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Porsche 911

Lucky Number 911 Published: 25th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Porsche 911

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Later Turbos and RS models
  • Worst model: Sportomatics/early US imports
  • Budget buy: SCs and Targas
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes; use an additive on hard-driven cars though
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): (mm) L4290 x W1650
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally good
  • Club support: Very good
  • Appreciating asset?: Some models
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Good buy if you like them
Classic engine evolved to the point it was water cooled! Irregular use can screw them up as much as abuse… Classic engine evolved to the point it was water cooled! Irregular use can screw them up as much as abuse…
Cockpits have remained much the same for decades; very hardy but clutch/’box can be hard work for some Cockpits have remained much the same for decades; very hardy but clutch/’box can be hard work for some
Lovely RS Carrera of the early ‘70s are hugely collectable and pricey Lovely RS Carrera of the early ‘70s are hugely collectable and pricey
Porker badge is feasible if you go for least popular 911s Porker badge is feasible if you go for least popular 911s
Panel gaps should be good, if not think past prangs! Aftermarket body kits available but can look tarty Panel gaps should be good, if not think past prangs! Aftermarket body kits available but can look tarty
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A good 911 is one of the most sensible super-cars ever – but only if you like ‘em…

Pros & Cons

Performance, image, design, engineering, the driving experience
Early cars a handful dynamically, lots of tat out there, resto costs can be high

When Porsche unveiled its 901 in 1963, then quickly renamed it the 911, nobody would have guessed that almost half a century later it would still be in production. Over the past 47 years, despite the lack of a name change, the Porsche 911 has evolved massively, from a peaky race car for the road that was likely to bite you, to a docile, usable supercar that’s as easy to drive as a Toyota, as usable as a VW Golf – only far more exciting. When it comes to motoring greats, no car is more iconic than the mighty 911, but these cars aren’t as bullet-proof as you might think. There are all sorts of potential problems whichever the model you’re thinking of buying; everything is fi xable, but buy badly and you could end up spending a fortune on a car that ultimately isn’t worth that much. There’s also a massive array of models to choose from; but the most important thing is whether you like this Porsche or not. It’s a ‘marmite classic’ and there’s no middle ground.


As you can image, charting a car in detail that’s been in production for almost half a century would fi ll an entire magazine so here’s some timelines as a guidance.

1963: The 901 is launched, but complaints from Peugeot lead to a swift renaming; the 911 is born. With 130bhp from 1991cc, 130mph is on offer. These early cars have a short wheelbase, so handling is especially, infamously, tricky.

1965: The fi rst right-hand drive cars are built, and the 912 goes on sale, powered by a 90bhp 1582cc fl at-four and a four-speed gearbox.

1966: Cast-iron weights behind the front bumper help to tame the handling, but only a bit! The 911S arrives, with 160bhp, Fuchs alloys, vented discs and a rear anti-roll bar. The Targa also debuts, with a zip-down plastic rear window; a glass screen is optional from 1968 and standard from 1971.

1967: The 911T is a budget edition with 110bhp and four-speed gearbox. The standard car is renamed the 911L, with a fi ve-speed gearbox and dual-circuit brakes. The unloved Sportomatic also appears, with a four-speed semi-automatic transmission that was truly modern thinking.

1968: The wheelbase is lengthened by no less than 2.2 inches, the wheelarches are fl ared and there’s now a lighter engine block. There are also now twin batteries ahead of the front wheels for better weight distribution. The L is renamed the E, which gets Bosch mechanical fuel injection, along with the S, to give 140bhp and 170bhp respectively.

1969: The least liked 912 is phased out while the various 911s get a 2195cc engine and a raft of suspension changes.

1970: Some of the underbody panels are now zinc-plated to ward off rust.

1971: The fl at-six is stroked to take the capacity up to 2341cc with more torque.

1972: The fi rst right-hand drive Targas are available, but the big news is the RS 2.7 homologation special with Nikasil liners, big-bore engine, magnesium crankcase, lighter panels, wider wheels and optional duck-tail spoiler.

1973: The 3.0 RS and RSR editions debut; just 109 are made, of which 50 are RSR racers. The regular 911 gets impact bumpers to meet US regulations, and the engine now displaces 2687cc. A ‘whale-tail’ rear spoiler option replacesthe previous ‘duck-tail’ item.

1974: The most powerful 911 yet appears; the Turbo. The boosted 3.0-litre fl at-six gives 260bhp and 153mph, but right-hand drive cars don’t appear until 1975. There’s also a whale-tail spoiler, deeper front spoiler, fl ared wheelarches and revised suspension. Other 911 changes include a move to galvanised bodyshells while the 2.7 Carrera model can now be ordered with a duck-tail spoiler to aid stability.

