Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997 vs. Boxster S 987

Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997 vs. Boxster S 987

Norfolk is one of the only counties in the UK without motorways. Instead, it features countless twisty backroads, ideal for darting around in a Porsche. No wonder 911 & Porsche World editor, Dan Furr, and long-time contributor, Johnny Tipler, live there...


Words Dan Furr and Johnny Tipler

Photography Dan Sherwood

EASTBOUND AND DOWN


JOHNNY TIPLER 987 BOXSTER S

Here it is, then. The ultimate 987 Boxster, built to S specification with a rare colour combination: Dark Olive Green Metallic bodywork and Natural leather upholstery, with wheels powdercoated bronze to match. Sport Chrono, too, bringing sharper throttle response, ride height lowered by twenty millimetres and stiffer damping. Did I mention the stop-on- a-sixpence ceramic brakes? This is everything you could want in a classic Boxster without having to modify it yourself. Surely, I’ve found the Holy Grail?


Porsche Boxster S 987

Or have I? During the year I’ve owned this Porsche, a nagging doubt has hung over it. The problem? It’s just too perfect! The car’s inherent value lies in its exalted spec and provenance, which is why I persuaded myself to do the deal with Adrian Crawford in late 2021. I drove to the Williams Crawford workshop in my modified 986 Boxster S and returned home to Norfolk in the 987. Why? I’d pretty much gone the distance with the older drop-top. I’d changed its colour from Arctic Silver to period Etna Blue, fitted Group 4 Wheels replica Fuchs, a Cargraphic silencer, PorscheShop headers, KR springs, Bilstein dampers and forked out for an ECU remap at Clive Atthowe Tuning in Norwich. I’d run out of things to do, short of going for 3.6 litres and upgrading the hi-fi.

Out of the blue, Adrian offered to sell me his personally owned Boxster — this very 987 S — and gave me a very good part-exchange price for my 986. He’d owned the later Porsche since 2017. It wanted for nothing. A glance in the handbook reveals the first ‘owner’ was, in fact, Porsche Cars Great Britain.


Porsche Boxster S 987

Conversations with my pals in the Reading press office determined the car was originally specified by the marketing department as a show vehicle, destined for promotional display on Porsche stands at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Silverstone Classic, hence the rare green hue, which glistens with gold dust in sunshine. With all the unusual individual equipment taken into consideration, this is the fullest factory specification I could wish for.

Away from Porsche prescription, can the car be bettered? Altering it would surely be to compromise the purity of the original. Yes, I know I could get the suspension polybushed, tauten things up with semi-solid engine mounts and tweak the ECU to deliver power beyond 300bhp. I could also fit a Cargraphic silencer and upgraded audio. All of these alterations would be classified as improvements.

For practical reasons, I have added five-millimetre spacers and installed Zunsport grilles on exposed apertures. Oh, and I’ve fitted brighter headlamp bulbs. None of this radically changes the car, certainly not like a wrap or respray would, but, truth be told, my heart’s not in updating anything if the car’s not a keeper. It looks like I’m stymied, for the moment.


Porsche Boxster S 987 - interior manual RHD

In order to place this story in context, let’s take a quick look back at the genesis of the 987. The 986 Boxster segued into the 987 in time for the 2004 Paris Motor Show, exhibiting significant revisions to the cockpit and exterior, particularly to front and rear panels, the most obvious being the oval headlights, which replaced the ‘fried eggs’ of yore.

LIGHTER ON ITS FEET THAN ITS SUCCESSORS, THE 981 AND 718, AND MORE CLASSICALLY CHARACTERFUL IN ITS BEHAVIOUR, TOO

Ditto the 911 997, representing a substantial evolution of the 911 996, manifest in similar ways to the Boxster, albeit in coupé and cabriolet format. Both the newer models are better built, an asset discernible in greater solidity, with better seat heights and thus improved driving positions (for six-footers at any rate). As well as the 986, I’ve owned a 911 996, and whilst I could happily live with both, their successors do inspire a little more confidence and satisfaction by way of finish quality and gearing.


