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Open-top classics: 964 Targa v Cabriolet

These days the 964 is an almost universally popular generation of 911. Endeared to the hearts of many for its near-perfect blend of modernity and classic purity, most would stick a 964 in their five-car 911 garage – though that 964 would likely be a Coupe.

However, with 964 Coupe prices – particularly for the Carrera 2 – now off the scale, and in an air-cooled Porsche marketplace that’s slightly unpredictable, for anyone wishing to get behind the wheel of a 964 at a reasonable price point perhaps the Targa and Cabriolet versions of 964 are worth considering?

I admit I am with you with a preference for the Coupe. A 964 Carrera 2 Coupe is always the perfect choice, so would you really consider the two runts of the litter: a pair of Carrera 4 964s, one a Cabriolet and the other a Targa? Well, there’s only one way to find out.

Drive both across the bumpy, undulating B roads of the North Yorkshire Moors in the bitter cold of March, on a week when the UK is being battered by winter gale-force winds. Sounds perfect.

If we’re going to do this, we had better do it properly. That means no sheltering underneath the canvas; topless is the plan. It’s actually a bright,
sunny day despite the gale-force winds, and as photographer Chris says: “You won’t see the howling wind in the pictures.”

Removing the roof of both cars differs significantly. The Cabriolet is simple: sit in the driver’s seat, and push and hold the button. Wait 20 seconds or so. Done. Okay, so it’s not quite as snappy as a modern convertible Porsche, though it’s perfectly acceptable. For me, convertible cars of any make should be driven top-down whenever possible.

I always offer a disapproving frown to anyone I see driving anything with the hood up in the sunshine, so making the process as simple as possible is a vital element for me. 

The Targa is different. First off you’ll need to rummage in the glovebox for the two levers needed to release the latch above the windscreen, then faff about inserting them before swinging them through 90 degrees. That releases the front edge.

Now you have to climb out and figure out how to lift the entire roof section clear, with the catches at the front combining with two steel pins at the rear to secure the section. If you’re like me and have a giraffe-like physique, you can use your leverage and self confidence to lift it clear, a small voice in your head saying, ‘don’t drop it, don’t drop it…’. Humans with lesser leverage may need assistance.

Once you’ve lifted the top clear, what do you do with it? The stubborn male in me refuses to do the obvious thing and read the manual. After a few more moments of fiddling I discover the over-centre crank that gives the Targa section its shape and rigidity and allows the whole assembly to fold down, suitable for storage in the front luggage area. Assuming you haven’t already filled it with luggage. 

Fast and easy it is not. However, as I stand and look at the two cars, there’s no doubt in my mind which one is the better looking with the
roof configured for sunshine. The Targa is the more attractive of the two. I have always loved the rollover hoop section and, while the rear screen isn’t the classic Coupe shape, I do actually like the wrap-around curvaceousness of the one-piece rear glass.

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rise of the Porsche 997

The classifieds can be a dangerous place to spend time. It never used to be so easy, either. As a kid I’d scour the Sunday Times, latterly Auto Trader and Top Marques, though the internet’s killed that. I don’t look too often, but writing here it’s an occasional, occupational hazard.
A potentially dangerous one, too. I’ll happily admit I’d missed how much of a bargain the 997 is these days. As a strong advocate of the 996, I’d pretty much ruled its successor out. Not because I’m not a fan – quite the opposite – just that I was under the impression it is still too new to be affordable, at least in my world. Editor Sibley’s call to write this somewhat changed that.

As I type this, on my other screen there’s an advert for a 2005 997 Carrera 2 manual Coupe for a fiver under £22,500. When did that happen? That’s the first one I’ve found, and I’ve not even looked that hard. While I and plenty of others have been banging on about hoovering up 996s while they’re still cheap, the depreciation curve’s turned the 997 game on its head. Want one? I sure as hell do.

Not to take away from the 996, but the 997 moved the game on significantly. The 996’s close association, both visually and technically, with the Boxster did it no favours among many. That it introduced water to the mix only made its task more difficult. The 997 reasserted the 911 as a more distinct offering after the 996 had softened the blow of the manner by which the 911 is cooled (technically by water, but then that water is cooled by air…).

