Classic Cool: Porsche 964

Photograph Courtesy Porsche

Prices on air-cooled Porsches keep going up, up, up–and for valid reasons. These cars can gobble up a track day just as easily as they can handle the daily grind. Then there’s the long, enviable competition record.

And there’s one 911 subset that’s been lagging a tad pricewise: the 964 models available for the 1989-’94 model years. We’re seeing coupes sell via Bring a Trailer in the $40s which, let’s be honest, can easily be new SUV money these days.

The bulk of the collector market may overlook these models, but owners have been singing their praises for years–owners like Norman Garrett, design engineer for the original Miata. He’s on his fifth 911, a 1991 Carrera 4 Targa, and calls it his favorite one.

He sums up the 964 as commodious yet iconic. “If you ever want to use a 911 as a daily driver or on a 3-plus-hour trip, the 964 has just enough modern functionality to make it very livable and still retain classic 911 character,” he explains. “The 964 delivers the best overall experience of all the air-cooled 911 choices and never leaves you wishing you had ‘taken the other car.’”

He offers just one caution: “The most common phrase on the forums is ‘re-solder the circuit board,’ applying to just about every board in the car when someone brings up a problem.”

While the 964 looks like an update of the traditional 911 shape, much of it was new. Coil springs replaced the torsion bars, the pedals no longer hinged from the floor, and anti-lock brakes became standard. All-wheel drive was an option, leading to new model designations: Carrera 2 and Carrera 4.

More updates: Porsche punched the flat-six from 3.2 to 3.6 liters, boosting output to 247 horsepower. Road & Track recorded a 4.9-second zero-to-60 time with the 1989 Carrera 4. In the same issue, they posted a 5.1-second time in the much-heralded–and more complicated–outgoing Porsche 911 Turbo.

Some parting words from our Miata engineer: “These cars cost the equivalent of $180,000 in today’s dollars, and they were hand-built by skilled Germans.” In short, “a tremendous performance value that you can drive every day without regret or consequence.”

Practical Guidance

Our Expert

Lou Verdiales 
Aero Dynamics
(386) 304-0380

Thanks to the one-piece, energy-absorbing bumpers, damage can be hard to spot.

Be careful with cars from Northern climates; corrosion can damage many of the underbody components, like fluid lines and suspension parts.

Verify that the ABS, air bags and climate control are operational and have functional warning light annunciation. On these systems, some replacement parts are becoming difficult to find.

A common air-conditioning issue is a leaking evaporator. Check heat and defrost systems, too, as the electrical servo control can fail. The auxiliary blower on the upper-left part of the engine compartment should be operational; a failed motor can cause several issues in the HVAC system.

Many of the interior features are worth inspecting: power windows, sunroof, and cabrio top if equipped. Repairs to the convertible top can be expensive, so perform an operational check.

Inspect the retractable rear spoiler for both automatic and manual operation.

If applicable, check the all-wheel-drive system for normal operation. Parts for these systems are very difficult to find.

Perform a road test to confirm the brake and suspension systems, as worn-out components and improper alignment are common issues.

The seals in the chain housing area and the valve cover’s rubber gaskets are problem areas. I recommend draining the oil to inspect the drain plug magnets.

Check the cooling fan and housing, too, as these are magnesium and may need replacement because of corrosion and cracks.

Verify that the twin-distributor belt is operational and that the ventilation hose upgrade has been performed.

Inspect the exhaust system for condition and alterations, as any dents or deformations can be an indication of a rear-end impact.

Use either a Bosch “hammer” tool or a Durametric program with the supplied round adapter as diagnostic aids for these engines.

Recent Sale

None

1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Coupe

$46,250 via Bring a Trailer

  • 131,000 indicated miles
  • Top-end rebuild in 2003
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Comments
View comments on the GRM forums
GCrites80s
GCrites80s Reader
12/11/19 1:48 p.m.

The Market hated these cars 10-12 years ago.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/11/19 1:50 p.m.
GCrites80s said:

The Market hated these cars 10-12 years ago.

Yup. See also: Where is my time machine? 

docwyte
docwyte UberDork
12/11/19 2:48 p.m.

No kidding.  These go for more than a 993 now.

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