Porsche Boxster S 987

The 987 S’s ratios follow a seemingly more logical progression than those of the 986, the exhaust note performing a pleasing harmonic scale when powering through the gears. The Sport Chrono stopwatch topping the dashboard in my car looks nice, but it’s hardly something I’ll bother using. Whilst the cockpit dash controls are more comprehensive than those of the 986, I find no benefit here, preferring the relative austerity and simplicity of the older Porsche.


ONE FOR THE ROAD

The 987’s sat-nav was state-of-the-art at the time of manufacture, but it isn’t worth using today. Another item to upgrade? Hardly worth the trouble. Cruise control? Yes, on the empty French autoroute. The 987 S is, though, probably the quickest piece of kit cross-country, because its power and handling are more usable and practical than its 911 brethren.

How have things come to this? It may be instructive, entertaining even, to review how my journey of Porsche ownership has panned out thus far. Poverty precluded possession until my Dad died and I could trade his perfectly capable Audi A4 family hack against a 1984 Carrera 3.2 at Williams Crawford. Yeah, we do go back a fair way, me and Adrian. Back in 2000, he specialised in importing left-hookers from Europe, which made sense because of the relatively high Sterling and low Euro ratios. It was simple enough for me to visit him at Saltash, just into Cornwall, whilst visiting relatives in South Devon. Doing so enabled me to try out a few 911s. I fell for the Prussian Blue 3.2, and soon enough, I was driving it to-and-fro to our riverside gaff in Portugal’s Douro region, small children in the back and Thule roof box on top. The car also served on the seventy-mile daily round-trip school run.

The most radical modification was a very loud Hayward & Scott exhaust system, which I witnessed being made. Four years in, however the air-cooled classic was stolen from outside our hallowed residence within the Cathedral Close. A seven-car police chase failed to apprehend the robbers, though they were identified, bizarrely, by a cassette tape of a recorded police interview the thirteen-year- old perpetrator had jettisoned from the Porsche, along with my indie rock tapes and the vehicle’s service books. The ensuing insurance bill for damage done came to nine grand. The teenager was fined £250 and ordered to carry out sixty hours’ community service. They couldn’t pin the theft on his accomplice. More to the point, I could never be sure what harm the rascals had wrought on the car’s driveline. Although it seemed okay, I was never that confident about it again.

A few months after this ordeal, on a visit to Germany to interview motorsport icons, Erwin Kremer and Michael Roock, I met The Peppermint Pig. It was love at first sight. I’d gone to do the job with snapper, Pete Robain, the pair of us travelling in my Carrera 3.2. Michael Roock was more than happy to take this immaculate UK-registered left-hooker in part-ex for the RS-styled Mint Green 964 lording it over his showroom. Again, the strength of Sterling against the Euro made it a no-brainer of a deal. The Pep Pig served me well for ten years, from school runs to Portugal long-hauls, as well as innumerable work trips to specialists in the North of England, RUF at Pfaffenhausen, FVD Brombacher at Freiburg and Dirk Sadlowski at Lippstadt. The Pep Pig also followed the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique four times — once starting from Copenhagen, but mostly Reims —and ditto the Spa Six-Hours, Nürburgring Old Timer GP, the Mille Miglia, Austria’s Ennstal Classic Rally, Chimay and half a dozen Abbeville track days. In 2014, the car had a bare metal respray at Norfolk Premier Coachworks. An engine rebuild (at 375,000 kilometres) conducted by Johan-Frank Dirickx at 911Motorsport near Antwerp was a prelude to the 911’s re-homing in Belgium. Put simply, the train had hit the buffers on the money front, and air-cooled engine-builder, Mike Van Dingenen, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was, after all, twice what I’d paid for the car a decade earlier, though I wince when I see what 964s fetch nowadays.

This cash injection provided the wherewithal to fund the purchase of a low-mileage, 2003 facelifted 3.6-litre 996 from PorscheShop. In short order, I’d set it up with H&R thirty-millimetre lowering springs, imitation split-rims, a Cup front end and GT3 swan-neck rear wing. Alois Ruf Jr very generously gave me a leftover RUF 996 ducktail. The incessant conflict with sleeping policemen brought about a GT3 nosecone replacement, again courtesy of PorscheShop. This car had an IMS bearing change at Autofarm, though the team found nothing wrong with the old one.

