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911 Carrera Cabriolet 3.2 – 231 ch [1984]

Rare Porsche 911 Cabriolets

Porsche isn’t one to miss a good marketing opportunity. Throughout the 54 years of 911 production, in which over a million examples of this iconic sports car have rolled out of Zuffenhausen, the company has bestowed worldwide customers with a whole host of special editions to celebrate anniversaries, milestones and notable racing achievements.

The latest addition is Motorsport’s new 935, a track-only car based mechanically on the 991 GT2 RS but styled on the revered Moby Dick of 1978. More interestingly though, there’s also a new Speedster. However, the fact it’s being built to commemorate 70 years of Porsche isn’t particularly significant, and neither is the numbered production run of just 1,948 examples. No, it’s a special-edition, open-topped Porsche.

Think about it, most special-edition Porsche 911s are Coupes. From the 930 S to the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, via the 993 GT2, 996 Anniversary and 997 Sport Classic, these limited cars, often built on a numbered production run, are tin-top. There appears no specific reason for this: all body styles hail from the same production line at Werk II, and it’s not like an open-topped 911 is unpopular – in fact, widespread endearment to both the Cabriolet and Targa is such that Porsche has kept both models running concurrently since 1983. And while it’s true 911 Coupes will always enjoy a certain cache over their open-topped stablemates, what’s not to like about a special-edition Cabriolet?

To find out we’ve come to Long Beach in southern California to sample two stellar open-topped examples of rare Porsche in the 3.2 Commemorative Cabriolet and 964 America Roadster. Owned by serial Porsche owner and Total 911 subscriber Bruce Brown, these cars are used as they were intended, cruising the boulevards and carving through the inland canyons, roof down, revelling under the year-round Californian sunshine.

The cars arrive at the beach just after us, pulling off the highway and driving onto a slipway down to the Pacific Ocean, the 964’s almost V8-like thrum a striking note against the 3.2 Carrera’s more agricultural resonance. Bruce, in the 3.2, and his friend Simon Birch, piloting the 964, kill the cars and jump out, which gives us a chance to absorb both 911s as they cool off in the brisk sea wind.

First, the Commemorative 3.2. Built to honour 250,000 911s having been built, it’s sometimes referred to as the 25th Anniversary – this at a time before Porsche thought of the 30, 40 and 50 Jahre Anniversary models in the ensuing years. The 3.2 Commemorative Edition was available in either Coupe, Cabriolet or Targa body styles.

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Porsche 911 Cabriolets: G-series v 964 v 993

Yorkshire dry-stone walls have a very useful application that was never intended by the original builders several centuries ago. In addition to providing the unique signature style that is the Yorkshire landscape while also containing livestock over the centuries, they also make a superb surface to echo back the bark of an air-cooled 911 engine. Combine that with the final days of a long, hot summer and a trio of Cabriolet 911s – all with the hoods folded as they truly should be – and we have the perfect recipe for a great day’s driving and a chance to investigate the appeal of the open-top 911 experience. Will we enjoy a day in the sunshine, or will the bumpy Yorkshire lanes highlight the compromise of 911 body stiffness?

Heading out of the market town of Malton, I’m at the rear of the convoy in the 993 Cabriolet. The air is filled with the bass burble of air-cooled exhaust tones at low RPM, the whiff of that unique 911 aroma of hot oil and burned hydrocarbons from the two cars ahead spilling over into the interior, the sun providing a warmth on my face that is still pleasant so late in the summer. Good times.

Turning left down some of our favourite B-roads, the sunshine dapples the tree-lined road ahead… it’s time to increase the pace. We’re staying away from the vast, open moorland of the North Yorkshire Moors today, instead staying on the lower ground of the Vale of York and the twisting, turning B-roads that keep hands and feet busy as the road snakes between those ancient dry-stone walls. The three cars span an eight-year period of 911 evolution, from the torsion bars and impact bumpers of 1989, through the transformation of 1990 with power assistance and coil springs, to the final development of the air-cooled Porsche 911 in the 993.

