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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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Porsche index: 993 Carrera buying guide

HISTORY AND SPEC

As the last 911 to feature air-cooling, the 993 cemented its place among the pantheon of Neunelfer greats, but its talents run deeper than just acting as a historical milestone. For one thing it built on the modernity that had been introduced with the 964, not least by featuring the clever multi-link LSA (lightweight, stability, agility) rear suspension that finally banished the tricky handling reputation for good. It further improved the quality of the 911’s construction in all areas that mattered, from an impressively stiff body – it was claimed to be 20 per cent stiffer in Coupe form compared to the 964 – to a richly appointed and hewn-from-solid cabin.

A major advancement, much of the credit for its appeal should go to Tony Hatter, who styled a body that was both notably redolent of earlier models and aerodynamically effective. Claimed to be 80 per cent new, the shell shared just the roof and bonnet with its predecessor. Under the rear decklid sat the M64 3.6-litre motor, although notable changes included lighter and stiffer internals, improved lubrication and freer-flowing inlet and exhaust systems.

The result was an increase in power to 272bhp, a figure that would swell further in 1996 when the VarioRam induction system was fitted to provide 285bhp and a slight increase in torque. Also improved was the manual transmission, now a stronger and slicker-shifting six-speed unit, or buyers could opt for the revised Tiptronic automatic, which now featured shift buttons on the steering wheel. Much of the interest, however, was reserved for that new rear suspension, it proving mightily effective in finally taming the 911’s less desirable handling traits. Mounted on a cast-alloy subframe, the set-up both reduced squat and dive and provided closer control of the geometry for greater confidence near the limit.

Launched in Coupe form initially, the 993 range would grow to encompass a Cabriolet in 1994, followed a year later by the Targa, although this latter model was rather ingenious. Doing away with the slightly cumbersome lift-out panel, Porsche provided fresh-air thrills by using what amounted to a large glass sunroof that slid away beneath the rear window. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly, but an interesting option all the same. Production ended in 1996, though the 993 has always been held in high esteem by enthusiasts since.

For your full, in-depth buyer’s guide to the 993 Carrera, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 176 in shops now or get it delivered to your door via here. You can also download a digital copy with high definition bonus galleries to any Apple or Android device.

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991.2 GT3 v 991.1 GT3 RS: which is better for £150k?

The ever-changing nature of the Porsche marketplace often throws up some interesting conundrums for the 911 buyer. As values of separate models fluctuate, they often combine to bring about new scenarios for those in the market to consider: ‘What’s around for my £100,000?’ for example. Right now there are many different choices of 911s available at many different price points. As a case in point, for £40,000 you could choose anything
from a G-series classic, to a 996 Turbo, to a 997.2 Carrera S right now. The market’s constant evolution means different cars move in and out of the equation, whatever your budget. It’s what keeps things interesting, in many ways.

As another case in point, only five years ago we ran a head-to-head road test in this very magazine asking which was the better Turbo for your £60,000: 993 or 997.1? Today the 993 is worth at least double that, while a 997.1 can be had for £50,000.

Market circumstance has dictated the 991.2 GT3 and 991.1 GT3 RS have been trading hands for roughly the same money for a while now, so the question we’ve routinely found levied in our direction in the past year is thus: ‘Which is the better buy for my £150,000; a Gen2 991 GT3 or Gen1 991 GT3 RS?’

Really, there are multiple answers to the question, and it all comes down to what you’ll do with the car. We’ve therefore assessed both the 991.2 GT3 and 991.1 GT3 RS over three practical categories, investment potential, track day use, and on the road, which covers all possible ownership intentions.

For the full article on the 991.1 GT3 RS v 991.2 GT3, pick up your copy of Total 911 issue 174 in shops now, or get the issue delivered direct to your door via here. You can also download our hi-res digital edition, featuring bonus galleries, to any Apple or Android device. 