This rather nice setup was augmented by a pair of Cargraphic silencers made and fitted at Phoenix Exhausts in Devon. The car served the by now normal practice of going to Portugal, as well as jaunts to Abbeville, 9ff at Dortmund, Zandvoort, N24 and Brittany. Then, in 2017, I was sidelined with sepsis due to a burst appendix. Whilst languishing in the N&N hospital, demons set to work on the always susceptible automotive section of my brain. “What,” they demanded, “was the point of £23,000’s worth of 996 sat outside my home, doing nothing?” They won, convincing me to part company with the perfectly good and practical 996. I hate them.


CHANGE OF SCENERY

Around the same time, Mrs T was running a 986 Boxster S, the special 550 Spyder 50th Anniversary model, acquired from my old friend, Paul Stephens. Its mildly exalted spec — slightly lowered, five-millimetre spacers, remapped ECU, Carrera Silver body colour and fancy wheels — made it a cute example of what a factory-burnished Porsche was like. I resolved to copy it. Cue my 986 Boxster S, finished in Arctic Silver over Terracotta upholstery, bought via SCS Porsche in Honiton. Before long, this mid-engined Porsche was running leftover 996 Carrera wheels with twenty-millimetre spacers, H&R lowering springs, plus mods to ECU and exhaust as detailed above. A firm named Scratch-and-Peel carried out a spray-wrap, transforming the bodywork with eleven coats of classic Etna Blue, complemented by the Fuchs rep wheels. That car went all over the place, from Monte Carlo to the Nürburgring, the Orkney Islands, Le Mans Classic and more. Its successor, the 987 Boxster S on these pages, has done the Hebrides, but not yet a long-haul race or rally. We’ve got the 2023 Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique waiting around the corner in late January/ early February, and given a recent dump of the white stuff, I’m getting the Falkens switched for Nokian Hakkapelliitta winter boots at Kingsway Tyres — there’s always an encounter with snow in the Ardèche and the Vercors.


Porsche Boxster S 987

Meanwhile, regarding the 987’s future participation in my life, another gremlin has entered the fray. It comes out of leftfield, in the shape of Mrs T’s serious suggestion we sell both our cars and get one (good one) to use between us. How would this work out? I’m a sucker for something new, so we’ll have to see. Having just driven from Norfolk to Somerset and back on a winter weekend, with elements of sludge, slush and mud to contend with, I’m not sure anymore. You see, the Boxster performed perfectly. Well, except for the headlight washers. That’s because it doesn’t have any. As it was, our murky six-hour journey — no motorways, thanks — extended through dusk and into night. It was impossible to see much at all, necessitating two extra stops to clean the lenses.

Loving top-down motoring where appropriate, my 987 does the job admirably, and generally exudes all-round competence. It is lighter on its feet than its successors, the 981 and 718, and more classically characterful in its behaviour, too. Perhaps a second-generation 987 would make more sense?

For the price I paid, I could have got a later Boxster with PDK, not to mention enjoying IMS bearing issues being a thing of the past. It’s rather a case of ‘watch this space’ for further developments. Alternatively, if the car appeals, make me an offer. It could break the chain.

Above and below It might be a droptop best suited to summer fun, but this doesn’t stop our man from using his brilliant Boxster all year round.

Above Manual transmission and Sport Chrono stopwatch hint at super-spec, while yellow calipers signal the presence of carbon brake discs.

Below Zunsport mesh grilles keep unwanted road fallout at bay.

Above Tipler is a man who likes to modify, which is why he’s stuck between a rock and hard place, knowing to tinker with this 987 would be to have detrimental impact on its value.

Below Interior remains in fantastic condition, testament to many years of ownership in the hands of a trusted marque specialist. IT IS

Above Johnny’s Boxster was originally the property of Porsche Cars Great Britain, hence the long list of desirable cost options he enjoys. Below Bespoke colour scheme is sublime, though out of sunlight, the dark green paintwork can look more like black.


