In September 1988, almost 25 years to the day after the presentation of the 1st generation of the 911, Porsche presented to the public its new “vision” of its bestseller, code named the Typ 964. Stupor amongst allPorschists: the newcomer, visually close enough to its predecessor, was revolutionary because of its permanent all-wheel drive ‘Carrera 4’. Purists would be reassured one year later with a ‘rear wheels only’ version. Here is the little unknown story of this misunderstood and often maligned 911.
From its very beginnings in 1963, the 911 had generally remained true to itself, evolving regularly in small doses to become the German benchmark for sportcars. Ok, it was not the perfect sportscar, in the true sense of the term. But it was the one that became the reference point, the one that everything else was measured against, the one that gave the most pleasure for the lowest price, in fact a perfect compromise between performance, handling and reliability. With the arrival of the 964 however everything changed.
The 964 marks actually a milestone in Porsche history, far more than you might think. Admittedly, the 993 inaugurated a frankly more innovative design in 1994 (which also holds the claim of being the last air-cooled 911). Yet the 964 carried Porsche much more definitively into the modern era. On the one hand, these German sports coupés went electronic, like never before seen, and on the second hand, they introduced the all-wheel drive, as well as the optional Tiptronic gearbox (fully-automatic or semi-automatic).
At the 1988 Paris Salon, it was the Carrera 4 first presented (and offered for sale). Purists wereunderstandably surprised by this choice, but the time had come for Porsche to gain a new clientele, larger, less restrictive, and perhaps less sensitive to the driving experience of the past. The all-wheel drive certainly put the Carrera 4’s level of performance below that of the Carrera 2 (especially due to its overweight), but that was only really distinguishable for the most advanced drivers. For Porsche’s average customers, the Carrera 4’s handling proved to be an extra reassurance while having fun behind the wheel.
From 4 to 2 wheel drive
Of course, they didn’t forget the purists, with the introduction of the Carrera 2 in 1989 followed by the Turbo version that appeared in 1990, both of which were pure propulsion. Whether in C2 or C4 form, the 964 came with the optional Targa version (which was the last true Targa until the 991 re-introduced it in 2011), also a convertible option, and finally even a stripped-down and lightened Speedster version (today extremely rare). It would also have a Turbo version (3.3 and 3.6 litre), as well as a sports variant called the ‘RS’. Porsche had something for really everyone.
Despite a design very close to the previous generation (Typ G), the 964 was made 87% of all new parts. Its detractors tried to say that only the bumpers had changed. But as we can see, this was not the case. Even the Flat Six grew to 3.6 litres, producing 250 horsepower, a significant increase. The manual gearbox (G54) was also a profound improvement from the previous G50. All of the body parts had been redesigned well beyond what the eye could see.
Enjoy the aura of the 959
The marketing team at Porsche sought to take full advantage of the state-of-the-art technology image provided by the fabulous 959. The contribution of all-wheel drive was also in tune with the times. Unfortunately, the massive arrival of electronics came to undermine Porsche’s reputation for reliability, with a series of (serious) concerns during the early years of the model run. These problems hurt initially the 964’s reputation, but once corrected and reliable restored, it offered the best of both worlds, the Porsche of old and of new.
The model’s production ran only from the end of 1988 through 1994, when it gave way to the further developed993, encompassing a more advanced design. The 964 found 63,762 takers during its 5 years of production despite everything, continuing much along the same line in volume of sales as the Typ G. It had been a laggard in the collector’s market for a long time. Today however, with the explosion in prices for anything‘Porsche’, the 964 is once again gaining acclaim. It must be said that it represents the latest evolution of the original design, which makes it particularly desirable.
Translation credit : Daniel Patrick Brooks