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Total 911’s real-world owner reports

Total 911’s ‘Living the Legend’ section is a popular feature of each issue, providing readers with real-world owner reports from our global band of contributors who not only live and breathe Porsche 911, they own them, too. Below is an excerpt from three of our dozen-strong lineup, whose models cover the entire breadth of the model’s 55-year history. You can catch their latest escapades in each issue of Total 911 – take out a subscription and get each issue delivered to your door.

 

Contributor: Tony McGuiness Porsche 911 model: 991.1  GT3 & 997.2 GT3 RS Dates acquired: December 2014 & February 2011

It is widely known that some 991.1 GT3s have had engine issues. In fact, in November of last year, GT3 owners including yours truly received a letter from Porsche stating that effective at once, the limited warranty on the GT3 internal engine components continues for ten years or up to 120,000 total miles, whichever occurs first.

This could become very important for me because last month on one of my usual drives through San Diego County, the GT3 lost power and began to run quite rough. I was able to drive it back home but clearly it wasn’t good.

I should also mention that occasionally on start-up the car could blow a huge plume of bluish-white smoke. It is worth noting that it isn’t unusual for a GT car to blow a small puff of smoke on start-up; it can be considered a charming characteristic of a GT3. However, my GT3, along with other owner’s GT3s, can occasionally blow a massive plume of smoke. When it does occur it can cover several cars parked behind in a huge cloud of smoke, which not only is embarrassing but obviously concerning.

Hoen Porsche in Carlsbad examined the GT3 and found the following: “Noted rough idle. Found fault misfire on cylinder six. Swap spark plug from cylinder six to cylinder four. Delete faults. Restarted engine, check engine light came on. Found misfire fault for cylinder four. Reinstalled spark plug from cylinder four, removed and replaced spark plug from cylinder six. Deleted faults. Turned on engine, noted check engine light is still on. Performed a second evaluation. Ran faults. Found fault for misfire on cylinder three active. Removed and swapped spark plugs from cylinder three to one and one to three. Deleted faults, turned on vehicle, found check engine light still on. Ran faults, found misfire on cylinder one active. Reinstalled original spark plug to cylinder one, removed and replaced the spark plug from cylinder three. Deleted faults. Started vehicle, no check engine light on. Performed a post evaluation and vehicle ran well.”

Porsche also found light oil in cylinder two which they consider to be within parameters according to the report. I can unequivocally state that the amount of smoke the GT3 can randomly discharge is in no way normal. Unless, of course, it was a battleship trying to hide under a smokescreen! Essentially, two spark plugs were replaced. This engine episode, of course along with the massive plumes of smoke, are very concerning to me, and not isolated occurrences. I have learned similar events have happened to other GT3 owners that led to Porsche replacing their engines. It would definitely seem that Porsche has extended the engine warranty for a reason. I will now video each engine start-up. This is unfortunate but something I will have to do. I truly hope that my GT3 ownership does not take a turn for the worse, and I am forced to report these issues each month. I will keep Total 911 readers posted!

 

Contributor: Joe Croser Porsche 911 model: 997.2 Turbo Date acquired: December 2015

My OPC Extended Warranty ran out in May and I didn’t renew. It wasn’t an easy decision – the OPC warranty is widely regarded as the best – but it was the right decision for me. After over two years and more than 8,000 miles I think I know my car well; I’ve seen it from all angles in various stages of undress and it’s never skipped a beat. Indeed, if ever there was a car I should worry less about it is (fingers crossed) probably this one, especially after filling the gearbox and engine with Millers Oils finest NT+ lubricants to reduce friction and improve longevity.

But it wasn’t risk which tipped the scales in favour of dropping the warranty, it was reward. You see, to truly enjoy my car I have made some essential mods. In late-summer 2017 I added the SharkWerks exhaust to transform the sound of the 3.8 flat six (issue 159). In the autumn I added the revolutionary DSC V1 PASM upgrade from TPC Racing to make my suspension truly adaptive (issue 160), and then as winter turned to spring I added Rennline radiator grills to protect and preserve my radiators and condensers from damage and debris (issue 165). Finally, as my old tyres were ready for a change, I had a new set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4Ss installed (issue 166). While the 4Ss in my size are without a doubt the best wet and dry tyre on the market, the tyres in my size remain without an N-Rating from Porsche, which means that my car will not pass the 111-point check with them wrapped around my alloys.

