Ownership Verified: Equi’s Track Car


Well-Known Member
Jun 22, 2009
Houston, Texas, USA
Many cars, mostly very vroomy
Nugget and I are planning to do more track days in the coming months and years. As we’re hoping to do more distant tracks, where we won’t be instructing, we’ll both want to run all the advanced run group sessions (not sharing a car, like we have when instructing). And we had only one proper track car (my Miata is still on OEM seats, restraints, still has full exterior, etc. etc.).

So we “needed” another track car. What to get?

Everyone has suggestions. Everyone has ideas, plans, likes, loves, etc. The guy who runs a Spec Racer Ford wanted me in a Spec Racer Ford. The guy who runs ASA Stock Cars wanted me in those (or an Allison car). But for the way Nugget and I do track days a car that can be driven on the street is better.

I love Exiges, but I tear cars to shreds. A friend has a similar driving style to mine and he’s constantly breaking parts on his Exige. Sidebar: This should not be taken as a general reliability perspective on Exiges. This is specifically about how hard I am on track cars and the Exige being built to be as light as possible.

I’ve been thinking for a few years that if something happened to our 997.1 GT3 RS that required a full replacement, a 996 GT3 seems like a good choice. Preferably a track rat one, one that’d already seen some miles, some mods, some good hard track use, so we wouldn’t be “ruining” a pristine example of an older car. A friend of ours has a 996 GT3 that's essentially exactly what I'd choose.

Said friend hadn't been making it out to the track much recently. Other things in his life had gotten in the way. And by "recently" I mean for maybe around five years now (Nugget and I have been away for a time, too). Our friend had talked about maybe selling his GT3. He also has? had? a Spec Boxster and has an R8 Spyder. If the Spec Boxster is his track car and the R8 is his fun street car, what's the GT3 doing for him? But he's owned the car since 2009. He doesn't want to part with it. He knows he should sell it, but doesn't want to part with a car that's so connected to his track life, his car hobby. He was talking with us about this when he came to see the ranch for the first time. Why don't we buy it? This solves both our dilemmas – Friend isn't really parting with his car, he can always come visit it, come drive it, it's not gone from his life (he's in the group of instructors where we trade cars with each other for a few laps regularly). And I get an already-set up GT3, already a track rat, ready to start running and tweaking to my preferences (and this friend is great at car setup, maintenance, care, etc., a meticulous guy).

So this happened:

I now own a 996 GT3, one owned by a friend since 2009, and enthusiast owned for essentially its entire life, as far as I can tell. I look at the car and see an old friend. I drove the car off the trailer once it got to the hangar and immediately felt at home in it, much like I feel in the Miata I've owned since 2007. This car is both extremely familiar to me, and new to me. It's a great feeling.

Our friend had posted a, "I'm thinking about selling," post on another forum that has a list of mods, status, etc. of the car. Quoting from his post:
Included Extras
  • + OEM Euros Seats
  • + Techquipment Roll bar
  • + Aeromotions wing
  • + Guard LSD @43,469 miles
  • + Revalved OEM Suspension + Springs. Springs/shocks revalved (700/900), Tarret rear monoball mounts, rear toe arms with locking plate.
  • + Rear toe arms with locking plates
  • +Tarett upper monoball mounts
  • + Rennline solid engine mounts @50,917 miles
  • + Replaced transmission mounts @50,919 miles
  • + Racing Brake - caliper rebuild @51,251 miles (October 2016)
  • + Caliper studs
  • + Caliper rebuild [2016]
  • + Wheel Studs
  • + Rennline Pedals and Track Mats [and fire extinguisher mount]
  • + Fabspeed muffler bypass
  • + Fire extinguisher and mount
  • + 6-point harnesses
  • + Console delete
  • + A/C
  • + OEM 996 GT3 wheels (track)
  • + OEM 996 GT3 wheels (track)
  • + 2 extra Front Splitters
  • + OEM Wing
  • + Console and cubbies
  • + Extra brake pads
  • + random spare parts

In addition the coolant pipes are pinned (only 2 were pinned at the time we bought it, but it was stored at our preferred Porsche shop and they pinned the rest of the pipes and performed other needed maintenance before we picked it up).

