I have driven hundreds of 911 3.2 and , one thing is certain. They all vary. I often read that you should buy one model or the other, but in my experience individual cars can vary so much that its unfair to say that one year is better than another.
Simply by the passage of time, use and maintenance each 911 will feel and perform differently.
These are fast becoming ‘classic’ cars – and rightly so. Yet this is a car that with a little bit of sympathy, one can use and enjoy daily.
Even though I drive all types and ages of modern 911, I still really enjoy a decent cross country drive in a 3.2. In no way is the performance and abilities of this car any embarrassment in today’s use.
You can feel the build quality as soon as you step into the cabin. Although the sparse facia, floor hinged pedals may seem strange compared to a modern car, after a few hours behind the wheel it will all start to slot into place.
Below picture of a beautiful 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Sport Coupe that I drove 2200km in three days from Portugal to the UK in November 2002. And I got paid to do it!
These are not cars that you can simply jump in and tear around like in some modern hot hatch. It takes a good while to begin to understand how to make the most of their abilities, how to maximise the performance and how very good these cars are at covering the miles.
Compared to a modern sports car they feel remarkably comfortable on the road. This is largely due to the smaller wheels, with taller tyres and more compliant suspension than later 911.
Turn the ignition key and it is immediately obvious that this is a ‘proper’ 911. Because it is air cooled (no water jacket to deaden sound) you hear this glorious, special, metallic noise coming from behind that’s unmistakeably Porsche.
The earlier models (1984 to 1986) all had a 915 type gearbox with reverse beneath 5th gear. There is no ‘spring loading’ to help ascertain between the 1st 2nd gear plane and the 3rd 4th gear so until you have a few miles under your belt the gearshift may seem a little uncertain. But persevere, take time with your shift, be positive. You must not rush through the gears, but keep gentle pressure on the lever until it snicks in place – hard to explain but easy with practise.
Later cars (1987 model to 1989) had an altogether easier to use gearbox (G50) type) with reverse beside 5th. The benefit is a stronger gearbox, capable of more misuse and easier to learn.
The later type is more valuable but in some ways I prefer the older models. Probably there is not much difference in performance but the 1984-86 models often seem to feel more vigorous, more responsive and probably were a little lighter too. With the later G50 type it added a little more weight and shifted more of the weight towards the rear.
Irrespective, if you find a good example of either type its a joy.
Cracking performance, with loads of torque from a beautiful sounding and super smooth motor. Surprising economy (due to tall gearing, low weight, small frontal area and low drag). There is no power steering and no abs brakes so all the skill is left with the driver. I like this, through the turns you can sense and feel everything the car does, the steering loads up and the faster you go the more physically demanding the steering becomes. The brakes are superb, of course you need some sensitivity in the wet, but the pedal has such great ‘fee’ that its easy to modulate the braking.
These are cars that reward a smooth, confident and skilled driver like few others. The flip side is that the clumsy or aggressive driver may find them a handful and would probably be better placed in a more modern car with more driver aids.
Go into the bends smoothly, get your braking done before you turn and gently squeeze the throttle at an earlier part of the turn, you will shoot out the turn with a smile on your face.
On a long distance these are pretty quiet and refined (if I have time I will post the story of my 2200km drive from Portugal to the U.K. in a 3.2). Top speed will be up towards 145mph – surely enough for most.
These cars feel so solid, so strong and unbreakable and to my mind are still superb to drive. No stress around town either, well maybe the clutch is a bit heavy and pas would be nice for parking.
All 911 of this age were built with galvanised bodies, very high quality components that ensure if you find a well kept example you can expect it to last and reward you.
Mechanically the cars were pretty simple, simple enough that a patient and thorough owner could maintain the car himself.
In all, if you are in the market for a special car, its unlikely that you would not enjoy owning one of these. Depreciation is slow, servicing not too bad, insurance low (with a classic car policy) and there are still some very good examples to be found.
Myth – every body you meet seems to have an opinion on the handling of a 911 ‘it goes off the road backwards’ is the usual one. It’s simply not accurate. Porsche are a very successful manufacturer – and successful racers. For years they have developed the 911 with the motor in the rear.
Driven skilfully these cars have very high performance levels, so for most ‘normal’ intelligent and mature drivers they are great. Of course with a big motor situated in the rear basic physics will eventually come in to play, so a 911 is not a car to take liberties with. Learn them gradually, learn how they best function, enjoy the challenge and the feeling of being connected directly to the machine. Ignore the bar stool experts.
Buying a used Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 ? I have written an e-book buyers guide specifically for Carrera 3.2 and Turbo 3.3 that will give you a really good head start before purchasing a used 911. And it could well save you a lot of time, grief and money.