THE Porsche 911 is a super sports car that has been here since the 60s. It is the only sports car that has stood the test of time. What started out as a 130 hp sports car in 1963 is now a 560 hp monster of a sports car (for the most powerful variant, the Turbo) with the same configuration and basic shape as the original 911. From 1963 to 1997, the 911’s engine was air-cooled, but in 1998 Porsche decided to go water-cooled in the 911. The moved angered a lot of 911 enthusiasts as they felt that the air-cooled engine is the trademark of the 911 and it is blasphemy to make it water-cooled. Thus, the first generation of the water-cooled 911s was not so popular. However, the performance gains of a water-cooled engine cannot be ignored, and so the present 911s are as popular as ever.
The older air-cooled 911s are also as popular as ever. There are four major variants of the air-cooled Porsche 911s. We have the original 911 with the 930 for its turbo variant (sold from 1983 to 1989), the 964 (1989 to 1994) and the 993 (1993 to 1997). Market values of all of these variants are skyrocketing. There is such a demand for these old cars that in the last five years, some variants of the old air-cooled Porsches have more than doubled their value. It would even be difficult now to put a value on a pristine Turbo 993 variant of the 911.
This love for the 911s, especially the air-cooled ones have always confused me. I did not understand the fascination and the fanaticism of the enthusiasts. To me, the 911, especially the first variant from 1963 to 1989, was an overpriced glorified Volkswagen Beetle. It had a similar chassis and torsion bar suspension and the car just did not handle well.
In fact, the Turbo variant of the 911 was nicknamed the widow maker as it was so easy to crash that car. It looked like a primitive car compared to other sports cars especially in the 80s, where Porsche had the 944 and the 928, which were arguably the best engineered sports cars of the 80s. The 944 and the 928 have long been discontinued by Porsche, while the 911 is still getting more and more popular today.
I met a Porsche enthusiast, who is a pure petrol head and a car fanatic, in one of my tuning sessions outside of Cebu. This person is a collector of 911s and a lot of other cars, old and new. I said to him, the 911 has the engine at the back, which is the wrong place and ruins the balance of the car, and apart from the Turbo version, it is not really that fast of a car. So I asked him, what is with the old 911s that it has such a cult following? I got the perfect and most logical answer.
The Volkswagen Beetle DNA of the old 911s meant that it is a reliable, low maintenance sports car. While other sports cars can take you from point A to point B, the air-cooled 911 can take you from point A to point Z. You have a sports car that you know will always run. The engine being at the back, thereby making the 911 a not-so-well-balanced car, is also a good thing. While the 911 may not produce a lap time as quick as a mid-engined or front-engined cars on the track, the imbalance makes it more fun to drive on the road. The power of the 911(except for the Turbo) is just right to give the car some oversteer, and oversteer is fun. If he had to do a long drive like the Tour de Cebu, he continued to say that, no question he will bring his 911 as it would be the most reliable and most fun vintage car to drive car in a long distance.
Now I completely see why the Porsche 911s, especially the air-cooled ones, have such a following, such that demand for this vintage sports car has just been on the rise. The Porsche engineers found the perfect recipe, which is reliability, simplicity and fun.