Photos from the "thinking about selling" post:




Proof pic:

And there's a brief video driving the car into the hangar at the ranch on smugmug.

So what’s next with the car? Well, its harnesses are out of date, so those are being replaced. The fire extinguisher is also out of date, so that’s getting updated. The prior owner always ran it with a wrap on it, and I’d like to continue that tradition. His wrap was typically a carbon fiber look (and said wrap is still on the hood). But I’d like to change to something violet themed. Remember the Fluffy Bunny Type 3? Something vaguely that color, but trimmed in dark purple and maybe blue rather than pink. I’m not very settled on the exact look yet. I’d like to find a good local wrap shop first and get their ideas on what is possible, what’s good for track use, and what would look good on this car.

I also want permanent numbers on it, 2 digits, I don’t know what! I suppose 96 could be a fallback, since it’s a 996 and the engine code does technically start with M96 (it’s a Mezger in enthusiast nomenclature), but that doesn’t really speak to me.

We're now a 2 GT3 family. Vroom.
Sorta, yes? Except, not former? It's a private heliport, 41XA. A previous owner used the place for their charter helicopter business, Saber Helicopters. It's still a functioning heliport, and while no one has asked to land here yet, one could land with permission (or in an emergency). There is no runway, no place to practically build a runway, so no airplanes.

We have no plans to add flying helicopters to our list of hobbies, but we do plan to keep this a heliport in good condition and would welcome landing requests! I dunno why someone would choose here instead of any of the other nearby areas a helicopter could land but hey, we're here.
What group or groups do you run with around Houston? I was at MSR H last weekend with Drivers Edge and might be going back next month when they run CW.
We were at that event, though we didn’t take any of the track cars. I was instructing a grey Fiata in the green rungroup and a black 370Z in blue.

I’m moderately likely to be at the March 11-12 event, quite possibly with this car. Nugget probably won’t be there as he’ll be doing SXSW things.
I remember the 370Z in blue, those first to sessions on Saturday were a cluster not because of the Z but other things going on, the passing without signals was um interesting.. I moved to Yellow group Sunday after lunch.
Yeah, the passing without signals was a point of discussion among the instructors as well. As always, Dean handles our concerns well.

Congrats on the move to yellow! You were there in your Commodore, weren't you? I think I heard you talking with folks about the badging and the origin of the car. I appreciate the, "Let me badge it like what it is, not like it's been labeled over here".
Congrats on the new track rat! Can't wait to see how that wrap turns out :)
FLUFFY BUNNY TWO!!!!!!! Aaaah I love it. Good parsh GOOD PARSH GOOD PARSH!!!

Nugget probably won’t be there as he’ll be doing SXSW things.
...b-but why? There's a Lemons Rally to run on Interactive weekend, starting and leaving from H2R, ha.

(...unless we're doing tacos anyway for the laughs, in which case, can haz on the other weekend? Or AT H2R? I need to ruin some rallyers' bowels.)
As one might expect in a car that hadn't seen track time in years, the harnesses in the 996 were out of date. The driver's side harness expired in 2019, but the passenger side expired in 2014. Soooo time for new harnesses! The 997 also needed new harnesses, so we ordered enough parts for both cars and started getting things ready.


The 997's seats have airbags in them, while the 996's do not. This makes the 996 a bit easier to deal with, so that car came first. The old harness was installed with care, rubber bands on the rollbar to keep the shoulder straps from slipping, carefully coiled extra length, zip tied into place, etc. A very nice install. Years of dirt and tight adjustments have gotten the straps very tight in their clips, but the right pliers get in and grab the straps, letting me wiggle them loose. Having seats built for harnesses is so nice. The antisubmarine belts, the ones that go through the bottom of the seat, wrap around a bar under the seat. There's enough clearance between the seat and the floor of the car for my hands to get in there and manage the belts. I didn't have to take out, or even move the seat (forward/back on the rails) much to get to everything. Nice, easy removal and install. I'm not entirely sure how I'll want each of the straps adjusted, so I haven't carefully wrapped up the excess yet. Get some track time, make sure I like the adjustment, then carefully wrap and zip tie everything.

