Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (964)

| 12 Jul 2019
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Why you’d want a Porsche 964

Coil springs, power steering and ABS were big steps for the 911 but, with the best-sounding and most powerful normally aspirated flat-six yet, the 964 was an instant hit.

Porsche showed its intent by launching the manual four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 coupé first, five months ahead of the two-wheel-drive version and other body styles, and a year before the Tiptronic auto option (which was only offered on the Carrera 2). 

The four-wheel-drive car was very sure-footed but heavy, so the Carrera 2 is now the purist’s choice, especially in hardtop coupé form because the convertible and targa are inevitably slightly less rigid.

That said, most drivers would never notice the difference, and when Autocar drove the Carrera 2 Cabriolet Tiptronic in 1990, testers deemed it a hugely impressive car that was, for many, the ‘best of all worlds’ model.

The two-wheel-drive turbo that followed, especially in 3.6-litre form, was the ultimate enthusiast’s 911 turbo, with major lag and raw performance.

Autocar was less impressed when it took it to Le Mans alongside a Ferrari 348, Honda NSX and Lotus Esprit Turbo, deeming it the harshest and most uncomfortable, with unacceptable tyre roar. But if you’re not going to use it long-distance, that might not put you off: it was certainly the fastest of the four.

The even harder-riding lightweight Carrera RS is now highly sought-after, being the foundation of the successful Carrera Cup race cars, and the turbo S with 381bhp and the RS body is phenomenally quick. The Speedster and 911 Celebration, Porsche’s response to falling sales in the worldwide recession, are increasingly collectable, too. 

Check the VIN’s 10th digit for production model year because some cars sat around for a long time during the recession before being registered. K is MY1989, L ’90 (Aug ’89-Jul ’90) and so on. Construction quality improved on cars from MY1991 on, so this is significant.

964s, especially but not exclusively early ones, can suffer severe bodyshell rot that can be expensive to put right, so body condition is a vital check, alongside the engine – as on all air-cooled 911s, neglect can lead to costly bills.

Identity checks (labels under the front compartment lid, on each side inside and under the fuel tank) are especially important on more desirable models, as is a full, documented history. Modifications are common and generally reduce values.

Images: Will Williams


Porsche 964: what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Coil springs and (on Carrera 4) four-wheel drive civilised the 911, though the 964 does have a harsher ride than you might expect, especially in RS and turbo forms. Performance, whatever the spec, will leave most other road cars for dust and two-wheel drives can still test the driver in adverse conditions.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Bodywork

See above for trouble spots

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Engine

The oversquare, all-alloy boxer engine is a great piece of kit that can go on for more than 100,000 miles without a rebuild if services are not neglected: just beware the “£250 to fix the oil leaks” that turns into a £7500-£10,000 engine rebuild. 3.6s have twin-cam heads, 3.3 turbos single-cam; both sound fabulous.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Suspension

Suspension gets a hard life: dampers and bushes need replacing at 70,000 miles, and power-steering seals leak. Keep £2000 in hand for an overhaul.

Corrosion

Corrosion can be a headache, so be wary if there is bubbling or signs of filler (use a magnet) on the front wing above the bumper, or a new wing.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964

Interior

Full leather was a c£2000 option and tends to be more durable than cloth. Check all electrics work (if fitted: the electric seat mechanism was an extra).

Gearbox

Any signs of clutch slip mean £1000+ for replacement. Manuals had a dual-mass flywheel up to mid-’91; it clonks when worn, adding £1000 to the bill.


Porsche 964: on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Purists tend to prefer the agility of the lighter Carrera 2, but the four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 adds peace of mind for first-time 911 owners

Look for evidence of regular, caring maintenance, with annual oil changes even on cars used infrequently (condensation pollutes the oil).

Brake fluid should have been changed every three years (check the brakes all function evenly) and tyres get hard after 10 years. With twin spark-plugs, changing the awkward lower row is often neglected. A well-maintained car with higher recent mileage may give less trouble in the short term than a low-mileage one.

Oil seals harden and leak in infrequently used cars: oil leaks may just need new cam-cover gaskets, but the classic 911 story of the cam-cover oil leak that turned into a full engine rebuild applies to 964s, too. Be prepared for broken head studs and a £5000-plus bill if leaks are significant. 

Lag is normal on the 964 turbo: a skilled driver will cope, but it will bite the unwary. Check for past accident damage and for blue smoke when accelerating, indicating a worn turbo (smoke on the overrun, on all 964s, means worn valve guides).

Autocar testers loved the Tiptronic gearbox, finding it well suited to the boxer engine and commenting: ‘Most of the time it seems almost telepathic.’ The secret was its Intelligent Shift Program, controlled by ECU and designed to avoid unwanted changes mid-corner. It’s durable, but if the torque converter is noisy, it’s approaching rebuild time.

The Cabriolet roof takes 20 secs to lower; few cars will still have the optional hood cover, which added £879 to the price when it was new.


