911 Carrera 3.2 – 231 ch [1984]

The one-off

In 1984, this 911 Carrera 3.2 became the company car of the assistant to the Porsche CEO. Its spectacular visual appearance was a harbinger of what Porsche would offer to a wider clientèle under the Porsche Exclusive label from 1986 onwards.

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964 vs 3.2 Carrera: evolving the 911

By 1984, as the latest 3.2 was appearing in the showrooms, the 911 was already a phenomenon: it had far exceeded the impressive 15-year life of the 356 and, thanks to the passion and insight of then-CEO Peter Schutz, showed no signs of flagging. No other mass-production car conceived in the 1960s survived into a third decade. In 1982 Ford had built the last Cortina, but that car had been rebodied no fewer than four times; only the primitive Land Rover could offer the visual continuity of the 911.

The Porsche remained both profitable and near the top of the performance league. In 1984 231bhp was respectable, and on the quieter roads of those times a driver could deploy such horsepower regularly in a way quite impossible for today’s 500bhp 911s. Indeed, to beat a 3.2 you needed an Italian exotic of the type that required a mechanic in the boot, and even then it would never sustain day-in day-out 120mph use on the Autobahn.

But if the 911 was still a selling proposition, the strength of the dollar during the early 1980s making Porsche an increasingly attractive proposition to Americans, this masked the fact that it was dated. It had no power steering, a ride quality not worthy of its price bracket, no auto transmission option and byzantine heating and ventilation systems. Australian journalist Peter Robinson said in 1978: “The 911 belongs to another era. It’s showing its age and not just around the edge, so let’s put it out to pasture with the other thoroughbreds before it breaks down and has to be destroyed in front of its adoring public.”

Such antipodean directness was too much for Porsche, and Robinson later revealed that it was 11 years before Porsche would let him near another press car. Nevertheless, there were rumblings within Porsche too. Styling director Tony Lapine was a well-known 911 dissident, but Peter Falk was also critical. A man steeped in 911 development, and who before retirement produced the famous Lastenheft which sought to redefine the fundamental characteristics a new 911 should have, Falk represented the very essence of 911 integrity and tradition. After 20 years he wanted to see improvements, such as dispensing with the archaic torsion bars.

Falk’s voice did not go unheard. In April 1984 the board authorised development of the next 911, Typ 964. This would be the 911’s first step to making up lost ground. In fact, when it was revealed in 1988, the 964 looked remarkably like its predecessor. The board had stipulated that nothing was to be changed above the level of the axles. This had vastly restricted the designers, but Dick Soderberg’s skilful melding of the impact bumpers into the bodywork was widely praised, and the smooth-surfaced, technical-looking ‘Design 90’ 16-inch wheels were much admired. All of a sudden the Fuchs appeared old-fashioned…

 

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Hoovies Garage on the Carrera 3.2, and What It Means to Overpay

Through the 1990s and early 2000s impact-bumper 911s seemed like one of the best deals in sports cars. Sure, an LT-1 C4 Corvette was faster in a straight line, but it had all the build quality of a newspaper bin and all the cachet of an Applebees. Though ill-equipped for the stoplight drags, an impact bumper 911 offered a lot for relatively little money. In the early 2000s, when I was getting my license, driver-quality Carrera 3.2s could be had in the low to mid $20k range. Today, those prices have spiked. Prices are up 50% or more compared to 10 to 15 years ago, with rare options pushing the prices to new heights. This swift market adjustment is happening seemingly across the board. Hoovies Garage asks, why is it happening at all?

Understanding the Impact Bumper 911

For those who may be unfamiliar, the latest crop of Hoovies Garage videos are much like Doug DeMuro’s, unsurprising because they now both operate under the auspices of Autotrader. Unlike Doug, Tyler Hoover is apparently rather mechanically inclined. As such he spends more time running through the impact bumper 911’s mechanical quirks than its peculiar button layout.

Of course, an entire article could be written about the Carrera 3.2’s interior ergonomics. I personally think Porsche threw darts labeled with interior functions at a picture of the cabin, and stuck the controls where they landed after a wild night of Schnapps and cheap pilsners, but I digress.

But, people aren’t laying down their cash to inherit multiple sets of climate controls and valve guide issues. No, as Tyler says, they are paying for the experience. While an old 911 may not be particularly fast, it offers a very usable type of performance. The car is narrow, seemingly making every lane wider and giving you more room to play without crossing the double yellow. Until you start upgrading the suspension and tires there isn’t that much grip (by modern standards) either. The car will move around and you don’t need to be going that fast to enjoy it.

Like an early Miata, on the road, an old 911 is about as good as it gets. As modern cars become increasingly competent on track, the amount of on-road fun you can have without losing your license diminishes. Analog cars with low thresholds help remind us of what makes driving fun all the time, not just when pushing the car to the ragged edge.

But What Is The Market, Really?