On to the passenger side. The shoulder and antisubmarine belts release reasonably easily, like on the driver's side. But the lap belts, those aren't clipped onto rings like on the driver's side. Those are sewn on to their rings. There's also a fire extinguisher mount I want to remove (switching to a different extinguisher style that needs a different mount). While I can get to some of that mount without removing the seat, some of it's a bit difficult. In my mind removing a car's seat is a major hassle, something you don't do unless you must. But, well, gotta get to that harness strap, so I've gotta remove the seat. I might as well make it easier to get to the fire extinguisher mount.

The bolts holding the seat rails in place need an E12 socket, and Nugget's ordered the appropriate socket set, as he does. Having a well-equipped place to work on cars makes things so much easier. I loosen the 4 bolts, but the 3-point (OEM) seatbelt is still strung through the seat. I could try to take it off, but... Well, it has enough give that I should be able to get to everything without touching it. With the 4 seat rail bolts out I go to lift the seat. I give a good, strong pull (I'm not exactly a strong person).

The seat flies up.

Turns out the 996 GT3 Euro seats are really lightweight, remarkably so. I can easily lift and maneuver the thing, even at the awkward angles of being half in the car, even with the seat belt still through the seat pulling on it irregularly. Light seats are great on track, and this also makes my task much easier. I point the front of the seat out the door and take off the fire extinguisher mount.

The lap belts for those harnesses are sewn around a metal connector sort of thing. The OEM seatbelt receiver, for the normal 3-point belt, is bolted into the side of the seat. The metal connector is around that same bolt. There's a large metal spacer that keeps all of that lined up properly and prevents everything from rattling. With the new harnesses, instead of that metal connector, I'm expected to use the bolt that came with the harness. It has an eyelet on the end, and the new lap belts have a clip that will clip to that eyelet. It's a bit hard to describe, but I'm taking out one bolt, taking out one metal connector (that also acts as a spacer), and putting in a different bolt with a special feature on its end. I reassemble everything with the different parts and... it rattles. Missing that metal connector, there's not enough spacers. We decide that, at least for now, we're going to try cutting the belt off the connector and putting it back in, see if that stops the rattle. It does. Ok, well, that's ok for now, let's get the other side done, and see where we stand. We might want different spacers in the long term, but one thing at a time. I replace the bolt on the other side, and again have to leave the old connector in as a spacer. I then try to put the seat back in place.

It doesn't fit. That special feature on the end of the bolts, the eyelet, makes the seat too wide for its space. Ain't gonna work. Hooookay, now what? I go look at the driver's side again. Those metal connectors? The driver's side is still using those, the lap belt clips are clipped on them. But they're twisted, not flat, so the belts sit at the right angle. If I clip the new lap belts into the passenger side metal connectors they'll be twisted wrong. I could put the old bolts back in and do that, but the harness belt being twisted like this isn't right. The belts should be flat and smooth against the person, so the pressure is even.

Dan had ordered the harnesses. Maybe that metal connector, with the needed twist, was available on the website and I just didn't know it? It didn't come with our stuff. So I take the installation guide booklet to Dan and ask for his help. He looks at the passenger seat, looks at the book, looks at the driver's seat, looks at the book, reads the book, studies the seat. Then he points to a diagram in the book. "We're supposed to twist those." I look at the diagram. He's right, those flat metal connectors already on the seat just need to be twisted. Nice, easy solution. I'm not strong enough to twist them myself, but Dan is. So I hold the seat while Dan twists the connectors to the shape the new belts will need. I replace the eyelet bolts with the original bolts that let the seat fit in the car.