DAN FURR 944 TURBO, 968 SPORT, 997 C4S

As you’ll have read earlier in this issue of 911 & Porsche World, I bought my first Porsche back in 2017. The job I’m lucky enough to do each day means I get to drive everything from early 356s to the very latest Porsche products, and though I acknowledge this is a wonderful privilege, I wanted to put my money where my mouth is and buy a Porsche of my own. In the present, as the owner of three Porsches, you could argue I’m making up for lost time.


Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997

I’d spent years banging the gong for Zuffenhausen’s output, but save for toying with the idea of buying a 928 back in the late 1990s, I’d resisted investing in a sports car wearing the Stuttgart crest. “The time to buy a Porsche is when I’m no longer able to take advantage of driving everybody else’s Porsche,” I’d tell myself. The thing is, borrowing a Porsche is no substitute for owning a Porsche. You can’t build the same kind of relationship with someone else’s car. You can appreciate it, of course, and, given the opportunity, there’s nothing stopping you using it to embark on adventures living long in the memory, but there’s a limit to the emotional investment one can make with a loan car, even if it happens to be the latest and greatest 911.

THE KIT EMULATES THE AUTOMATIC LIGHTING SYSTEM OF THE LATER 991 BY AUTOMATICALLY ILLUMINATING THE ROAD IN LOW LIGHT CONDITIONS

I was also acutely aware of the sense of community Porsche ownership brings. It’s what binds everyone in the Porsche scene and why I’m immensely proud to repeat the message in my introduction to this magazine: almost without exception, everybody contributing to 911 & Porsche World owns and runs at least one Porsche sports car, a fact separating this title from other Porsche-specific publications. Make no mistake, we live and breathe this brand.


Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997

Somewhat unexpectedly, I ended up buying a 944 Turbo in need of full restoration. The long journey taking this car from derelict doer-upper to standout showpiece spanned three years, and though I’d been open to the idea of getting hold of a Porsche in need of a bit of work, I’d jumped in at the deep end with a massive project. I relished the opportunity to bring the car back from the brink, and though I’m thrilled with the end result (not that a build of this nature is ever really completed — you’ll always find something to improve upon), something was missing, namely the ability to get out and drive. Sure, I was the proud owner of what promised to be an outstanding Porsche when finished, but it was a long way off returning to the road.

THROTTLE WIDE OPEN, FLAT-SIX ROARING AT THE AWE-INSPIRING TWISTIES IN AND AROUND THE SNOW-TOPPED MOUNTAINS

Of course, a big restoration project can put a strain on finances, meaning I had to park the idea of buying an up-and- running Porsche during the early stages of the 944 being worked on. Loan cars came and went, but I was growing impatient — I wanted to take to the street in my very own Stuttgart smasher. And then it appeared.

With a modern-classic Porsche being readied in the background, I decided to buy a 911. Specifically, I wanted a 997 Carrera 4S. My budget wouldn’t stretch to a second-generation model, though this didn’t really bother me on account of how, through my eyes at least, the look of the original 997 has aged far better than its successor. Besides, for all the noise about M97 bore score, IMS failure and so on, paying double the earlier model’s asking price simply to avoid faults which can be identified by way of independent inspection seemed, frankly, preposterous.


LARGE MEASURE

Granted, the 9A1 direct injection engine is a stonking powerplant, though not without its problems. Besides, I reasoned that if the worst should happen and I somehow ended up with a dud flat-six, I could have it fully rebuilt by Hartech and still be quids in when compared to the cost of buying a later 997, even if I decided to oversize the 3.8-litre M97 to 4.1 litres of displacement.


Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997

Scanning listings of automotive marketplace websites yielded little in the way of what I was looking for. I love the all-pawed 997’s wide, Turbo-style body and the surefootedness of four-wheel drive, but I also wanted a 4S equipped with Sport Chrono Package Plus and adaptive sports seats. Oh, and it had to be a coupe without a sunroof. I wasn’t too fussed about wheel design or body colour, though I recognised ‘daring’ shades selected by most dealership visitors in the 2000s extended to white, black, silver or grey. In a world of technicolour, monotone was the 911 norm. Of these colours, Seal Grey would have been my preference (it takes years off the 997), but I wasn’t fussed either way. You can’t see the outside when you’re inside, after all.


Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997 - ENGINE

It was while idly navigating eBay listings one evening that I spotted the 911 I’d end up buying. As I soon found out, the seller had been advertising the car for some time, but couldn’t understand why he hadn’t had any meaningful enquiries. In reaction to this radio silence, not to mention pressure from his wife regarding her desire to recover cash tied up in the Porsche, he’d dropped the price twice already, but still no takers. His problem, as far as I could tell, was the minimal information in the ad listing, coupled with badly taken photographs cropping most of the car out of shot. My beady eye, however, could make out the key ingredients, including the all-important Sport Chrono and adaptive sport seats, as well as Carrera Classic wheels and a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. There were obviously a number of desirable factory options on this Porsche, which had been in the care of only three owners from new and always maintained by official main dealers (primarily Porsche Centre Reading), but the seller didn’t appear to know much of the detail concerning the 911 he was trying to shift. It was time to do some digging.


Porsche 911 Carrera 4S 997 - REAR

I requested a factory build sheet from Suncoast Porsche Parts and was pleased to discover the aforementioned options listed alongside five-millimetre wheel spacers, Park Assist, Homelink garage door opening, a vehicle tracking system, stainless exhaust pipes, incar fire extinguisher, wheel caps with coloured Porsche crest and much more besides. At the time, I was enjoying the first of my lengthy loans with the Racing Yellow 991 Carrera T owned by Porsche Cars Great Britain. Recognising the 997’s owner lived close to the company’s offices in Berkshire, and knowing I was a few days away from returning the Carrera T, I arranged to kill two birds with one stone — from my home in Norfolk, I drove down to Reading in the not-some-l-low yellow 991 and drove home in the beautiful black 997.

The journey home was fantastic fun. Of course, I’ve driven all varieties of 911, from the 901 through to new 992-generation cars, but this was different. This was mine! It was pretty much love at first sight and, almost four years later, I’ve enjoyed every moment of 997 ownership.


STONE FREE

Thankfully, not long before my name appeared on the car’s logbook, the seller took care of some of the more expensive jobs associated with 997 custody, including replacing the air-conditioning condensers, which are prone to corrosion due to Porsche’s frankly bizarre decision to leave the front bumper intakes free of grilles, meaning stones, leaves and other debris can pass through the apertures and settle against the radiators, causing them to rot. Not every owner keeps on top of cleaning the bits of a 911 you can’t easily see, which is why this complaint often goes unchecked until costly replacement parts are required. To avoid having to deal with this situation myself, I’ve installed Zunsport mesh bumper grilles, which are available for a wide variety of Porsche models. Not only do they protect my 997’s vulnerable air-conditioning hardware, they also shield the centre transmission oil cooler from puncture caused by flying stones. Ah yes, my car’s transmission. Now, you may be surprised to see a decidedly non-manual gearstick poking out from the centre console. I’m not going to pretend the 997’s Tiptronic S is as slick as the second-generation 997’s PDK system, but equally, I’m loathed to dismiss the first-generation 997’s super-sturdy, semi-automatic gearbox.

Put simply, it’s bloody brilliant, though I should add a caveat: I wouldn’t want a Tiptronic S-loaded 997 without Sport Chrono. The way the system alters shift behaviour (when compared to how it operates in Normal driving mode) is as pronounced as the way it changes damping. Operating Tiptronic S by way of manual override is great fun, too, though I’d much prefer PDK-style paddles — as an enthusiastic user of manual cog swapping via the car’s steering wheel controls, I occasionally and absentmindedly hit the ‘plus’ (upshift) button thinking I’m turning up the radio, only to change gear. I know, I’ve got a screaming flat-six behind me. Surely, this is all the soundtrack I need? Well, yes, that’s true, but I’ve covered a lot of ground in this 911 since bringing it home with me back in 2019 and, on long journeys, I like to keep in touch with what’s happening on the nation’s football pitches.

Talking of driving big distance, not long after buying the car, I booked into a hotel situated on the shores of Lake Geneva and spent a couple of weeks using my new Porsche to bomb around the Alps, taking in Reims (and the legendary Reims-Gueux Grand Prix circuit) en route to Lausanne. The car performed faultlessly, its Carrera comfort providing the feeling of an ‘executive express’ for the somewhat uninspiring stretches of motorway, while Sport mode turned this Porsche into a feral beast gagging to be thrown into corners, throttle wide open, flat-six roaring at the awe-inspiring twisties in and around the snow-topped mountains.

