996 track build

April 15, 2020 /// issue no. 106

They say to never track a car you aren’t willing to walk away from. This explains why so many people build $3,000 Miatas and flog the hell out of them. These Miata owners also tend to spend nearly $10k on top to get them very well prepped. (Ask me how I know.) While I would still sob if I wadded up a Miata there’s room up the pain threshold meter enough to start exploring five figure purchase prices. If you’ve been following this week, you’ll know that puts us in Porsche territory.

A nationwide CarGurus search yielded 23 996 911 C2s under $20,000 and 3 under $15,000. Totaling this car would hurt, but the risk reward seems like a reasonable balance. $16,500 seems to be the going rate for a clean title reasonably maintained 996. Tax, tag, and title bring us to about $18,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area if we write in the full purchase price to the DMV. And we are writing in the full purchase price.

The first things you want to address in your newly acquired track car are maintenance, reliability, and safety. You can’t do research on buying a 996-generation 911 without hearing about IMS bearing failures. There’s even a wikipedia entry on the subject. We are buying a well-maintained high mile 996. At this point in the car’s life the bearing will have already been replaced with an upgraded unit or will have failed catastrophically. Will worry about the IMS later if we need to. On-track cooling is also essential so an upgrade to LN Engineering’s low-temp thermostat is a must. Other maintenance items include the Air-Oil Separator and potentially the clutch and flywheel. We don’t need to address these right away and will get to them when we need to. Since we are ignoring the AOS we are going to go ahead and upgrade to the X51-style oil baffle kit from LN as well.

Remember when I said you want to be able to walk away from the car? After you put your 911 in to the wall exiting Turn 10 at Sonoma Raceway you will have had significant safety measures in place to walk away. Cantrell Motorsports makes a bolt-in rollbar for the 996 and 997 chassis and will custom powdercoat it for an extra $250. Our track build needs some bling so we’ll take the upgrade. You already have a head-and-neck restraint so we just need to finish things off with a Schroth 6-point harness, Sparco steering wheel (airbag + cage = nono), and a Rennline quick release steering hub.

We could go straight to the track with our reliability and safety upgrades but there are two more key elements: tires and brakes. Those dinky stock wheels and pseudo-performance tires won’t do. APEX Race Parts released their Porsche line up last year and the 18x9, 18x11 staggered fitment SM-10 wheels are inexpensive, light, and beautiful. Performance tires in a compatible fitment aren’t exactly abundant. The only streetable 235/40/18 and 295/30/18 tires I would consider from TireRack are the Advan A052s. We can upgrade later to the track-focused Nankang AR-1s which also happen to cost less, so we will stick to the Advan’s for pricing out our build.

Contrary to popular belief and show cars you don’t need a big brake kit to go to the track. Good brake fluid, pads, rotors, and if you really want to splurge some stainless steel brake lines. A liter of Motul RBF600, G-Loc R10 front pads and R8 rear pads, and OEM replacement rotors on all four corners. We can skip the stainless lines since an OEM Porsche kit with fresh parts will decimate all with overnight parts from Amazon. The G-Loc pads are track focused which corresponds to squeals and squeaks. Everyone in the neighborhood will know you track the car and that’s just how we like it.

Are we there yet? Call it a 911 tax, but there isn’t a single coilover setup you want to put on the car for less than $2,000. We could also easily spend the purchase price of the car on a fancy race suspension setup, but Tarett Engineering thinks we can ease up a bit. Their “Hot Street and DE” kit features JRZ RS One Sport coilovers, swaybars, and drop links.

We are skipping aerodynamic parts, engine upgrades, and exhaust indulgences to make this a “budget” baller build. This is a car we’d be more than proud to take to the track and that doesn’t go too far overboard. It has everything we need to start a solid foundation to spend LOTS more money. So what did we end up with?

Item Price
996 C2 $18,000.00
LN Engineering Low-Temp Thermostat Kit $227.75
LN Engineering X51-style Oil Baffle $349.99
Cantrell Motorsports 996 Rollbar $2,750.00
Schroth Flexi 2x2 FHR $398.72
Sparco Evo Seat $591.50
Brey Krause Seat Brackets $198.45
Sparco R353 Steering Wheel $222.88
OMP Steering Wheel Hub $84.95
Rennline Steering Wheel Quick Release $375.00
APEX SM-10 Staggered Fitments $1,814.74
Advan A052 Staggered Fitments $1,166.14
Motul RBF600 $33.98
G-Loc R10/R8 Brake Pads $394.00
Pagid Brake Rotors $283.41
Tarret Engineering JRZ DE Suspension Kit $5,550.00

OOOPS! Going full send on the coilovers put us over the $30,000 mark. Including cost of the car, ignoring some shipping costs, taxes, and random fluid changes our track build totals $32,441.51. Our consumable costs come in at around $700 for a set of pads and rotors and $1,200+ for tires when we include mounting costs. In comparison the same parts cost $400 and $550, respectively, for the aforementioned $15,000 20-year old Miata. A well-prepped 300hp track Porsche does seem doubly cool and no one gets in to motorsports to make money. All that’s to say… it’s not that bad! Tomorrow we’ll explore a very similar build for a 987 Cayman S and see if there’s anything to be learned in the build process.

Coffee time,

daily automotive addiction.