The Road Less Traveled

This 4.2-liter 996 GT3 is one part race car and one part daily driver.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 1
December 6, 2018

Nicolas Abboud extracts himself from the driver’s seat of his immaculate 2004 911 (996) GT3 4.2 MR and greets me. We’re here today to look at and discuss what is quite possibly the finest 996-gen 911 GT3 in the world. The ideas for this car’s impressive list of modifications began with Abboud, who drew from his decades of experience with fast cars.

The Gothenburg, Sweden-based enthusiast started his love affair with speed many years ago. In the 1990s he had a Volkswagen Corrado VR6 with an engine that was enlarged to 3.2 liters, which made it good for 292 hp. He later moved on to a Mini Cooper S Hartge, a few Ruf Porsches, and a Ferrari 458 Italia. In search of something new and different while flipping through the pages of a French-language car magazine, he discovered road-going Porsches tuned by Manthey Motors, a division of Manthey Racing in Meuspath, Germany. He liked the Manthey Porsches so much that he ended up owning two of them.

At some point, Abboud’s buying and selling of cars slowed to a halt and he found himself with just two: a 997 GT3 RS 4.0 and a 996 GT3 Clubsport (CS). The former became a track-day-only machine while the latter spent its life as a commuter car to get between home and the office. The CS also served as the foundation of the car you see on these pages.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 2

From Clubsport to Manthey Racer

The story of this 996’s reboot began when Abboud was loaned a new 991.1-generation 911 GT3 RS for potential purchase. While he was delighted by the dynamic potential of Porsche’s then top-dog track 911, he was disappointed by what he felt was the car’s relative lack of engagement. Instead of buying the 991, he chose the road less traveled and decided to improve his GT3 CS with the help of Manthey Racing, which by that point was wholly owned by Porsche AG.

Unlike most customers doing a commission, however, Abboud was able to coax Manthey Racing founder Olaf Manthey out of retirement to help develop the project. Abboud sold Manthey on the idea by him by telling him the purpose of this build was to create “the best driver’s GT3 in the world.” But this was no ploy; Abboud was dead serious. Who wouldn’t want to be involved with a build like that?

One of Abboud’s requirements was that all the work done had to be exceptional right down to the smallest details. He was also clear that he was only interested in upgrading his GT3 CS, not turning a 996 GT3 R race car into something for the road. Yes, GT3 Rs donated parts to this project and influenced decisions. But above all, this had to be a road car that could perform remarkably well on a race track, not the other way around.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 3

To start, a 997 GT3 R donated its 4.4-liter flat-six engine, which was reduced to 4.2 liters in the interest of reliable daily use. Even so, it still chucks out a healthy 523 hp. Olaf Manthey—never a man to do things halfway—was prepared to fit a PDK transmission and rear-axle steering. Abboud, however, preferred a meaty single-clutch sequential gearbox and a rebuilt and uprated GT3 suspension.

This Porsche now rolls on 18-inch BBS E88 alloys wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R rubber. It practically skims the road due to its lowered ride height, but the car is aided by a lift mechanism that raises it by two inches when needed. Behind the wheels hide race-spec steel rotors that replaced the original Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake (PCCB) setup.

In addition to more power and uprated underpinnings, Abboud also wanted to reduce the GT3’s curb weight by as much as reasonably possible. An oversized carbon-fiber induction kit saved 55 lbs over stock. Inside the engine, a lighter-weight rotating assembly saved 18 lbs over the 3.6-liter engine it replaced. Lighter drive shafts? 26 lbs. Custom suspension pieces? Another 24 lbs.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 4

Since Abboud wanted to keep this car looking as much like a stock 996 GT3 as possible, he chose to have relatively few changes made to the bodywork. Only the subtly larger rear wing—which produces 84 lbs of downforce—and a different engine lid extractor vent can tip off knowledgeable bystanders to this car’s upgrades. The carbon fiber hood—which is usually a bold modification—blends in nicely with the black paintwork.

Up front, there are small Cayman GT4-style dive-planes just ahead of the front wheels. Also, the angle at which the radiators are positioned in the car’s nose was adjusted to further aid downforce. All told, front downforce was increased by 68 lbs over stock. The windshield and driver’s and passenger windows were custom-cut from lightweight glass and the back and rear side windows were manufactured from Makrolon polycarbonate.

All these weight-removing and downforce-improving mods weren’t done at the cost of safety, though. Abboud is a family man with three women in his life: his wife and his two daughters. Needless to say, coming home from track days in one piece is very important to him. Carbon-fiber components weren’t just specified because of their lower weight, but because they’re also stronger than steel, aluminum, and most composites. He also opted to have the stock roll cage reinforced for maximum protection.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 5

But all this work wasn’t done at the cost of comfort. Inside, the leather-trimmed dash, air conditioning, and sound deadening materials have all been retained. New seat rails were fabricated to drop the buckets by 35 mm (1.4 inches) and lower the center of gravity. Some of the trim was resprayed in lacquered black for a stealthier finish. Abboud also fitted an eight-outlet fire extinguisher system and a battery cut-off.

Porsche was so impressed by the final product that it allowed Manthey to stamp this GT3’s new engine block with the original 996 chassis number, making this the only ‘matching numbers’ 4.2-liter flat-six-powered 996 in the world.

Back in Business

After eight months of effort, the result is a car that undoubtedly has a harder core than the 991 GT3 RS. From the perfectly integrated sequential shifter to the clean carbon-fiber bodywork to the stonking 4.2-liter six; the quality of work done and attention to detail on this car is exquisite. And although this 996 has lots of racing parts, it still feels reasonably comfy on the street. Abboud declares the car to be “perfect” and something he is going to keep. In fact, he’s already promised it to his eldest daughter, the only downside of which is that he now has to find another car to gift to her younger sister.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 6

Were money not an issue, Abboud suggests that buying a McLaren F1 LM or a Ford GT40 Mk1 would be the only way he could upgrade from this GT3. Olaf Manthey suggests, however, the answer is actually a 981-gen Cayman GT4 fitted with a race-spec 560-hp 4.4-liter flat six from a GT3 R. While Abboud admits that project idea is tantalizing, he says its potential cost is utterly terrifying!

This mutant 996—a road car spliced with GT3 R DNA—can, with a Manthey Racing professional driver at the wheel, manage a lap of the Nürburgring Nordschleife track in Germany that is 4.8 seconds faster than a new 991 GT3 RS. Equally, it can also take Abboud to work without complaining; the extra torque helps to smooth things out. He does, however, confess to having torn more than one business suit on the roll cage.

Photo: The Road Less Traveled 7
Photo: The Road Less Traveled 8
Photo: The Road Less Traveled 9
Connect with Excellence:   Facebook icon Twitter icon Instagram icon