The 996 was a necessity, creating the format from which the 911 line would follow to this day. That the 996, and in particular 996.2s, have been creeping up in value in recent years underlines a growing acceptance, though we’re at a point now where the 996 and 997 prices are converging, and in many cases the 997 is cheaper. It’d be a staunch 996 owner who’d assert their preference over the newer car. On looks alone the 997 has the 996 licked, but underneath it’s a significant step up technologically.

For for full story on why the 997.1 is the best-value 911 you need to buy right now, get your copy of Total 911 issue 171 in shops now, or get it delivered to your door. Alternatively, you can download the issue to any digital device. 

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Porsche Index: 997 Carrera GTS

Porsche is hardly shy when it comes to celebrating the 911, and it certainly knows how to tempt buyers with something extra special, but how to celebrate the demise of one of the most respected generations of all? The answer was the GTS, and even the quickest perusal of the spec sheet reveals an enticing confection.

Tempting enough, in fact, for a manual Coupe with low mileage to set you back in the region of £70,000 today according to Greig Daly from RPM Technik and RSJ’s Darren Street. To put that in perspective the Coupe cost £77,000 at its 2010 launch and, really, prices only ever dipped as low as £50,000 back in 2013.

Based on the wider-hipped shell of the Carrera 4S, Porsche added a Sport Design front apron with a black-painted lower edge that extended to the sills and rear bumper. 19-inch RS Spyder centre-lock wheels were standard, while low-key GTS logos completed a look that was both subtle and effective. The same could be said of the cabin, the ambience managing to be both tasteful and clearly a notch up on the standard Carrera – an effect that was entirely fitting for a special 997. Black instrument faces and stainless-steel sill trims looked terrific, the rear seats had gone, saving 5kg, and just about every surface had seen the liberal application of Alcantara.

There was plenty of standard equipment, too, including climate control, Sound Package Plus and the PCM system, although naturally there was scope to enrich this further if your pockets were deep enough. It looked and felt superb, but what of the mechanical specification? Well, it was suitably impressive, thanks to the adoption of the Powerkit that boosted the output of the 3.8-litre flat six to 408hp. That arrived at a deeply sonorous 7,300rpm and was backed by 420Nm of torque, the same as the Carrera S but spread across a wider rev range.

Transmission options were the familiar six-speed manual or seven-speed PDK (an extra £2,500), the latter gaining a launch-control function if Sport Chrono Package Plus had been specified. A manual Coupe despatched the 0-60mph sprint in 4.6 seconds – it was swifter still with PDK – and the electronics called time at 190mph. Porsche didn’t stop there, specifying the GTS with Porsche Stability Management (PSM) and Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM), with a firmer, lower, limited-slip differential-equipped PASM Sports set-up optional. Beefier brakes featured larger, thicker discs, while anyone planning track use could delve deeper into the options list and their bank account for (largely unnecessary) PCCB carbon ceramic items. Oh yes, and you could have all of the above as a Cabriolet if you preferred.

The only major change arrived in July 2011 when the four-wheel drive C4 version was added to the mix, the electronically controlled system featuring Porsche Traction Management that apportioned torque via a multi-plate clutch, and included a limited-slip differential at the rear. Aside from an additional 60kg and a red reflector between the rear lights that told onlookers you’d chosen your GTS with all-weather abilities it was the same as the C2, just a little pricier, with Coupe and Cabriolet costing £83,145 and £90,024 respectively.

For our comprehensive buyer’s guide on the 997 Carrera GTS, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 164 available here. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the world’s only magazine dedicated to the Porsche 911, with every issue delivered direct to your door.

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Porsche 964 Carrera versus Porsche 993 Carrera

Launched exactly a quarter of a century after the original 901, the Porsche 964 was meant to be “the 911 for the next 25 years”. Printed in the press material at the 964’s unveiling, these were the words of then Porsche AG Chairman, Heinz Branitzki.

