If you’ve been on TikTok recently, you may have noticed a few disturbing yet related trends. They go by names familiar to those of us who have long walked this earth but are foreign to the youths who now see them as novel. Evils once thought conquered, now returning from the depths: Light wash denim. Low rise jeans. Even the “whale tail” has made a comeback on that cursèd app. The early 2000s are returning, and Porsche seems to be banking on the trend to mend the image of its most divisive 911.
The 996-generation 911, for those out of the know, is the version of the car that first hit dealer floors in 1997. It was the first 911 to be cooled by liquid rather than air, a novel technology developed a mere one hundred years earlier, and featured such crowd-pleasing design elements as fried-egg headlights and engine bearings that turned the whole motor into soup if you looked at them wrong, or right, or not at all. To say it was unloved by purists would be an understatement.
But time marches onward, and 996 prices on the used market plunged (yes, there was a time when some version of the 911 was at least relatively accessible). They ended up in the hands of enthusiasts who loved the handling, tolerated the mechanical quirks, and grew an odd affinity for those fried egg headlamps. Many of those that decried the 996’s breaks from tradition, the Statlers and Waldorfs of the automotive world, have since faded from relevance and ceded ground to fans of the pluckiest Porsche.
Now, the company itself is getting in on rehabilitating its early-aughts experiments. This custom one-off car from Porsche’s Sonderwunsch (“Special Wish”) program, named the Classic Club Coupe, is a step in that direction — turning the warm, nurturing light of Stuttgart towards a model whose life has seen its share of darkness. From Porsche:
“We wanted to take a different route – to base this unique project on a car less obvious – a modern classic – that would appeal to a slightly different group of enthusiasts,” said Tom Gorsuch, President of the Porsche Club of America (PCA). “The fact that the finished Porsche 911 Classic Club Coupe looks so cohesive, with the changes appearing so natural, is what’s really incredible about this challenging project.”
“The Type 996 is unjustly overshadowed by the other 911 ranges. That’s why we were happy to choose it as the basis for demonstrating all the things we can do with Porsche Classic and the recently expanded Sonderwunsch program of Porsche AG,” says Alexander Fabig, Head of Individualization and Classic. “In 2009, the 911 Sport Classic, a limited series of 250, had already generated worldwide interest. However, this special model was not sold in the U.S. With this one-off, we’ve now managed to bring a similarly exciting vehicle concept to the U.S. as well.”
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The Classic Club Coupe borrows its engine and brakes from the 996 GT3. Porsche also claims a GT3 “chassis” is in use, though that appears to just mean the car’s suspension. The ducktail spoiler and double-bubble roof are entirely unique to the Classic Club Coupe, as is the blue-trimmed (and CarPlay-enabled) interior.
The 996 has spent its life fighting an uphill battle for acceptance. Between styling and design changes and a penchant for unreliability, it’s been a struggle for it to achieve the same level of honor as earlier (or later) 911s. But for the last few years, it’s been winning that war — and even Porsche is starting to take its side. As far as early 2000s trends, though, can we at least leave the JNCOs in the past?