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Over the years I have owned two 911's, so I thought that you might like to know a bit more about these road rockets and what they are like to own.
Both of mine were supplied by my local Porsche dealer, it is very important with these cars that you buy them from a reputable source - particularly older models - there are a lot of horror stories out there and it is easy to be bitten if you are not careful. There have been many variants of the 911 over the years so it is vital that you read up on them (there are loads of books available) and that you know what you want and match it to your budget before you start. Finally, service history is crucial with Porsches. Don't touch one that doesn't have FPSH in the description. Aside from anything else, you will find it difficult to sell-on later.
All versions of the 911 have a factory designated number which distinguishes each generation. For example, my first 911 was a 1990 Carrera 4 (factory designated 964) which replaced the 911 Carrera Supersport in 1989/90 (G/H Reg), and my second a 1995 Carrera 2 (factory designated 993) (sloping headlamps, more rounded shape). The 993 replaced the 964 in 1994 (M reg). It is common among Porsche owners and dealers to refer to the cars using their factory designated number. The very latest cars are designated 996. In this op we are discussing the 964 and 993.
The 964 could be bought in several variants; the bog standard 911 Carrera 2, the Carrera 4 (4 wheel drive), the RS (RallyeSport - a lightweight C2) - and of course, the outrageous Turbo. "Carrera", by the way, is the name of a road race in Mexico which Porsche dominated in the late fifties. Traditionally they only used the name on the higher end cars but since the mid eighties, all 911's have carried the Carrera moniker.
The 993 was offered as a C2, C4, Turbo 4, GT2 and S (which was a turbo bodied car with a normal engine in it and a split rear grill - David Beckham had one for a while).
As if that wasn't enough, there are three body shells; the coupe, the targa and the cabriolet. Unless you really want a targa, I would leave them alone, nasty, rattley, horrible things. The 993 targa is different from earlier cars (which basically had a lift out center roof section) having a sliding glass roof, more like a big sunroof really, but quite attractive. Cabs seem to sell well but they're regarded as a bit effete. No, you want a big butch coupe, that's what you want.
Gearboxes? You can have a 5 speed manual (964) or a six speed (993) or something which the Porsche mechanics call the "Girly" gearbox, the 4 speed Tiptronic. "Tips" are commonplace these days with just about every manufacturer offering them but Porsche were the first. It's basically an automatic with a flick switch shifter (only two pedals - a GO and a STOP). Don't get these boxes confused with sequential racing boxes, only Ferrari currently offers one of them for the road, and you have to go on a one-day course to learn how to work it so you don't accidentally blow the engine up!
The rarer cars (basically anything other than your basic C2 or C4) tend to cost telephone numbers and I have never owned one so I don't know much about them, although I did once drive a Turbo. To cut a long story short, I "gave it some" exiting a roundabout and promptly had a bowel movement - nothing,.. BUT NOTHING goes like one of those buggers. Dear me!
The 964, although it looks quite similar to the Supersport which preceded it, is a very different car. It was the first 911 with power steering and power brakes and it is a much easier car to drive than the Supersport (a lot of purists think that it is too soft to be a proper 911 - total bollocks but whad'ya do?). The engine was upgraded to 3.6 litres for the 964 (3.2 in the Supersport) giving about 275bhp, straight out of the crate.
The 911 is a very light, very powerful car with most of the weight (i.e. the engine) sitting behind the rear axle. You must be very careful not to load the front of the car in corners, particularly in the wet, or you will run the very real risk of throwing it up the pictures. Later models, beginning with the 964, have all sorts of gizmos in the suspension which help stop this from happening (the 993 is MUCH better than the 964) but they can still bite the unwary. As long as the car is driving (by that I mean under power, foot down) everything is fine, it's when you lift off that the problems begin. The general rule for cornering is slow-in, hard on the power, fast-out. It's great fun once you've mastered it.
Running costs are surprisingly reasonable once you've actually shelled out for the car and the insurance (Group 20 - ouch!). It only needs to be serviced every 12000 miles and it will do about 24 miles to the gallon. However, they don't tell you about rear tyres.......
A 12000 mile service will cost you about 600 quid but for most people that's only once a year. One of the reasons for the expense is that 911's run on fully synthetic oil - a lot of it! The engine is essentially oil-and-air cooled (imagine a big flat six motorbike engine and you're not far away from the truth) and there are about 5.5 gallons of synthetic to be changed - £105 quid's worth at my last service. For those of you who decide to go for a car that is more than 5 years old there are many excellent specialist Porsche maintainers such as Porschestrasse, who will service your car for much less than a main dealer. They are all "official" Porsche workshops so your car wil keep its FPSH status. Make sure that you join the Porsche owners club. They publish an excellent mag. full of ads and offers.
