A Defense Of The Porsche 996’s Infamous Runny-Egg Headlights
The 996's interior, though, is irredeemable.
All of the automotive cool kids love to make fun of the innocent 1997-2006 Porsche 911’s runny egg-looking lights. The poor 996 gets ridiculed for how “ugly” it is, how it isn’t a “pure” 911, and that the barely cooked eggs used to shape the headlights dripped its yolk all over Ferdinand Porsche’s grave. But no, the Porsche 996’s headlights are actually reasonably nice! At least, the 2002 facelift ones. I’m still figuring out how I feel about the early headlights. But as a concept, they need some redemption
Once Porsche unveiled the 996 Turbo in 2000, the redesigned headlights complimented the proportions on the front well. Pared down, given a slight coke-bottle, they sharpened the front of the car, and I think the width of the headlights visually shrinks it, making it look smaller and lighter. It is visually well matched with the language of the slightly bulkier 996. As evidenced by:
This monstrosity! This is a Pelican Parts headlight cover kit, and dear lord it’s all wrong. Here’s the actual product if you care to see some more images or buy one [shudder]. There is nothing good about a round-headlight conversion on a 996. The headlights look lost, in a sea of silver, estranged from its egg white. Without that filler in the middle, suddenly the 996 looks strangely wide, and a little dimwitted. To be totally frank, some gentle massaging of an elliptical headlight shape would probably yield something good, but I think the runny eggs look cool.
Man, who thought of this? Because it is a bad idea. The 996 is iconic for its polarizing headlights. Why kill that? It’s cool, it’s indicative of a changing Porsche in late ’90s. The 996 Turbo is the cover car of Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed, an anthology, the only game of its kind. It was the first car that ever entered my consciousness, a Speed Yellow 996 Turbo X50 I saw somewhere in LA when I was six years old. The runny egg is seared into my brain. Don’t forget, the 1997 911 GT1 race car and straßenversion had the legendary runny eggs!
The pre-facelift blobby headlights were not as right, but OK too. They had a kind, inviting shape to them, and nicely rounded the front end of early 996 911s. They compliment an un-fussy design, great surfacing, and a clean, classic 911 shape. I love how the hood shut line is cleanly rounded off into the headlight shape, completing the design of the front end. Initially, I would have never accused the 996 of being a timeless 911. Now, I think it’s a great looking 911, classic and beautiful. And, those larger headlights do a great job at shrinking a growing 911.
I think those runny eggs make the design of the 996. Without them, it would have been much worse… bloated, even. Hopefully, the car world comes around. I think that the 996 will age gracefully into pages of automotive history. Except for the interior. It’s simply not great.