arm’s outer end is secured to the base of the relevant stub axle via a conventional ball-joint, and the inner end pivots on the body via a round metal/rubber bush. (Henceforth in this story Metalastik-style bushes, although strictly speaking they’re no more Metalastiks, as such, than a Dyson vacuum cleaner is a Hoover.) At the front of the car the mounting bolt is a conventional hexagon-headed job, but at the rear a special eccentric-headed bolt allows the length of the arm to be adjusted in order to alter the wheel’s camber setting. The same coffin arm is used at all four corners of any given car, by the way.
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
Each of these main assemblies is braced (or ‘triangulated’) against unwanted fore-and-aft movement of the hub by a forkended trailing arm (again, rather unhelpfully, a control arm in Porsche-speak) running from inboard of that bottom ball-joint, via another Metalastik-style bush, to what’s known as a pillow-ball mount at the body-shell end. It’s this ball-joint that allows the required up-and-down articulation. The Boxster and Cayman have at the rear a somewhat longer version of this trailing arm than the 911, but it does exactly the same job. In all cases all four of these arms run forward to the chassis at a roughly 45-degree angle. And at the front of the car that’s just about it. The primary functional member is the spring strut, whose top mounting is also adjustable (when you know how, and by how much…) to alter castor. Toe adjustment is provided, as you would probably expect, by altering the working length of the steering rack’s track rods. At the rear, paradoxically (paradoxically because here the wheels don’t actively ‘steer’, as such), it’s a little more complicated. Again the heart of each suspension assembly is a coil-over spring strut and a bottom/coffin arm, but two identical Metalastik-bushed upper links per side between them form what amounts to a pivoting ‘wishbone’. Once again Porsche calls these links – surprise, surprise – control arms, but we’ve also referred to the standard items as upper links. In standard form these arms are non-adjustable. Rear-wheel toe adjustment is provided by the rod that runs between the eye at the rear of each hub casting and a further mounting, here with another eccentric fixing bolt, near the anti-rollbar mount. Porsche, not unreasonably, calls this arm a track rod. RSS, for its part, calls its bottom/coffin arms Lower Control Arms. The four rear-suspension upper links come as what’s known as an Adjustable Rear Link Kit, and the two track rods as an Adjustable Rear Toe Steer Kit. Crucially, all six of these items are easily adjustable for length, turnbuckle-style, by slackening a locknut at each end of the central section and then rotating it. The RSS coffin arms are adjustable, too, in addition to the standard eccentric mountings on the chassis. Shims of varying thickness are available to fit between the inner chassis mount and the main body of the arm, and with these it is possible to dial in still more negative camber (ie with the tops of the wheels leaning in, towards each other) than that provided by the standard eccentrics. (And more than would ever be needed, even for a full-on race car. Indeed, James Leaney fitted no such shims to Pete Simpson’s car, relying instead on the standard adjustment system.) Camber adjustment is also provided by the eccentric holes in the solid aluminium mounting blocks provided for the front trailing arms alone (in place of simple Metalastik-style bushes), which although arguably rather too hard for road use do provide a lot more adjustment (and easier adjustment) than is possible from the standard set-up. (See the larger photo, bottom left.)
HOW TO: 986–997 SUSPENSION UPGRADE – PART 2 Coming soon
Such is the nature and the complexity of this project that even now our initial plan for the structure of these features has changed since we first started them, but we still think they are worth running over as many issues as possible. We have learned quite a lot about how these popular and important modern Porsches’ suspension systems actually work, and we hope that as a result you might, too. At the time of writing, then, we’re planning to cover the assembly and installation of the Bilstein struts and the H&R anti-roll bars (below) in the next edition but one, and to follow that up with a detailed guide to the science (or is it an art?) of geometry alignment. After that we’ll be taking the car to our test-track, and finding out how it now performs in real-world circuit conditions. And after that Pete Simpson has plans not only to upgrade the brakes, but also to bolt on an after-market turbocharger kit. Looks like it could be quite a ride.
