Porsche 959 parked in the desert

Porsche 959 | Cars that were ahead of their time

Porsche 959 | Cars that were ahead of their time

In the manufacturer’s own retrospective story, the occasion of this car’s reveal is described as ‘the moment when the future becomes the present’. The marque and car could be none other than Porsche and the 959. Perhaps the ultimate car ahead of its time, it could earn pride of place as the star of one of these pieces for any number of reasons.

As such, we can’t really single out any one of its innovations for fear of doing the car’s significance a disservice. As does, in a weird way, talking about the 959 in a way that weds it to its proposed racing cousins, as you would the 911 GT1 Straßenversion. It was after all first envisioned as a Group B rally car, albeit one intended to fast-forward technological developments for road cars. So we won’t, on both counts.

Sequential turbocharging

With all that established, let’s begin at the heart of the beast, with its 450PS (331kW) 2.8-litre twin-turbocharged flat-six engine, which was a refinement of the part-water-cooled mills first seen in Porsche’s Group C sportscars. In the 959 however, those turbochargers were for the first time not identical. One was small and one was large, and they would come on song in sequence rather than in parallel, hence the ‘sequential’ nomenclature. That means instead of a big slug of power and torque coming on all at once higher up in the revs, the engine’s power band is more progressive and accessible for more of the time.

Revolutionary, really, next to the Ferrari F40 whose engine lay largely impotent below 4,500rpm, lighting up like a self-sustaining nuclear reaction beyond, very quickly demanding that the driver snatch another gear. The more powerful 959S reduced weight by trimming certain tech and creature comforts, while adding bigger turbochargers for 515PS (379kW) and a verified 211mph top speed.

All-wheel-drive and adjustable suspension

As those who have driven an F40 – or indeed any heavily turbocharged car – will know, getting such a dollop of power in its entirety onto the road via the rear wheels alone is all but an impossibility. Latent performance potential more often than not quite literally goes up in smoke. Not only is the 959 more progressive in its delivery, for less of a ‘shock’ to the tyres, more tyres are receiving the power in the first place.

Thanks to Porsche’s radical Porsche-Steuer Kupplung (PSK) all-wheel-drive system, an iteration of the kind of systems first used by Audi, the 959 delivered a new kind of versatility and all-weather capability to the supercar space. To maximise traction and reduce understeer, the system could send as much as 80 per cent of power to the engine-weighted rear wheels. That split was handled by a clutch with six pairs of friction plates, each with hydraulic actuation and independent computer control.

Helping keep the car stable at high speed was the ride height-adjustable suspension, that could vary from 12mm to 18mm. These changes would occur either automatically, dependent on circumstance, or could be manually selected and were handled by a damper on each corner of the car. It was joined by a second damper and electric motor, which could control suspension damping stiffness across three settings.

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Dashboard and tyre pressure monitoring

As well as feeling the PSK system’s good work through the car’s dynamics, you could literally see it. The car featured advanced gauges displaying exactly what the rear differential was doing and how much power was being sent to the front axle in real time.

You could also monitor the air pressure in your tyres for the first time in any road car. Yes, the 959 was the first car to have a tyre pressure monitoring system, with the hollow wheels housing sensors to deliver real-time pressure data.

All of these are features that are widespread in performance cars today. There are very few fast cars out there that can’t micromanage their own turbochargers and power bands, that can’t show – and give you the option to adjust – exactly what your driven wheels and suspension are doing at any one time.

So that makes it important to give the 1985-1986 arrival of the 959 some context. The marketplace at the time consisted of the 12-year-old Lamborghini Countach – which had only recently shod its 22-year-old V12 with fuel injection – and the also barely fuel-injected, de Dion-suspended Aston Martin Vantage. It also arrived just ahead of the thrilling yet glue-smelling Ferrari F40 with its aforementioned North-face-of-Everest power band.

The 959 in this landscape was an all-wheel-drive, kevlar-bodied, computer-controlled, sequentially-turbocharged adjustably-suspended technological tour de force. That tech baron and Microsoft founder Bill Gates took it upon himself to convince the US government to create the ‘show and display’ law just so he could have and use one probably says all you need to know. It’s arguably genesis for the physics-defiant generation of tech-laden supercars that remains at the peak of its powers today. A generation that didn’t really hit its own stride until some two decades after the 959’s arrival.

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Porsche 911 996 front exterior

Porsche 911 (996)

BUYER’S GUIDE

Porsche 911 (996) Review

Every 911 generation has its day and that moment may be coming at last for the unfairly maligned 996…

What Is It?

The moment the Porsche 911’s evolutionary curve suddenly steepened, and a dramatic departure from what went before in terms of both looks and engineering. Smoother, longer, wider and sleeker, it didn’t help the doubters that the 993 it replaced is, to many, the perfect intersection of 911 tradition and modernity.

A shared face with the baby Boxster, those ‘melted’ headlights, the frameless doors and more were certainly a shock to the system, the water-cooled engine likewise. But it’s still a Porsche 911. And while it’s taken the best part of quarter of a century for the shock to wear off the 996’s time may finally have come, with the window of opportunity to bag a good one while still relatively affordable narrowing by the day.

Corrosive Areas

Inner door catch body mounts

Rear inner wings and arches

Front edge of sills

Checklist

  • 996 Carrera 2 revealed at the 1997 Frankfurt show with an all-new platform and 3.4-litre, 300PS (221kW) liquid-cooled flat-six
  • Early cars with orange indicator lenses and cable-throttles (rather than by-wire) now desirable among discerning 996 buyers
  • All-wheel-drive Carrera 4 launched in 1998, with cabriolet following soon after
  • GT3 introduced in 1999 for 2000 model year with high-revving, motorsport derived ‘Mezger’ 3.6-litre engine and fixed rear wing
  • Found a suspiciously cheap GT3? It’s probably a Carrera with the optional Aerokit…
  • Second-generation GT3 from 2003, distinguished by flat-topped rear wing; more extreme RS obvious for blue or red on white graphics and colour-matched wheels
  • Turbo launched in 2000 with wide body, deployable spoiler, all-wheel drive, manual or Tiptronic transmission and coupe or cabriolet bodies
  • Original Turbo had 420PS (309kW), optional performance kit took this to 450PS (331kW)
  • Turbocharged GT2 based on Turbo but with rear-wheel drive and no driver aids; first batch produced in 2001 with 462PS (340kW) followed by another in 2003 with 483PS (355kW) and thumping 640Nm (472lb ft); both rare
  • PCCB ceramic brakes standard on GT2, optional on the Turbo and obvious by the yellow calipers; desirable for pose value but expensive to replace and many hard drivers prefer stock brakes
  • Wide-ranging update introduced in 2001 for 2002 model year with new lights, sharper front bumper and an increase to 3.6 litres on Carrera models; glass-hatched Targa introduced
  • M030 sports suspension excites many purists, though some consider it excessively harsh for road use
  • Galvanised body resists rust so any obvious corrosion could be a sign of crash damage – check for under carpets in nose compartment for tell-tale signs of repairs to front chassis members and for overspray on window seals
  • Door catch mounts on body one known rust spot, ditto dirt traps behind plastic rear arch liners and leading edges of sills exposed to stone chips from front tyres
  • Bumper mounted radiators and air-con condensers vulnerable to stone damage and corrosion if clogged with leaves and other debris, as is common
  • Rear Main Seal (or RMS) on crankshaft an oft-discussed weakness but if not leaking excessively (or already replaced) can be left until other engine-out jobs like clutch replacement
  • Weak Intermediate Shaft (IMS) bearing another much talked about issue and can wreck engine if not caught but specialists know the warning signs and most cars will by now have upgraded replacements – check history for proof
  • Crumbling cylinder liners on 3.4s and bore score on 3.6s the final known engine issue – it’s less common than thought but if not already done a pre-purchase borescope inspection can set mind at ease
  • Many cars will have been through a succession of short-term owners, who may or may not have kept up with maintenance – whatever the quantity of names on the V5, a fully documented service history with respected specialists is worth its weight in gold
  • Tiptronic autos cheaper to buy on account of being less popular so could be a bargain, though the rest of the running costs won’t be any less and they’re sluggish compared with modern PDKs
  • Handling should be crisp and precise – if it’s not then worn suspension bushings or parts like ‘coffin arm’ lower links may need replacing; this otherwise straightforward job can be made more difficult if bolts and fixings have rusted and seized