Dan studying the seat:

I get the new antisubmarine belt secured, clip on the lap belts on, and go to reinstall the seat. I can't seem to get the rails lined up right. No matter what I do that left rear bolt just will not find its hole. It's the hardest one to reach, too, and I'm not sure what's going on with it. Frustrated, I move the seat, facing it out again. Some... random piece of metal, cut off of some other larger chunk of metal, was between the seat rail and the floor of the car, right over the hole for the bolt. I'm glad it ended up over the bolt because it should not be there, but I might not have noticed it if it hadn't covered the hole. With that extra bit cut off the seat rails line up easily and bolt back in. I wrapped the shoulder straps around the rollbar and it's ready to go! New harnesses for both driver and passenger on the 996.


The new fire extinguisher is not yet mounted, but that'll be done soon.
Texas requires safety inspections to register the car. Yesterday we took the 996 and the Miata to get their inspections (Dan drove the 996, I followed in the Miata). We got in the cars and headed out.

As we get to the end of the driveway, I see no brake lights from the 996. Odd. Maybe I just missed them. At the end of the road there's a stoplight on a slight downhill slope. I again see no brake lights, but I do hear (characteristic GT3) brake squeal, and I see a turn signal. Well, blarg, no working brake lights on the 996, no passing the inspection today. There's not a chance to communicate, though, and the inspection shop is not far, so I just stay behind the 996. I can hear when it's braking.

While the shop takes a look at the Miata I start trying to diagnose the 996. Since all three lights were out, I figured a fuse was the first thing to check. Pop off the fuse box cover, read the document inside, pull the appropriate fuse. The fuse looks fine. Still, I swap it with the spare (which also looked fine), and the brake lights still didn't work. Maybe they're both bad? I read the document to find a fuse of the same rating on a system easy to verify. The brights use the same amp fuse. The brights work, so I swap that fuse into the brake slot and the brake fuse into the high beam lights spot. The high beams keep working and the brake lights keep not working. Definitely not a fuse. I put everything back like it was.

We want the car fixed fast so that we can get it registered so I can drive it. The inspection shop has a mechanic on site, so we ask him to take a look. He does, and says it's missing the brake light switch. Missing? Missing, it's just... not there. The thing I'm holding in this photo is what the switch should plug into. It looks a lot like the red thing off to the side (red is clutch, the brake light switch is brown).

How... is this... missing? How does the car just not have one? That does not make sense! I reached out to the prior owner, he has no idea either. I figure it was probably touched when the old data logger was removed and distraction meant the job wasn't quite finished. Or whatever. It doesn't really matter, no one crashed and we know about it now, so it's fine.

We find the part on Suncoast and order it. It arrived today, around 11 AM. I grab it, plug it in, and verify the brake lights definitely activate now! The problem is, the switch isn't actually installed, so they're on if the ignition is turned to ON. Time to awkwardly plop myself into the driver's footwell and install the thing.

... Well, I can get there. I can put the switch in the appropriate slot. I know it needs to be pushed in hard and turned 90º. And I just cannot do it. My hands aren't capable. Dan tries, but it doesn't work out for him, either. Nugget tried and hey! Nugget pulled the sword from the stone!

Car fixed, inspection passed. Just gotta wait for the tax office to open again.

Also, our RS has been so far from stock for so long, this much-less-modified car has such a satisfying low rumble when I come off the throttle. And even at basic street speeds going mostly straight I can feel the reduced front downforce on the 996 GT3 compared with the 997 GT3 RS. The front end's supposed to be floaty in a 911 (when accelerating hard and moving fast), but man, it's extra floaty.

The in dash computer is also just a little different. Not horribly so. It's not difficult to figure out coming from the 997's. But I'm so used to the 997 that every small difference in this mostly extremely similar car is jarring.
Holy crap, that plate is perfect.