Just looking by Peter Morgan / #Porsche-911-964
Author of 25 Porsche books, Peter has been involved with the brand for 35 years
It’s open season for the Porsche-964-RS , but Peter Morgan says buyers have to watch carefully for any sleight of hand by some sellers…
If I had to choose an ideal touring sports car, it wouldn’t be the 964 RS, by a long way. It’s harsh, the doors close with a clang, the seats are uncomfortable for long runs and it doesn’t have the visual elegance of the great Porsche tourers such as the 2.4S, the 993 S and the 981 Cayman S. But the 25-year-old RS is a peach to drive quickly and that alone makes it one of Porsche’s great 911s. When I was editor of the Porsche Club’s magazine Porsche Post, I recall my headline for the feature introducing the car back in 1991 read ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’.
But not many had that reaction. The discovery that this RS was indeed one of the Porsche family’s hidden gems took some time to register.
This really is the Porsche I wish I’d bought about 15 years ago when, battered and bruised from being thrashed around every piece of available asphalt in the land, they were there to be had for around £20k. But now, you’ll need at least £175k to start looking and another £50k to get a really nice one.
Today, the 964RS stock available to buyers is very limited – and often not very good. The serious attrition suffered by the original UK-delivered RHD cars (with option code C16) has meant far too few good cars are ever seen. Carefully kept cars with good provenance and no accident history are like gold dust. And on top, there has been uncontrolled immigration – particularly from Germany (C00) and Japan (C18) – frequently of cars that should have been written off long ago.
The repair quality ranges from very average to, in the case of many Japanese cars, very good. But the results are often not original or correct for the model. The result is that the UK market for these cars has become a minefield for buyers.
With any RS, the most important factor is authenticity and the originality of the car itself – this includes the panels, special components and everything down to the labels. Wear and tear isn’t so much of an issue as that can be fixed, it’s the fundamentals that are the key requirement.
A car that presents with dubious VIN markings is immediately flawed in the eyes of a careful buyer. In the worst cases it can suggest major repairs or even reshelling. This latter is where an original, usually wrecked, car is dismantled and all its usable parts are assembled onto a suitable donor shell. In these cases replacement of the stamped VIN, the adhesive labels and, if it is a good fake, the visible punched manufacturing panel numbers has to take place. Fortunately, with most ‘story’ cars (those that have a story to tell), just a close look at the VIN stamping is enough to give the car away, but this is an area where an expert is required. The easily observed panel numbers on the bonnet rear and engine lid front edge are just as revealing. We’ve seen an RS just recently that had suspect panel number stamps as well as an astonishingly inept VIN etching. The work could only have dated from the 1990s, when nobody really cared about maintaining the authenticity of a 964 RS.
The other useful tools when looking for a good car are a paint thickness gauge and a micrometre. The gauge should read ferrous and aluminium and show the difference between skim and deep filler. A replacement rear wing or quarter can be given away by filler lines, even when the repainting overspray has been carefully buffed away. Often, though, a good eye and running a finger along the roof gutters can reveal a great deal. The micrometre should be used to check the door window thickness of 3mm. A reshelled car I once saw still had the original ‘thick’ side glass from its donor Carrera (and a renumbered C2 engine!). It did drive very nicely, but should have been £130k less than was being asked!
Spotting a replacement engine can be difficult. Grinding off the number on the fan support and replacing it with another does reduce the ‘land’ on which the number resides. This is where a piece of tracing paper over the number can produce results, but an experienced eye can spot the reduced land and details like stamp weight.
Aside from the ‘73 RS (allegedly with more on the world’s roads now than were manufactured!), I believe the 964 RS has become the most widely replicated or misrepresented street Porsche around. And with serious buyers prepared to spend upwards of £200k on a genuine car and too few to choose from, this is a market that has the climate of a wild west town. Finding a good one isn’t easy. There is no secret formula to finding one, it’s all about patience, due diligence and luck – being in the right place at the right time.
“Useful tools when looking for a good car are a paint thickness gauge and a micrometre”