As corporate claims go, it was simultaneously extravagant and conservative. Despite numerous small updates (and the continuous upsizing of the flat-six engine), the 911 had, technologically, seen few major changes between its Frankfurt unveiling in 1963 and the 3.2 Carrera’s exodus from the line-up in 1989.

The lack of wholesale development had nearly been the undoing of the 911 – declining sales in the late 1970s led Ernst Fuhrmann to the brink of axing the 911 – so to expect similar endurance from the 964 seemed optimistic at best.

Porsche 964 interior

The Zuffenhausen board boldly claimed that 87 per cent of the 964’s componentry was new though, suggesting that, in their eyes, die neue Neunelfer would be able to survive a similarly protracted product cycle.

Like Branitzki’s audacious assertion, the reality of the 964 Carrera was both contemporary and conventional. The 3.6-litre M64/01 engine was Porsche’s first flat six that could be offered unaltered around the world, however, it found itself mated to an upgraded version of the five-speed G50 gearbox seen in the 3.2 Carrera.

Aesthetically, it cut a familiar silhouette (smoothed slightly front and rear with integrated bumpers, a hallmark of Benjamin Dimson’s design) yet, under the metal sat a full-length undertray reducing the drag coefficient to an alltime low.

Porsche 964 Carrera front

After 26 years, the torsion bar springs finally bowed out too, replaced by coilover dampers, but the general suspension layout remained the same: a MacPherson strut out front with a semi-trailing arm at the rear.

The automotive dichotomy of the 964 didn’t deter buyers from placing an order for the new 911 however. On average, the 964 Carrera (if C2 and C4 figures are combined) sold nearly as well as its 3.2-litre predecessor – one of the most popular Porsche models of all time.

But, in an ever-changing automotive environment, faced with the impending age of digitisation, Porsche realised that it couldn’t afford to let its iconic sports car stand still again. Just four years after the 964 Carrera’s launch, it found itself replaced by a new generation: the 993.

To read our Porsche 964 Carrera v 993 Carrera head-to-head in full, pick up Total 911 issue 146 in store today. Alternatively, order your copy online for home delivery, or download it straight to your digital device now.

Porsche 964 v 993 Carrera rear

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Sales Spotlight: Porsche 997.2 Carrera

If our Porsche 997.2 Ultimate Guide from a couple of weeks ago has started your search for the first Neunelfer with direct fuel injection, this week’s Sales Spotlight may have just found the car for you.

This 2009 Porsche 911 Carrera – finished in GT Silver with a black leather interior, a desirable combination – has done just 34,000 miles from new and is currently available from independent specialist, RSJ Sports Cars.

Sitting on the optional 19-inch Sport Design alloys, RSJ’s 997.2 Carrera looks immaculate, as you would expect from such a low mileage example. Inside, the seat bolsters look to be wearing especially well, suggesting this car has led a cherished existence with its previous owners.

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While the six-speed manual gearbox would be the purists’ choice for a 997.2 C2, this particular example comes with the first production iteration of Porsche’s PDK transmission, making it an excellent everyday proposition.

Although an entry-level model at the time of its release, this 2009 Carrera still has a number of desirable additions to the spec sheet too, including sports seats (providing an increased bolster size of the standard seats) and the performance enhancing Sports Chrono package.

The car’s usability is boosted further with cruise control and a rear wiper. The latter may sound inconsequential but anyone who has driven a modern 911 with one will know how useful it turns out to be (especially with the UK’s climate).

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So, a DFI-engined Porsche 911 with everyday usability, a number of choice options, and less than 35,000 miles on the clock; the price must surely reflect all this?

Well, at £39,000, RSJ Sports Cars seemingly have a bit of a bargain on their hands here. That’s just over half the price of a brand new Porsche 991.2 Carrera. And you get all the thrills of a naturally aspirated flat six instead.

To see more of this Porsche 997.2 Carrera, or the host of other Porsche 911s in their stock, check out RSJ Sports Cars’ website now.

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