'02 Porsche 911 Turbo

     This is one of the two " stretch" cars I'd like to drive regularly before my time here is done.  Based on the many compliments I received during the year I had it, more than for any other car I've owned, the 911 Turbo is on a lot of people's favorite car lists.  Stepping back for a minute, friend Allen Woolley used to ask me when the Camaro would be done.  My favorite answer to questions like that is drawn from Yoda-speak, "Done not!.  Only doing. Or not doing."  Well, I decided to stop doing.  Since even 5-year-old Turbos were expensive, I sold both the Camaro and Corvette to fund my '02 996TT.

     After 10 years in a Camaro and 5 years in a Corvette, the Turbo was something completely different!  Despite being almost 5 years old, the interior leather looked new and smelled wonderful.


     The steering response was razor sharp and I could not believe how much tire grip information could be felt through the steering wheel.  As cornering speeds went up, you could easily tell when the front tires were starting to lose their grip.  The Corvette steering is full of Novocain by comparison, and the Camaro is simply brain dead.  The brakes were unlike any other car I've driven in that the pedal was extremely firm, barely moving when pushed.  Yet it was easy to control how fast you slowed down.  The Corvette brakes, while being quite powerful, felt mushy by comparison.

     Porsche paint is, in a word, spectacular!  This was my first dark color, so I had to learn proper care technique to avoid the "swirlies"  I bought a Porter Cable random orbital polisher and an array of Menzerna paint care products.  The roof picture reveals an amazingly deep and smooth factory paint job.




     Naturally, I could not leave the car alone.  Porsches are undoubtedly well-engineered, but every design is a compromise.  My knowledge, mechanical aptitude, and a garage full of tools enable me to rework those compromises into an architecture that better aligns with my priorities.  As usual, more power was called for, as was an improvement in the smooth ride versus sharp reflexes trade-off.  Both daily driving ride and ultimate handling in the turns were improved by replacing the factory shocks with Bilstein PSS9 components.  The Bilsteins were far less harsh in dealing with potholes and other pavement roughness, yet they also improved the feel of the car on twisty roads.

     More power came first in the form of new "zero clearance" turbochargers from Ultimate Motorwerks.  Turbocharger efficiency increases as exhaust system flow restriction decreases, which leads to one of those design compromises I mentioned earlier.  Porsche apparently believes their typical customer values quiet more than acceleration, because the factory exhaust is very quiet, and very restrictive.


     I designed a new exhaust system that traded away a bit of quiet for minimal flow restriction, while maintaining catalytic converters and all other emission control hardware.  Packaging was a challenge because the 911's rear engine placement leaves little room for anything back there.

     Friend and Solidworks ace George Matlock came up with a stout flange for attaching the new system to the turbos, and Kevin at Ultimate Motorwerks did the CNC machining.  I imported a pair of large diameter, 100 cell-per-square-inch catalytic converters from Germany, and Kevin again came through with cones for the ends of the cats.  But the star of this show is friend Alan Blaine of Blaine Fabrication, who did all the measuring, cutting, welding, and design optimization.  The final product was a masterpiece of metal fabrication, and it sounded wonderful!



     I understand that Porsches are much more at home on a road race track than a drag strip, but the drag strip is an excellent means to evaluate power increases.  With that in mind, I took mine to Sacramento Raceway Park along with hiking buddy Tom, who agreed to shoot some video.  The day produced a best elapsed time of 11.7 and a best speed at the end of the 1/4 mile of 128 mph.  Both metrics are considerably better than what an unmodified 996TT can attain.

Click here for the video of the quickest run.  (2.1 MB Windows Media file)

Click here for the video with better sound.  (2.5 MB Windows Media file)


     When I bought this car I figured it would see some road race track time at Thunderhill, so I bought a set of "track day" brake pads and these molded plastic ducts that direct cooling air at the rotors.   While they may appear a bit cheesy, they are in fact incredibly stiff and enjoy a robust attachment to the suspension arm.  Because of that attachment point, they always point right at the rotor.  All in all, a clever piece of engineering!

One thing the Porsche did better than any other car I've owned is impress people.  It generated more complements than any other car despite the fact that I only owned it for one year .  One person, however, was decidedly underwhelmed.  Me.  While it did some things outstandingly well, in the end it was not a satisfying daily driver.  What's not to like about a 911 Turbo?

  • The hydraulically boosted clutch never seemed to engage at the same point in the pedal travel.
  • The car is quite heavy and the engine, although very powerful when the turbos awaken, has precious little torque at low rpm.
  • These factors conspire to produce a "fear of stalling" anxiety at every stop sign and red light.
  • They also conspire to make the car feel sluggish around town, unless you keep the engine speed above 3,500 rpm.
  • The shifter is notoriously balky, it feels as though it would break if shifted quickly.
  • The isn't much storage space.  The trunk is a joke, and I didn't want to risk the back seat leather with Home Depot purchases

By this time there was a considerable body of evidence suggesting that the 6th-generation Corvette (C6) was a significant improvement over the C5.  The 2008 model year introduced a fancier interior package with leather replacing the "Rubbermaid" plastic dash and door panels.  I'm very glad to have experienced the 911 Turbo for a year, but it was time to move on.  I restored the car to stock condition because it has been my experience that, in the case of modified cars, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.  That is, one will be financially ahead by selling the aftermarket parts separately.  The Porsche found a new home in Texas.