• SMILE FACTOR

    Our man reckons the #Porsche-911-Carrera-3.2 is the best classic #911 to have as a daily driver. Well he would do, he’s owned one for nine years. Words & photos: Paul Davies and KPB photography.

    My first #Porsche was a #Porsche-912 . You know, the 911 with the #356 engine that outsold the six-cylinder version in its first two years. Real classic, nicely balanced, performed a lot better than it did on paper, and – when I bought it back in #1989 – pretty cheap. But daily driver? No.

    On back roads it was fine, but motorway work had Fiestas roaring past, the drivers grinning mockingly, and getting it started was a matter of tickling the Solex carbs until the engine ran steady – although that might have been my particular car.

    So, I needed something a bit more, as they say, userfriendly; I reckon if I’m trolling around the country on Classic Porsche magazine business the least I can do is turn up in the right make of car. Also, wouldn’t it be nice to take the Porsche on the annual holiday run to northern Spain, without holding up 2CVs on the back roads of France?

    The question was how to replace the 912. An early 911, even way back in 2006, looked pricey and a bit too precious. I looked at a nice #1976 Carrera 3.0 but it was expensive, and the later SC at that time was a no-no in the credibility stakes – although it’s getting up there now with the best. The Carrera 3.2, manufactured from 1984 to 1989, seemed a no-brainer.

    I always like to bring my long-time co-driver (Mrs D, that is) into car buying decisions. Then, if it all goes horribly wrong, it can’t all be my fault. Driving early cars – like the Carrera 3.0 and the #Porsche-911SC – revealed a couple of basic problems in the daily driving department, namely the agricultural feel encountered with cog-swapping through the 915 gearbox, plus the amount of leg muscle required to depress the cable-operated clutch.

    The revised #Carrera 3.2, built from #1987 model year with hydraulic clutch and easy-shifting G50 gearbox made by #Borg-Warner , was the answer. Eventually I found one, a two-owner Targa that passed muster, for sale with Coventry specialists PCT, or at least Autobahn as the sales outlet then was. A deal was done, which even included a six-month warranty, and I drove off. On the M5 motorway, the fresh air blower running at full blast to counter a stinking hot summer day expired in a cloud of smoke and the acrid smell of a burnt-out electric motor!

    To be fair, PCT replaced the unit straight away – and also re-fitted the rear anti-roll bar which had been knocking on the transmission casing because, at some stage in its life, it had been fitted upside down. From then forward I can report the Carrera 3.2 has proved a worthy buy. Yes, I’ve had a few problems – in general just what you would expect with an ageing Porsche – and consequently have spent money to keep it up to scratch through the 48,000 miles it’s covered so far.

    But it’s been worthwhile. The family #BMW 3-series is a very good car, which is what you would expect, but get in the Porsche and you only have to go a couple of miles down the road before the smile factor sets in.

    Driving the Carrera 3.2 is like driving a modern car without the bad bits. The non-assisted steering is heavy on parking because of the 205-profile front tyres, but once you’re on the move it has a precise feel that’s hard to match with a modern – especially those with electric PAS. The suspension – still torsion bars, of course – is firm, but you truly feel connected with what’s happening. Yes, the brakes are borderline if you’re cracking on, and they do need to be kept in top condition.

    The engine, that’s the gem. This, you need to understand, is to my mind the ultimate expression of the original #Porsche-911 air-cooled flat-six. It’s not the final configuration but it retains the attribute of the original Porsche concept of ‘less is more’, with just about the right amount of modern technology. The #964 and the #993 that followed were also air-cooled, but much revised and not necessarily better.

    In 1984, when the 3.2 first appeared, Porsche was seriously getting to grips with clean air legislation, especially in the USA, and that’s one of the good things about the 3.2 motor. The company’s first stab at electronic management, via the Bosch Motronic system, for the first time accurately controlled fuel flow relative to such things as throttle position, engine and ambient temperature, and ignition. The end result is a superflexible engine that delivers fuel economy which owners of carburetted or MFI-equipped cars will die for. On those long trips to Spain and back I’ve taken the trouble to do long-term fuel checks, and 27mpg overall is the result. Not bad, I reckon.