My mate Ben calls this the ‘opportunity cost’: to renew the warranty I would have to forego other opportunities to improve my car or incur additional costs to take off and refit these aftermarket improvements before and after an inspection. Even then I’d run the risk that a claim would be declined if the cause pointed to a third-party product as the issue or contributor. My car is better to drive with the PASM upgrade, the grippy Michelin tyres and the PSE-like exhaust sound. And with the reassurance of the Rennline grills I no longer fear for the integrity of the fragile rads and condensers hidden behind the front bumper. It’s a liberating thing and it’s the way it should be.

I have now owned this car for longer than any of its previous keepers, completing more miles in it than anyone else. It really is ‘my car’ for me to use as I see fit. I am not merely preserving it for its next owner; I am configuring it for my enjoyment, and I am now beyond being told by the Porsche Warranty company what I can and cannot do to it. I bought my car to drive. And drive it I shall, with a big grin from ear to ear.

 

Contributor: Lee Sibley Porsche 911 model: 996 Carrera 4S Date acquired: April 2017

Remember that KW V3 kit I brought home around three months ago? Well, after finally sorting a mysterious engine noise (which resulted in a need for a new auxiliary belt and water pump) and getting sidetracked with restoring my ‘Big Red’ brake callipers, at last I was ready for a switch-up in suspension.

For fitting I took my 996 along to Matt Samuel at ZRS Engineering. Matt is the brother of fellow columnist, James. My decision to go to Matt for the work came down to three key factors: as an owner of a 996.1 C4 himself he’s attuned to the workings of a 911; as 2013 British Drift champion he certainly knows all about car handling and control; and in running a small, independent business, I know exactly who’s going to be undertaking the work on my beloved Neunelfer.

I rocked up to Matt’s premises in Poole, Dorset early on the Saturday morning, and the man I would soon realise is nothing short of an engineering whizz soon got cracking. The car was promptly in the air, wheels off, front driveshafts popped off and factory struts whipped out. From here it was a case of fitting KW’s new front drop links to the KW front struts, plus top mounts. It’s a good idea to replace top mounts when fitting new struts, but luckily for me the rears were fine, while Matt had a spare set of very nearly new top front mounts from James’ 997.1 Turbo (cheers mate!), which is an identical part. Incidentally, Matt also tells me a 997 Turbo top mount is cheaper from Porsche than a 996 C4S, despite their striking similarity…

With top mounts and drop links affixed the KW coilovers were installed. Matt had the coilovers set at the height KW delivered them, but after a test drive found the car to be too low, promptly raising the 996 by 10mm at the front and 20mm at the back to give a slightly ‘raked’ stance. “The springs will need a bit of time to settle, so when you’ve burned through a tank of fuel, come back to me for a final tweak,” he said. It was at this point Matt earned my admiration: whereas others would have wanted to get the job done, the car out the door and the money in the bank, Matt’s diligence to getting the task at hand absolutely right really struck a chord with me. We agreed to leave the bump and rebound on KW’s ‘basic’ settings – they are 16-way adjustable – and have a play with the car as the miles roll along.

So how does it handle? Well I’m just about to complete that tank of fuel Matt has advised I burn through, so I’m due to revisit for a final tweak before a good geo. For road use the front is great, it feels supple enough to be palatable on our bumpy British B-roads while ensuring the front wheels stick stubbornly to the asphalt. The back, though, will need looking at, as it’s too harsh at slow speeds – the sensation is akin to M030, which I’ve always found too crashy on the road. I’ve noticed the car has also dropped slightly in ride height, so it’ll need raising, I’m estimating by around 10mm. I’ll report more on the finished article next issue, but for now I’m mega happy to have these KW V3s on the C4S and have been left so impressed by Matt’s excellent work.

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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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