Modified 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera 996.2 vs. 2009 Cayman S Sport 987
Porsches have always lent themselves to brash colourways, demonstrated by this Mint Green 996 and Orange 987 Cayman S Sport. And, as if their striking livery wasn’t enough,both cars have been enhanced by Suffolk-based marque specialist, Charlie Wildridge...
Words Johnny Tipler
Photography Dan Sherwood
FUN FOR £30k
LOST IN THE SAUCE
A modified 2002 Porsche 911 996.2 vs. 2009 Cayman S Sport 987
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, as the saying goes. And since I find both these saucy Porkers – Mint Green and Orange – absolutely irresistible, I hope you will too. Certainly, they caught the attention of the locals where we undertook our car-to-car photoshoot, enough to prompt a call to nearby law enforcement agents, more of which I’ll cover later.
What we have here is a 2002 facelift-model 996 Carrera and a rare 987 Cayman S Sport. Both cars have been endowed with improvements, mechanically and externally. They’re also both in the tender care of Charlie Wildridge, proprietor of William Francis Porsche, based at Clopton Green in Suffolk. Here’s the gist.
TRANQUILLITY IS COMPREHENSIVELY SHATTERED BY THE BLUES-AND-TWOS OF A POLICE FOURBY EASING IN FRONT OF THE ORANGE SAUCER
First up, the Minter. My old friends (better known as ‘the reader’) will understand why I’m drawn to it, having run a Mint Green 964 for more than a decade. Mint was on the Porsche colour chart back in the early 1990s, but the difference here is that the cool coat of colour is, in fact, a wrap — a very good one — applied by B:Spoke, a paint protection film (PPF), signwriting and vinyl wrapping outfit based in Rattlesden, not far from Charlie’s base near Bury St Edmunds. Though very much Mint Green, the colour is actually named Tiffany Blue in the catalogue of vinyl producer, Hexis. Me, I’ll grab Breakfast at Tiffany’s anytime.
Charlie is distinctly upbeat about the finish. “It has transformed the car from its original ‘plain Jane’ silver into something which really pops. It brings the details out everywhere.” Indeed, the genuine Porsche Tequipment rollcage is more prominent in your vision and the ducktail really sets things off. There’s a matching vinyl pinstripe around the achingly gorgeous wheels, too. “The beauty of vinyl is how you can have a bit of fun and try different things. If what you’ve attempted to achieve doesn’t look any good, you simply peel the material off and try something different.”
YOU’VE PROBABLY NOTICED HE MINIATURE EIFFEL TOWER SITTING PROMINENTLY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CABIN
Through strips on the dashboard and seat tops, the Mint detailing is taken further, but personalisation through vinyl doesn’t end there. “Wrapping the mirrors carbon black evokes an RS theme,” says Charlie. “I didn’t want to build an RS replica, though. My intention was, in fact, to build an aggressive 996 amounting to a half-price GT3.” On a recent track day at Snetterton, a friend driving a 996 GT3 RS struggled to keep up, let alone get past the Carrera, which was glued to the asphalt by Toyo Proxes R888R black circles. “He’s a good driver with plenty of trackday experience, but wanted to know what I’d done to my 996 to make it so quick and handle so well. I explained I’d added high-quality Öhlins coilovers and sticky rubber, but otherwise, the car was more or less standard.”
Granted, it features a trick exhaust and a BMC air filter, parts which might free up a few ponies, but the GT3 RS would have had close to fifty extra horsepower on tap. At the time of writing, both these cars are running Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tyres. For the 996, they’re wrapped around BBS E88 split-rims. The eleven inches of width at the rear highlight the fact these rare rims are oversized on the narrow-bodied 996, filling the wheel arches entirely. “The wheels were specially made for a GT3 I recently sold,” Charlie continues. “I’ve never seen E88s with centre caps, which is why I’ve left them bare.”
