Words by Scott Laurie
Porsche cars have been under my skin for over twenty years and I am the Southern Scotland Regional Organiser for Porsche Club Great Britain (PCGB) so I get to see many cars in the club scene. I have owned a Porsche 964 Carrera 4, 964 Carrera 2 and 993 Carrera 2 at the same time. I also had the pleasure of owning a 993 Carrera S. Taking all of this into account, I believe I have sufficient experience of the 964 and 993 to provide some useful insights into their relative strengths and weaknesses. The 964 and 993 are the last two air cooled 911’s that Porsche built. Their followers often sit in separate camps when it comes to which they believe is the better 911. This article is a short comparison of the cars recent rise in desirability and my personal view point on what future demand and prices the two derivatives of the 911 are likely to achieve.
I’ll start by looking at the 964 model Porsche 911. The 964 was unloved for many years, particularly between 2000 and 2010. While its predecessor, the 3.2 Carrera, was a relatively trouble-free car, the 964 arrived with serious issues – leaking cylinder heads and dual-mass flywheels that were prone to failure. Both of these faults often occurred within the first few years of ownership and therefore should have been sorted long ago. This blip in their past has led to their reputation being unfairly tarnished. There are countless articles about the problems and costly solutions, which are read by many prospective buyers, leading to some being put off completely from buying a 964 model 911. My experience has been that the majority of the original engine faults are permanently fixed, however I would still recommend that anyone considering buying a 964 to exercise care by having a full inspection carried out – just like with any high performance car.
Around four years ago you could buy a presentable 964 Carrera 2 for £15,000 with around 70,000 recorded miles. The same car today would be fetch between £40,000 and £50,000. So why the sudden increase in prices? I think there are many factors to consider – some of these have the potential to propel prime examples of the 964 Carrera even higher in terms of values.
I don’t think anyone would argue that the 964 is the last 911 that retains the iconic shape of the original 911. So in that sense the 964 is the very last of the line of development of the original 911 model car. This alone provides a good reason to collect the car.
Being the last of the classic look 911s the 964 was also the most developed. Performance figures are reasonable, even by today’s standards. Power steering, independent coil over suspension together with heating and a ventilation system that actually worked, make it a useable car. The 964 also came fitted with the G50 gearbox, which replaced the more agricultural 915 box used in the earlier 3.2 Carrera’s. You can comfortably travel across Europe and also take a spirited blast down a country lane in one.
Another influencing factor is that at the moment ‘retro’ is cool. The 964 has simply become a cool looking car.
This perfect combination of classic looks, modern day comfort and performance is what buyers are now valuing. 964 Rennsport values climbing north of £250,000 has certainly assisted with the desirability of the rest of the 964 model range. The low mileage cars with fastidious maintenance records are rare and collectors of the marque are willing to pay a large premium for this.
Consider also that there is a lack of truly good cars available to purchase. There are fewer decent low mileage cars coming on to the market, which alone drives up the price. The cost to buy a tatty 964 is around £15,000. As soon as you allow for a full restoration including a bare shell respray, the final cost will easily be £40,000. When you realise this, paying £40,000 upwards starts to make even more sense.
Most owners of classic 911’s are occasional users – fans of Porsche that have their cars tucked up in the garage to take out and enjoy on sunny weekends. The cost of a new 911 Carrera is approaching £100,000 when you add a few options , so owning an older air cooled 911 makes even more sense as the overall ownership cost is low. You can run a 964 or 993 with lower servicing costs whilst avoiding the colossal depreciation cost of a newer model. In fact if you buy the right car you are probably going to make money in the long term.
I could write pages and pages about what a 964 is like to drive but everyone will have their own opinion on how good (or bad) they are. Some will prefer the Carrera 2 and others the Carrera 4. Regardless of this, what I will say is that for road use, a Carrera 2 or Carrera 4 is better than an RS for 80% of the driving most people will do. The difference between the rear wheel drive and all wheel drive Carrera will be almost unnoticeable. The Carrera models have 250bhp and weigh around 1,350kg, so they are pretty quick. They’ll return over 20mpg in fuel overall and close to 30mpg on a long run. On the inside the engine and road noise is comfortable on an extended drive and the suspension should be taught and compliant. It’s as quiet in the cabin as any Porsche Boxster and if the suspension is in top condition, or it’s fitted with Bilstein suspension, it will handle amazingly well for a twenty-five year old car. If I could only have one upgrade on a stock 911 it would be to fit new Bilstein suspension all round. The full kit is about £1,000 including springs, plus the cost to fit and reset the alignment. The difference it will make compared to tired old Boge units will be startling.