How does it drive?

The looks and engineering may have been a huge step but the 996 is still, unmistakeably, a 911 to drive. Feel to the surprisingly large steering wheel is light but a lesson in perfectly weighted assistance and feedback, Porsche’s signature attention to detail apparent in the harmonised response in pedals and shifter alike.

Best appreciated in ‘basic’ rear-wheel-drive manual Carrera form, the 996 is refreshingly delicate and light on its feet compared to newer 911s while still modern in feel but with that traditional light-nosed balance. As always the secret is to manage corner entry speed in the first instance, wait for the front axle to bite and then enjoy the rear digging in as you introduce the throttle.

All-wheel-drive Carrera 4s have greater wet weather traction, Turbos more of everything (a lot more) and each their fans but the extra horsepower and rubber arguably just put more distance between you and the fundamental joy of a well-sorted Carrera 2.

 What’s good?

See above for starters! The 996’s break from 911s of old may have dismayed traditionalists but as a liveable modern classic it’s a perfect blend of practicality, usability and fun, with welcome extra space inside and more conventional controls.

Refined on a cruise, entertaining on a blast and with that ever-present flat-six howl behind you it’s a Porsche you can enjoy with a clean conscience, the vast and knowledgeable community of specialists geared up to support you every step of the way whether you want to keep it stock or enjoy the interchangeability of parts and tuning potential to spice things up.

All things relative it’s still reasonably affordable as well, and while supplies of good ones are drying up and driving prices with them, the ongoing desirability of its 997 successor should – hopefully – keep a ceiling on values.

What’s bad?

The looks get better with age and the driving experience is brilliant but there’s no escaping the 996 will always be the ugly duckling of the 911 lineage. That swoopy ‘90s interior hasn’t dated so well either, and the quality of some of the fixtures and fittings is undeniably cheaper than what came before and followed.

Affordability is a double-edged sword as well, and while desirability is increasing many cars will have been through the hands of multiple owners more interested in ticking the Porsche ownership box than proper maintenance. You’ll have to wade through a lot of Tiptronics, Targas and cabrios to find the kind of 996 you’d really want to own as well, and accept the promise of a ‘cheap’ 911 becomes more fleeting as you hone your selection.

Some well-documented mechanical foibles like the intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing and scored cylinder bores will always cast a shadow over the 996 as well, even if most surviving cars will, by now, have had them addressed.

Which model to choose?

Money no object it would have to be a GT3 or GT3 RS for the thrilling blend of howling race engine, sharper handling and track-based cred, or a GT2 for rarity and the sheer intimidation factor. Turbos, meanwhile, offer a very different flavour of performance that appeals for the still formidable thrust, all-weather usability and more in the way of creature comforts and luxury. Though it comes at extra cost and complexity.

Carrera 4s have their fans, the Turbo-bodied C4S with its signature full-width rear lights especially popular. Cabrios, Targas and Tiptronics offer an affordable entry point to 911 ownership, though running costs will be the same so it may prove a false economy. Leading, inexorably, to the purest and most desirable 996 of the lot – a base-spec Carrera 2 with a manual gearbox.

Our money? It would be on one of the earliest 3.4s, with the original orange indicators and cable throttle, though any rear-driven stickshift coupe would do nicely.   

Specifications – 996 Carrera 2 Coupe

Engine

3.4-litre six-cylinder petrol

Power

300PS (221kW) @ 6,800rpm

Torque

350Nm (258lb ft) @ 4,600rpm

Transmission

Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,320kg

0-62mph

5.2 seconds

Top speed

174mph

Production dates

1998-2005 (all variants)

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Porsche Boxster 987 front exterior

Porsche Boxster (987)

BUYER’S GUIDE

Porsche Boxster (987) review

Sharper looks, more power and stronger engines make the second-generation Boxster a modern-classic Porsche for switched-on buyers…

What Is It?

Inspired by Porsche’s 1948 356 ‘No. 1’ Roadster and the 1950s 550 and 718 racing cars, the original 986-generation Boxster launched in 1996 and was an instant hit for its combination of 911 engineering, mid-engined handling and relative affordability.

The 987 that replaced it in 2004 is the car we’re looking at here and, arguably, the sweet spot in the Boxster story, given it stayed true to the formula but updated it with more performance, improved driveability and some major reliability issues addressed. Purists will also appreciate it’s the last Boxster with more natural feeling hydraulically assisted steering, the 981 and four-cylinder 718s that followed it perhaps lacking that final per cent of connection.

Alongside new tech like PASM adjustable dampers and ceramic brakes – not to mention some very appealing limited editions – the 987 generation also saw the introduction of Porsche’s double-clutch PDK transmission, and with it an automatic option able to do justice to the car’s fabulous handling and performance.