Porsche 964 price guide

Cabrio/targa

  • Show: £60,000
  • Average: £38,000
  • Restoration: £18,000

 

C2 coupé

  • Show: £80,000
  • Average: £48,000
  • Restoration: £25,000

 

C4 coupé

  • Show: £72,000
  • Average: £44,000
  • Restoration: £22,000

 

RS/Speedster

  • Show: £175,000
  • Average: £140,000
  • Restoration: £95,000

 

3.3 turbo

  • Show: £125,000
  • Average: £90,000
  • Restoration: £40,000

 

3.6 turbo

  • Show: £225,000
  • Average: £170,000
  • Restoration: £125,000

NB: tiptronic approx 10% less than manual


Porsche 964 history

1989 Jan 964 Carrera 4 coupé launched: 87% new, 3.6-litre, 250bhp, power steering, ABS

1989 Aug Carrera 2 added; coupé, targa or Cabriolet bodies now available for C2 and C4

1990 First Carrera Trophy Cup series, with purpose-built 964 Cup cars

1990 Jan Four-speed Tiptronic option for C2 only

1990 Aug Cylinder-head sealing improved

1990 Nov 3.3 turbo added, 320bhp

1991 Mar RHD turbos available

1991 Aug Optional turbo-look wide body for C2 coupé and Cabrio; stronger flywheel

1991 Oct Carrera RS Sport/Touring added (+LHD Club Sport): 300lb lighter, 260bhp

1992 Aug Interiors improved

1992 Oct Turbo up to 3.6, 360bhp; turbo S with 381bhp, RS body

1993 Feb Speedster added

1993 Mar Celebration C4 (30 years of 911); Targa Florio SE (RHD only); Carrera RS 3.8: turbo body, double rear spoiler

1994 Aug C2/C4 coupé/targa production ends

1995 Jan Turbo, Speedster, Cabrio and RS ends


The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Robin Page bought his first 964 from David Coulthard

Former Ilmor engineer Robin Page has owned 911s for 26 years: “I’ve worked my way through the air-cooled cars – I’ve had one since I was 25 and used to do 20,000 miles a year in them. 

“I bought my first 964, a Carrera 4, from David Coulthard when it was just four years old and I’ve had many since, including targa, Cabrio and Tiptronic. For me, the ultimate is a Carrera 2 coupé with a manual ’box, and I’m building one from a Japanese-import Tiptronic. I’d have an RS but they’re unattainable now.

“I love the feeling of solidity in the coupé, and the C2 is more subtly balanced and pleasing to drive than the C4, the steering is lighter and more responsive; it has the true 911 feel. The engineering is excellent, it can cope with track days and driving across Europe: it’ll put up with anything you throw at it.”


Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
Honda NSX (left) and Alpine A610 are alternative buys

HONDA NSX

A superbly honed and immensely capable tour de force, if less characterful. Beware aluminium corrosion, crash damage, overheating and unwise modifications.

Sold 1991-2005 • No. built 18,000 • Mpg 28 • 0-60 5.6 secs • Top speed 168mph • Price new £55,000 • Price now £30-80,000


ALPINE A610

Renault’s bargain rear-engined supercar boasts a light, rot-free glassfibre body, stiff backbone steel chassis and gutsy turbo V6. Some parts are now scarce.

Sold 1991-’95 • No. built 818 (67 RHD) • Mpg 20-25 • 0-60 5.5 • Top speed 162mph • Price new £37,980 • Price now £15-30,000


Porsche 964: the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 964
No 964 is cheap these days, but if you can afford one you won’t regret it

All 964s are now serious money and there are far more bad cars than good ones out there, so buy warily and get a professional assessment unless you know the model very well: especially if you are looking at a sought-after version. 

Accident damage, modifications, driver abuse, corrosion and poor maintenance are the biggest enemies of the last of the original 911s, but a good 964 is dependable and hugely satisfying.

FOR 

  • A solid, reliable junior supercar
  • Range of body, engine and transmission options
  • Parts are not too costly
  • Great specialist support

 

AGAINST

  • Price
  • Restoration costs – getting a poor example up to good condition can accrue £20,000-plus in bills

Porsche 964 specifications

Sold/number built 1989-’95/c55,000

Construction steel monocoque 

Engine all-alloy, ohc/dohc 3299/3600cc flat-six, with Bosch L/K-Jetronic injection (+KKK turbo)

Max power 250bhp @ 6100rpm to 360bhp @ 5500rpm

Max torque 228lb ft @ 4800rpm to 383lb ft @ 4200rpm 

Transmission five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, driving all/rear wheels via LSD

Suspension independent, at front MacPherson struts, lower wishbones rear semi-trailing arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers; anti-roll bar f/r

Steering power-assisted rack and pinion

Brakes servo-assisted ventilated discs

Length 14ft (4250mm)

Width 5ft 5in (1652mm)

Height 4ft 4in (1320mm)

Wheelbase 7ft 51/2in (2272mm)

Weight 2684-3234lb (1220-1470kg)

0-60mph 6.2-4.6 secs

Top speed 157-178mph

Mpg 14-25

Price new £48,311-75,306 (1992)


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