Porsche Choosing a 911 ~ 1950-

Some people think that you have to rich to drive a Porsche 911. Well, maybe you need to be reasonably well-off to buy a brand-new one, but second-hand Porsches can be a very prudent buy. A good 911 can be bought for the price of a new executive saloon (or, indeed, much less) yet will not suffer from anywhere near the same depreciation. A 911 may cost a bit more to run but in, say, three years you should be able to sell it for a similar price you paid for it. If, that is, you buy wisely.

Perhaps even more important than cost is the fun of 911 ownership. But you need to buy wisely to ensure that your 911 experience doesn’t turn sour. And, with such a range of 911s to choose from, this can be difficult.

However, once you start thinking about what you want from a 911, you can begin to narrow down your search. For most people the first criterion is budget – how much do can you afford to spend on a 911? Next, what are you going to use it for? Is it going to be a weekend toy for cruising around the countryside, an everyday car for commuting to work?, a trackday machine, or maybe a collectors’ item to keep in the garage and cherish.

You also need to ask which model of 911 really gets you excited. Do you like the classic cars of the 1960s and 1970s with their pure, unspoilt lines? Or the aggressiveness of the 1980s Turbos? Perhaps you prefer more modern cars from the 1990s and newer, with their comfort and electronic aids. Or maybe you want the stripped-out, back-to-basics of an RS or GT3.

The early 911s (generally considered to be pre-1974, the date that impact bumpers appeared) are old cars now and, as such, should be treated as classics. Rust can be a major issue and corroded 911 bodyshells are very expensive to repair. It’s rare these days to find a good example that hasn’t undergone a restoration which means that prices are relatively high – beware of a cheap early 911, the chances are it’ll have problems.

That said, older 911s have a charm of their very own and are a delight to drive once you’ve mastered their unique handling characteristics – lift off the throttle partway through a fast bend and they’ll spin. Their simplicity, too, is refreshing in these days of electronics – an early 911 is a car you can tinker with at home.

Within this category of early 911s is the Carrera 1973 Carrera 2.7 RS, one of the most sought-after Porsches ever and, as such, frighteningly expensive. Because of their desirability many replica RSs have been built; some based on contemporary lesser 911s, others on newer models. There’s nothing wrong with a well-built replica RS – it’s an affordable way to enjoy the RS experience for those without very deep wallets. However, if you’re in the market for a genuine 2.7 RS, do be aware that some replicas get passed off as genuine cars by unscrupulous (or ignorant) vendors. And some apparently genuine cars have been rebuilt using standard body parts instead of the correct (and increasingly rare) lightweight items.

From 1974 to 1989 came the impact bumper 911s and, to the untrained eye, the cars all looked relatively similar. However, there were many changes in this time – not least engine capacity rising from 2.7-litre to 3.2-litre. It’s sometimes said that post-1975 cars are the ones to go for because it was then that the bodies became fully galvanised to protect against rust. That’s good advice, but don’t think that such 911s will be rust-free – the chances are they won’t be. Galvanising slows down the rusting process but doesn’t stop it completely, and many cars will have suffered accident damage over the years and the repaired areas won’t necessarily have received the same rust protection.

The 911SC of 1978 to 1983 can make an excellent first 911 for someone on a tight budget. They’re not the most sought-after 911s, so prices are sensible. On the other hand, they have tough mechanicals and are relatively simple to maintain and run. There are scruffy examples out there that should be avoided. Like any 911, a cheap SC will cost you more in the long-term.

The Carrera 3.2 which followed the SC is very similar in many ways, but benefits from slightly more power. Again, they make affordable and easy 911s if you start with a good one. In 1987 the Carrera 3.2 was updated with a new G50 gearbox and today these cars command a premium because of the smoother, more pleasant gear-shifts. But don’t dismiss an older example with a 915 gearbox – if you have a good one this transmission can be a joy to master and is a tougher unit than the G50.

The 911 entered a new phase in 1989 when the 964 appeared. Here was a car that looked and felt so much more modern than its predecessors. Today, 964s are surprisingly affordable to buy, partly because of its largely undeserved reputation for unreliability. That makes it a great choice for someone on a tight budget looking for a 911 with a modern look and feel. Be warned, though, because of the relatively low prices some 964s have been bought by people who have then not had the money or knowledge to maintain them properly.

The 993 which followed put right most of the 964’s shortcomings and was wrapped in one of the best-looking bodies ever. It’s looks, reliability and desirability as the last of the air-cooled 911s has meant that 993 prices have remained high. A 993, however, is an easy and fun 911 to own and should hold its value well.

The all-new 996 which appeared in 1997 sold in relatively large numbers and many were bought as everyday cars by non-enthusiasts. There are, therefore, plenty on the second-hand market although some have high mileages and have not been particularly cherished. That’s good news for buyers because you can now buy one of these modern 911s for less than the price of a 993 in some cases.

The 997 is now firmly placed on the used market and the predictions that it will hold its value relatively well, at least for the first few years, seem correct. It looks set to be a great 911 that will take the model well into the 21st century.

The above gives the newcomer to the 911 something to think about. One thing that’s essential before making a choice, though, is to drive some 911s. The early cars are not to everyone’s taste, while others say the 996 doesn’t feel like a true 911 at all. It all depends what you want from a car, and that’s why it’s essential to try before you buy.

It’s also sensible to seek expert advice before buying a 911. Although the cars are generally well-built and reliable (certainly far more so than many performance cars), there are various issues which need to be examined. For instance, rust can be a serious problem on early cars, while 964s and 996s can suffer engine oil leaks, which may be expensive to rectify. And because of their nature, many 911s have been crashed at some stage in their lives and bodged repairs are not unheard of. A pre-purchase inspection will highlight any issues and help you to find the best 911 for your needs.

Once you’ve bought your 911, it’s should be maintained by a reputable Porsche specialist; these are not cars you can entrust to your local jobbing garage. A specialist will have the knowledge and tools to keep your 911 running and will advise you on potential issues before they become serious.