Checklist

  • There are three main engine generations to consider: launch models featuring improved versions of the 2.7 and 3.2-litre motors from the previous 986 Boxster and Boxster S; these were updated in 2006 with the 3.2 going to 3.4 and the introduction of VarioCam Plus for a small increase in power in both; the bigger change came in the 2009 model year with the new 2.9 and 3.4-litre direct-injection engines and PDK gearbox
  • A five-speed manual gearbox featured on early Boxsters but most were sold with the optional six-speed that was standard on the S
  • Pre-PDK the automatic option was the more traditional Tiptronic S; given it adds quite a bit of weight and blunts the edge of the power delivery it’s probably the least appealing 987 configuration, but if you want a two-pedal car that relative lack of desirability could play in your favour in price terms
  • Bearing failure for the RMS (Rear Main Seal) and IMS (Intermediate Shaft) are well-documented worries on Porsches of this era; while potentially something to consider on early 987s in reality it’s much less of a worry given any post-2006 cars will have the updates introduced to cure the issues and later direct-injection cars aren’t affected
  • Also much discussed, bore score is less common than many would have you believe but if present can manifest as low oil, a rattle at tickover, smoke or excessive soot on the exhaust tips – if you have any doubts Porsche specialists will be able to perform an endoscope inspection of the cylinders for full peace of mind
  • The radiator and air conditioning condensers are in a vulnerable position in the lower front bumper; corrosion can appear behind leaf mulch and other debris if not cleared out regularly while stone chips can also cause leaks – check the air con works properly as it’s an expensive fix
  • Check roof drain holes aren’t blocked and there’s no dampness behind the seats or on the carpets – water build-up can result in expensive electrical issues
  • Broken springs aren’t unusual so check the car sits level and there are no bangs or rattles from the suspension while on the test drive
  • Bushing and suspension joints can also wear – a Boxster should drive with the precision you’d expect of a Porsche so sloppiness or clonks could hint at worn parts
  • Alignment is also important for handling and tyre wear – check the inside edges of the rubber if possible
  • Corrosion shouldn’t be an issue but high-mileage cars will likely have had front end resprays to repair stone chip damage, while any hint of rust on panels could suggest accident damage and a poor repair
  • Kerbed wheels aren’t just ugly and indicative of a hard life – if left unrepaired they can lead to corrosion and deeper damage

How does it drive?

As brilliantly as you would hope. While the 911’s inherent handling quirks are uniquely rewarding in the right hands the Boxster is a fundamentally better-balanced car, with all the expected Porsche traits like lovely steering feel, strong brakes and brilliantly harmonised controls.

All the engines share the same character as well, natural smoothness and that gorgeous flat-six howl key to the experience. In traditional naturally-aspirated style they need revs to perform their best, with a decisive shift around 4,000rpm beyond which they really take off and pull hard all the way to the redline. S models are faster and more flexible from low revs, and some consider standard Boxsters to be a little underpowered. It’s more down to taste, though, and others prefer the revviness of the smaller engines and invitation to work them a little harder for the same thrills.

Adjustable PASM suspension was a popular upgrade and offers a stiffer setting for track or really pressing on but any Boxster should handle sharply. The smaller wheels are less fashionable but better for ride quality.

 What’s good?

Given you’re getting 911 engineering at a much more affordable price the Boxster has always felt a bit of a steal, the lack of rear seats compensated for by dual luggage compartments and surprising practicality. So, you won’t have to pack light for that extended European road trip.

Excellent refinement means the boring motorway miles will fly by in comfort as well, the ability to drop the roof and let rip once you’re at the more interesting roads meaning it’s really all the sportscar you need. The 987 feels brilliantly engineered as well, with the high-quality vibe you’d hope for from a Porsche. As accommodating of less confident drivers as it is rewarding for experienced ones, the Boxster also has a huge bandwidth of ability that makes it just as viable as a daily as it is a weekend plaything.

All are good but by the time you get to post-2009 S models with 300PS-plus, 0-62mph in about five seconds and a top speed of 170mph you have to question just how much more performance you need to get your pulse racing.  

What’s bad?

While many of the potentially scary mechanical problems afflicting other Porsches of this era were addressed for the 987 you need to buy a Boxster with realistic expectations for upkeep. These are, after all, precision instruments that flourish with the proper care but can throw up issues if neglected. So, when buying scrutinise both condition and history with due care and attention, and if neither add up move on to the next one.

There are plenty to choose from, so you can afford to be fussy. Common issues to be aware of include faulty air conditioning due to blocked or damaged condensers (their position in the front bumper leaves them vulnerable), which is an expensive fix. Tyres and suspension need staying on top of if the car is to perform as it should, but not all owners will have bothered and rattly bushings and broken springs aren’t unusual.

Blocked hood drains can cause expensive electrical issues and clutch changes (beware noisy gearboxes or stiff shifting) are costly but do provide opportunity to check and replace the RMS and the IMS bearing if it’s a pre-2006 car where either could yet be an issue.

Which model to choose?

While there are no bad choices in the 987 Boxster range we’d probably avoid Tiptronic autos, on the basis they feel somewhat sluggish and the performance takes a big hit. Good news? If you want an automatic car the later PDK is excellent, with smooth, fast shifts and no apologies necessary for choosing a two-pedal Porsche.

Saying that, a manual would always be the first choice, given it really dials you into the car and is a delight to use. Over-long gearing is the only real issue here. While pre-2009 cars are great the later direct-injection models are faster, revvier and more robust. A base spec Boxster 2.9 manual would be lovely, a 3.4 S both faster and more flexible.

The ultimate? That has to be the rare-groove Boxster Spyder launched in 2010. Its ‘shower cap’ roof is a limitation but, stripped of 80kg, with power boosted to 320PS (235kW), a standard limited-slip diff and that chop top styling it’s a truly special thing and, arguably, one of the best street cars Porsche has built in living memory. 911 GT3s included. Don’t worry if you can’t stretch to one though – a well-specced S may be less exotic but is pretty much as fun to drive.

Specifications – 987 Boxster S gen two

Engine

3.4-litre six-cylinder, petrol

Power

310PS (228kW) @7,200rpm

Torque

360Nm (265lb ft) @4,750rpm

Transmission

Six-speed manual/seven-speed PDK dual-clutch, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,355kg DIN

0-62mph

5.3 seconds (PDK 5.2 seconds)

Top speed

170mph (PDK 169mph)

Production dates

2004-2011 (entire production run)

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Porsche 928 front exterior

Porsche 928 | Alternative Classics

Porsche 928 | Alternative Classics

If you’re in the market for a classic Porsche, the list of models you’re looking for likely begins and ends with the 911.

Its iconic looks and unique rear-engine handling have made it an all-time classic, with residuals to match, but it wasn’t always like this; back in the ‘70s, its dated design and widowmaker reputation had Porsche eyeing a replacement.

It was called the Porsche 928, and as a front-engined V8 hatchback with electric pop-up headlights, it couldn’t have been more different to its famous sibling. History, of course, tells us the 928 wasn’t the replacement Porsche intended it to be, but its less-than-iconic status means it’s at least affordable for mere mortals and, as the Nardone Automotive resto-mod proves, there is still a lot of love for the big V8.

And you don’t need to do too much digging to understand why. Its lusty V8 engine and aerodynamic shape were enough to bag the 928 the car of the year acolade in 1978 – a rare honour for a GT – and even now it’s hard to believe it comes from the same era as a late Jaguar E-Type.

Even direct rivals like the Mercedes SEC, E24 BMW 6 Series and Jaguar XJS look dated in the 928’s presence thanks to its integrated bumpers (which could withstand 5mph impacts undamaged) and teardrop hatchback boot.

Porsche wasn’t happy leaving the 928 as it was, and there were steady improvements throughout its life. The 928 S joined the standard V8 in 1979, while the S2 came on stream in 1983, replaced by the 5.0-litre quad-cam S4 in 1986.