Who provided what?
What you might call our car’s 10 primary suspension members, or arms, were provided by RoadSportSupply, also known as RSS, of Costa Mesa, California. We needed four Lower Control Arms or so-called ‘coffin’ arms, with solid aluminium bushings (two of them adjustable) for the triangulating trailing arms; four Rose-jointed upper links or control arms (RSS sells them as an Adjustable Rear Link Kit); and two toe arms, or in RSS terminology an Adjustable Rear Toe Steer Kit. More information on all these items, and the company’s many other top-quality Porsche tuning parts, at www.rss.rpmware.com. The four spring-strut assemblies – so-called coil-overs, with conventional manually adjustable spring platforms to alter the car’s ride height – are Bilstein PS10s, supplied via the company’s UK distributor, Euro Car Parts (www.bilstein.co.uk; www.eurocarparts.com). The two anti-roll bars came from H&R in Germany, again via Euro Car Parts (www.hrsprings.com). The rear anti-rollbar links came with the Bilstein struts, the fronts from Euro Car Parts. In the event we also needed two front-strut top mounts, which came from Porsche Centre Mid-Sussex (01444 616979), and four original-equipment trailing arms. (The originals were just about serviceable, but clearly past their best.) Those were supplied by the nearby Crawley branch of Euro Car Parts (01293 643400). The 19-inch BBS CH-R wheels came from Kent-based Rimstyle (www.rimstyle.com; 01233 503006), with 235/35 and 285/30 Yokohama Advan rubber (www.yokohama.co.uk) fitted by RSR Tyres & Wheels near our offices in Coulsdon, Surrey (www.rsrtyres.co.uk; 020 8645 2700). Our sincere thanks to all concerned – and especially to James Leaney at independent Porsche specialist Nine Excellence in Horley, Surrey (01293 226911; www.nineexcellence.com), who had the job of putting it all together.
RSS front coffin arm is fitted in almost exactly the same way as at the rear. Amazingly, the pivot bolt for the right-hand arm was one of the few fixings that came undone without a battle, although the one at the front end of the trailing arm (see below right) put up quite a robust defence. Standard 996 doesn’t have an eccentric-headed fixing bolt for the front coffin arm, to adjust camber, so here RSS offers another solid aluminium mounting block for the rear end of the trailing arm (see the bottom left-hand pic on the facing page) that can be rotated to achieve the desired change – although James Leaney initially set Pete’s to the ‘neutral’ position. Camber changes can also be brought about by fitting special shims between the RSS arm and its separate inner mount (arrowed in the relevant photo below left), but again these are intended primarily for more extreme applications, such as dedicated trackday or race cars. Finished installation (below right) looks the part, even though – somewhat paradoxically – it’s a lot less complicated than the rear end
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
WE DON’T JUST WRITE ABOUT PORSCHES, WE DRIVE AND LIVE WITH THEM, TOO
SECURE 996 THE TEAM
JOHN GLYNN CARRERA 3.0 MOT’d Orange car a few days before I left for Rennsport Reunion. Passed with no trouble but found a nail in one rear tyre. My LSD means a pair of new Contis required if it doesn’t repair. Porsches of all kinds at Rennsport but no Carrera 3s: should have shipped mine. More next month.
ANTONY FRASER 996 GT3 Still enjoying a graunch-free existence, thanks to the Cargraphic Airlift kit. The GT3 has ferried Mr Tipler and I to Holland and Germany. 170mph, since you ask (traffic!), and more sedately to the PCGB 50th bash, not forgetting this magazine’s own Windsor picnic (which was excellent). Next up: Brakes!
PAUL DAVIES CARRERA 3.2 TARGA Back from the annual Porsche trip to Spain. 2653 miles completed with the Carrera not missing a beat, and with the Targa top firmly in the luggage compartment all the time. Now the car’s going off the road for a while to have some paintwork done. And the passenger side heater’s still stuck on!
