The 996 might be the least-loved body style of Porsche 911, so the fact that this particular Carrera 2 traveled from Germany to the United States two times just to find its current home is a story in itself.
Smog and alignment shop owner, Binh Tran, came from a background of road racing and modifying Hondas before he bought his first Porsche. At that time, it was an incomplete 996 convertible project car that he was going to build up to cruise Southern California's coastline.
After making a list of the parts and pricing out what he needed for the repair, it didn't take too long for Binh to realize just how costly an engine build was going to be. To properly complete the engine build for his convertible project, it might be more cost-effective to acquire another 996 as a parts car.
Binh explained, "I originally purchased this 1999 Carrera 2 back in March of 2017. The reason I chose this particular car was because it was supposed to be the sacrificial lamb I planned to part out for the build of my 996 convertible. My affordable 996 convertible somehow turned into two cars and a spare engine—you know how it is. But once I actually saw this 996 with my own eyes, I decided it was too nice and too complete to part out. So, I ended up just buying another engine to complete the 996 vert."
When Binh began talking to the previous owner of this 996 C2, he found there was more to the car than meets the eye. This car had an interesting story to it. Even though the previous owner of this car lived in Southern California, his job required him to relocate to Germany. As part of the terms and conditions negotiated prior to his move to Germany, it was stipulated that his employer had to pay to ship his beloved 1999 Carrera 2 to Germany with him.
That’s where this 996's reintroduction to its motherland began. The Carrera 2 was loaded onto a truck in California, and traveled all the way to New York. From there, it was loaded into a container, placed onto a freighter, and hauled all the way to Deutschland.
Once it arrived at the docks in Germany, the car was then converted to European-spec by changing out the headlights, tail lights, digital center speedometer, and side markers. All of this was necessary to comply with German highway laws.
"The previous owner of this 911 drove it all the time on the Nurburgring," Binh explained. "In fact, when it first came into my possession, it had a bunch of driver run group stickers from the Nurburgring on the windows, indicating that my 996 was definitely not a stranger to the Nordschleife. After a pretty long stint in Germany, this C2 and its previous owner moved back to Southern California. Eventually, I came into the picture."
Instead of parting it out as originally intended, Binh decided to keep this expat 996 and turned it into his weekend cruiser. His original plan was to keep it mild,unlike the track cars he built in the past. However, after more clients with 911s started coming to his shop, SSA Haus in Bellflower CA, Binh was bitten by the modification bug. Once that bug took hold, he began amassing GT3 and RS parts for his car.
"Even though others don't show much love for the 996, I actually like the narrow body 1999 Carrera 2," Binh remarks. "It's the same body as a 996 GT3, after all." His car already had new OEM Porsche Euro-spec headlight housings from its time in Germany, so he retrofit a set of Porsche Design projector lights for the early model 996. These were installed seamlessly into his existing headlight housings, which don't come with projectors from the factory.
If you're familiar with stock 996s, you'll notice that the look of the front end was improved with a GT2 replica bumper and OEM Porsche GT2 front lip.
The factory paint color, Paladio Metallic, which looks like a cross between gold & metallic champagne, is particularly unique. Depending on the direction and intensity of the light, the paint displays a slightly different hue—imagine the slightest of color shifts. This color was only offered for two years, from 1999-2000, and only on US market vehicles. Binh credits Danny at Obsessed 4 Detail for his paint correction services, and Steve at Elevance for installing the paint protection film; both keep the car looking sharp despite its age.
On the rear, Binh retained the OEM 996 bumper, but deleted the US market bumperettes. First he removed the unsightly rubber boots surrounding the license plate on the rear bumper before commissioning a body shop to fill and respray it completely. All of this was an attempt to make his car look more cohesive with the style of the European domestic market 911.
Moving away from the front, the Misha GT2M wing on the rear of Binh's Carrera 2 can't be ignored. It blends the striking style of the Porsche 996 GT2 wing on the top deck with the more subtle, lower-height Turbo-style wing lip on the lower deck.
Another detail mentioned earlier that only 996 fanatics might notice are the European-spec red and clear tail lights. This is yet another modification made to be German highway-legal.
The interior of this 996 is pretty much all stock, aside from the addition of Porsche OEM front seats from a 997. That's for good reason, the interior looks nearly as it did when it rolled off the showroom floor 20-plus years ago. Binh mentioned that he intends to eventually upgrade to a Porsche Cup steering wheel once he gets around to it.
If there's one thing that makes a sports car feel its age, its the transmission. Before Porsche's industry-benchmark PDK was released, there was the Tiptronic transmission. At the time, the Tiptronic might have been an acceptable replacement to the manual, but with modern technologies on the market, the Tiptronic now feels extremely slow in comparison. That's why Binh purchased this car with the 6-speed manual. He says he's happy enough to have a manual transmission, but he will upgrade the shift feeling later by installing either OEM 996 GT3 or Porsche Cup shift linkage.
Under the dash, the the addition of a set of aluminum pedal covers and dead pedal make heel-and-toe downshifting that much easier during those spirited weekend canyon runs.
The Porsche 997 front seats look perfect with the all-black interior of this 996. Binh has fixed race bucket seats in his track car, but he wanted to retain comfortable seats with folding seat backs in his 996 so that he could bring his kids with him on leisurely weekend drives.