GT and GTS models followed, in 1989 and 1991, respectively, the latter packing a 350PS (257kW) 5.4-litre V8 that feels quick to this day. This constant evolution means the earliest 928s compared to later versions are chalk and cheese.

Porsche 928: Why buy one?

The Porsche 928 combines the long legs of a GT car with the balance and forgiving handling of a rear-wheel-drive transaxle sportscar with a bonnet, doors and wings made from aluminium. It’s a balance few cars get right, as a browse through most of Aston Martin’s recent back catalogue proves.

Even the original 928 with a 4.5-litre V8 hunting out a modest-by-modern standards 240PS (177kW) demonstrates remarkable flexibility. At the same time, performance of 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and a top speed of 142mph means it can show a clean pair of heels to something more modern like the Toyota GT86.

Even these early cars have excellent traction and, although ABS wasn’t offered on the 928 until 1983, becoming standard with the S4 onwards, ventilated brake discs all around translate to modern stoppings. The three-speed, Mercedes-derived automatic gearbox meanwhile is best avoided.

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

The original model laid a solid foundation that the 928S could build on. With 288PS (212kW) from its 4.7-litre V8, it was a giant leap forward by the standards of the time, bearing in mind a Mercedes SL500 wheezed out 104PS less from its larger 5.0-litre displacement. With 0-62mph coming up in 6.7 seconds on its way to an impressive 154mph top speed, the 4.7 gave the 928 the power its chassis deserved. Then there’s the 409Nm (302lb ft) of torque available from just 2,700rpm, which more accurately defines the 928 – it’s not a classic that’ll easily fall victim to the turbocharged youths of the 21st century.

The 928S was rebranded the S2 in 1984 when a higher compression ratio, Bosch electronic fuel injection and an EZF dual distributor brought power up to 310PS (228kW). The S4 replaced it in 1986, which brought a facelift and an extra 10PS to the table. In turn, it bowed out to the 330PS GT in 1989 before the 5.4-litre GTS launched in 1992 with a punchy 350PS (257kW) on tap. It has the performance to beat the current crop of ludicrously fast hot hatches, with 0-62mph coming up in 5.6 seconds and a 171mph top speed.

Porsche 928: Problems to look out for?

Before buying any 928, a documented service history is a must, as is a professional inspection by a mechanic familiar with the model.

While the 928’s V8 engine is one of its defining features, it can also be a significant source of problems and oil consumption of a litre every 500 miles is not uncommon. Experts reckon the big lump’s top end needs a rebuild every 120,000 miles – oil fumes on start-up indicate this could be an issue – and the bottom end needs looked at every 150K.

Head gasket failure is a risk on all models, but S4s built between 1986-1989 are most susceptible. Early GTS models, meanwhile, suffered from problems with their cylinder liners.

The cambelt and water pump should be changed every 60,000 miles, although the 4.5-litre founding model has a noninterference engine, which means valves and pistons will never collide.

Misfires caused by the fuelling and ignition problems can be hard to diagnose and costly to fix, but a Porsche specialist should be able to supercharge the diagnosis process. Lumpy vibrations could be down to worn engine mounts, which are relatively cheap to replace.

The cooling system is another weak spot; the aluminium radiator is expensive to replace and needs new fluid every four years.

The 928 has the powerful brakes you would expect of a Porsche, but discs, pads, and ABS sensors are also characteristically expensive. Another Porsche foible not unique to the 928 is the fuse box hidden in the passenger footwell, which is susceptible to moisture with disastrous results.

Porsche 928: How much to pay?

Just 20 per cent of 928s had a manual gearbox that made the most of Porsche’s flexible V8 and made it significantly quicker.

At the time of writing, there are just a handful of manual cars available. The low end starts from around £6,900 for an early 1979 4.5-litre car in need of recommissioning and with 130,000 miles on the clock. Raise the budget significantly to anywhere from £23,000 to £70,000 for a rare 1984 Strosek modified S2 complete with boxed wheel arches and NACA ducts.

Automatic models are cheaper, give you more options and are better than you might think if you avoid the three-speed, replaced with a four-speed in 1983.

A 1984 4.7-litre S with just over 45,000 miles on the clock caught our eye – owned by its current keeper for the past 14 years, it was garaged in the winter months and had a fetching blue interior. The best automatic on offer was a £69,950 928 GTS from 1992 that had clocked up just 16,000 miles.

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Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

The best sub-£100k investment cars for 2024

The best sub-£100k investment cars for 2024

In the current climate of spiralling interest rates, soon £100,000 won’t get you more than a Mars bar and a packet of crisps so, while you still can, get the money invested in the dream machine you’ve always promised yourself.

We’ve got something for everyone here, from limited-edition hot hatches to big-engined GTs and a history-defining super saloon. Will any of them appreciate it? That remains to be seen but at the very least, you will enjoy owning them.

1. BMW M3 CSL

As sure as the earth is round and what comes up must come down, a BMW M3 CSL must feature on a list of the best investment cars for less than £100,000. Using what is widely accepted to be the best BMW M3 – the E46 M3 – as a base, the CSL stripped it of 136kg weight (and fog lights), stiffened up the chassis and blessed it with a carbon-fibre airbox that produces one of the best induction noises we’ve yet encountered.

Power, meanwhile, went up by 17PS – to 360PS (265kW) – and 0-62mph dropped from 5.2 to 4.9 seconds. The elephant in the room is the BMW’s automatic single-clutch transmission which is, well, slow and not very good. The question is, do you drive around the gearbox’s limitations or save yourself the bother and retrofit a six-speed manual? Jerky auto or not, the CSL seems like one of the safest ways to make money on a car that can still be had for well under £100,000.

2. Aston Martin V12 Vantage S

There’s something delightfully endearing about putting a large engine in a small car and the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S proves that to the full. To create it, Aston took the smallest and lightest chassis available at the time and then fitted it with the 573PS (421kW) 5.9-litre V12 from the DBS. The result? A top speed of 205mph and 0-62mph in just 3.7 seconds.

Thankfully, Aston also sorted out the chassis. The V12’s suspension sits 15mm lower and is 45 per cent stiffer than the standard car’s, giving greater composure without sacrificing comfort. Perhaps the best part of the V12 Vantage is its pumped-up looks courtesy of long bonnet vents, wide sills and aggressive front and rear bumpers. It’s far more striking than the standard car. Yet, manual versions of the V12 can still be scooped up for well under our £100,000 limit. You can wager it won’t stay the same for long. 

3. Lotus Carlton

Few cars define their era quite as well as the Lotus Carlton – the fastest saloon of its day, the Daily Mail launched a campaign to ban it, while smash-and-grab robbers found themselves an ideal getaway vehicle. Law-abiding drivers also loved the Carlton. Lotus got the styling just right adding a subtle body kit and a (slightly less subtle) rear wing in what would become a blueprint for the modern performance saloon.