Without a doubt everyone will have a personal favourite. Indeed, as we gather the cars together for photographs, the debate commences even before photographer Alistair has rigged his first flash head. The most visually arresting is the 1989 Super Sport in Guards red. For me this car is the epitome of that period of Porsche sales. The hedonistic period when excess was encouraged and every businessman and city trader in the City of London had to have a giant Motorola brick phone, expensive Italian shoes and matching briefcase, plus a Guards red Porsche 911. For the full-on effect it had to be the Turbo body, Fuchs alloys and the whaletail spoiler. And if you really wished to be publicly on display through the city streets, then the Cabriolet ensured that you shared your cellphone conversation with everyone around you as you discussed the day’s share trading at the traffic lights.

So how does the drive compare almost 30 years later? We hand over the keys to the 993 that we arrived in and swap to the cream seats of the Super Sport. Instantly I’m missing the powered steering as we shuffle back and forth to leave the photo location, the non-standard steering wheel not helping with its smaller diameter, though once rolling along the country lanes it’s much less of an issue. The road is initially bumpy, and several things become apparent. Firstly there is indeed that flex and shake from around the windscreen area that I recall from previous drives. Secondly, despite there only being a few years between the registration dates, the 1989 car does feel as though it’s from a much older generation of Porsche.

That’s not to say it’s a bad car – far from it. And as the road smooths out and widens we’re able to enjoy the bark of the 3.2 engine and use the echo board of Yorkshire’s dry-stone walls to enjoy some rather delightful pops and crackles on the downshifts. Through the avenue of trees we return to our location, and I swap into the black 964.

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Opinion: Is the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera over-hyped?

Even to people with scant interest in cars, the 3.2 Carrera is instantly recognisable as a Porsche 911. For enthusiasts of a certain generation, the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera is the 911, an icon among icons.

It holds a special place in the hearts of many Porsche fans, as shown by the rapidly appreciating values. Yet I cannot for the life of me understand why so mainly people hold the 3.2 Carrera in such high esteem.

With 70,044 examples sold between 1984 and 1989, the 3.2 Carrera is easily the most successful 911 ever in terms of sales but this came at a time when it was the only 911 in Porsche’s range.

The model’s success coincided with a large period of worldwide economic growth: the Eighties was boom time in many of Porsche’s biggest market. It was the era of the Yuppie and the 3.2 Carrera quickly became their symbol.

Does the 3.2 Carrera deserve its overwhelmingly positive reputation?

In my mind, the 3.2 Carrera’s sales figures are not a result of the car’s excellence though. Porsche could have put a bigger engine in the 911 SC and it would have sold just as well thanks to the growing affluence of the decade.

But, by being in the right place at the right time, the 3.2 Carrera sold in the tens of thousands, putting plenty of brand new Porsche 911s out onto the roads and forcing the car and its silhouette into the public’s consciousness. 26 years later, this is undoubtedly one of the reason’s behind its popularity.

On top of this, the Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera was the car that signalled the continuation of the neinelfer legacy after Peter Schutz famously overturned his predecessor’s plans to stop 911 production in 1981.

Everything 911 that has subsequently rolled out of Werks II has the 3.2 Carrera’s success to thank for its very existence meaning that, within Porsche circles especially, the 3.2 Carrera has carved a very special place for itself within Zuffenhausen history.

The numbers say one thing but the shove from the 3.2-litre flat six doesn't back it up, says Josh.

Yet the proof of any Porsche 911 is truly in the driving and I feel that the 3.2 Carrera just doesn’t stack up against its illustrious forebears and excellent successors enough to justify its overwhelmingly positive reputation.

The 3.2-litre engine was, at the time, the most powerful naturally aspirated 911 fitted to a production version however, thanks to the car’s 1,210kg base weight, it actually feels pretty gutless. ‘Slow’ is always a matter of degrees in Porsche 911s but the 3.2 Carrera often feels glacial, even if the figures suggest otherwise.

