When Porsche’s all-new, 996-Series 911 Turbo debuted at the September 1999 Frankfurt International Auto Show, it marked the culmination of three decades of relentless development. Today, it remains one of the most important and influential of all models unleashed by Porsche during its storied history. Full credit for the new Turbo’s continued excellence goes to Hans Mezger, who joined Porsche in 1956 and went on to oversee design and development for Porsche’s dominant racing cars and engines through the next three decades. During his storied career, which would certainly require several volumes to fully document, Mezger laid down the foundation for Porsche’s utter domination of motorsports that continues uninterrupted today.
Among Mezger’s many achievements, he was first responsible for valve control of all Porsche engines, followed by work collaborating on engine and chassis design for Porsche’s 1960-62 Formula 1 program. In 1963, Mezger began design work on the 901/911 six-cylinder engine, followed by responsibility for the design and further development of all racing engines for the 911. By 1965, Mezger took over management of Porsche’s newly established department for race car design, which yielded the 910, 907, and 908, plus the 2-liter, 4-cylinder powerplant for the upcoming 914 production sports car!
As if that wasn’t enough, Mezger’s workload during the last half of the 1960s included the radical Type 917, which scored Porsche’s first overall win at Le Mans in 1970 after a near-perfect record of class victories there since 1951. While FIA rule changes ended its primacy at Le Mans after the 1970-71 victories, variations of the 917 dominated the Can-Am series in North America during 1972 and 1973. Considered unbeatable with up to 1,500 HP available on demand, it was declared “…the car that killed Can-Am.”
While the 917 ruled virtually everywhere it competed during the early 1970s, Mezger and his engineers were working on Porsche’s next weapon, the Turbo Carrera. A turbocharged street version of the 911, the Turbo Carrera was inspired by FIA racing-homologation requirements. First shown as a non-functional prototype at the September 1973 Frankfurt show and in production form at the October 1974 Paris Salon, the new Porsche was internally designated Type 930 and drew heavily on the powertrain and chassis technologies derived from the wildly successful 917 racing program. Released for sale in the spring of 1975 with U.S. exports commencing in 1976, the 930 begat the increasingly radical 935, which won at Le Mans, Daytona, Sebring, and over 100 other events. Lessons learned on the track led to even more specialized Porsche racing cars including the 934, 934.5, 936, 956, and the 962 sports-prototypes that continued Porsche’s victory tally through the 1980s.
In the best Porsche tradition, the basic 930 Turbo concept was carefully refined, perfected, and applied to the successive generations of the 911. While notoriously demanding to drive, the quantum leaps provided by Porsche’s 959 program of the 1980s finally made it possible to harness the immense performance potential of the Turbo on the road. Type 996, the first water-cooled Porsche 911 generation, debuted for 1999 and the all-new 996 Turbo followed for 2001. In Porsche’s usual fashion, the new 996-based Turbo was first available as a Coupe only. Its debut came at the September 1999 Frankfurt Show, with the first European sales during 2000, followed by U.S. availability that year for the 2001 model year.
Featuring all-new body styling with frontal cues shared with the Type 997 Boxster, the 996 Turbo was a technological tour de force in all respects. Continuing to utilize twin turbochargers and all-wheel drive, pioneered by the prior 993-based Turbo, the new 996 Turbo shared little else, if anything, with its predecessor. At the rear of the car, the new Turbo’s engine marked a first as a unique design sharing no commonality to the basic powerplant driving the non-turbocharged models. Instead, the Turbo’s new liquid-cooled Type M96/70 3.6-liter twin-turbo engine was derived from the engine used by Porsche’s 1998 Le Mans-winning GT1.
Commonly referred to as the “Mezger” engine, with design rooted in the legendary Porsche engineer’s ideas, the 996 Turbo’s engine utilized Porsche’s new Variocam variable valve-timing system, plus twin turbocharges and intercoolers for massive output. Developing 415 factory-rated horsepower, harnessed by unprecedented levels of grip and handling, the 996 Turbo was capable of 12-second quarter-mile times and a Supercar-worthy top speed nearing 190 mph. Advanced aerodynamics maximized performance and kept the new Turbo firmly planted. Standard and optional comfort and convenience features were many, befitting the breathtaking new Turbo’s place at the top of Porsche model range and its list price of nearly $120,000 when new.
In addition to its excellence, the 996-generation 911 Turbo was a more than worthy testament to the foundational work of Hans Mezger. Serving through the remainder of 996 production ending in 2004, the 996 Turbo yielded the more extreme X50 and GT2 variants for those drivers demanding even greater performance. Recently, smart collectors and enthusiasts have rediscovered the 996-generation 911 Turbo models, which combine Porsche’s legendary, race-bred DNA and ‘supercar’ performance. Best of all, this model marks one of the fullest expressions of Hans Mezger’s engineering prowess, exemplified by the stellar example from 2003 were are thrilled to offer to you.