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Classic Porsche test: story of the Carrera 3.0

In many Porsche 911 books the Carrera 3.0 hardly merits a mention. Sandwiched between the revered Carrera 2.7 and all-conquering SC, it’s a mere footnote in a 56-year story. Has history judged it too harshly? Is the ‘Carrera 3’ underrated or simply underwhelming? Only driving one will tell us for sure.

The odds seem stacked against the 3.0 from the start. First, Porsche broke an unwritten rule by launching a new car with less power than its predecessor. And while a 13hp shortfall mattered more on paper than the road, the outgoing Carrera 2.7 also boasted perfect pedigree, being mechanically identical to the 1973 RS 2.7, barring the US model. The new 3.0, conversely, was defined by what it lacked. It was, in essence, ‘a Turbo without the turbo’.

On sale for just two years between 1976 and 1977, the Carrera 3.0 was the middle rung of a revised 911 range. The base model – called 911 Lux in some markets – retained a 165hp version of the 2.7-litre engine. The 3.0, meanwhile, adopted the 2,994cc lump from the flagship 930. This development of the 1974 3.0 RS engine would serve the 911 in various guises until 1984. In naturally aspirated form quoted power was 197hp at 6,000rpm, this versus 260hp at 5,500rpm for the top-dog Turbo. Fuel economy was improved, albeit not sufficiently for US emissions legislation. The 3.0 was never sold Stateside as a result.

Transforming a 930 into a Carrera 3 wasn’t merely a case of unbolting the blower. The N/A engine also had larger inlet ports, while compression ratio increased from 6.5:1 to 8.5:1. Further fettling for the 1976 model year included a die-cast aluminium crankcase, Nikasil cylinder liners, a five-blade cooling fan and Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, replacing the plunger-type system. The use of K-Jetronic, which endured until the 1994 964 Turbo 3.6, also meant the demise of the hand throttle, supplanted by a vacuum-operated warm-up regulator. Most buyers chose the five-speed manual transmission, but Porsche also offered the four-speed ‘box from the Turbo and the clutchless Sportomatic – the latter now reduced to just three ratios.

What the 3.0 lacked in peak power it made up for in mid-range muscle. Maximum torque of 255Nm matches the outgoing Carrera 2.7 and is developed 900rpm lower in the rev range, meaning it equals the older car’s 6.3-second sprint to 60mph. Top speed is an Autobahn-friendly 145mph. The 3.0 is a relatively light 911, too. At 1,093kg it weighs 67kg – or a typical adult passenger – less than a 1978 SC.

At first glance the Carrera 3 looks little different to other impact-bumper 911s. ATS ‘Cookie Cutter’ alloys in 6×15- and 7×15-inch sizes were standard, with wider Turbo-spec Fuchs for the Sport pack. The latter included a Whaletail spoiler and optional ‘Carrera’ side script, plus Bilstein dampers replacing the standard Koni or Boge set-up. A Comfort pack was also added for 1977 with 14-inch wheels and softer Bilsteins. Coupe versions of the 3.0 outsold Targas by a factor of two to one.

The most significant cosmetic update, however, is hidden from view. 1976 saw Porsche introduce hot-dip zinc coating for all panels, vastly improving the 911’s traditionally rather feeble resistance to rust. Stuttgart then put its Deutschmarks on the line with an industry-leading six-year corrosion warranty, which boosted resale values and reinforced a growing reputation for quality. Sadly the zinc protection is rarely so effective in the longer term; even slight damage exposes the steel underneath, allowing rust to take hold.

Inside, the Carrera 3 made a significant step towards curing another of the 911’s age-old issues: inadequate heating. Until this point regulating cabin temperature had been a hit-and-miss affair, using levers between the seats to mix air heated by the exhaust with fresh air from outside. The new system, standard on the 3.0 and Turbo, used two thermostats and a rotary controller to manage this process automatically. Separate fan and heater sliders were also introduced for 1977 along with face-level air vents, albeit only on the passenger side.

Further improvements to comfort came from extra sound deadening and a plusher interior, including carpeting on the lower doors from 1977. A larger driver’s door mirror was fitted, now electrically operated and heated, and cruise control – called Tempostat in Europe or Automatic Speed Control in the US – was an option for the first time. Porsche even changed the design of the locks to improve security. Now, instead of pop-up buttons that could be hooked with a coat hanger, the 911 had round knobs on the door panels. The Targa’s opening quarterlights were discontinued to deter smash-and-grab opportunists, too.

We could go on, of course. But there are only so many facts about thermostats or carpeted doors even the most committed enthusiast needs. What matters more is how the Carrera 3.0 drives and, ultimately, its place in the air-cooled 911 hierarchy. To find out we visited Classic Motor Hub, a huge multi-marque showroom that at the time of writing has the car pictured for sale at £87,500. CMH is also nestled among some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages
and finest driving roads. If the Carrera 3.0 can’t impress here…

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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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996 40th anniversary: coming of age

Forty: one of the big ones, passing into the fourth decade tends to be a significant generational marker. To celebrate or commiserate, though? Porsche obviously decided to do the former – after all, producing a sports car for 40 years is an undeniably notable achievement.

