Day-Glo Orange is the New Black - Porsche 911 GT3 (996 Mk 1) [review]

Car Specifications
Engine: 
3600cc, 24-valves
Cylinder Layout: 
Flat-6
Top Speed: 
approx. 255km/h
Transmission: 
6-speed Manual
0-100km/h: 
< 5 seconds
Power: 
360bhp at 7200rpm
Torque: 
370Nm at 5000rpm
Features: 
  • Raw
  • this particular car has revisions from the 996 Mk2 GT3

An aurally loud and brash car like this Porsche 996 911 GT3 Mk 1 (or 'Sunkist', as it's informally known) needs an appropriately lurid colour to accompany it...

Mind you, it has all the ability to back up its distinctive colour choice so you'll never mistake it for some pastel-loving pansy.

Gorgeous Advan RG alloys

Prior to this, the GT3 was found in a rather boring shade of black and before that, Zanzibar Red. Of course, there's always been a sort of Teutonic appeal associated with solid colours like black and silver, but the new owner decided that hum-drum would not be the way forward for this car... and so we have Sunkist Racing with a delectable 'pearl' finish - a finger in the faces of the few 997 GT3 RSs in a similar hue that are prowling the streets.

There's more to the car than just straight-line acceleration

At that time, the MK 1 GT3 was probably the most hardcore road-going production 911 that money could buy (at least in the Singapore context). Although there was a 993 RS from before (another cult classic, by the way, with only 2 pristine units running around Singapore), it wasn't until the arrival of the GT3 MK 2 that the lightweight GT3 RS made its re-appearance.

Most notably, in 1999, the GT3 became the first production car to break the 8 minutes mark as it romped ferociously around the Nurburgring. Porsche's official test-driver Walter Rohrl lapped 'Green Hell' in 7 minutes 56 seconds while piloting the 911 GT3 MK 1. He subsequently managed 7 mins 43 seconds in the 996 GT3 RS.

To put it in perspective, this car easily cracked the 2:38 barrier at Sepang on old street tyres at the hands of a non-professional track enthusiast.

Despite its overt resemblance to lesser but no less outrageously body-kitted 996 911s, the GT3 is a completely different kettle of fish. Designed from ground-up for the track, the no-nonsense 996 GT3 was first introduced in 1999 as a lean, mean, track-focused machine that was intended to trump its rivals at GT-class competition level on race circuits.

The body addenda on this car typically includes a cargraphic front spoiler with lip (although today it's running the stock spoiler otherwise there would have been issues with the car-park slope)

Cup racing bucket seat is snug enough to suit every body-shape

No Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake system under the Advan RG alloy rims (painted black orange highlights) but Sunkist is equipped with the GT3 MK 2's 6pot front callipers and 4pot rears for stupendous stopping power... and i mean STUPENDOUS!

Cargraphics header and exhaust system really lets the flat-6 powerplant sing!

As far as road use goes, the stopping prowess it displays in hauling you to a halt at the traffic lights or when a taxi pulls out in front of you is merely the tip of the iceberg. The pedal feel offers ample confidence and there's always the sensation that it has more than 95% in reserve for the track. Note the big-brake ducts that cool of this pristine example.

scuffs and wear marks are badges of its battle-scars

There's a minimalist Zen-like atmosphere to the interior, yet there's no mistaking the GT3's 'hard' personality, as the cabin best exemplifies the importance of form following function. Automatic climate control, a hi-fi and powered windows are the few concessions to 'comfort'.

Seat-belts are red colour coded, there's a chunky 3-spoke sports steering wheel to cling on to, even as your feet are dancing on the alloy pedals while you work your way down 99 bends. The suede-clad 'cobra-head' gear-lever look out of place since this is an update item that's been fitted to the car from the 'newer' 996 GT3 RS.

Make no mistake, the car is a little worn, but the very few scuff marks belie its age (close to 10 years) and the controls easily feel like they're more than capable of lasting another 10 with impunity. Besides, the car wears it wear-marks and scuffs proudly like a warrior would of his battle-scars!

The driver's seat takes the beautifully sculpted form of a bespoke Clubsport package Recaro bespoke race bucket, while the passenger spends his time in a more mundane electric-adjustable leather seat.

you'd be a fool not to appreciate the simplicity of these instruments

These classic old school gauges are pure Porsche and you'd be a fool not to love the simplicity and eminent legibility of the font and layout. The cabin architecture exudes a functional charm that is elegant in its simplicity. One thing's for sure: this isn't a car to piss around in!

Under the rump-end of Sunkist resides the same 3.6L water-cooled flat-six that is found in the garden variety 911s of the early 2000s, albeit tuned to a chest-thumping 360bhp in stock form.

cabin is all about function over form

But before you go 'pish-tosh, it's water-cooled!', it's worth noting that the particular flat-six in the GT3 was set up to better resemble its earlier air-cooled counterparts, like the 964 and seminal RS, than the latter day water-cooled babies.

For a more intense driving experience, Sunkist features Cargraphics header and exhaust items, while a lightweight single-mass flywheel (again from the Clubsport package) makes for a more frenetic experience, especially driven in anger with the combination of Gemballa suspension and LSD from a Cup car.

On the move, the soundtrack is amazing as the combination of exhaust and engine create a delicious mechanical symphony that easily raises the hackles of mere mortals as it hurtles by down the straight. The drive is nothing short of visceral. Steering, pedal feel and rear-wheel drive chassis suck the committed driver into its fold to work together in harmony. Gear-shifts are short and rifle-bolt precise, even if there's a little notchiness.

the GT3 wears its battle scars proudly

The acceleration is brutal, raw and painfully explosive (especially with the higher final drive); if this were an encounter of the prison variety, it would leave you battered, sore and bruised where the sun don't shine. There's a frantic quality in its power delivery that makes you want to cane it even from A-B. But don't be mistaken, this is not a drag-strip warrior and even the briefest of drives through your favourite series of twisties will quickly throw up that fact.

Summary
There's little doubt that Sunkist is a luminous personality that has the tendency to attract the wrong sort of attention since it is a rather loud and obnoxious embodiment of conspicuous consumption, which is all the more a pity considering how it really is that accomplished a performer and not so much about the 'flash' factor. With an increased emphasis on style quotient and comfort in more recent offerings (from all car brands), the MK1 GT3 is a refreshingly welcome hero from a bygone era. - dk
Photos: 
Gorgeous Advan RG alloys
There's more to the car than just straight-line acceleration
Cup racing bucket seat is snug enough to suit every body-shape
Cargraphics header and exhaust system really lets the flat-6 powerplant sing!
scuffs and wear marks are badges of its battle-scars
you'd be a fool not to appreciate the simplicity of these instruments
cabin is all about function over form
the GT3 wears its battle scars proudly
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