A Porsche 911 is a performance yardstick and has been since its inception. Its boxer engine is a marvel of engineering, even if it’s a bit high strung and expensive to repair when things go wrong. Having said that, here’s how to make a junker Porsche 911 into a world-beater with none of the expensive drawbacks.
This 2001 Porsche 911 Carrera was one of the cars that split the brand between its true supporters and the emphatic whiners who think change is something you decline to give to the homeless. Its bulbous styling with runny-egg headlights and water-cooled boxer engine would be enough to make any vintage Porsche owner come down with the vapors. However, as this is a column for project cars and how to make them whole again, this particular white German coupe is a roller, meaning that it has no engine and transmission, which opens up a few options.
At its $7500 asking price with likely lots of room for negotiation, it’s a great start to what could be something ridiculously beautiful. More ridiculous than beautiful, if I’m honest.
While you could buy a stock or upgraded boxer 6-cylinder engine and transmission for the Porsche, everything up to the Turbo engines had issues with the intermediate shaft, or IMS bearings. While the problem isn’t as prevalent as what the alarmist internet would have you believe, it is a concern for every 996 owner, at least to some reasonable extent.
That’s why, today, you can swap in an LS-series V8 engine from a Corvette, GMC, or any other car that carries that massive 5.3-7.0 lump. Granted, it’s an engine swap that requires a hell of a lot of elbow grease and a few choice curse words describing rusty or over-tightened bolts, but it’s certainly doable for the average shadetree mechanic with a bit of time on their hands.
Power ranges from around 400 horsepower to whatever your right foot can handle because the aftermarket is absolutely massive and the mill responds to breathing modifications extraordinarily well. Putting the LS engine in (and sourcing a transmission from a donor Porsche) is exactly what the car desperately needs to turn into the reliable canyon carver you’ve always wanted. Weight distribution doesn’t change much, if at all, since the pushrod LS engine is extremely compact most of the moving parts are at the bottom and you get Turbo performance without the Turbo price tag. Also it sounds like this:
As prices for 996s rise, even for rolling projects like the one above, it’ll be harder for prospective buyers and tinkerers to have a reasonable budget for the project. As it stands now, with a used LS1 engine available for a few grand and another $7-10k for the conversion and the odds and ends that aren’t bolted to the car currently, you can have a sub $20k, naturally aspirated V8 monster with the polarizing looks of a Porsche and the reliability of one of GM’s most stout and longest produced engines.
When I buy a house with a dream garage, I’ll definitely have one of these, if only for the screw-the-purists grin factor and value per modding dollar. This Porsche is a blank white canvas that has the potential for leaving very black marks on the pavement, without leaving your bank account in the red. I love puns.