Worth noting, part of the reason used 911s seemed to be such a good deal in the 1990s was the higher relative cost of most new cars. Adjusted for inflation a 968 cost substantially more than a Boxster does today. A 300ZX Turbo cost $42k in 1995, or the equivalent of $70k today. Prior to the investment era of car collecting, riding the depreciation curve on an old 911 made a lot of sense.

But that brings us to the issue of overpaying. While Hoovie’s Garage famously bought (and tracked) the cheapest 911 in the country, he did not buy the cheapest air-cooled 911. At 38k, he didn’t even buy one at the low-end of the market. He bought one somewhere in the middle of the impact bumper spectrum. If we look at Bring a Trailer’s results for impact bumper cars, we can see that Hoovies’ purchase was in the lower half of the distribution.BAT Impact Bumper Scatter Chart

This raises an important point, and establishes my only real issue with the video. If Tyler paid well above market for his Porsche, then you can argue that he overpaid. If he paid well under market for the 911, then he may have gotten a good deal. If he paid what everyone is paying, well that’s a different issue. It isn’t that everyone is overpaying, it’s that the free market has spoken. The market has spoken and these Porsches are just worth more than we, as buyers, would all prefer.

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80’s Icons Battle Head-To-Head: Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Vs. BMW E30 M3

In an age of honest sports cars, the late 1980s provided some of the most iconic cars that have ever been built. If you think back to that era and you’re asked to name a German sports car, chances are pretty great you’ll come up with one of these two. The fact is, despite being built in the same country at the same time, these two cars could not be more different. Porsche had already been building the 911 for a quarter century at the point they introduced the G50 gearbox, but BMW’s homologation special touring car racer for the street M3 was their first proper effort at this formula. Both are filled with character, but the Porsche provides more engagement and needs deliberate communication. This is a battle of wildly different ideologies; aircooled vs. watercooled, front engine vs. rear engine, sports car racer vs. DTM.

In this comparison, we might see the 911 as being the clear victor here, because it has more power, a more nimble chassis, and driving dynamics that we all adore. The BMW, however, is a lightweight rev-machine that has gone on to produce several generations of fanatics as well. On the other side of our coin, the BMW guys are looking at their much-vaunted E30 M3 as the clear winner in this battle. A 911 is a car you have to come to an agreement with before you get in and drive away. It’s a car that you need to know intimately before you hustle it down a mountain road. The BMW, on the other hand, is a nimble and lithe sedan with a well-balanced chassis that feels instantly familiar as soon as you shake hands with the gear lever.

In this video by Everyday Driver, the pair try to determine which driving experience is worth the cost of entry. Being that both of these cars have ballooned in value across recent years, the comparison is an apt one. One of the hosts, Todd, has a sentiment that we’re completely on board with when he says « [The 911] is a driving experience I think every enthusiast should have. » But we’re not sure we agree when he follows that up with « I don’t know that it’s an ownership experience everyone should have, though.« 

So which would you rather have, the 911 or the M3? It’s a question that provokes a different feeling in everyone you ask.

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What To Look For When Buying A 911 Carrera 3.2

White 1989 Carrera 3.2 pulls into Radwood 2 as the passenger waves to the camera

To some Porsche fans, the Carrera 3.2 is considered the pinnacle of Porsche aircooled, as it still used essentially the same chassis Porsche developed in the 1960s, but it had the power and creature comforts you needed for the car to cut the mustard in regular daily use. Later 964s turned off some traditionalists because that chassis dumped the longstanding torsion bar springs for a more standard issue coil spring/McPherson-style suspension. Later Porsches received the much-lauded G50 gearbox, as well, ditching the old clunky cable-clutch 915 ‘box. The 3.2 is a great all-around performer that you can easily drive across the country and back if you wanted. Chances are, when someone says they’ve always wanted an air-cooled Porsche, this is usually the one they’re thinking about.

So, what do you need to know about in order to buy one?

In this video from the YouTube channel Number 27, you’ll hear all about the car and what to look for in the selection process, from renowned Porsche brain, Mr. Philip Raby. Phil, a long-time friend of FLATSIXES.com, owns a vintage Porsche sales and restoration shop in England, and was once the editor in chief of UK-based magazine Total 911. If you need a trustworthy hand to hold through your Porsche buying experience, you’d be hard pressed to find a more knowledgeable one than Raby’s.

The video includes model variations, bodywork (and where to look for rust on a test drive), and then some of the Porsche’s mechanical faults that need to be checked over before you buy. Chances are, if you’ve been out looking for a Carrera 3.2 for a while, you’ll know most of this information. Obviously, being in the UK, the example 911 they use in the video is right hand drive and has some bits you won’t see on a USA-spec car, but everything they talk about can be extended to any and all Carrera 3.2s, so it’s a good place to begin. For a lot more information, you could always pick-up one of these downloadable buyer’s guides, complete with checklist*.

*If you purchase a buyer’s guide using a link in this post or on our site, we get a small commission that helps offset our costs of creating and producing FLATSIXES.com. It doesn’t cost you a penny more and really helps us out!

 
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