The performance, meanwhile, is impressive even today. The Lotus’ 382PS (281kW) twin-turbo 3.6-litre V6 is good for 0-62mph in around five seconds and with no nannying speed limiter (ala a contemporary German performance saloon), the Lotus was good for 177mph. Sadly, the delights of the Lotus Carlton have not gone unnoticed and a clean one will set you back close to our £100,000 self-imposed limit. Cheap for such a large slice of motoring history. 

4. Maserati Gransport

As a Maserati that goes as well as it looks, the Gransport brings cause for celebration.

Even without the distinctive ‘boomerang’ tail lights of the original 3200GT, the Gransport cuts an athletic figure that’s enhanced with a subtle body kit and 10mm lowered suspension, giving a sense of menace that was absent on the original. Subtle changes were made beneath the skin, too.

In the Gransport, Maserati’s 4.2-litre V8 produced 400PS (294kW) – ten more than before – you get adjustable suspension and a sports exhaust that gleefully opens its flaps at 4,000rpm. Even the Cambiocorsa automated manual gearbox gives faster shifts.

The result is a car that’s as happy grand touring as it is dissecting your favourite B roads and with prices still low – you can pick up good examples for less than £40,000 – the Gransport makes for a tantalising used buy that’s ripe for appreciation.

5. Porsche 997 911 GTS

If the 997 represents the sweet spot in Porsche 911 production, then the GTS provides the icing to the proverbial oily cake – it’s one of the best road-going 911s ever built. The 997 has the small size of the 996 but without the goofy fried egg headlights, while a slick manual gearbox and hydraulic power steering mean it still feels like an analogue Porsche.

But the engine is the superstar. With no turbos to choke its voice or responses, the GTS’s 408PS (300kW) 3.8-litre flat-six gets from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds and will hit 190mph flat out. It’s a spine-tingling experience and the fact you have to work for it only makes it better.

By contrast, newer 911s – faster and more accomplished, true – struggle to match the 997’s engagement, which makes the GTS seem like a bargain when good manual examples can be had for less than £80,000. 

6. Ferrari F430 manual

Predicting the next Ferrari that will shoot up in value isn’t easy, but we reckon a manual F430 is a safe bet. Looking like a shrunken Enzo can only be a good thing, but more than that the F430 brings the world of old and new Ferrari together. So, while you get a screaming flat-plane crank V8 mated to an open-gate manual gearbox, you also get a manettino dial on the steering wheel linked to the F430’s electronically controlled limited-slip differential.

The result? This Ferrari can pull your heartstrings like few other cars, but there’s always an electronic safety net to fall back on. Sadly, the delights of a manual F430 have not gone unnoticed and while you’ll get one for under £100,000, you’ll pay a significant premium over an identical automatic.

7. Lotus Elise 240 Final edition

While some investment cars are reaching middle age and will likely require a bit of work, the Lotus Elise 240 Final Edition was only introduced in 2021. As the name hints, the Final Edition is the runout version of Lotus’ bestseller, coming complete with unique paint jobs and badging, and a lovely set of forged alloy wheels.

The Final Edition shows you what 25 years of Lotus Elise development looks like so while it weighs 200kg more than the original it comes packing a 243PS (179kW) supercharged four-cylinder that would make mincemeat of the old Rover K-series. Factor in daily usability that eclipses the abilities of the original Elise and there are plenty of less enjoyable ways to spend a hard-earned £50,000 or so.

8. Honda Civic Type R Limited Edition

The outgoing Honda Civic Type R’s styling (more like a billboard saying “race me” to anyone in visual range) might not have been to everyone’s tastes, but few could argue with the way the explosive Honda drove. Its 320PS (235kW) 2.0-litre engine hunted the redline like any self-respecting VTEC should while turbocharging delivered performance which made the official 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds seem unduly pessimistic.

The Civic Type R could annihilate A and B roads in a way that would embarrass most supercars, thanks to a stiff chassis and the expertly damped suspension’s ability to absorb any bump or camber you cared to throw at it. A swift glance at the rapidly rising speedo was the only clue to how outrageously fast you were going.

Buying as a long-term investment? Then you best seek out the Type R Limited Edition, barely used examples of which can be scooped up for less than £55,000. As the best example of the best hot hatch of the current era, prices can surely only go up – can’t they?

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The best sportscars for under £100k

The best sportscars for under £100k

You’re hitting the upper reaches of middle age, the kids are safely dispatched to university and you suddenly find yourself with money to burn – could now be the time to blow £100,000 on the sportscar you always promised yourself?

Of course it is. And, with a healthy 100K budget behind you, you won’t be short of choices. This guide has everything from a mid-engined plug-in hybrid to front-engined GTs, rear-engined track refugees and a Ferrari estate. Here are the eight best sportscars available for no more than £100,000.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

The Corvette Stingray marked a turning point for Chevrolet. No longer was the company going to play also-rans to the European competition, this time it would face them head-on. To do it, the Stingray would be the world’s first mid-engined Corvette with more than a passing resemblance to the Ferrari 458, which Chevrolet benchmarked its car against. It’s unsurprising then that the Stingray features a 497PS (366kW) 6.2-litre flat-plane crank V8 that gets it from 0-62mph in under three seconds.

The accompanying howl has more than a hint of Maranello. With its mid-engine setup, the latest Corvette offers turn-in grip and corner-exit traction that the old model could only dream of. Sadly, the attainable pricing that makes the Corvette huge in the US doesn’t survive the UK tax system, but less than £100,000 for a brand-new mid-engined supercar still sounds like a bargain to us. 

Mercedes AMG-GT

The Mercedes-AMG GT was meant to be a more affordable replacement to the SLS – a stunning car that’s price put it out of the reach of most Porsche 911 owners. A sales no man’s land. To keep costs low, the AMG GT lost the SLS’ eye-catching gullwing doors, but the distinctive long-bonnet-stubby-rear shape remained.

Out went the old naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 and in came the ubiquitous twin-turbocharged 503PS (370kW) 4.0-litre V8 (that’s powered everything from the C-Class to the G-Class). Straight-line performance was guaranteed – 0-62mph took 3.2 seconds and top speed was 193 mph – but more surprising was the car’s handling balance thanks to a front-mid-engined layout and transaxle. Prices start from around £50,000 but you’ll need closer to £70,000 for a good one.

Lexus LC500

Lexus is no stranger to nosing its way into new markets – the inaugural LS400 beat the Europeans at their own game by being better built and more luxurious – but could it pull off the same trick with a sportscar? Of course it could. The LFA hypercar had already tenderised the market to the idea of a sporty Lexus when the LC500’s shape was revealed to dropped jaws at 2016’s Detroit motor show. Not only did it look gorgeous on the outside, inside it had a beautifully sculpted interior that would have looked at home in cars costing three times as much.

Power came from a Lexus 477PS (351kW) 5.0-litre V8 that rumbled at low speeds and thundered as the needle spun towards the rev limiter. Stiff suspension, meanwhile, prioritised handling, but the LC500 is still a car you can cover lots of miles in. With good LC500s starting from less than £50,000 – and with Lexus’ famous reliability at the top of our minds – it’s hard to imagine another sportscar that blends passion and practicality quite so well.