Originally fitted with a factory Aerokit (“my ideal starting point and in time-warp condition”), the 996’s front panel and enlarged side-skirts are still in place, but the ducktail engine lid is an item from independent Porsche parts retailer, Design 911. Charlie has deleted the high-level brake light, although he’s tempted to fit a race light on the rear of the roof. He’s also taken with the idea of an early 996 high-level brake light sitting at the top of the rear window. His non-sunroof car’s original specification also included a rear wiper (now absent), M030 suspension, switchable exhaust and a BOSE stereo system, including an analogue-type amplifier. “I’ve upgraded the factory-fitted switchable exhaust system to be manually operated,” he tells me. “2002 cars with the optional Sport exhaust were only switchable through the relay and the module in the ECU. Porsche left all the wiring in place for the conversion, though. I installed the required relay in the footwell and added the button on the dashboard.” The system makes use of the factory vacuum lines. The head unit, meanwhile, is now an retro-OEM-look Blaupunkt Nurnberg 200 DAB single- DIN offering Bluetooth connectivity to smartphones. As you can see, the centre console has been deleted.
I recall how the spray-wrap on my 986 Boxster was immune to stone chips, but how about the vinyl covering Charlie’s Mint marvel? “The wrap has been fully ceramic coated to help protect it. It’s a new ceramic coating designed specifically for vinyl or PPFs. If you poured some out and left it to dry as a droplet, it turns almost like glass. Our detailer, Nick at NT Detailing, applied the product evenly with a roller. It’s a tricky job — if you’re heavy handed or get a run in the product, you have to sand it off.” Prominent in the 996’s cabin is its RUF-embossed GT3 seats, incorporating houndstooth-patterned cushions. “The interior came out of a 996 Anniversary Edition equipped with various upgrades, including these seats and a roll cage.” Why would you do that to an Anniversary?! This commemorative 911 is far more valuable in its original trim, after all. Long story short, Charlie bought the Anniversary, restored the car’s interior, reinstated its original seats and plopped the rogue GT3 pews into the Minter. Included in the deal were two sets of 918 Spyder safety harnesses, bequeathed to the Anniversary’s previous owner by the pilot of a 918 who preferred regular seat belts. Needless to say, the Schroth harnesses you see in our pictures are genuine 918 Spyder items. The mounting brackets were TIG-welded to the roll cage — there’s obviously a rear seat delete — to ensure they fit correctly. A seriously OEM+ addition to this 996.
You’ve probably noticed the miniature Eiffel Tower sitting prominently in the middle of the cabin. It’s a race-spec short shifter from the Ultra Shifter product catalogue of German transmission accessories manufacturer, CAE. “The company has been producing these shifters for a long time,” says Charlie, referencing CAE’s portfolio of short shifters and fly-off handbrakes for a wide variety of makes and models. “I hadn’t tried an Ultra Shifter in a Porsche before. I love it, because it’s parallel to the steering wheel. Consequently, your hand movement is simply left to right, as opposed to left, down, find the gearstick, change, move back up to the steering wheel. At a track, shifts are so much faster when the shifter is upright and high like this. You end up shifting like you would if in charge of a sequential gearbox.” The William Francis team had to modify the 996’s centre console to accommodate the CAE apparatus.
Mileage is 62,000. Modest distance for a twenty-year-old car, I’m sure you’ll agree. “It had sticky valve solenoids, which I’ve worked my way through. I’ve carried out a couple of engine flushes, fitted a new clutch, upgraded the IMS bearing with a European Parts Solution roller bearing and fitted braided brake hoses. There’s still more to do, though. For example, I’ve got a Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake kit and modified front hubs waiting in the wings. This 911 is now at the point where I’m really happy with the way it looks, though, and the interior is more or less where I want it. And, of course, the car handles and drives fantastically well already.”
The Öhlins dampers come into play here, complete with varying degrees of stiffness. “There’s thirty settings to choose from,” Charlie explains. “The first ten are circuit settings. The next ten are for fast road driving, then you’re into settings affording the car the compliance of a standard damper. I’ve currently got the kit dialled in to setting number nine, the softest of the track settings. It’s a little firm for the road, but not so your fillings are going to fall out. Put it this way, I drove the car to Snetterton and home again and it performed brilliantly around the track, as well as on the public road there and back. I’ve long considered the build quality of Öhlins products as nothing short of superb.”
This beautifully presented 996 serves as something of a flagship for what Charlie does, day in, day out as head of William Francis Porsche. “I’ve been working on 996s for two decades,” he recalls. “I appreciate it’s a bold step for an owner to take a pristine 996 and then fork out for uprated dampers, wheels, tyres, suspension, engine and ECU upgrades. That said, even when taking the purchase price of the car into consideration when calculating the cost of modifying a 996 to this standard, you’re still sitting at half the spend required for GT3 ownership. RSs are obviously in another league again.” With a 911 like his carefully modified 996 Carrera, he suggests, you get the GT3 driving experience without the GT3 price tag. Indeed, William Francis is offering the car for sale in the region of thirty grand. That’s an awful lot of 911 for the money.
