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Porsche 911 design icon: Tony Hatter

“I was born in Northern England, but whereas most of my friends were football fans, I was crazy about cars. My parents thought I should get into some sort of engineering apprenticeship, but that proved a bit of a dead end and I went to Lanchester Polytechnic [now Coventry University] where I did a degree which involved transport design.

“But vehicle design itself wasn’t properly understood at that time, and it wasn’t till I got to the Royal College of Art in London, where I spent two years, that I really discovered design and styling.”

Full of youthful enthusiasm, Tony Hatter was keen to join Porsche, but in 1981 the company wasn’t hiring so he found a styling position at Opel, moving to Porsche in 1986, a path trodden by a series of well-known Porsche designers beginning with the then-styling chief, Tony Lapine.

“As a newcomer I started off on small jobs, such as the wider rear bumper for the 964 Turbo, and I remember I did the ribbon latch pulls for the doors of the 964 RS. To be honest there wasn’t much happening, though we always had work on the Linde forklift to fall back on.” Linde was one of several major third-party contracts at Weissach.

Lapine retired after a heart attack in 1988, and his replacement, Harm Lagaaij, began in late 1989. Tony’s first recollections of the 993 are from the end of that year. “We started in early 1990. I was very pleased to be working on the new air-cooled 911.”

He describes the particular challenge of creating a new 911: “The Porsche board always had very firm ideas about its shape. It was claimed the 964 was 80 per cent new, but visually it looked barely 20 per cent new. We needed to do something less conservative, but without being too radical.

The front of the 959, the plans for the 989 four-door and the facelifts for the 928 showed the way in terms of the frontal aspect – this new, smoothed front became part of Porsche’s design vocabulary.”

Hatter is reluctant to acknowledge that budget constraints had a significant impact on the exterior design of the 993. “We did redesign the windscreen wipers, even if they didn’t fall below the level of the bonnet.”

And it must be admitted that mounting the wipers centrally as a pair made their operation far more effective. “Don’t forget that the body in white is essentially that 1963 car. There’s a limit to what you can do so, for example, you have to maintain things like the rain gutters. What I really wanted to do with those was ‘flow’ them into the rear of the car – that was difficult.

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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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