Aston Martin Vantage

The Aston Martin Vantage represented a new dawn for Aston, one where it borrowed engines and tech from Mercedes. Power came from the same twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 as the AMG GT, producing 510PS (375kW) and giving the Vantage performance that its naturally aspirated predecessors could only dream of – 0-62mph took 3.6 seconds and onto a top speed of 195mph. Handling was also excellent. Matt Becker (former chief engineer of Lotus) ensured the Vantage offered grip and finesse that were unknown to the firm’s road cars up until this point.

Aston didn’t get everything right, though. The Vantage’s odd grille design divided opinion, while the cabin’s ancient Mercedes switchgear was poor for a near £150,000 GT. That’s less of an issue now you can pick up a good example for half the original price. 

Lotus Emira

Lotus fans are used to false dawns – who could forget Dany Bahar’s five-model reveal of the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, none of which came to anything. But the Emira looks like a car that could turn around the company’s fortunes. Mostly because it looks absolutely awesome. Ironically, under the new suit, there’s not much new about the Lotus’ bonded aluminium chassis or supercharged 365PS (269kW) 3.5-litre Toyota V6 – both of which are carried over from the old Evora.

Nevertheless, the Emira blends h serious performance and Lotus’ unerring ability to build a car that feels sharp and agile, but can also filter out the worst the UK’s crumbling road surface can throw at it. Prices start from under £85,000 for an as-new example.

BMW i8

The BMW i8 looked like nothing else on the road when it went on sale in 2014 because – as a plug-in hybrid, mid-engined sportscar – it was like nothing else. A combination of a 1.5-litre three-cylinder Mini engine with two electric motors meant the four-wheel drive i8 produced 374PS (275kW), got from 0-62mph in 4.4 seconds and topped out at 155mph. All while having a pure-electric range of more than 20 miles.

Sadly, while the performance was there, the i8’s handling fell wide of the mark expected of a truly engaging sportscar thanks to unnervingly light steering and a propensity to understeer. But if you’re looking for a sportscar you can use guilt-free during the week, while still enjoying it at the weekends, the i8 could be just the ticket. Good i8s can be picked up for less than £50,000 while Roadster drop-top will set you back closer to £60K.

Ferrari FF

Anyone who thinks a Ferrari sportscar can’t also be practical didn’t bet on the appearance of the Ferrari FF – a four-wheel drive shooting-brake estate, with a 6.3-litre V12 engine borrowed from the Enzo hypercar. With 659PS (485kW) to call on, the FF was predictable rapid – 0-62mph took 3.7 seconds, while top speed was a sky-high 208mph.

The four-wheel drive system was a masterpiece in itself. The FF was essentially rear-wheel drive up until it needed more grip, whereon power was sent directly to the front wheels via a separate gearbox. The result was un-ending traction, mated to razor-sharp steering and a fine-handling chassis that meant the Ferrari felt far smaller than it actually was.

Impressive, given the FF was a genuine four-seater with a 450-litre boot capacity. Sadly, this list of attributes doesn’t come cheap, with good examples costing every pound of our £100,000 budget.

Porsche 997 911 GT3

If you’re going to buy a sportscar on a budget of £100,000 then the Porsche 997 generation 911 GT3 could be the safest place to put your money. Like all Porsche GT cars, the 997 GT3 is a handling masterpiece offering up cornering grip and under-power traction that feels contemporary today. Although, unlike in the current model, the 997 GT3 comes sporting a feelsome hydraulic engine and a high-revving Mezger flat-six that’s become almost as acclaimed as the 911 itself.

The new version simply isn’t quite so spin-tingling. Despite all this, however, the 997 GT3 can still be sold as a sensible choice. It’s not too OTT for road use, while a boot under the bonnet and more storage, where you used to find on the back seat, means it can even claim to be practical…for a two-seater sportscar.

Best of all, it makes financial sense. Rock solid residuals mean the £80,000 you’ll need to buy a well-used-but-cared-for example, is exactly what you’d have paid new back in 2006.

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Porsche 911 G

BUYER’S GUIDE

Porsche 911 (G-Series) Review

The ‘impact’ bumper-era 911 may not have the romance of the ‘60s cars but still offers a cracking Porsche experience…

What Is It?

In its more than half century of existence the Porsche 911 has been in a constant state of evolution, ranging from the detail to the drastic. The arrival of the impact bumper G-Series in 1974 is arguably one of the more significant generational shifts, and though it too went through many iterations it lasted in fundamentally the same basic form until 1989.

Purists will point out the G-Series was just the first and, officially, the letter changed with each model year evolution but, for most people, this has become the catch-all designation by which all impact bumper cars are now known. For many years overlooked in comparison with the prettier ‘60s cars, appreciation of impact bumper 911s has grown, and with it values.

Sadly these are no longer the bargain they once were, though all things relative they remain a relatively accessible route into classic 911 ownership and feel considerably more modern and easier to live with than the earlier cars. While the G-Series provided the foundations for the legendary Turbo, spawned Targa and Convertible variants and limited-edition specials like the flat nose and Speedster the classic coupe in its Carrera, SC and later 3.2 are our main focus here.

Corrosive Areas

Front luggage compartment floor

Sills and inner arches, especially on ‘kidney bowl’ reinforcement panels

Sunroof drain holes and roof pillars

Checklist

  • Early cars used 2.7-litre engines as a carry-over, a naturally-aspirated version of the Turbo’s 3.0-litre motor arriving on the Carrera for the 1976 model year
  • From the 1978 model year the 3.0-litre SC engine became standard fit, the aluminium crankcase considered sturdier though power was down due to emissions regulations
  • The 3.2 introduced for the 1984 model year is another generation on and less likely to suffer obvious oil leaks
  • Early cars may have a four-speed gearbox but the five-speed ‘915’ gearbox was an option many buyers took up; the shift is less positive than the later G50 and requires an experienced hand to operate smoothly but a well set-up one should be satisfying to use; crunches or seriously baulky shifts may indicate a rebuild is necessary
  • Not sure if the 3.2 you’re looking has a 915 or G50 gearbox? The easy tell is the position of the reverse indent, which is up and to the left of first on the G50 and down and back from fifth on a 915
  • Engines should start first turn, idle smoothly, pick up keenly and show a steady oil pressure with revs once warm; smoke or hesitancy are warning signs of issues and, once removed for a rebuild, work can quickly escalate in complexity and cost depending on what is found
  • Timing chain tensioners on earlier engines can fail; more durable hydraulic ones from later 3.2 engines are a common upgrade
  • Rusty heat exchangers on the exhaust system are an expensive fix
  • Bodywork corrosion is the biggest worry on an old 911, even post-1975 models with the galvanised shell
  • Check every inch, preferably with the car on a ramp if you can; failing that remove mats from the front luggage compartment and inspect the condition of the floor, front crossmember, battery tray and then work your way back looking carefully at sills, inner wings, roof pillars, sunroof drains (where fitted), under the carpets and back into the rear arches
  • The so-called ‘kidney bowl’ reinforcements at the rear edge of the sills and within the B-pillars are notorious rust spot that require serious surgery to sort properly – beware any sign of bodged repairs in this area
  • Most cars will have had work done at some stage in their lives; in previous years when they weren’t as valuable this may have been more of the ‘quick fix’ variety so beware patchwork quilt repairs and instead hold out for one where you have evidence of a proper restoration by a respected specialist

How does it drive?