Preparation is, of course, key to any successful road trip, especially one racking up big miles across sometimes difficult terrain. To this end, I entrusted care of the car to independent Porsche specialist, PIE Performance, prior to departure. In fact, my 911 has been a regular visitor to the company’s Suffolk workshops — the car gets a major service each year, regardless of mileage. The PIE team also carried out a borescope inspection (all good), serviced the transmission and replaced all supporting suspension components, including bushes, drop links, top mounts, tuning forks and coffin arms. And, addressing a common 997 complaint regarding difficulty with hot starts, the rear power cable linking the starter motor and alternator has been replaced. Save for Powerflex control arms complete with pre-installed polyurethane bushes, genuine parts supplied by Design 911 have been used throughout.

Problems? The offside BOSE door speaker blew, necessitating a replacement, which I sourced from an eBay breaker for twenty quid. On the other side of the car, a failed passenger door seal membrane caused the bottom of the neighbouring door card to get wet every time it rained. Once again, Design 911 came to the rescue, supplying a new genuine replacement part. Otherwise, it’s been a case of trying to keep on top of general wear and tear. As such, new Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport R tyres were fitted just before I sat down to write this article, and I recently had the front end of the car professionally resprayed, eliminating unsightly stone chips, which always look worse on dark paintwork.

To maintain the pristine finish, the team at detailing giant, Gtechniq, took custody of my 911 for a week and treated it to full paint correction and a ceramic coating. I’ve since had the headlights and sidelights restored by the encouragingly named Headlight Sparkle, a mobile detailer dedicated to bringing modern vehicle lighting back to its best. On the subject of headlamps, I introduced Porsche Automatic Lighting System (PALS) headlight switching functionality to proceedings. Utilising the factory light switch, the kit emulates the automatic lighting system of the later 991 by automatically illuminating the road in low light conditions, car parks, tunnels and at speeds over 50mph.

With the car handling like a dream following renewal of all supporting suspension components, I’ve further improved matters with Rohler semisolid engine mounts, which eliminate the ability for the drivetrain to move independent of the chassis during acceleration and cornering loads, as encouraged by the standard hydraulic engine mounts. The team at PIE Performance has also installed a set of Eibach Pro-Kit lowering springs at my request, successfully eliminating the look of a 911 on stilts.

What’s next? Well, I’ve just taken delivery of a tonne of parts from LN Engineering, including an X51 deep sump oil pan and baffle, a Billet Racing Services power steering cooling system, a pedal spacer kit and new intake equipment, including a GT3 throttle body and an IPD competition-spec plenum. The only ‘typical 997’ job left to take care of is the replacement of the coolant transfer pipes.

With this and the sump work in mind, the plan is to return to PIE Performance in the coming weeks and remove the engine, a move intended to make completion of a high number of routine maintenance jobs easier. Primarily, this ‘supporting work’ will include replacing ignition coil packs, oil separators, exhaust gaskets and various seals. Otherwise, it’s simply a case of continuing to enjoy using this superb 911 at home and abroad. What a machine it has proved to be.

Above Since buying his 911, Dan has driven it all over the UK and mainland Europe, though closer to home, he loves punishing the Porsche on rural Norfolk backroads.

Above Front end was professionally resprayed before the body was protected by a Gtechniq ceramic coating.

Below LN Engineering billet filler caps tease at the more substantial engine upgrades on the way.

Above Carrera Classic nineteens are shod in new Goodyear rubber.

Right Dan was adamant he wanted a non-sunroof 997 C4S with Sport Chrono and adaptive seats.

Below The new tyres, four-wheel drive, a drop in ride height and renewal of all suspension parts contribute to superb handling set to be further improved with bespoke geometry.

Above The 997 is the last of the ‘analogue’ 911s, before Porsche introduced electrically assisted steering.

Below Multi-function steering wheel is a great design… until you accidentally drop a cog when trying to change radio volume.

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