While some people would upgrade the factory head unit, Binh explained that he decided not to touch it because he just leaves the radio off when he drives the car. The 911's exhaust sound and engine note are enough music to his ears.
I don't recommend squeezing an adult into the back of a 996, but 2+2 seating in the rear affords Binh the opportunity to bring his kids for a ride every once in a while.
When not using the rear seats, they fold down which serves more than one purpose. With the seats folded down, you can actually fit a family's worth of groceries in the back. And when not carrying groceries, this protects the 20-year old leather from drying up in California's harsh sun.
When lifting the engine cover at the rear of the car, it's impossible not to notice the molded plastic elbow from the curved K&N cold air intake. According to Binh, the difference is noticeable when compared to the restrictive stock setup.
One benefit of using this style of intake is that it comes with mounting brackets and a heat shield to separate the cold intake air from the hot air that surrounds the engine. The filter is also easily serviceable, so it is easy to remove for cleaning, and should last the lifetime of the vehicle.
An expanded view of the engine bay shows the Porsche 3.4L M96 engine. Binh explains, "The M96 produces 300 horsepower at 6800 rpm. I wish I had the Hans Mezger-designed dry sump version of the M96 that comes in the 996 GT3, but this one isn't bad for what it is. I upgraded the response by adding a Porsche 997 GT3 RS single mass flywheel, a Porsche 996 GT3 clutch, and a factory Porsche limited slip differential. Luckily, I haven't had any of the intermediate shaft bearing issues that you always hear about with the 996. My car is a 1999, and the failure rate on the 3.4L cars is pretty low. If I had a newer 996, I'd probably have to worry about it, though. Other than the things I mentioned, I haven't really needed to do anything other than maintain the engine with fresh fluids and plugs."
Bolted up to M96 underneath Binh's car, you'll get a peek at the gorgeous EBS Racing headers and the Eibach sway bars that keep the car stable at high speeds.
SpeedTech exhaust components were added by Binh to create a sound more like a 996 GT3 by eliminating the exhaust drone. The X-pipe produces a higher pitched tone that echoes off the canyon walls when he's going for a spirited run.
For the muffler itself, Binh performed the "Gundo Exhaust Hack" himself at his shop. This popular hack basically turns a bone stock 996 muffler into the more expensive Porsche Sport Exhaust. It's done by cutting a hole in the inlet & outlet pipes of the OEM Porsche muffler and TIG welding a stainless steel tube between those holes. This creates a more free flowing, sportier exhaust that also sounds amazing. A pair of OEM Porsche Sport Exhaust tips were added to complete the aggressive look and feel of the car.
Binh already has a race car with a super stiff, unforgiving suspension setup. As this 996 is intended to be more of a cruiser than race car, he kept the 996 suspension a little basic, deciding on the ROW M030 European sport suspension package. This setup uses beefier coil springs with higher spring rates paired with Bilstein B8 heavy duty dampers.
For wheels, Binh decided on Forgestar M14 19x8.5 wheels with 245/35/19 tires up front, and 19x11 M14s with 305/30/19 tires in the rear.
If you peek through the mesh spokes, you can easily see the yellow OEM Porsche calipers that bite down on Stoptech cross-drilled brake rotors. Stoptech 309 sports pads with Stoptech stainless steel braided brake lines are used for a firm pedal feel.
Binh said that even though this 996 C2 was originally supposed to be the parts car that he would use to complete his convertible 996 project, "I just couldn't part it out because its condition was a lot nicer and more complete than my other 996." He added, "Coming from an automotive modification background and being a one man show at my shop, from vehicle porter, to parts installer, and business owner, it was easy to get the mod bug... and one it gets you, there is no going back! I started off with just shocks & lowering springs at first, then other parts slowly began showing up at the shop."
"I think what sets this car apart from other 911s is that the 996 is the first water-cooled 911, as it's a '99 model year," Binh explained. "Like its older 911 brethren, this 996's motor runs off a cable instead of an e-throttle, and I love the fact that it still feels really analog; the 2000 and newer models come with drive by wire systems. Also, this car is fairly raw, not having electronic assists like Porsche Stability Management, so it's super fun to drive in that respect."
When building a car like a Porsche 911, Binh says he feels that it's really important to use OE or OEM parts when possible. "Aftermarket is fine and all if you're just trying to save money and don't care about longevity, but from lessons learned on prior cars, I always stick with the original equipment or OEM parts. That's a surefire way to make sure these always remain reliable. In the future, I'll probably go with more suspension upgrades, which is where a Porsche can shine. Also, I'll probably get more GT3 or RS variant parts when I can. You know how it is, cars like this are never truly done."
If you enjoyed this 996 Porsche 911, you can find additional Porsche-related content at porsche.fcpeuro.com, as well as more build features like this one, here. If there's anything specific you would like to see, or if you have any questions/comments, leave them in the comments section below.
Antonio Alvendia is an aficionado of cameras, rare wheels, hip hop, and obscure aftermarket car accessories. He bought his first E39 Touring after seeing M5 Estates on photo trips to Europe, and now has sights set on restoring a classic Mercedes. Antonio was a principal photographer on the limited edition hardcover book on Singer Vehicle Design's Porsche 911 builds, entitled One More Than Ten. Future goals include returning to the Nurburgring to shoot the N24 race and driving the Nordschleife again. ••• Instagram : @MOTORMAVENS