It was a while ago now, too. It’s incredible to think that with the 992 we’ll see the 911 tick over to 60. That’s in just four years time, so it’s been nearly two whole decades since this Anniversary model was introduced.

Back then the 911 was the 996. Old enough to be in its second generation, Porsche’s awkward transitional 911 benefitting from the revised headlights that were introduced with the Turbo. As we all know, the 996 brought water-cooling to the 911, it igniting a debate that still resonates to this day, the 996 arguably the most divisive 911 in our favourite sports car’s now 56 years. Time heals, or at least softens resolve, and the 996 has found favour in its advancing years, the Turbo, GT3, GT3 RS and 4S all generating justifiable praise.

The Anniversary should be included among them as, unlike Porsche’s ill-considered Millennium Edition of 2000, the ‘40 Jahre’ car’s specification verges on perfection. Visually it is a demonstration of dignified restraint, perhaps with the exception of the shot-blasted and polished 18-inch Carrera II lightweight wheels. With the finish of those wheels prone to damage, many Anniversary cars have had their alloys refurbished with a more conventional painted finish. That might rob them of their originality, but does arguably improve the looks.

Elsewhere the Anniversary follows a proven Porsche formula that defines a special model. It does so without dropping any weight; as any 40-year old will testify, shifting bulk is tricky. The 996 is fairly light as standard though: the Anniversary’s kerb weight of 1,370kg matches that of the standard Gen2 Carrera. Instead of losing mass, Porsche focused on other facets to improve the offering with the Anniversary, particularly relating to how it drives.

Key to the Anniversary’s spec is the addition of an X51 Powerkit. It’s an option that would have added around £9,000 to a standard Carrera should you have asked for it back in the early 2000s. The X51 sees the power rise to 345bhp. Admittedly it’s not a significant gain over the 320bhp Carrera, but writing off the X51’s revisions on the modest bhp gain alone is to do the not-insubstantial revisions it brings a serious disservice.

The Powerkit adds cast-aluminium intake manifolds with a modified cross section, the exhaust ducts too benefiting by being larger in their width and being flow optimised thanks to machining and polishing. The valvetrain differs too: the valves and their springs, caps, guides and seats are changed over the standard car, allowing increased movement to benefit the X51 camshaft’s greater inlet valve stroke and modified inlet and exhaust timing.

The lubrication system is improved with a different dual-chamber suction pump for cylinder bank four to six, new oil lines and the oil pan coming with bulkhead baffles to help prevent high g-force oil surge. The changes via the X51 are anecdotally said to improve the durability of the 3.6-litre flat six because it counters the under-lubrication of cylinder six, with the benefit of helping prevent overheating and premature wear.

Controlling all that is a modified engine map which, like all the X51 Powerkit’s development, was apparently the work of the Motorsport department. That arguably makes X51-equipped cars ‘under-the-counter’ GT machines, and worth seeking out.

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Richard Attwood drives a 964 3.8 R restomod

road car. A race car. An engineer’s car. The 911, more than any other car, is a product of continual automotive evolution. Porsche’s enhancements have kept it relevant for the road, competitive on the track and have cemented its reputation as the enthusiast’s car of choice. That evolution isn’t just limited to Porsche itself; an entire industry out there takes 911s backwards and forwards in time, improving, re-imagining, personalising. The 911 is an eminently adaptable basis upon which owners can build the car they want from it.

With this 964, that’s exactly what RPM Technik has done for its owner Ian Humphris. The idea was for a fast road car that could be track driven, adding contemporary performance while being respectful to the classic feel and engagement a 964 brings. Using a Carrera 2 as its basis, the build process has been meticulous, seeking improvements in every area, this now a 964 that can run with its more recent GT department relations, yet offers a driving bandwidth that enables it to be enjoyed on the road, too.

Of all the many branches of 911 evolution and sub-species, this visceral, exciting 964 arguably represents the most appealing opportunity for perfecting and personalising, taking a tired Carrera and reviving it as a car that can be enjoyed. Its performance absolutely eclipses a 964 RS that you’d be too scared to drive. What RPM and Humphris have created is the perfect riposte to a zeitgeist where vehicular value takes president over the value of driving itself.

PART ONE: ON TRACK

It’s a sunny day at Bedford Autodrome, our track time exclusively reserved for RPM Technik’s 964 3.8. Owner Humphris likes his cars too: there’s a 997 GT3 RS in his garage, alongside some other special machinery, but it’s the 964 he’s animated about.

