Do you like the looks of the classic Porsche 911? If so, we have the car for you. Porsche’s iconic sports car has been in production since 1963, but by the late 80’s it was time to modernize the ancient suspension and make room for modern conveniences. The Porsche Type 964 is Porsche’s own designation for 911 models built between 1989 and 1994. They’ve been known to be temperamental and expensive to own, but those days are now behind us.
Welcome to the 90’s.
Rear engine rear wheel drive cars will always have tremendous grip due to the engine’s weight forcing the tires into the pavement. The tradeoff is that if you’re too coarse with your right foot, applying too much throttle will snap you into a drift so violent it would make Paul Walker soil his unmentionables.
In a game-changing move, the 964 was designed from the outset to be All Wheel Drive (AWD). By using four-channel anti-lock braking systems (ABS), which were new at the time, brakes and locking differentials, the 964 Carrera 4 normally split the engine’s power with a front to rear bias of 69/31%, respectively. This arrangement allows for more confident cornering and a much shorter stopping distance. All 1989 models were AWD, but to satisfy purists Porsche added a traditional rear-wheel drive only model in 1990.
This is why the 964 is a classic. You get modern engineering under the classic looks of the original 911.
Other improvements debuted on the 964 to make it more palatable for the masses. Automatic climate control, power steering, an optional “tiptronic” automatic transmission and the powered rear spoiler were among the most popular new features. The 964 is undeniably better than its predecessor, but all these new systems had teething issues and required more maintenance than owners were accustomed to. For instance, the brake system and the clutch shared a common reservoir which required a unique bleeding procedure and unique tools for the task.
Even with all the updates, Porsche chose to keep the engine air cooled. This kept weight down and the engine much less complex, but oil leaks came as a tradeoff. Porsche & VW air-cooled engines are notorious for oil leaks because the crankcase expands and contracts with each heat cycle. Because the oil endures hellish temperatures, massive heat exchangers were added behind the front bumper to keep temperatures down. The tradeoffs are in the complex plumbing needed to move the oil around the car. Porsche and the aftermarket have released newer style seals & gaskets that eliminate the leak-prone points of the car. This is why the 964 is a classic. You get modern engineering under the classic looks of the original 911.
Cars this old have probably had their bugs worked out and they are the most economical way to enter the 911 scene.
Now you have an understanding of how big a leap forward this model was for the 911. Now you want to buy one. Not so fast! Last week I told you about what to look for in a C3 Corvette, but a 964 is a much more complex vehicle. For instance, each cylinder has dual spark plugs, each powered by its own distributor. These distributors are linked by a rubber belt that is so minuscule, tweezers are required for removal.
In maintaining a 964, you must have the car inspected by a Porsche shop. The technicians will operate all systems and provide insights that can’t be found in books or online. Repairs can sometimes be pricey, but much cheaper than payments on a new car.
The 911 is now 50 years old, and the oldest 964s are approaching 25. Cars this old have probably had their bugs worked out and they are the most economical way to enter the 911 scene. At this point, these cars can only appreciate in value, so do your homework and find your 964!