While our photographer, Dan, is taking care of the statics, I take a look at the Cayman. It’s a 987 S Sport limited edition, number 372 out of seven hundred units — verified by the silver glovebox plaque — launched in 2008 for the 2009 model year. Reflecting my thoughts expressed earlier regarding the 996 Anniversary Edition, you may wonder why Charlie has tampered with a rare Cayman, but a school of thought going back a long way considers all Porsches fair game to be modified or personalised. The most obvious switch on this car is the carbon-fibre boot-lid tailgate, providing external confirmation this is a 987 with sporting aspirations (as if the eye-catching tint wasn’t sufficient!).
In the cockpit, the seats are the latest-generation Recaro Pole Positions. They’re mounted on runners with adjustable tilt angles and heights associated with the BBi Autosport bases. They also provide the potential for a crotch strap belt — with a harness bar bolted in behind the seats, it would be straightforward to install five-point harnesses for serious track work. At 38,000, this zesty Porsche has covered relatively low mileage. Charlie explains the attraction. “I originally bought the car because I’d never owned a Cayman. I also like brightly coloured Porsches. The car had been in the possession of a low number of owners, had covered few miles and is a limited edition. For those of us who can’t afford a GT3, a GT4 or a special collectible Porsche, the 987 Cayman S Sport ticks a lot of boxes. It features a nicely balanced chassis, and the 3.4-litre boxer is a sweet powerplant. This car is one of just six-tynine examples in the UK, which means it’s a rarer sight than a GT3.”
Being a special model, the car obviously came with all the right ‘sporty’ bits from factory, but it was also equipped with a decent amount of extra comfort equipment, including automatically operating headlights, BOSE audio, parking sensors and satellite navigation. Folding bucket seats also featured, but they’re long gone. “I saw this 987 as an opportunity to start with an already good Cayman and subject it a few tweaks, though I’ve tried to stay as true to Porsche as I could,” Charlie continues. “For this reason, the car rolls on Carrera wheels boasting nine and a half inches of girth at the rear, just like the Cayman S Sport in the Porsche Museum, which provided inspiration for the project. There’s also a wheel stud conversion to allow easy spacer options and wheel changing.” Chassis tuning was carried out in-house at William Francis. “I sourced a genuine ceramic brake package and master cylinder for the car, plus it sports £1,000-worth of Pagid RSC 01 brake pads, ensuring it stops as well as any Porsche. It’s got 5mm front spacers, 10mm at the rear, H&R springs and anti-roll bars, but Porsche Active Suspension Management remains in place. The ride height sits a little lower than standard specification, which sharpens the handling. I renewed the bump-stops, top mounts, drop links, refurbished the dampers and set custom geometry to suit.”
PARTS OF THE PROCESS
The Cayman has also been treated to new air-conditioning condensers and a 997 centre-radiator conversion, including coolant and crossover lines. There’s a low-temperature thermostat, new sports manifolds and catalysts, a new switchable stainless exhaust system utilising factory vacuum lines and, as you’d expect, a new clutch, along with a lightweight flywheel, replacement rear main seal and an upgraded IMS seal. The wheels were ceramic-coated after they’d been powdercoated, just to provide extra protection from stone chips.
Draped in Alcantara, the Cayman S Sport cabin features a dash binnacle with its cover absent, much like the Boxster Spyder. At the previous owner’s request, Charlie replaced the standard head unit with a double-DIN Pioneer touchscreen, delivering DAB, Bluetooth and CarPlay. “The nice thing is, it’s completely wireless, meaning you can climb out of the car and whatever music you were listening to in the house continues streaming in the Porsche.” Thanks to a pair of Design Tek switchable stainless boxes and sports cats, the Cayman’s lightweight exhaust also makes a really nice noise.
In true Colin Chapman dictum, there’s emphasis on shedding kilos. It’s evident by way of a lightweight exhaust, flywheel, boot lid and lighter bucket seats. “It’s all about shaving weight, getting the centre of gravity down and putting amazing stoppers in each corner, which means you don’t need to modify the engine,” Charlie stresses. Even so, this brightly coloured Cayman has an ECU massage, carried out by Porsche and increasing power to just shy of 312bhp.
