Jack Wood is a very happy man, having just picked up his first 911 - and it's a GT3.
At the end of March last year I made one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made in my motoring life: I sold my beloved Cayman S. The Cayman, or the Caymonster as it became affectionately known to the Drive Cult fraternity, was a dream that turned into love and then into a passion. It was a car that taught me almost everything I know about handling, balance, communication, and ultimately, driving.
But after pushing the Cayman to what I felt were its natural limits, I hankered after what is the next logical progression, a GT3. I sold the car on a whim to a very dear friend, thinking that it would be an easy step to make it up to a Porsche GT car, only to find myself bogged down in the quagmire of negotiations with she who must be obeyed. My original plan had been to move straight to a 997 GT3 but it quickly became clear that money put aside for such a purchase had already been "allocated" to a large and expensive piece of construction on our house...
Twelve months later, very little had changed and my other half was being very truculent about the prospect of spending such a large sum of money on what she saw as essentially a toy (how do women have such power to denigrate our passions to such base terms?). However, a week ago I made an offhand suggestion that I would maybe consider a slightly older car, then showed her a pristine black 996 GT3 for sale at 911 Virgin. She’s as much of a sucker for a shiny black car as I am, and this time I got a less than hostile response and a request for a bit more information. At that very moment I knew I had a chance and I had to take it!
Six days and a hundred phone calls later I lay awake in bed at 3:40am watching the near-static figures on the alarm clock click slowly up. Why does time pass so slowly when you want it to fly? I was trapped within a never-ending 10-minute window whole hours before the need to rise for the day’s adventures.
Saturday 14th April 2012 turned out to be one of those great days. A pre-dawn start to catch a train to London, a Tube ride and a lift from a friend later and I'm stood in the perfectly manicured courtyard at 911 Virgin in Uxbridge as a Basalt Black 996 GT3 mkII slowly came into view, its fat Michelins crunching on the gravel.
For years I’ve been a confirmed 996 naysayer, always preferring the more modern lines of the 997, but I found myself completely besotted with this car from the moment it rolled to a halt in front of me. I was rooted to the spot and for a good 10 minutes I just stood there with a mug of extremely good coffee going cold in my hands as I took in the sight of my new car.
It looked purposeful, taut, full of aggression and absolutely immaculate. Everything I’d hoped for and more. Eventually I realised that I was probably looking a bit stupid just standing there staring, but I almost didn’t want to get too close to it for fear of breaking the illusion that the car was actually mine.
Tom and Dan from 911 Virgin took me over every inch of the car, because as you might have guessed, I had paid a deposit on the car based on nothing more than a few photographs and a sales description on a website. I'd basically bought the car sight unseen. Admittedly I had asked a huge number of questions during the week prior to collection, most of which were on the suggestion of my local independent Porsche specialist Sports and Classic. They had looked after my Cayman for years post-warranty and the owner, Mike, actually owns and runs a mkII GT3 Clubsport, so he knows a thing or two about these cars.
All the responses to my questions had come back positive, and one of the reasons I was so interested in this car was due to the huge amount of remedial work that had been carried out in the past few months, including replacing the air-con condenser radiators and a full suspension setup by Chris Franklin at Centre Gravity. I knew for sure that it would mean a more enjoyable and reliable car in the short term, and smaller bills in the long term.
That said, regardless of the cars on-paper provenance I was shown exactly what 911 Virgin look for when they inspect a car for stock. Weld lines, rivet placements, flaking around fastenings, masking, overspray, the lot. From what I saw, the car was immaculate and 100% original. As a final act of transparency, Dan plugged the car into an ECU reader to demonstrate the number of running hours and any potentially fatal over-revs from missed shifts. Again, the car came up flawless.
So what exactly had I bought? Well, it's a 2004MY 996 GT3 MmII in non-ClubSport spec. Options-wise it has leather Recaro buckets, blue seatbelts (not sure about these), centre console, aluminium pack, CD and aircon, and it's all finished in Basalt Black, the same colour as my beloved Cayman. It's had 2 previous owners and covered just 32,000 miles in its life but looking at the exterior of the car and feeling the way it drives you'd swear it had done more like 10,000.
And oh, how it drives. Having had the pleasure of being loaned a 997 GT3 by Chris Harris last year I was expecting the 996 to feel slower and softer by comparison, but it only took a handful of miles to realise that the 996 is definitely not the crusty old relative. The engine is a genuine masterpiece, pulling strongly at any revs but absolutely ballistic between 5 and 8,000rpm. It's hard to believe that there is only 200cc difference in displacement between this unit and the engine in the back of my old Cayman. They feel poles apart.
To say I am happy would be an understatement. The whole package - the car, its condition, its provenance, the buying experience with 911 Virgin, the engine, the chassis - everything about the experience of buying, owning and driving my first Porsche GT3 has been sensational. Now my next step is to get my feet wet and get it onto the track. There are fun times ahead.