1975: The 912E marks a brief return for the four-cylinder 911, with a fuel-injected 90bhp 1971cc VW engine; just 2089 are sold. The Carrera also gets a 200bhp 3.0-litre engine. There’s also better ventilation and engine cooling plus a lighter clutch.

1977: The 3.0 SC arrives, with 180bhp (188bhp from August 1979 and 204bhp from August 1980). Quite a popular and likeable car now.

1978: The Turbo models gets a 300bhp 3299cc powerplant and detail changes.

1982: The Cabriolet is introduced.

1983: The Carrera gets a capacity hike to 3164cc, giving out 231bhp.

1985: The Turbo gets Motronic engine management and there’s a Turbo-look body available for the Carrera as an option.

1986: There’s now a fl at-nose Turbo option while the Cabriolet gets a power roof as standard.

1987: The Carrera Club Sport coupé debuts.

1988: The Turbo gets a fi ve-speed gearbox.

1989: The Speedster appears; 2065 are built.


This is what it’s all about, but which derivative you drive makes a massive difference to how it drives. The earliest 911s were a real handful because of their short wheelbase, while early Turbos suffered from massive lag, which could make them a nightmare to drive, with the boost arriving just when you didn’t want it. The chances are however that you’ll be looking at something from the 1970s or 1980s, without too exotic a spec – the RS models are stupidly valuable nowadays. However, even these share many of the traits of the more attainable derivatives; the heavy controls, inch-perfect steering, plus the rearward weight bias. There’s also the performance too; some of the 1970s cars weren’t that pokey, but any 911 is agile and blessed with a surprisingly supple ride. As the 911 was developed it became much easier to drive enthusiastically, but with a typical weight distribution of 42/58 towards the rear, there’s only so much you can do to defy the laws of physics; four-wheel drive didn’t arrive until later. But this misses the point, because the 911 can be hard work to drive really well – and the typical buyer sees that as a good thing rather than a bad. It’s all about the satisfaction of getting to grips with a car that can bite back if you don’t treat it properly, but it’ll also reward you like no other supercar when you get it right. Which means that you work ever harder to get the most out of it, seeing every drive as a challenge.When you’re not .. You’ll fi nd the 911 pretty civilised as a tourer. The cockpit is comfy if a tad cramped but the rear seats are passable for small kids and luggage capacity is fair given that there’s no rear bootlid. The controls are timewarp and earlier 911 can be heavy to drive plus they don’t tolerate clumsiness either – you have to be in the mood to drive a 911. But they can be sensible daily drivers thanks to their durability and fair economy. Expect 20mpg at least on all bar the Turbos, perhaps 23-25mpg if driven gently. Is that possible though?


The early aluminium engine castings are weak and will probably have been replaced by now with an improved design. It’s the same story for the magnesium units, especially where the 2.7-litre engines are concerned, as distortion is common, leading to oil leaks. Even when new there were reliability issues, usually from the cylinder head studs pulling out because of differential expansion of the aluminium cylinders. Porsche later moved to a steel alloy called Dilavar, but this has proved brittle over the years, with SCs and 3.2-litre cars affected by the studs breaking. If the studs have been replaced things should be fi ne, but if the originals are still fi tted, expect problems when the engine comes to be rebuilt. To guard against future problems, Autofarm offers a dowelling service; see air_cooled/shuffl e_pinning for more. Within the period we’re covering, in theory it’s possible to fi t any engine to any car because the mounting points didn’t change across the various generations. It’s also possible to tune the powerplants in various ways, so it’s worth establishing exactly what’s nestling in the car’s rear end. Most US cars featured less powerfulengines than equivalent UK models, so expect an import to serve up a little less fun. There have been all sorts of detail changes to the suspension specifi cation over the years, with poverty-spec cars not usually getting an anti-roll bar while poshers editions did. Fitting an anti-roll bar to any 911 is worthwhile, particularly as modern tyres can’t give their best when the car is really leaning over.


It’s essential that you inspect lots of 911s before buying – which you must do from a reputable source. Asking prices are all over the place, while specifi cation, history and condition make a huge difference to values. As a rule of thumb, the impact-bumper cars are worth the least, and of the earlier models, it’s the T that’s the least valuable. The most valuable is the S, which leaves the E in the middle. The unloved but certainly ahead-of-its-time semi auto Sportomatic gearbox chips 20 per cent off the value while Targas are also worth around 10 per cent less than an equivalent coupé. Cabriolets are worth 10-15 per cent more than an equivalent coupé – but those are for poseurs only… You’ll need at least £7000 to buy a project 911SC or neglected early car, but you’ll need a lot of time, patience and expertise to revive it. You’re better off fi nding at least £13,000 for a reasonable T or SC, but if you want something tasty you’ll be doing well to spend less than £25,000 on a good Carrera 2.7 – which is the price of a really superb Turbo. If money really isn’t an issue, you could try fi nding an RS 2.7, but depending on which model you want, a running car will cost upwards of £50,000 – and possibly three times that for an exceptional Lightweight. Not so long ago the four-pot 912 used to be the passport to a Poker on a budget but now these models are starting to appreciate and £10,000 is about right for a good one. Left-hand drive cars can be good value but can suffer an image crisis (can’t you afford a UK car?) as well as unknown histories. Some specialists won’t touch left hookers either.

