20 Years of Supercars

Also from Issue 153

  • SPECIAL: 20 Years of Excellence
  • SPECIAL: 911 3.2 vs. 968 vs. 986 2.5
  • eBay 911 SC Driven 3,865 Miles Home
  • Ferry’s First: Type 64 History and Drive
  • 2007 997 GT3 RS Road Test
  • 2007 997 GT3, GT3 RS, and GT3 Cup
  • 1996 993 Carrera RS Replica Drive
  • Market Update: 1989-98 911s
  • 1973 911 Carrera 2.7 RSL Drive
  • 1972 916 2.4S Drive
  • Ultimate 911E hot rod
  • 2006 ALMS Wrap-Up
  • IMSA GT3 Cup
  • 356 Restoration Part 18
  • Tech Forum: 20-Year-Old Porsches
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Driving the Carrera GT at more normal speeds on public roads is still a tremendous experience. All of its controls are relatively light and highly positive, with a synergy that only the best cars of any type exhibit. And yet, despite its eagerness to change direction, the Carrera GT never feels darty or nervous below the absolute limits. Its power steering is highly descriptive of the road’s surface yet doesn’t kick back unnecessarily. The steering loads up in fast turns, but not quite as much as the 959’s or GT1’s. The six-speed gearshift is a delight, with positive throws that require only a fingertip’s effort to complete. Side to side, it’s a short shifter. Gate to gate, the reach is longer — but oh so sweet.

Another measure of sweetness comes from one of the most incredible engines ever to power a road car. The normally-aspirated V10 is a willing revver, its super-light flywheel and ceramic clutch endowing it with a level of pickup that no normal street motor, let alone one with the burden of forced induction, can hope to match. Blip the throttle at idle and revs rise and fall instantly. Kill the ignition and the V10 doesn’t merely spin down, it stops — the instant you turn the key counterclockwise.

Apply throttle on the fly and the V10’s sharp throttle response and the inherent torque of 5.7 liters translate the low mass of this carbon-fiber supercar into serious forward motion. Amongst cutting-edge speed machines, only Ferrari’s Enzo and Pagani’s Zonda produce the same electric response. Of course, both of those supercars are also relatively light and have big, normally-aspirated motors.

The soundtrack that accompanies the C-GT’s leap for redline in each gear redefines the meaning of the term spine-tingling. The sound of a sheet of silk being ripped by a rapier in slow motion amplified through a 1,000-watt pro sound system behind your head is a rough approximation of what reaches your ears. It’s an awesome, intoxicating sound, but because of its lower volume and higher bass content, it has none of the pain-inducing frequencies and volume that accompany the scream of a V10-powered Formula 1 race car testing nearby.

In the final analysis, while the 959 and 911 GT1 both provide their own driving thrills, it is the Carrera GT that is the most polished and synergetic as a total driving experience. That Porsche created nearly 1,300 examples of its Carrera GT boggles the mind — and makes us wonder at what the next installment of the Porsche supercar story might be like…

Three Tenors, One Winner
It’s been interesting and refreshing to revisit the 959 and GT1 after driving them when they were freshly minted. I can be as nostalgic as the next enthusiast and I’ll be the first to admit that, sometimes, I wish things were just as I remembered them. But this does not apply only to cars. In the world of photography, for instance, many still rate Leica Rangefinder cameras highly. Like the RS 2.7, an old Leica was the pinnacle in its era. But time has moved on.

While modern equivalents may not offer quite the same feel or design purity, they are often better built, better performing, and usually — but not always! — more reliable. The 959 looks and feels old by today’s standards. Its handling, grip, and straight-line performance are shaded by the latest 997 Turbo, a far less expensive car to buy and maintain. In fact, even by 1996, the 993 Turbo had already shown its venerable predecessor the way home in many respects. That said, the 959’s size and docile nature means you can use it as a frequent driver. And you should, if only to keep its complex systems exercised.

Due to its competition pedigree and lower head count, the GT1 will always be special. If it’s the pure sensation of a competition car you crave, this is the Porsche supercar for your garage. A decade on, this Le Mans refugee is still the most outrageous looking Porsche road car of all time — and for another Porsche to steal the visual thunder of the Carrera GT takes some doing. Certainly, the GT1 was the car more spectators gravitated to when we arrived at Malmsheim. In fact, a German TV crew filming a hot-rod show wrapped up and turned its attention our way. The GT1 was suddenly flavor of the month.

Pressed to choose one of these three Porsches to drive away with after driving them back to back, it’s the scream of the Carrera GT’s V10 you’d hear fading into the sunset. Of the three Porsches in this face-off, it’s the one that appeals most and on several levels. The GT looks best with its roof panels off, while its build quality and fabulous detailing make it a car you can enjoy without even leaving the garage. The C-GT can be a haven when you need a short respite from the daily grind.

Some people approach car ownership with their hearts, others with their heads. I’ll admit that I tend to look at build quality, detail design, and engineering purity objectively first. If the pedals in a car are not properly arranged for heel-and-toe work, it’s a deal-breaker. More than almost any other manufacturer, Porsche gets these objective things right. But on this day, the Carrera GT was the also the car that provoked the strongest positive emotional response from me.

Driving should be a large part of what the supercar experience is about, and when you start the Carrera GT’s charismatic V10 and roll onto the throttle, it’s impossible to come back without a huge grin. Overlaid by the best soundtrack, the most inspirational drive of the lot made five stars in the rapture department. All this really is enough to make the Carrera GT the very best Porsche supercar of all time. Until the next one, of course.

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