Conundrum: 964 or 993?

We can’t wait to enter into the fraternity of aircooled 911 ownership. The anticipation is maddening, quite frankly (its only other equal in this regard possibly being the E30 M3).

But important questions remain. 964 or 993? Power to the rear wheels or to all four? Budget constraints probably preclude the highly desirable widebodied S variants. Likewise, the irreproachable Turbo lies far beyond our reach (which actually isn’t too bad since, given our druthers, we’d prefer the naturally aspirated powerplant- choosy beggars, we know).

If anyone has direct experience in this matter, please leave us a comment.

Until then, we will continue to pay worshipful homage through visuals and written word.



To leave things off, here is C/D‘s recent take on shopping for a 964 (with a line about the 993 that’s worth noting):

A Porsche needed to be on this list. Admittedly, a first-generation 986 Boxster might be more fun on a track, but the almost mystical allure of an air-cooled flat-six overcame the pull of a water-cooled modernist.

We tapped Victorymotorcars ( of Houston, Texas, a purveyor of used Porsches, for a 964 model of 1989–94 vintage. They kindly agreed to extend to us a 1990 Carrera 4 with 84,000 miles on the odometer. Salesman Jason Fletcher came along to look after the car because it had already been sold, for $25,500, which didn’t stop one of our crew from spinning it. For the record, examples of the last generation of air-cooled 911s—993s—sell for well over $25,000.

Victory specializes in air-cooled Porsches, selling about 40 of them per month. The flagging dollar, weak against foreign currencies, is a big help to Victory’s sales, as 25 get shipped overseas, mainly to Europe, while five go to Canada and the remaining 10 are sold in the U.S.

With any old Porsche, the cost of keeping it on the road is a very real fear, though some wear items are not startlingly expensive. A set of Porsche brake pads (which works for the front or rear) costs about $135, and rotors, good for any corner, run $155 apiece. The original Bridgestone tires are no longer made, but a replacement set of Potenza RE-01Rs is less than $500. Everything else gets expensive in a hurry. A catalytic converter touches tuition-payment territory at $1800, and Porsche mechanics charge at least a hundred bucks an hour.

There are a few genetic problems associated with the otherwise indestructible powertrain of the 964. The valve covers came painted from the factory. This paint eventually chips off, and the seal between the head and valve cover weakens, causing a leak. The repair (removing and sandblasting the covers) costs about a grand. Another common failure is the anti-lock brake pump. When this goes, find $2000.

When we first drove these cars nearly two decades ago, rear-drive 964s hit 60 mph in less than five seconds, a feat still respectable by today’s standards. Cosmetically, the 18-year-old 911 was showing its age. The headliner was sagging, the switchgear showed signs of repeated use, the power-mirror button was missing, and the paint was, as they say, “Good from far but far from good.” Still, the 911’s signs of age could not diminish the driving enjoyment.

Compared with today’s 911s, the steering feels heavy and deliberate. The awkward floor-hinged pedals take some driver adjustment, especially for smooth heel-and-toe downshifts. The handling is less than sharp. But when the air-cooled 3.6-liter boxer engine is roaring, all of the car’s faults—dynamic, cosmetic, ergonomic—are simply drowned out by the urgent sound of the engine and a feel that can only be provided by an old Porsche.

The appeal of a 911 goes deeper than the basic connection between man and machine. Because it’s one of the most iconic sports cars of all time, there is a certain level of celebrity associated with owning a 911, something that’s difficult to equal in any other car purchase. Still, don’t buy one without a good service history or at least a thorough inspection by a mechanic. —K.C. Colwell

~ by velofinds on October 27, 2009.