The word ‘unique’ is much over-used but, truly, nothing else drives like a 911 and a well-sorted impact bumper Carrera offers a fantastic balance of usable performance to be enjoyed as much on a long cruise as on a twisty back road or mountain pass. The small on-road footprint, the upright windscreen and excellent all-round visibility make it easy to place and very exploitable, there being surprising muscularity to the controls for what is a relatively light car.

Quirks like the offset driving position, floor-hinged pedals and wide-hipped stance soon become charming rather than strange, while the breathy bark of that air-cooled flat-six is a fundamental part of the magic. In standard form you’re looking at around 200PS (147kW) depending on the model and which engine it has, which sounds modest but translates to perfectly usable and enjoyable performance on the road thanks to the broad power band.

The much-hyped tail-heavy handling is less of an issue in these cars, especially when you get into the slow-in, fast-out groove the car naturally encourages through its very obvious feedback at the wheel. A good one is, quite simply, a joy to drive.

 What’s good?

Half a century on, the shock of the impact bumper look has subsided and appreciation of how neatly Porsche integrated this legislative requirement into the 911 shape has grown. The interchangeability of Porsche parts is, meanwhile, a blessing and a curse, meaning many G-Series cars have been ‘backdated’ to look like older ones, hot-rodded or otherwise modified.

This is all part of the scene but an original, wingless SC or 3.2 Carrera on Fuchs wheels has an elegant, late ‘70s simplicity about it many now covet. And with usable rear seats for the kids, good long-distance refinement and that iconic shape an impact bumper 911 makes for a very usable classic, more than capable of regular driving on modern roads.

There’s obviously a huge scene supporting these cars, and many talented and skilled specialists around to restore them and keep them running properly. Once you’ve had your fun a good one will always be in demand and easy to sell on to the next enthusiast seeking to live the air-cooled 911 dream, too.

What’s bad?

Given the impact bumper cars were, for a long time, considered the cheap route into classic 911 ownership and have now been on the road many decades many will have suffered from ‘make do and mend’ upkeep the inherent strength and build quality of the base car will have permitted. But these are still high-performance, precision instruments and any shortcuts by previous owners can bite you expensively on the backside if you’re suckered into a car that flatters to deceive.

Engines are inherently strong but big jobs and rebuilds quickly escalate in cost and complexity if you’re unlucky. But that’s nothing against the cost of sorting out a rusty car, of which there are sadly many lurking ready to tempt the unwary. Nothing comes cheaply with a 911 and a bad car could quickly land you multiple five-figure bills if you’re doing a proper job of it. Choose carefully, seek expert advice where possible and scrutinise every last bit of the history for a sense of what you’re getting into.

Which model to choose?

For years a forgotten model word is now out about the early mechanical fuel injection 2.7 Carreras, which basically ran the engine from the legendary 2.7 RS. These are now sought-after and valuable, the 3.0-litre ‘Carrera 3’ that replaced it in 1975 also highly regarded. The range was updated with a new 3.0-litre engine for the SC in 1978, emissions regs meaning it was actually down on power, though this was steadily addressed and balance restored by the early 1980s.

The big change came in 1984 with the introduction of the bigger, torquier 3.2-litre engine and, in 1987, the sturdier ‘G50’ gearbox. If you want a more modern feeling car these late versions have obvious appeal, though appreciation of the SC’s lighter, revvier nature has grown among purists and, if it was our money, an early ‘80s one with the 204PS (150kW) 3.0-litre engine, no wing and on Fuchs wheels would be top of the wishlist.

Targas and convertibles remain popular but, while they can be a bit more affordable to buy, they’ll be no cheaper to restore or run so the coupe remains the more desirable bodystyle.

Specifications – 1981 Porsche 911 SC 3.0

Engine

3.0-litre six-cylinder, petrol

Power

204PS (150kW) @ 5,900rpm

Torque

267Nm (197lb ft) @ 4,300rpm

Transmission

Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,160kg

0-62mph

6.8 seconds

Top speed

146mph

Production dates

1978-1984 (entire G-Series production 1974-1989)

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Porsche 356

Porsche 356

BUYER’S GUIDE

Porsche 356 Review

The template for Porsche’s sports cars to this day, the 356 combines unmistakable looks with a suitably unique driving experience…

What Is It?

The 356 is where it all started for the brand as we know it, Ferry Porsche’s post-war adaptation of his father’s Volkswagen foundations seemingly carrying that influence in design and mechanical layout. In fact the eventual look and format derived as much from turning the original mid-engined roadster’s engine through 180 degrees to free up rear seat space for a coupe version, this twist of fate meaning the 356 can claim to be the template for both the modern 911 and mid-engined 718 Boxster/Cayman sold today.

Back to the start, though, and after a short run of 50 or so cars built by hand at Porsche’s Gmünd base production shifted to Stuttgart from 1951 onwards, the 356 then continually upgraded until production finally ended in 1966 with the 911 in ascendancy. In that time around 77,000 were built in various coupe, cabriolet and iconic Speedster bodystyles, the 356 quickly leaving its Volkswagen roots behind to set the template not just for an iconic sportscar lineage but also the brand as a whole. With that weighty heritage on its shoulders the 356 is today a desirable and delightful classic, with a price to match.   