    I can’t fault the way my Carrera 3.2 drives, although I’m conscious of the fact it’s still on its original dampers. I’ve fitted Super Pro synthetic bushes to the front suspension (back end coming soon) but I think a set of new Bilsteins, or similar, would be the icing on the cake. Even so, it’s a good top-gear motorway cruiser (bit of wind rush from the Targa top over 80mph) and on back roads third gear seems to be the place to be, the super torque of the engine taking you from almost nothing to well over the legal limit. Smile factor again.

    Inevitably we get the big question. No-one, well not me anyway, said Porsche ownership was cheap (in fact if you think that way, don’t buy one), but although there is most definitely a constant cost factor involved, you’ll come out smiling just as long as you keep on top of things. Francis Tuthill (who’s built more rally Porsche than most) once told me – talking about the 912 actually, but the same implies – that the best way to deal with Porsche ownership was to drive it, enjoy it, and fix it when it breaks.

    That’s not to say you don’t indulge in regular maintenance, I think Francis was referring to not being dragged down the full restoration route. I’ve had it fixed if it broke, changed the oil, spark plugs and things like that and had the bodywork attended to when rust threatened.

    Before I bought the car, at 55,000 miles, it had had an engine rebuild after the oil pump failed (don’t know why) but during my ownership, from 62k and nine years, I’ve spent just over £10,000, excluding tax, insurance and fuel. Biggest expenses? A year into ownership, Gantspeed took a good look and replaced the clutch, updated the clutch-release mechanism, rebuilt the rear brakes and suspension, and gave the engine the ‘works’ (£3,500). PCT fitted a new dry-sump tank (new one from Autofarm £500) when the original leaked, and also fitted a stainless-steel pre-silencer (both jobs £1400).

    Jaz (I spread my favours) did a mega-service and fettle before one of my Spanish trips that totalled £1200 and included new handbrake cables, a wheel bearing, driveshaft seal, and electric motor for the driver’s seat height adjustment. Recent work at Specialist Vehicle Preparations has included replacing a broken suspension arm, those Super Pro bushes, and new front brake calipers, all for around £1,800.

    Attention to rusty bits has so far totalled £1500, but I know there’s another (bigger) job on the way before long: tyres, I’ve replaced six (excellent) Avons during the time at a cost of around £550 but I’m due for a new set before I do much mileage this year.

    That’s it really. It may sound a lot but add the costs to what I paid for the car back in 2006 (£12,000) and then take a look at the current sale prices for late-model Carrera 3.2s. I reckon I’m breaking even – and I’ve had a lot of smiles on the way.

    Finally, that Targa top. I know everybody thinks they’re for sissies and not the true 911 look, but it’s highly practical for a car that doesn’t have air-con (of course not!) and anyway the co-driver likes it. I drove a Cayman recently – you know, the Boxster with a roof for grown-ups – and I have to admit it was mind-blowing, especially in the handling department. But, hey, it’s already on the downward spiral of depreciation that modern, mass produced Porsches suffer. I couldn’t be that daft could I?
    • Porsche bb 911 Turbo Targa - I must say I found Retro #Porsche : Part II to be an absolutely brilliant bookazine – it provides a lot of history. IPorsche bb 911 Turbo Targa - I must say I found Retro #Porsche : Part II to be an absolutely brilliant bookazine – it provides a lot of history. I own a 1976 Slant Nose 911, so I’m curious about them, particularly the period modified versions from German tuning houses like Rinspeed and bb, so I particularly enjoyed the bb 911 Turbo Targa feature.

      I wondered where the initial idea for the bb-style 911, adapting a #Porsche-911 to look like a #Porsche-928 and #Porsche-959 , came from, as you don’t see a great deal of them around anymore. God only knows who modified these cars in the Eighties – like the article’s author I ran into brick walls everywhere during my own research on the cars, and I eventually gave up looking.

      Not a lot of people have time for Rainer Buchmann’s creations, but it was good to see this car. It certainly wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but cars like this are still a part of Porsche history, even in a small way.
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