Over the past 6 years I have owned two 911's, - a 1990 (H reg) Carrera 4 (964 shape) and a 1995 Carrera 2 (993 shape). Both of my cars were supplied by my local Porsche dealer and experience has shown that 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. Here, we are looking at the Carrera 2/4 (factory designated 964) which followed the 911 Carrera Supersport in 1989/90 (G/H Reg), and the Carrera 2/4 (factory designated 993) (sloping headlamps, more rounded shape) which replaced it in 1994 (M reg). The 964 came in several variants; the bog standard 911 C2, the C4 (4 wheel drive), the RS (RallyeSport - a light weight C2) - and of course, the outrageous Turbo. 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 manua
l (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 the so called “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 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 Porsche specialist maintainers such as Porschestrasse, who will service your car for much less than a main dealer. 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!. I have a friend who drives his 993 Carrera 4 in, ahem, a spirited manner and he gets 5000 miles out of a pair of rears. That's right, 5000 miles! 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 cannot get 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 drive mine every day, do about 20000 miles a year in it and use it in all weathers. I don't believe that any other so-called "Supercar" can be used like this. The only probl
em with motorway use is that the front end of the car gets 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 actually 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 - my cigarette lighter doesn't work!). 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 was 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 (dry sump you see). The pedals are hinged from the bottom (instead of the top like most cars) – Porsche say that this is more “ergonomically correct” but that’s just tosh, it makes the backward linkages simpler – the new 996 has ‘em the right way round. 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. T
he 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 drive from West Yorkshire to Norwich in one hit (about 240 miles) without feeling the least bit tired at the end of the journey. “What’s it go like mister?”. What can you say? On a summer’s 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 a YZF – 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. £800 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 thing 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 can't afford a 996 (the newest new shape) so I have ordered a Boxster S instead - we shall see......