Sixteen years ago. It all seems so fresh, the idea that at the turn of the millennium the world could stop revolving, while computer programmers would be cashing in sorting out the will-it-or-won’t-it ‘bug’. Never has a date change been so potentially cataclysmic, or in hindsight, such a let down. We all partied like it was 1999 because, finally, it was. Porsche celebrated with a special edition 911: the 996 Millennium. Fittingly it was painted in Violet chromaflair where, according to the brochure, “the colour changes from black to dark green to an elegant shade of violet.” Sitting under the sun today, that hue’s flipping between a deep brown to near black, with a bit of green there too, depending on how the light’s hitting it.
Porsche certainly isn’t averse to a special edition, though I’ll admit before the Editor alerted me to it, the existence of the 996 Carrera 4 Millennium Edition had escaped me. I’m not alone, either. It was introduced in December 1999, with the limited build number set at 911 – what else? – and was based exclusively on the Carrera 4. Trawling through contemporary magazines there’s no mention of it anywhere – not even a news story, let alone a drive. That’s perhaps not so much a reflection of the Millennium’s status, but rather the fact that, at the time, the GT3 had just landed, its hardcore status being perfect fodder for the automotive press hungry for a 996 to really love. Throw in pent-up demand for the new Turbo, rumours of the GT2 and – outside our remit here admittedly, but relevant – the build up to the Cayenne, and it’s not surprising that the Millennium Edition could have been overlooked.
Even with standard ‘Turbo Twist’ wheels (8×18-inch front and 10×18-inch rear sizes fi tted with 225/40/ZR18 and 285/35/ZR18 tyres respectively) finished in chrome and that trick paint, the Millennium has escaped the attention of all but the most obsessive Porsche fans. There’s no fi rm data on how many arrived in the UK, though it’s said there’s just three RHD UK cars, making the Millennium an exceptionally rare car indeed. That might not come as a surprise when you consider what it cost, the Millennium adding just under £5,000 to the price of a standard Carrera 4. Commanding £73,918 for the six-speed manual or £77,218 for the Tiptronic S, this was at a time when a GT3 cost £76,500. Porsche went fairly wild with the specifi cation to justify that hike, loading it with every possible option. The 996 came with electrically adjusted Sports seats with memory function and heating; a tinted screen; rear wiper; aluminium accented dials; PCM with navigation; a six-disc CD changer (remember them?) with upgraded audio; Litronic headlights with beam adjustment and headlight washers; a sunroof; C30 sports suspension; and all that leather and wood, along with those wheels and the special paint.
There’s an obligatory build number plaque inside, while the engine cover’s simply adorned with a polished 911 badge rather than ‘Carrera 4’, and the larger diameter tailpipes are chrome-plated stainless steel. This C16-coded, genuine UK car, badged 493 of the 911 built, is fi tted with the six-speed manual, which, given the otherwise luxurious specifi cation, is a surprise. Like those wheels, the interior is a matter of debate, but unlike them it’s not easily changed. Some love the mix of natural brown leather and dark burl maple woods, but I’ll admit I’m not immediately one of them. There’s no questioning the execution of the fi t, the hand-stitched interior is beautifully fi nished, the trimming exemplary, even if the colours and materials fall into the category of divisive. The fi ne tactility of the wood is at odds with the visual shock it delivers; it’s a surprisingly backward-looking nod to tradition in a car that’s celebrating a new dawn, or at least a signifi cant calendar change, and is at its core a sports, rather than luxury car.
Carbon fi bre might have been more appropriate and would have worked with that rich natural brown leather, which is more ‘tan’ in reality. The little black plastic that is on show contrasts neatly enough with the leather, though like everything, it all comes down to individual tastes. Sitting in it is like stepping back in time, the standard sat nav looking ancient, and it’s always surprising how small the 996 feels inside compared to a contemporary 911. The most obvious element that betrays the 16 years since this car rolled out of a Porsche showroom and into Jersey, the Channel Islands, is the passive handset for the telephone attached to the centre console. We’re not sure what the legality of those are today, but just try not to grab it and place it to your ear and shout the obligatory ‘buy, buy, sell, buy, sell’. It’s absolutely impossible.