What To Look For

  • Early 911s rusted badly; it wasn’t until August 1975 that the bodyshells were galvanised. Even then, many early cars still corroded; the plating just slowed the rate of rusting. However, things got better; as the Seventies turned into the Eighties, the cars became much better rustproofed.
  • Many early Seventies cars suffered from undersealing lifting to allow the moisture in, with the metalwork then dissolving out of sight. Poorly repaired accident damage is also common. The result of these bodged repairs is often extensive corrosion – which isn’t always obvious.
  • Whatever the age of car, start by looking at the bulkheads at each end, as rust can spread from the base of the front and rear screens. If there’s any corrosion in these areas, you’re better off finding another car because the necessary repairs will be involved and very costly.
  • Early galvanised cars corrode where stone chips haven’t been attended to quickly; cracks also develop in the paint around areas such as the A-posts and anywhere that the car has been jacked up. If you’re lucky the corrosion will be no more than cosmetic, but there’s a good chance that some structural rust will be present – that’s why you must inspect the front fuel tank support, inner wings, sills plus A and B-posts.
  • Early 911s could corrode pretty much anywhere, and even relatively new cars, such as many from the 1980s, will have rusted unless they’ve been well looked after. You need to make sure that you take a look at the inner and outer wings, sills, battery boxes, floorpans and door bottoms – look for evidence of plating or fi lling. Also scrutinise the front crossmember, battery boxes, heater tubes and the windscreen surround – as well as the metal around the sunroof if there’s one fi tted.
  • You’re generally better off without a sunroof as they add weight and don’t work very well as they’re often unreliable and tend to add wind noise when open – they also remove valuable head room. If there is one fi tted, open it and look for evidence of corrosion around the edges; the drain tubes also tend to block up, leading to the screen pillars rusting from the inside out.
  • On impact-bumper 911s, check whether there are hydraulic rams behind the bumper, or crushable steel structures. The former tend to shrug off any minor knocks, while the latter squash, with the metal then corroding. Only some UK cars featured the rams, while US cars all had them; your best bet is to open the boot and see if the inner wings have started to rust, signalling that the steel has been crushed.
  • Check the state of the boot fl oor; a hefty crunch will have led to rippled panelwork. Finish off by looking at the fuel tank, which tends to rot underneath, leading to fuel leaks – a strong smell of petrol will soon give the game away.
  • All 911s have a flat-six engine, although a fl at-four has also been available in the same bodyshell; these cars are known as 912s, and they’re rare. Whichever generation of 911 you’re looking at, it’ll have an alloy cylinder block and alloy heads. Until 1969 there was an aluminium alloy block fi tted; this was then changed for a magnesium unit until the 3-litre cars came along in 1974 (Turbo) and 1975 (Carrera).
  • The 911’s flat-six is generally durable if maintained, but whether it’s thrashed or not it’ll wear out eventually. The fi rst sign of impending expenditure is (blue) oil smoke when the car is started up and on the over-run, signalling that the valve guides have worn out.
  • By the time the guides have worn the timing chain will also have seen better days, so listen for rattling when the engine is revved. There’s a better tensioning mechanism fi tted to post-1981 cars, while the post-1984 design is even better – which is why it’s often fi tted to earlier911s.
  • Low oil pressure isn’t necessarily a concern; the dash-mounted level gauge is only accurate at tickover once the engine is up to temperature, which is why it’s best to rely on the dipstick instead. Expect to see 45psi at 2500rpm and ask for evidence of the lubricant having been changed regularly, using high-quality materials. Also, because the sump holds 10-11 litres of oil, engine life is much extended by getting the engine up to temperature before revving it hard.
  • What’s of more concern than an apparently low oil pressure is any sign that the remote oil tank has rusted, as it could spell disaster. Once this steel tank has started to corrode, the debris fi nds its way into the engine, wrecking it by fi rst destroying the main bearings. That’s why the tank must be replaced with a stainless steel item as soon as there’s any sign of corrosion; repairs will lead to disaster.
  • There were three types of manual transmission fi tted across these various 911s, the fi rst type being fi tted to 2.0 and 2.2-litre cars. It’s generally tough, but it will wear out eventually, which is why you need to listen for worn bearings. It’s the intermediate gears that are affected the most, so listen for any whining, which will disappear when fourth is selected.
  • Between 1972 and 1985 there was a stronger gearbox fi tted, known as the 915 unit. Listen out for bearing wear and feel for baulking as you swap ratios. Whichever gearbox is fi tted, rebuilding it costs anywhere between £800 and £3,500, depending on what needs replacing. Reputable specialists will overhaul your own gearbox, replacing only what’s necessary, rather than offering an exchange unit that’s had everything done.
  • The gearbox fi tted to post-1986 911s is the strongest of the lot and unlikely to give any signifi cant problems. Called the G50, it’s very durable (and can be retrofi tted) but the linkages might be past their best by now, making gear selection diffi cult or at least unpleasant; a fresh set of bushes will usually work wonders and as 911 bits go, they aren’t expensive.
  • Clutches also got better engineered as time progressed; the post-1970 item was a big improvement over what had gone before. However, once again it’s the G50 clutch that’s the best of the lot – but whatever is fi tted, make sure it isn’t slipping because they all have a fi nite lifespan, which can be severely shortened with abuse.
  • As long as decent dampers are fi tted, any 911 should handle well; many owners take the Koni route but Bilsteins are favoured by most people who really know these cars. Look for evidence of perished bushes as the handling will be adversely affected without a doubt. If the bushes have perished it’s worth getting a fresh set fi tted; costs vary depending on which generation of 911 you’re looking at, but expect to pay around £1000 to have the work done – and on top of this you’ll need to pay for a geometry check, which could add another £500 to the bill.
  • Any car that’s been converted from left to right-hand drive should be avoided, even if it’s temptingly priced. There aren’t many such cars about, but there are some – and because the conversion is rarely done well you’re better off simply steering clear. As it were.
  • Although brake specifi cations evolved, there aren’t any weak spots as long as the car is used regularly and properly serviced. Cars that haven’t had enough use will probably be suffering from callipers that have seized up, while the rubber pipes and seals can disintegrate with age too. At least everything is available, but if the whole system needs a complete overhaul it’s going to be an expensive job…
  • There are all sorts of aftermarket wheels available for the 911, and if you’re not into originality, as long as what’s on there has the correct clearances there’s probably not much to worry about. However, you must ensure the tyres have a decent speed rating (VR or ZR). If you want original wheels you’ll need to look closely at what’s on the car because there’s a good chance some refurbishment will be needed. Fuchs alloys, seen as the most desirable 911wheels, are strong but can crack around the spokes if the car has been driven hard. If a complete overhaul of each wheel is required, Fuchs charges £300 to put each one right.
  • There have been huge numbers of trim changes over the years, with some bits now proving hard to fi nd. However, in general there shouldn’t be any issues with fi nding replacement parts as good used components are often available. Also, the trim is generally hardwearing so often survives well, but check that the seat bolsters haven’t frayed and worn through. Also make sure the door trims and carpets haven’t rotted – if they have, it suggests there are wider problems that need sorting.
  • Also make sure that the heating works, as the heat exchangers can prove problematic. They’re prone to corrosion, but it can smell oily inside, even when everything is in good condition. The heater controls can also seize up, while the semi-automatic system fi tted to the SC onwards (but not cabrios) can be temperamental.
  • When it comes to exterior trim there’s not much to worry about. Early (steel) rear-quarter bumpers can corrode, as can the aluminium impact bumpers, although at least in the latter case it’s only cosmetic. At least everything is available, with the exception of the horn grilles of the earliest cars – but just because it’s available it doesn’t mean it’s affordable…