It’s obviously not standard, but to the uninformed could just be a neat, small, red Porsche 911. Its lowered stance could be missed, its split-rim BBS alloys less so. Humphris admits that they’re his road wheels, having a set of Cup 17-inch wheels with some cut slicks for serious track work. There are subtle hints to its revisions visually then, the black-rimmed headlight surrounds an RSR nod, the small lip splitter a neat addition under the front bumper.

There’s no surprises seeing the brake intakes on the front bumper, though they’re framed by darker indicator lenses. These, like those headlight surrounds, contrast perfectly with the red bodywork. Around the back the build follows the same understated enhancement route, this 964 retaining a single exhaust pipe, though the engine cover suggests that single pipe is attached to something a little bit different from the norm. The sticker, not badge, says 3.8 R, a model that’s entirely of its owner’s making, and justifiably so. Specification or naming purists be damned, this is a car that defines purity, a car built for an individual, with their – and only their – ambition and goals for it driving the entire project.

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2019 Porsche 992 Carrera S vs 4S first drive review

We’ve been here before, right? A new 911, which among our fraternity will forever be known as the 992. In Porsche’s model line there’s nothing more significant, even if today 911 sales are a mere support act to the SUV bottom line. Simply put, the 911 remains the company’s icon, the car that defines the firm. The 911 represents success on road and track, a million-selling sports car that’s instantly recognisable; unique in the automotive world.

Which is why replacing it is about as difficult a task as Porsche has. Time doesn’t stand still though, and the 911 has to evolve to work in the world it finds itself in. That evolution has unquestionably allowed it to endure and succeed, but the transitional points in its lifecycle will always be significant and debated ad-infinitum among drivers and the likes of me in titles like this.

The 911 matters to people then, more so than any other car. It doesn’t actually seem like that long ago I was reviewing the then new 991, or indeed 991.2; in the time since they’ve gone on to become the 911, after the usual difficult transition period where everyone is looking dewy-eyed about the outgoing model. I’ll do that now, the Carrera T manual that I’d borrowed off the UK press fleet in anticipation of driving the new 992 feeling pretty much perfect to me. That 991 should be good though, it being at the end of its development cycle.

Everything learned from that and more has been adopted here with the 992. There are two of them here today, a Carrera S and Carrera 4S. They are, as all will be until the standard Carrera arrives later this year, PDK, and pulling the right paddle shifter here can now be done eight times. “They’re the same,” is the reply when I request that both cars feature in the same shot.

Visually, that’s true; the Carrera S and Carrera 4S are identical, even more so when they’re painted the same Racing yellow. The only clue to the 4S’s additional drive is the badge on its backside. Choose the model delete option, or better still the simple 911 numbering, and you’d not know it’s a four, Porsche’s decision to make all Carreras widebody removing that go-to identifier of drive. It’s big, this new 911, as wide as the outgoing GTS and GT3, a bit longer and taller, as well as heavier. We’ll get to that later.

The dynamics engineers certainly weren’t complaining when the decision to go widebody was made. You might think that it was the chassis engineers that dictated it, but the 992’s a widebody for different reasons, key among them being the cooling. The 992’s 3.0-litre twin turbo flat-six has to pass ever-tighter laws for economy and emissions, and an efficient turbo engine is a cool one. That defines not just the physicality of the 911’s shape, but the large cooling intakes fed by active vanes at the 992’s nose. Here, now, in natural light and in the pitlane of the Hockenheimring, I have to say it looks good. It’s unmistakably 911, as it should be, design boss Mauer’s team having dipped into the 911’s past to bring it forward. From the cut-out recess on the bonnet to the SC-aping font for the rear 911 badging, via the large headlights sitting upright (cut exclusively out of the wings rather than puncturing the bumper), there’s no mistaking its lineage.

That expansive rear is spanned by an LED strip light across its entire width, the slightly recessed lighting and three-dimensional Porsche badge across the back leaving you in no doubt that you’re following a 911. The pop-up rear wing that aids stability now also acts as an airbrake when stopping from speed. It’s better integrated than that on the 991, but is still arguably an inelegant if undeniably effective solution to the 911’s aerodynamic Achilles heel. It’s the other pop-out element to the new 911 that’s causing the most debate here today; the door handles. They look neat, but their operation isn’t perfect, feeling insubstantial and not always popping out to greet you. That you have to lift and pull rather than simply grab counts against them too. A small thing, perhaps, but they feel like the answer to a question nobody asked, particularly in comparison to those on a 991.

Once inside, this is clearly a 911 for a new era. The quality takes a leap, the build feeling substantial, the materials, too. It’s an attractive cabin, the centre dash coming with a near 11-inch screen containing all the info and entertainment functions. It’s a touchscreen, adding connectivity and configurability to your nav and entertainment that you probably never knew you wanted or, arguably, needed. Choose the Sport Chrono and you’ll be able to select the driving modes…

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