So where are values at present? From what I see on eBay, PistonHeads and the Porsche Club forums, Carrera 2 manual cars in excellent condition with under 80,000miles and a full history file fetch mid forties with possibly the best cars topping out at £50,000. A similar Carrera 4 will likely be £5,000 less. Targa’s and Convertibles are around £10,000 less than Coupes. Tired, high mileage useable cars that are in need of mild restoration are in the £15,000 to £25,000 range.
The 993 had a much better start in life than the 964. It was never seen as the ugly duckling, having been given fresh styling, more power, revised suspension which led to better handling and none of the 964’s apparent faults. I could almost stop this article there and just say, forget the 964, buy a 993. However the 993, while in many people’s eyes is a better looking car, did lose a key ingredient, the classic 911 look. The sloping lights and bodywork design, whilst bringing the car up to date, did lose some of the essence of the 911 formula.
I think the 993 looks fabulous from the rear, but in stock form it’s not as pretty from the front. The more aggressive Turbo and RS frontal design help complete the look, which is why many owners change the front. I personally had the RS front and rear splitters on mine with RS style split rim alloy wheels. In my opinion it was a stunning looking car.
The differences between driving a 993 and 964 are subtle, the 993 feels a little bit more modern, quicker, more comfortable – but it is actually quite hard to pinpoint beyond these observations. My 964 Carrera 4 and 993 Carrera 2 both had the Bilstein B6 suspension fitted and actually felt very similar on the road. The 993 felt a little lighter on the steering but this really wasn’t immediately noticeable until I got under the skin.
Porsche 993 values dipped as the cars aged, as you would have expected, but not to the same extent as the 964. You could, once-upon-a-time, buy a 50,000 mile 993 Carrera 2 for just over £20,000. However, just like with the 964, values have rocketed and now an 80,000 mile 993 Carrera 2 would set you back £40,000 to £50,000. If you can find one! So therefore values of the 993 Carrera 2 are probably very similar to 964 Carrera 2.
My prediction on values is that both 993 and 964 Carrera models with mileages of over 100,000 have peaked at £40,000 for the very best examples. I don’t really see these cars appreciating anymore for the next five years or so since 996 Turbo’s are available at that price, as are second generation 997 Carrera’s. I also don’t see the values of these cars falling back down either, as long as maintenance is kept up to date and their mileage doesn’t dramatically go up. What does this mean for the Porsche 911 enthusiast? They can own a fantastic classic air cooled 911 without any significant running costs compared to the depreciation of the newer Porsche models.
Those lucky enough to buy a low mileage car, 50,000 to 80,000 miles, with just a small number of owners and detailed history will see the value of their cars continuing to gradually increase. The short story is they aren’t building anymore of them. Porsche themselves are marketing all air cooled cars as ‘classics’ and the fan base for air cooled cars is on the increase. Collectors see the 964 as the last of the iconic 911 shape and the 993 as the last of the air cooled cars – both have their own key point to make. Carrera 2 manual Coupes are at the top of the desirability list with Carrera 4 manuals following close behind. Cabriolets, Targa’s and Tiptronic equipped cars all tracking the increase in value from a lower base. Recently I have noticed that the Cabriolet and Targa models have their own group of enthusiasts that are actively seeking them out over the Coupe, they are no longer bought by people who simply cannot afford the Coupe. This is partly down to Porsche relaunching the Targa format in the 991 range with a definite look of the early Targa cars. The pre 1973 Targa 911 has its own niche following. I still own a 964 Carrera 2 Coupe and very low mileage Cabriolet, if funds permit I would actively look for a low mileage Targa to sit alongside them also.
So my advice is this, when considering a classic air cooled 911, don’t dismiss the 964 over the 993 and vice versa. Simply buy the best you can afford and look after it – you won’t regret it.
Our full buyers guide on the Porsche 911 Carrera 964 is available in issue seven.