The ever-increasing mania and resulting skyrocketing values of air-cooled Porsche 911s have put those cars way out of reach for most buyers. Meanwhile, prices for the 996 generation, the first 911 with a water-cooled engine, have languished, in part because the prevailing wisdom among Porsche collectors is that the sun rises and sets only on the air-cooled cars.

Values are depressed, too, because of a known design flaw in the standard 996 engine that can, if not attended to, lead to a catastrophic failure, costing tens of thousands to repair. While this understandably gives most buyers pause, the truth is that a preemptive fix is readily available — and, even better, that many 996 examples on the market today have already had it applied.

This is all great news for the more practical enthusiast who wants to get in on the all-around goodness of Porsche’s iconic and entertaining sports car but without breaking the bank.

A note about Klipnik’s buying guides. These are not collector car guides. (There are already plenty of other excellent sources for that.) Rather, our guides recommend cars that we think make for entertaining, interesting, reliable, and value-oriented buys — cars meant to be driven and enjoyed (not stashed away for investment purposes) and that don’t cost a fortune to acquire or maintain.

Porsche 996 Intro

Introduced for 1999 and replacing the 993 generation (the last of the air-cooled 911s), the 996 was praised for its performance but derided by many die-hard enthusiasts for its switch to water cooling, an overly-muffled engine/exhaust note, the Boxster-sourced front-end styling and some cheap interior components that had no place in a $70,000-plus car.

Yet the reality is that compared to the vaunted 993, the 996 is lighter, more powerful, quicker and faster. It also boasts sharper handling and more powerful braking. And let’s not forget about heating and air conditioning systems which work really well. Lastly, an inexpensive modification known as the “Gundo hack” (wherein a small piece of pipe is spliced between the mufflers’ inlet and exhaust outlets) transforms the lackluster factory soundtrack, giving this 911 a truly pleasing growl when you lean on the throttle.

And it all comes wrapped up in (apart from the headlights) classic 911 style. As such, those who want the thrill of driving a high-performing Porsche 911 that won’t cost them fifty grand or more should strongly consider the 996. Word is getting out, however, and values are slowly on the rise.

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About John DiPietro

John DiPietro is a seasoned automotive journalist with over 20 years in the business. In addition to Klipnik, he has written for Edmunds.com as well as classic car auction company Gooding & Company.

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