Do you remember a time not so long ago when the entire Porsche 911 community chastised the 996 chassis? Prejudice erupted because the German automaker decided to change the headlight design and cooling method on their iconic silhouette. Porsche abandoned the legendary round headlights the automotive world had loved since the 911’s inception in favor of an interesting new ‘fried egg’ layout. As the brand approached the new millennium (and bankruptcy), it also switched the cooling method from the traditional air-cooled setup to a newfangled water-cooled system. As with any other tweak to the 911’s design, Porsche’s fragile supporters cast the 996 as a pariah for years to come. That is, until recently. Some of those very same antagonists have changed their standpoint as 996 values begin to climb and new technologies flood the current lineup. For southern California resident L.A. Umayam, there was never a metaphorical fence to jump over into 996 admiration. That’s because he has always adored the 996 Carrera 4S chassis, which is precisely why he built such a glorious example of one.
“Purchasing the Porsche 911 Carrera 4S as a twenty-year-old kid, I was just happy to finally achieve the goal and drive around in a Porsche 911. I always thought that the 996 4S was a beautiful car and looked great stock,” said L.A.
“But growing up around the Los Angeles car scene and always modifying my cars, the 4S didn’t stay stock for long.”
So how does a twenty-year-old end up getting into 996 Carrera? Well, L.A. started out his automotive ownership with — you guessed it — a Honda Civic! The ceremonial rite of passage for so many in our industry, the small Japanese econobox served as the first canvas for L.A. to work his magic.
“I quickly lowered it on wheels, slapped on a body kit, and added dual exhaust — when that kind of stuff was cool, back in the day,” laughs L.A.
From there, his imagination and hunger for creation moved onto other chassis, trends, and styles. Experimenting next with an AE86 Corolla hatchback with an 8-point roll cage, a Lexus SC300 during his drifting days, and a slammed LS430 in a VIP era. There were slight curves from the norm throughout his thirst for trends, where he even modified a Honda Insight with Volk Racing TE37 wheels and a Hummer H3T truck.
“I don’t think I’ve ever owned a car that I didn’t modify. The inspiration for my car builds has always been to be as original as possible while keeping the car simple, clean, and maintaining its usability.”
Being twenty and walking into a Porsche dealership to pore over 911 Turbos and Carreras typically won’t yield sales representatives’ assistance. L.A. didn’t arrive wearing a three-piece suit and didn’t look old enough to be shopping at that particular dealership, so he was never taken seriously. Until one day, when he walked in with down payment in hand, ready to test drive his now-beloved 996 Carrera 4S.
“When I saw the 996 911 4S, it was love at first sight. That reflector light bar, those wide hips, and its clean lines had me. The look of the salesman when I bought the 4S was memorable. He was so shocked and kept saying I was ‘so young.’ In the end, he was happy for me, or happy to make a sale (probably), and said he was thrilled that young people like myself were getting into the brand,” says L.A.
“My initial vision was to keep the car simple and clean. Whenever I would have the urge to sell it and get into another Porsche, I would keep adding mods to keep myself interested in it. The end product is what you see today.”
However, it wasn’t quite that simple. The final form of his Porsche didn’t happen overnight. It was a labor of love that progressed over ten years of ownership. The moment he purchased the Bilstein PSS9 coilover suspension system after less than a year of ownership and sold his SC300 mentioned above to fund the operation, the slippery slope began.
With his background in modifying all vehicle types before the Porsche, there was a bit of sticker shock once the 4S’s changes got underway. Many of the modifications and maintenance L.A. performed himself. However, as with any build, nothing is as easy as picking your parts, and they’re magically in the car.
“The stainless steel OEM Porsche Tequipment roll bar without the crossbar was extremely hard to find. I specifically wanted this roll bar because it is unique, being stainless steel. Plus, the back seats would still be somewhat usable while keeping me safe in case of a rollover,” says L.A.
While many desirable parts can end up being a frustrating disaster to source, sometimes, you just need to have your own made. Which is precisely the route that L.A. took for his 996’s magnificent BBS wheels. His 19-inch BBS RS II wheels weren’t available in the three-piece spec he craved, so he had them custom-built at Sensei6 in City of Industry, California. L.A.’s affinity for originality initiated the conversion and custom specs, finished with brushed faces, a stepped lip, 24 karat gold hardware and hex key, polished inner barrels, and BBS black and gold center caps. The result is one of a kind and flawlessly envelops his 996’s Porsche big brake calipers custom painted Brembo gold.
But the modifications don’t stop with a roll bar and some wheels. On the exterior, he took it a step further by wrapping the whole car satin pearl white and equipping it with a few different TechArt Type 1 goodies, including a front lip spoiler, side skirts, and rear side diffusers.
The OE tan interior contrasts the pearl white exterior so nicely, it’s a wonder the car wasn’t offered in this configuration from the factory. Helping to further enhance the interior is the rare Porsche Tequipment stainless steel roll bar, a 997 short shifter kit, Porsche carbon fiber accents, and a Rennline aluminum pedal set and floorboard.
“I would like to thank my family for encouraging me to accomplish the goals I set in life, even if they are goals like buying a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S. I would also like to thank Bank of America for employing me at 15.5-years-old. Enabling me to work hard to save a down payment for this 911 4S and satisfying my car part and car modification addiction that began at a young age.”
While he doesn’t particularly have any concrete plans for the car in the future. L.A. is currently having a set of 18-inch BBS wheels built with track duty in mind. That should open up a new can of worms and further showcase what the car was made to do, despite the Porsche community’s bias.
“The Porsche 911’s 996 generation has been undeservingly criticized in the past due to being the first water-cooled and different non-round headlight design. But with Porsche slapping turbos on all 911s, adding hybrid-like technology (auto start-stop), and even going electric, those criticisms are old news and water under the bridge,” says L.A.
“At the end of the day, it’s still a 911, and I am happy that people are starting to become interested in the 996 generation with positive reactions.”
Photography by Drew Manley
L.A. Umayam's 2003 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S
|Exterior:||Avery Dennison SW900 satin pearl white wrap, Techart Type 1 front lip spoiler, side skirts, and rear side diffusers, Porsche Sport Exhaust black tips|
|Interior:||Porsche Tequipment stainless steel roll bar, OE Porsche 997 short shifter kit, OE Porsche carbon fiber shifter knob, OE Porsche carbon fiber parking brake lever, DB Carbon door pulls, glovebox lever, ashtray, and carbon fiber interior trim, Rennline aluminum pedal set and driver floorboard|
|Engine:||Porsche Sport Exhaust, Fabspeed Competition carbon fiber cold air intake, IPD Competition plenum, GT3 throttle body, Rennline semi-solid engine mounts|
|Wheels/Tires:||BBS RS II three-piece step-lip conversion, brushed faces, 24K gold hardware, 24K gold hex, BBS black and gold center caps, polished inner barrels (19x9-inch front, 19x11.5-inch rear), Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires (225/40/19 front, 295/30/19 rear)|
|Suspension:||Bilstein PSS9 coilover suspension, RSS drop links|
|Brakes:||Porsche big brake calipers (custom painted in Brembo gold)|