The boot lid is an Autofarm-authored add-on, constructed from carbon-fibre and featuring an integral plastic rear window. It is not exactly flimsy, but certainly light enough to be held aloft with just one finger. “I’m big on taking weight out of a car, as opposed to just trying to add more power,” Charlie says. “Shedding bulk improves tyre wear, braking, acceleration and handling. The carbon boot lid alone saves twenty kilos. It’s too light for gas struts. It would act like a catapult! I plan to fit a 964 Carrera RS bonnet stay to prop it up.” Not much room for a broom handle, otherwise..
Both of these cars have track focus in mind, but can be used comfortably on the road. A trip to the Nürburgring in this Cayman would certainly be in relative luxury, what with BOSE audio and air-conditioning, which works fantastically well. You’re not driving a hardcore track toy — this 987 is the fine balance between making a car good on track and good on the public highway. It’s devilishly difficult to achieve both at the same time, but the 996 and 987 pictured here are the cusp, working well in both situations.
TASTE THE RAINBOW
I notice the Cayman was first registered to Porsche Cars Great Britain, just like my current 987 Boxster S, which was configured with a raft of factory options by the brand’s marketing department. I wonder what purpose the team had for this Cayman? As a 987 S Sport, it was likely a show car, rather than a press mule. Charlie agrees. “This model only came supplied in Carrara White, Signal Green, Orange, Speed Yellow, Guards Red and a few special-order Basalt Black examples. The palette was kept quite simple. A few ideas were nicked from the GT3 RS colour chart, as was the Alcantara trim, plus the 987 S Sport makes use of the GT3’s short shifter.” Already highly specified and now benefiting from a wave of the William Francis tuning stick, the car also enjoys increased torsional rigidity thanks to a carbon-fibre strut brace. Every little helps, as they say.
When Charlie acquired the Cayman, its service book contained only three stamps, which was not merely inconvenient, but somewhat worrying — it was clearly a replacement service book. Previous owners could shed no light on the location of the missing paperwork. When Charlie set about swapping the Cayman’s seats for the Recaro Pole Positions, however, the original service book and its ‘missing’ records were patiently awaiting their discovery underneath the passenger pew. Despite reassurance of all necessary servicing and maintenance carried out, Charlie nevertheless continued his maintenance programme. “I went through the car, bumper to bumper, installing new coolant lines, doing the centre radiator conversion, fitting new spark plugs, a new drive belt, new BERU coil packs, refurbished the calipers, added orange braided hoses and renewed many other renewable service items. The car was given a change of brake fluid along with the new brake discs and pads, as well as a new master cylinder to compliment the eight-pot calipers at the nose. It was, in effect, a typical William Francis major Porsche service.”
Time for the workout — the Suffolk back-doubles beckon! Magic Mint magnetism notwithstanding, I’m equally transfixed by the Orange Blossom Special, and contort my torso into the body-hugging Recaros. Cosy! The seat back is quite upright, and I shuffle slightly more toward the wheel for the perfect 987 driving position. There’s an Alcantara treat, with the suedette material cladding the seat squabs, steering wheel rim, gearstick gaiter and handbrake lever, while the Pioneer touchscreen radio, communications hub and sat-nav appears to be very good, certainly when compared to functionality offered by the standard kit.
The flat-six barks into life. Spine-tingling! The clutch is easy on the ankle, the shift noticeably notchier than that of my 987 Boxster S. Throttle response is instantaneous, acceleration sharp. I rush into a series of tight turns, immediately feeling the tautness of the suspension. This Cayman feels imperiously torquey, pulling out of bends, hauling from 2,000rpm and happily zinging up to 5,000rpm with no fuss, just fluent and rapid progress. Handling is perfectly balanced, turn-in absolutely on the button. The firmness in cornering is impressive, and there’s no roll whatsoever.
It goes without saying this particular Cayman feels a tauter chassis than the Boxster, and even on a bumpy road, pitter-pattering over the undulations, ride is adequately smooth. There’s a nagging question mark as to whether an unruffled 987 S Sport would be discernibly any less competent than this tweaked one, though. Actually, what Charlie’s fashioned here is more akin to the 987 Cayman R, the factory lightweight trackabilly with fifty-five kilos removed, plus 10bhp added for good measure. Any downside? I’m noticing average fuel consumption is 21mpg, which is slightly telling in these straitened times.