Three Of A Kind

Aston Martin DBS
Aston Martin DBS
More of a grand tourer than a sports car like the 911, the DBS came initially with the DB4/5/6’s straight-six, before a V8 appeared in 1969. Luxurious and very costly to fully restore, DBS values have been climbing sharply over the past couple of years, so you’ll have to search hard to fi nd a really good car at a remotely affordable price – and even then, running costs will be high.
Jaguar XJ-S
Jaguar XJ-S
While the E-type was a sports car, its replacement was more of a grand tourer, although some variants are spor tier than others but in time there were more effi cient six-cylinder engines offered too. The XJ-S has long been something of an underdog, but 35 years after its introduction, enthusiasts are fi nally starting to appreciate its many talents. That said there’s many bangers about.
Lotus Esprit
Lotus Esprit
Always a sportscar rather than a cruiser, the Esprit grew ever more civilised over the years but it never lost its sporting edge. Early cars are best avoided because of their fragility and they’re not so great to drive; focus instead on the S3 onwards (from 1981), including the Turbo. The restyled Esprit from 1987 is even more usable and better built too – if not quite as characterful


Well, so long as you like them buy one! And with such a wide array of models over the years, you’ve got a lot of choices to make if you want a classic 911. What you can buy is usually dictated by your budget, but regardless of what you can afford, there are certain good value gems worth seeking out. You’d be surprised how easy and pleasing it is to work on a 911 yourself, too . Buy well and the costs, unlike the enjoyment, will be kept to a minimum.

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