At the bottom of the rev range you would struggle to believe that the engine produced more torque than any production 911 that preceded it such is the lack of low-down shove.

Similarly, the power delivery is extremely linear compared to the previously peaky flat sixes, which removes the sudden kick-up-the-backside at high revs. Combined with the motor’s bassy rumble, it lacks the vicious, trebly character that makes earlier cars so enchanting.

The 3.2 Carrera is not dynamically outstanding enough to make it a Porsche 911 icon.

Early cars featured the notoriously recalcitrant 915 gearbox however, while the five-speed G50 replacement was a huge improvement, it still suffers from a long throw that all helps to make the 911 3.2 Carrera feel quite sedate and mundane.

The extra mass (some 150kg more than many of the pre-impact generation 911s) also makes itself felt in the 3.2 Carrera’s dynamics. The steering – while feelsome – is much heavier than early cars while the chassis feels exponentially less nimble.

Inside, the interior saw little revision over the G-Series cars that preceded it and must have felt a little dated, especially by the time the 3.2 Carrera was being readied for replacement in the late Eighties.

The controls and various buttons continue to be scattered around the cockpit supposedly haphazardly while the steering wheel, with its off-centre rectangular hub certainly isn’t going to win any design awards.

Not a bad place to sit but there are plenty of better 911 cockpits both before and since.

I know that there was very little development time dedicated to the 3.2 Carrera but it doesn’t feel like much of an improvement over the 911 SC, especially given the former is held in much higher esteem.

Maybe the 3.2 Carrera’s dynamic deficiencies are outweighed by its historical significance and that is why some many people love this particular Porsche 911 but, for me, it is actually one of the most disappointing 911s. A true case of ‘don’t believe the hype’.

Do you agree with Josh? Is the 3.2 Carrera over-hyped? Join the debate in the comments section or head to our Faceboook or Twitter pages now.

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Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera: ultimate guide

Ask anyone with a passing interest in cars to imagine a Porsche 911, and there is every chance that the 3.2 Carrera is the car they would see

Introduced for the 1984 model year, the Carrera was a perfect way to remind the world that the 911 was here to stay – and in Guards red, with the Fuchs alloys and chunky rear wing, many consider it the archetypal Porsche of the Eighties.

Having become distracted by the introduction of the 928 and plans to axe the 911, the 3.0 SC, introduced in 1978, wasn’t met with universal approval by Porsche aficionados.

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera interior

Many perceived the car as lacking in power, with output down by 20bhp over the previous 3.0 Carrera to 180bhp, but sales remained strong.

Power was boosted to 204bhp for the final iteration, and with any ideas of canning the rear-engined legend forgotten it was time for Porsche to do what they did best and launch an improved version. The result was the 3.2.

With the Carrera name back in use for the first time since the mid-Seventies, outwardly the car remained similar, the Stuttgart firm seeing no reason to tamper with a successful formula.

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera engine

The big-bumper look remained, there were ‘telephone dial’ alloy wheels as standard (the classic Fuchs design was optional, finally becoming standard in 1988) and the front end was improved by the addition of a new spoiler with integral fog lamps.

Overall then, it was very much a case of evolution not revolution, an accusation that has often been levelled at the 911 by certain sections of the motoring media.

The fully galvanised shell was available in Coupe, Cabriolet and Targa forms right from the beginning, although buyers could also opt to have their Carrera clothed in the wider body from the Turbo model.

To read more of our 3.2 Carrera ultimate guide, pick up a copy of Total 911 issue 105 online now. Alternatively download it straight to your digital device where you can enjoy our stunning photography in a perfect widescreen view.

Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera rear
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Porsche Carrera 3.2 Teardown

Porsche Carrera

I’ll be honest, there’s really not much to say about this other than it’s cool as hell watching this old Porsche Carrera 3.2-liter mill being torn down.

Seriously, Porsche-O-files will go nuts for this!

Source: RalfBecker.com

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