Oh, did I mention tyres? 911's EAT REAR TYRES!. My 964 would do about 12000 on a set of rears and about 20000 on the fronts. They are not cheap. The 993 model is even worse, I am quite gentle with my cars and I never got more than 10000 miles out of a set of rears. At a couple of hundred pounds each, a new set can really ruin your day.
Mechanically, the cars are bullet proof. I drove mine every day, did about 20000 miles a year in them and used them in all weathers. I don't believe that any other so-called "Supercar" can be used like this. The only problem with motorway use is that the front end of the cars can get badly stone chipped. My dark blue 964 was much worse for this than my silver 993 - Porsche tell me that this is to do with the paint itself. Apparently the lighter colours are physically tougher than the darker ones. Or, perhaps I'm slowing down as I get older. Or, perhaps Porsche are just bullshitting me - who knows?
What else? Well, there's bugger all room in the back and, come to think of it, bugger all room in the boot. God only knows what would happen if you ever had a rear puncture. The spare is a little skinny space-saver thingy, which is I suppose, ok, except that it's flat! (you get a dinky little compressor, which runs off the cigarette lighter, to blow it up - the cigarette lighter in my 993 didn't work!). That's all fair enough but the real killer is that you have nowhere to put the big, fat, incredibly expensive, rear alloy that you have just removed - it won't go in the boot. If it happened to me I would make the missus walk home 'cos the only place you can put it is on the passenger seat. (How I laughed on the way to intensive care).
The best way to describe 911's to someone who hasn't owned one is quirky. Everything's just a little different from owning a normal car. Petrol goes in the front, engine's in the back. You can only check the oil with the engine running, and only once its hot. This is bacause the engine has a dry sump, just like a racing car, and you can only check the oil once the engine is hot enough for the relief valve on the oil reservoir to open. In practice you fire it up on a flat piece of driveway and leave it for about twenty or thirty minutes. The pedals are hinged from the bottom (instead of the top like most cars) which feels distinctly odd until you get used to it. Porsche say that this is more ergonomically correct, but that's just tosh, the new 996 has 'em the right way round. The real reason is that it makes the backward linkages simpler. Also, because of the big front wheel wells, you sit at an angle with your legs pointing slightly inboard. It feels well weird at first but you soon get used to it. Don't expect a lot from the interior décor either; they're pretty drab inside. The new 996's are absolutely sumptuous but the older cars are strictly for rufty-tufty hairy-chested sports car types. Having said that, the seats are superb. I regularly used to drive from West Yorkshire to Norwich in one hit (about 240 miles) without feeling the least bit tired at the end of the journey. Wringing a 911's neck across the Fens is one of life's great experiences! Don't try it these days tho', it's wall to wall Gatsos down there!
What's it go like mister?
What can you say? On a summer morning on a good quiet A road, there is absolutely nothing like giving one of these cars its head (except maybe cracking open a Fireblade or an R1 - but that's another review - Nurse, where's my medication??). They are extremely quick, any of them will do 0-60 in less than 6 seconds and the Turbo cars do it in just over 4. Bloody hell!
Which is best?
If you can get a good 964 then go for it. 993's are little different and a lot more expensive to buy and run (although I personally think that they look nicer). The 993 is a little more powerful (283Bhp vs 275), but there's not much in it and besides, you can chip the 964 and fit a sports exhaust which gives it around 290bhp and, what's more, makes it sound bloody glorious. The sports exhaust, by the way, is nothing more than a big piece of straight-through pipe, which replaces the catalytic converter. £400 to you sir (laugh? I had to have a lie down). There's nothing you can do to tune a 993, other than rob a bank to pay for the Porsche big-bore upgrade kit (don't even ask how much - the kit is basically six new cylinders plus pistons and bits). There is a 993 aftermarket accessory called a "noise enhancer" which costs a fortune but doesn't give any more power (only Porsche could get away with that).
Would I have another? - in a heartbeat, but I have a son at Uni who I have to fetch and carry for and she who must be obeyed says that a fat old bastard like me should have something "sensible", so I drive a big German estate car these days. I still dream though...
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hmmmmmm. good read, hence the vh rating. some great personal opions. however, i felt it was lacking some essential information, and containg a few complex terms i didn't have c lue about. i think you should mention top-speed, looks, accessories, and more importantly, the interior - gauges, displays etc. I've been in a porsche 911 carrera 4 once, it was exhilerating. nice one. Phil
jessicaishome 19.12.2005 01:05
Hmmm, where to begin, how about judging what this person knows in regard to a Porsche of ANY type to how he writes, I feel this says it all...
J8Ken 27.05.2004 23:20
The review gives a true insight into the reasons for buying a sports car rather than a simple means of transport