I bring the Caveman back to base and switch to Minty. I should be reminded of my former 996, presented to the reader once-upon-a-time as ‘Pig Energy’ on account of its registration, P16 NRG. My 996 wore similar split-rim wheels and was modified externally with a Carrera Cup front and RUF ducktail engine lid. Minty 996 is a different creature on the inside, as austere as a GT3 RS, with rear cage, those GT3 seats and no centre console. I’m aware of the indulgent houndstooth and the special 918 seat belts, not to mention the flashes of Mint here and there, but everything in front of me is more or less ‘regular’ 996, even though there’s an extraordinary ‘statue’ standing alongside my left elbow. It’s the CAE shift-lever and its miniature scaffold tower. In practice, it’s not a difficult shift at all, intuitive, and slotting fluently with short flicks of the wrist between all six forward ratios. Introduce a bit of a lift-and-thrust to engage reverse.
There’s a different bark when this 996 starts up. It’s more baritone and less raucous than the Cayman, but still in the don’t-mess-with-me ballpark. Again, I get a smooth rush of adrenaline under acceleration, though it’s less dramatic than the sharper Orange agent. On the same short circuit of Suffolk lanes, the Öhlins ride setting is beautifully judged and I’m traversing the bumps almost as smoothly as if on a magic carpet. Modified as it is, the Porsche is instantaneously compliant on turn-in and the steering feels well-weighted, just as one would expect of a 996. All in, as far as driving characteristics are concerned, this is a very together car.
The only minor gripe is that the brakes are a tad spongy, rather than needlepoint sharp, though perfectly adequate in action. Besides, I have to remind myself I’ve just been behind the wheel of a Cayman slowed by ceramics, a car Charlie describes as “one of the best braking Porsches I have ever driven.” Nonetheless, this 996 is a cosmetic pretender that behaves very nicely.
And, as mentioned earlier, Charlie has a genuine Porsche ceramic brake kit to fit. He’s also got a limited-slip differential, motorsport shifter cables and GT3 coffin arms to install, all of which will further enhance the driving experience. But is this a GT3 rival? There’s no Mezger engine, but for less than half the price of the real deal, this 996 can hold its own on any track or fast road outing. Food for thought.
Photoshoot done, three cars (the Cayman, 911 and our photography tracking vehicle) sit at the roadside while we chew the fat. Tranquillity is comprehensively shattered by the blues-and- twos of a police fourby easing in front of the Orange Saucer, the move calculated to block any attempted flight. “We’ve had a report of two Porsches racing,” says the young officer. He and his colleague are earnest, but not hostile. “Not at all,” I say, handing him my card. “I’m a senior motoring journalist. I was intent on racing, we’d be at a track.” They were happy to accept my version of events, especially noting snapper Dan’s mountaineering harness, used to secure him inside his Passat estate. And, after an hour spent establishing Charlie’s trade plates meant the two Porsches were indeed insured, as well as effectively taxed and MoT’d, we were free to go.
But which of these saucy Porkers would I spoon with? Like the 996, the 987 is available to buy as a fully sorted package — the asking price of each car hovers at the thirty grand mark. The Cayman is a coiled spring, a mousetrap about to go off, its many horses manifest in constant energy. The Minter rather hides its deeper flavour under that smooth ride — oh, those Öhlins! — perhaps too smooth when even the pitter-patter is subdued. Yet, all the time, 320bhp is ready to blast your taste buds. My new job? The Saucerer’s Apprentice.
Above Both Porsches are available to buy direct from William Francis Porsche, though Charlie can upgrade your existing 996 or 987 to match the specification of the cars seen here. Above The Cayman was first registered to Porsche Cars Great Britain, leading Charlie (and Johnny) to believe it was used for show purposes. Above Both the 996 and the 987 in our test offer a massive amount of Porsche for thirty grand.
Above Limited edition 987 Cayman S Sport (number 372 of 700) makes use of a carbon-fibre Autofarm boot lid featuring a plastic rear window.
Above Ducktail is a Design 911 item, while the wheels are genuine BBS E88 split rim wheels.
Above Charlie’s mission was to create a 996 Carrera capable of giving a GT3 a run for its money.
Above Tiffany Blue is a close match for Mint Green and extends beyond the 996’s body, around its wheels and into the CAE-equipped cabin.