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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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30 years of 4WD: Power to the four

Power to four or two wheels is a debate that’s gone on for 30 years now. That’s 30 years with the 911, anyway, since the 964 arrived in 1988 when ‘Carrera’ accompanied by a ‘4’ entered the lexicon of Porsche speak. Porsche is celebrating that 30 years of four-wheel drive using that 964 C4’s introduction as a useful line in the sand, snow or any other traction-limiting surface of choice to hang an anniversary off.

We all know that Porsche’s four-wheel drive didn’t start with the 964. Indeed, the Lohner-Porsche electric car of 1900 drove all four wheels via hub-mounted electric motors. Then, in 1947, Ferdinand Porsche built the Lohner-Porsche Type 360 Cisitalia Grand Prix racing car, its 12-cylinder supercharged engine able to drive all its wheels via an all-wheel drive system.

It would be motorsport again – specifically the Group B rulebook – which would see Porsche embrace four-wheel drive. The effectively open rules saw Porsche’s CEO Peter Schutz and head of research and development Professor Helmuth Bott throw every available technology and more at its revolutionary 959 hypercar. That it was four-wheel drive is no surprise, with Audi’s Quattro having already demonstrated the effectiveness of four-wheel drive on the world’s rally stages. Porsche’s new super 911 had to feature it.

Prototype testing underlined the effectiveness of driving all four wheels, Porsche developing the 953 for the 1984 Paris-Dakar rally. This heavily modified 911 ran a mechanically controlled 4×4 system and during three weeks and over 13,000km it dominated, René Metge and co-driver Dominique Lemoyne winning the famous race.

That 953 was the evolutionary step to the 959, which was first shown in concept ‘Group B Studie’ form at the 1983 Frankfurt Motor Show. The 959 would take the development of four-wheel drive to another level altogether. It remains a hugely complex and sophisticated system to this day, featuring what’s referred to as PSK (Porsche-Steuer Kupplung – roughly translated as Porsche control coupling) four-wheel drive system. It is unusual as it allows instant torque splits while driving, either automatically through its computer control or manually selected for various conditions.

Using an output shaft from the front of the gearbox, drive was pushed to the front axle via a prop shaft to a front differential via a multi-plate clutch. It is the 959’s multi-clutch arrangement that is unusual, it replacing a more common centre differential. Featuring six pairs of frictional plates, each controlled by hydraulic pressure and managed by the 959’s electronics, the system needed the wheels to run at differing speeds to work in normal conditions. Thus the 959’s front tyres have a rolling radius around one per cent larger than those at the rear. Should slip be detected at the rear wheels, or differing wheel speeds in corners, the clutches would engage accordingly, transmitting torque to the front axle.

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Lee’s 996 Carrera diary: Road trips and track days

British summer time: the cynical may define this as roughly a two-week window of high temperatures and peak sunshine amid a perpetual rainy season, but for driving enthusiasts like you and I it defines six months of prolonged daylight and dry(ish) roads, perfect for digging the Porsche out of its winter slumber in search of glorious, sweeping roads and high-octane track days. British summer time is awesome.

You’ll already know from previous online diary entries that so far for the 2016 season I’ve completed one track day at Castle Combe and been on a driving tour of Scotland, but that’s hardly enough flat six action for your discerning Total 911 Editor. Good job, then, that I’m just back from a Porsche Club GB track day at Brands Hatch, with a weekend driving through Wales with the magazine’s fellow ‘Living the Legend’ 911-owning contributors to follow.

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Before any of that though, I needed new tyres after the Continentals perished at my last track day. I sought new performance rubber that would ably complement the 996’s brief under my ownership of fast road and occasional track use all year round, in a variety of conditions. I decided to try P Zero Rossos from Pirelli, after the Italian brand relaunched its range of new N-rated tyres for classic cars (as many will know, the 996 is bizarrely now classified as ‘classic’ by Porsche). A relaunch it may be, but the blurb is the technology underneath that sticky rubber surface is all-new, with Porsche-specific testing carried out by none other than Walter Röhrl.

I had the tyres fitted at Protyre in Poole, which is my nearest Pirelli Performance Centre (before you ask, it’s a scheme that rewards excellence for dealers using Pirelli in the UK. Dubbed PPC for short, the key objective is to provide a network of dealers with high technical details and commitment to service. These businesses have to pass a 130-point technical audit twice a year, so awarding and renewal of PPC status is no mean feat). I then covered around 400 miles on the road before my track day, where I discovered the P Zero Rossos need little heat in them to come to life, offering very good grip levels near enough immediately. I found this to be most impressive. I was also very happy with the levels of rolling tyre noise, which is reduced compared to other N-rated variants I’ve experienced.

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

Picture courtesy of Porsche Club GB

For the acid test on track, I booked myself and my brother, Jack, into an evening session with the Porsche Club GB on the Indy Circuit at Brands Hatch. Save for a passenger ride in a 997 Cup car with Total 911 columnist Ben Barker in 2012, I had no previous on-track experience at Brands and, with the standard of driving at PCGB events usually reasonably high, it wasn’t just the new tyres under scrutiny! To add further spice to the evening, monsoon-like rain descended upon us during the first group’s initial sighting laps, leaving a completely sodden track in our wake. Perhaps those summer time cynics are right after all?

Regardless, this meant the first half of the evening was largely processional as all cars attempted to skate through the elements, meanwhile contending with severely limited vision thanks to the spray from cars in front. However, I felt the Pirelli tyres held their own in truly adverse conditions, communicating nicely to me when grip was in short supply (and, on one occasion skirting around Clearways, completely gone!).

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As the track started to dry out for the second half of the session, my brother and I could push the car a bit harder. The P Zeros again performed well as we rode the tyres on their shoulders through the infamous Paddock Hill bend and on to Druids, their progressive feedback communicating fluidly where we could push more or ease off. For a do-it-all performance tyre, the P Zeros have wasted little time in winning me over. They’d already proved themselves an astute purchase as we left Brands in one piece despite the slippery conditions.

It was great, too, to share track space with like-minded owners through the Porsche Club GB and I’m already eyeing up another session on the calendar before this year’s out, but before that I need to look at a serious understeer problem that dogged the 996 at Brands. That’ll involve starting again with the car’s geometry, but the problem likely stems from the fact a lot of different people have tinkered with the adjustment underneath the 996 in the last few months in between the fitting of new suspension, brakes and then tyres. I’ve precisely three weeks to get this sorted, as the car and I have a 300-mile road trip along eight of Wales’ very best driving roads to contend with before autumn approaches, and with it… more bloody rain!

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