PETER SIMPSON CARRERA 3.4 TARGA A little bit of news on the 3.4. I have managed to get hold of some new wing bolts and washers ready to bolt the wings back on. I’ve also had to source a second hand window runner as the original one just disintegrated, but as it caused no other damage it must have been leaking just at that point!
CHRIS HORTON 924S, 944, 996 CARRERA 2 A rebuilt brake caliper appears to have cured the frontend noise from the 924S, and the subsequent drive to Cornwall to see dealer Adrian Crawford was a pleasure. Sadly, the car dumped several litres of fuel in the middle of his village, but even that provided the answer to a previous mystery. All will be revealed next time!
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
Got a fancy sportscar? You’ll be needing a tracking device then. Enter the CobraTrak 5
roject 996 is coming up for its insurance renewal and we’ve come across some issues. Typically we’re being asked if it’s been fitted with an approved tracking system. Indeed some insurance companies simply aren’t prepared to insure a car like this without one. Oh, and naturally it needs to be Thatcham Cat 5 too. Crazy? Well yes and no. Sure our 996 may only be worth as much as a three year old Golf, but your average car thief isn’t going to know that, and even if he did, he’d probably prefer to thrash a Porsche. Thinking about it, if there’s a possibility of getting your car back in one piece, then you’d rather that than a shell of some sort. Plus there’s the aggravation of finding a like-for-like replacement with the paltry sum that the insurance company has offered. No, we’re sold. A tracker it is, like we had a choice!
So what to go for. Needless to say there’s plenty to choose from, but we figured we’d go factory and use a CobraTrak 5, the very same as fitted on current showroom Porsche models. Well we guess they’ve done their homework, so what’s good enough for the factory will surely be good enough for us. This isn’t a DIY sort of job and so Cobra duly dispatched Steve Dunn to talk us through and fit the system at Nine Excellence’s Crawley workshop. Now this is where it all gets a bit top secret. We were expecting the CobraTrak 5 to come in a logo laden, fancy shiny box, but no it arrived in a plain white box. This is so your local tea leaf doesn’t know what he’s looking for, and it’s for this reason we don’t have any photos of the CobraTrak 5 being fitted. If we showed you how to fit one, you would all know how to remove one. What if this copy was
PETER SIMPSON 911/996 Occupation: Studio Manager, CHPublications Home town: Horley, Surrey Previous Porsches owned: 1 Cars: 911 Carrera 3.2, 996 Years: 1989, 1999 Mileages: 107,657; 62,656 Owned for: 3 years; 4 months Mods/options: In total, far too much to list here! Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org THIS MONTH IN BRIEF: Got protection in the form of CobraTrak 5 tracking system
Cobra www.cobravehiclesecurity.co.uk e. email@example.com t: 0844 239 0034 CobraTrak 5 £999 inc VAT which includes the tracking unit, installation and a 12 months subscription Nine Excellence www.nineexcellence.com Where Steve Dunn from Cobra came and met us to get the CobraTrak 5 fitted euro car parts www.eurocarparts.com We use Euro Car Parts to find a lot of our Porsche parts ARP www.arp-bolts.com e. firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: (US) 805 339 2200 Supplied: crankcase throughbolts and cylinder-head bolts
Cobra Trak 5’s ADR cards. One of these transponders has to remain with you at all times while driving. The other is a spare to keep safe. If it activates, your car has been stolen!
to fall into the wrong hands? Having said that it’s a hugely complicated collection of wires that has to be soldered here there and everywhere, so it would be quite hard. Also the system comes with an anti tamper alert, which activates and alerts you if your battery has been disconnected or the wires have been cut. As you would expect, the CobraTrak 5 is feature packed. We rather like the ignition lock, which can be
activated by Cobra with Police authorisation to prevent the engine from being restarted in the event of a theft. As the owner of the car you are given two ‘Driver Recognition Cards’ (ADR). These cards are part of the security. If your car gets stolen, even with the keys, the ADR card will send a signal to inform Cobra that the car is being moved without authorisation. You will be further contacted by Cobra, so at this point
make sure that it isn’t your wife who’s borrowed the car! Assuming she hasn’t then it’s been pinched, but don’t worry, that’s why you’ve got a tracker fitted. The other ADR card can been used by a second driver – probably your wife! Recovery time is reckoned to be on average 47mins. The GPS tracking, which would have been activated is accurate to within 10 metres and the unique roaming sim card gives coverage across
more than 180 countries, so it should be brought home soon. Of course all this costs. The system is £999 inc VAT which includes the tracking unit, installation and a 12 months subscripton, each year after is £215. You can also go for a 3 year package at a cost of £1388 inc VAT, but then what price for peace of mind. We’re thinking of organising a dummy theft now to really test it! PW
And who wouldn’t want to steal Project 996? Looking rather fetching on its 19in BBS wheels, we’re glad it’s suitably protected
I have managed to collect up all the neccesary parts to get the engine rebuild on its way. The parts will be on their way to Hartech very soon. Apart from the ARP engine studs and head bolts, the rest – bearing shells, gaskets, rings etc – came from Euro Car Parts. Let’s hope it all goes smoothly.
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
TURBO IS READY AND WAITING! The TPC turbo kit has arrived. Quite when we’re going to fit it is unclear, but before we do we’re going to open the engine up for a good poke around. It needs to be fit to handle what we’ve got planned!
PETER SIMPSON 911/996 Occupation: Studio Manager, CHPublications Home town: Horley, Surrey Previous Porsches owned: 1 Cars: 911 Carrera 3.2, 996 Years: 1989, 1999 Mileages: 107,657; 63,754 Owned for: 3 years; 9 weeks Mods/options: In total, far too much to list here! Contact: email@example.com THIS MONTH IN BRIEF: Everything is looking good on the 996 – lots of things are in the pipeline
he turbo has landed. That’s the TPC turbo kit for our project 996 and as you can see it’s an impressive collection of bits. TPC claim that it’s a straight bolt on job, with no internal mods needed, and that’s certainly our experience of the kit as tried on both a Boxster and a Cayman. However, there are those nagging 996 engine issues, and although our engine has a lowly 63,000miles on the clock, we reckon a thorough check and a possible overhaul could be in order. So in the not too distant future it will be off to Hartech to be opened up.
911 & PORSCHE WORLD
Hartech is one of a small number of Porsche specialists with specific fixes for the 996’s ailments and if need be we’ll be going for replacement barrels and anything else needed. If nothing else it will be an interesting exercise to take a look inside and see what’s going on. With the turbo kit fitted our 996 should be pushing over 430bhp! Good job then that we’ve already attended to the chassis with a Bilstein PS10 coilover kit, plus RSS aluminium suspension arms, H&R anti roll bars and of course the 19in BBS CH-R wheels, booted with Yokohama tyres. Can’t help thinking that we might need some uprated brakes though. So plenty to do then, although at the moment the 996 is simply being used as an everyday commuter machine, albeit a very entertaining one. More next month.
CONTACTS TPC Racing www.tpcracing.com The turbo kit has landed! Rimstyle www.rimstyle.com The place to go for the 19in BBS CH-R wheels
The TPC turbo kit is a work of art and will give us the boost we need Bilstein suspension firstname.lastname@example.org PS10 kit looking good Nine Excellence www.nineexcellence.com Ken and James at Nine Excellence are ready for the TPC turbo
Yokohama www.yokohama.co.uk For the 19in Advans that wrap our BBSs
euro car parts www.eurocarparts.com We use euro car parts to find a lot of our Porsche parts
RSS rss.rpmware.com Billet ally suspension arms are the business
Hartech www.hartech.org Getting ready for the engine check and overhaul
Project car Porsche 911 996 C4