Corrosive Areas

Floorpan

Inner and outer sills

Bulkhead

Checklist

  • The range of models, engine types and body styles over the 356’s life is bewildering, but can be broken down into five major stages comprising the early ‘Gmünd’ cars, the Stuttgart-built ‘Pre-A’ series and then the A, B and C generations
  • Body configurations over that time include coupe, cabriolets of various types, Speedster, so-called hardtop cabriolets and even limited production coachbuilt race cars like the GTL-Abarth
  • The earliest cars have distinctive split windscreens, the ones that followed ditching the central spar but retaining a distinctive kink in its place; more modern curved screens came with the 356 A
  • With just 50 or so Gmünd cars built these are hugely valuable collector cars now, Carrera models similarly big-league while Speedsters and cabriolets also command big prices
  • While offered in a huge range of capacities and states of tune most 356s use versions of the twin carb, air-cooled, pushrod flat-four, the Super badge typically denoting the more powerful variants; Carreras featured a much more exotic evolution of the base engine with gear-driven overhead cams and significantly increased power
  • Porsche-designed three-piece crankcase introduced in late 1954 marked a decisive step away from Volkswagen-related mechanical parts
  • Huge range of engines, potential for tuning and interchangeability of parts means many 356s will have deviated from their original specification at some point in their lives, so choose whether you want to prioritise driveability or extra performance over originality
  • If you’re chasing investment potential and value matching numbers provenance you’ll pay accordingly, and need to be absolutely certain the car’s history adds up before committing
  • Whichever route you choose it pays to do your research to help refine your search parameters before taking the time to look at plenty of different cars for a sense of what’s out there, and the relative values
  • Earlier cars appeal for their unadorned looks and direct links to Porsche’s early days, while later C generation 356s may be more driveable thanks to improved comfort, driveability, handling and standard disc brakes – choose which is more important for you early in your selection process!
  • Corrosion is the biggest potential pitfall and cost, so be utterly scrupulous in your inspection of both the car and its history – many will have been through multiple restorations by now so make sure the most recent one is properly documented with a respected specialist
  • Rust can take hold anywhere and any visible corrosion should be a warning about even more dangerous rot within the structure – floorpans, longitudinal chassis rails, bulkheads and suspension mounts are all critical areas so look under carpets and get the car on a ramp for a full inspection
  • Pushrod engines are well-understood and relatively simple mechanically but still expensive to rebuild; significant oil leaks or smoke are significant worries, likewise rough running or lack of power
  • Twin-cam Carrera engines are incredibly complicated and require expert – and expensive – care; if you’re buying a ‘Carrera’ make sure it is what it says it is and not a converted standard car, or an original with a replacement pushrod engine
  • Steering and suspension components can wear prematurely if not correctly lubricated and maintained, even on cars that don’t get driven much – any looseness at the wheel or rattles over bumps should be investigated

How Does It Drive?

The 356 may be far more than a Beetle in fancy bodywork but you should still be realistic in your expectations for performance, on the basis many have well under 100PS (74kW) to play with and early ones could have as little as half that. Zero to 60 times in the teens and top speeds around 100mph on a good day don’t sound too impressive in a modern context but a good 356 should prove just how meaningless numbers are for quantifying a driving experience.

The four-cylinder engine may not be as exotic as the six of a 911 either but it’s still smooth and characterful, with a distinctive sound of its own. The slippery aerodynamics mean a 356 is impressively fast and refined on a cruise as well, while a properly sorted one should have the kind of precision to the controls we associate with later Porsches, albeit with the clear-headed minimalism of a true original.

Quirks like offset, floor-hinged pedals and a long-throw gearshift (synchronised after 1953) add to the vibe rather than detract, and a properly set up 356 should be an absolute delight.

What’s Good?

‘Unique’ is a much over-used description but, truly, there’s nothing out there that looks like a Porsche, and in the 356 we have the origins of that distinctive shape in its purest form. Earlier models with their smaller bumpers and unadorned bodywork are perhaps the most elegant, the coupe establishing that iconic profile the 911 lives by to this day while the various cabriolets and Speedsters have an effortless Californian cool alluding to summer road trips in the sunshine.

While originality is increasingly valued, the 356 also responds well to tasteful customisation and modding, be that inspired by the motorsport vibe of the Carrera variants, minimalist versions stripped of bumpers and chrome or even ‘outlaw’ low riders or restomods with seriously feisty engine upgrades. A broad church, then. But at its heart a 356 remains unmistakeable, no matter how original or otherwise.

What’s Bad?

For the uninitiated the Porsche scene can appear intimidatingly complicated, tribal and teeming with self-appointed experts claiming their voice is the only one worth hearing. Add to that a bewildering array of model types, the detail model year updates for the purists to obsess over, plus the seemingly endless variations on engine capacity and states of tune to choose from, and the path to a perfect 356 can look baffling.

Add to that the interchangeability of parts and you really need to know what you’re looking for – and looking at – before making a big financial commitment. You also have to factor in that even the youngest cars are now nearly 60 years old, so finding a truly rust free one is going to be near impossible, while restoring a rotten one to an appropriate standard could prove ruinous. There’s no such thing as a cheap 356 any more, either. Very much buyer beware, especially given the emotional draw and risk of heart overtaking head.

Which Model To Chose?

Rarity and proximity to Porsche’s origin story means ‘Gmünd’ 356s are the preserve of truly elite collectors, split or ‘bent’ screen ‘Pre-A’ models similarly coveted for their originality. If you’re after one of the faster 356s the appeal of the Carrera models is clear, but they’re also hugely expensive and the specialist care required for the exotic engines rules them out for most real-world buyers.

That leaves the rest of us pondering ‘regular’ pushrod engined A, B and C models. Bodystyle will be down to preference but the iconic looks of the Speedster come at a cost, with cabriolets (distinguished by the taller, ‘framed’ windscreen) not far behind. All things relative coupes are more attainable, and for design and driving purity look very attractive indeed. For the cleaner styling a 356 A coupe would seem a very appealing choice, the B and C offering progressively more power, driveability and luxury.

Overall, having settled on your preferred shape the common advice across all variants would be to buy the best you can afford with a solid history verifying its condition and provenance.

Specifications – Porsche 356 A 1600 Super

 

Engine

1.6-litre four-cylinder, petrol

Power

75PS (55kW) @ 5,000rpm

Torque

117Nm (86lb ft) @3,700rpm

Transmission

Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

850kg

0-62mph

14.5 seconds

Top speed

109mph

Production dates

1948-1966 (all models)

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Porsche 962 at Le Mans

A stunning collection of Le Mans legends are up for sale

A stunning collection of Le Mans legends are up for sale

RM will celebrate 100 years of Le Mans as a star-studded list of racers – led by a works Porsche 962 – crosses the blocks on 9th June ahead of the start of the world-famous endurance race. 

Guided at £5,000,000 – £7,500,000, the 962 was one of three cars assigned to the Rothmans Porsche Factory for the 1985 and 1986 seasons. It made its first appearance at Le Mans in 1985. Driven by John Watson, Vern Schuppan, and Al Holbert chassis #004 qualified fifth behind four other 962s (which were using specially prepared qualifying engines) but would spend half the race in second place before a crankshaft failure saw it retire with less than four hours of the race remaining. 

The same car took pole at Le Mans the following year – in the hands of Bob Wollek, Jochen Mass and Vern Schuppan – before an oil spill caused it to crash out in the early hours of Sunday morning, missing out on what looked like a guaranteed third-place finish. 

The Porsche went on to be raced by a host of privateers – its most notable success being second place at the Nürburgring 1,000km in the hands of Derek Bell and Hans-Joachim Stuck – before being sold to a collector in 1988. 

Bought by the current owner in 2004, the car was subject to a full restoration by marque specialist, Trevor Crisp, in 2018. It’s eligible for various historic events including the Le Mans Classic and Rennsport Reunion. 

While a German stars at RM, there’s no shortage of British machinery to get excited about, including the Jaguar XJR-12 LM. It took 4th overall at the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Derek Warwick, John Nielsen, and Andy Wallace and went on to finish 2nd and 4th, respectively, at the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring the following year. It’s guided at £2,150,000-£2,550,000.

Also flying the flag is a 1958 Lister-Jaguar ‘Knobbly’ (£1,250,000-£1,550,000), 1993 Jaguar XJ220 C LM (£1,350,000-£1,900,000) and a 2007 Aston Martin DBR9 GT1 (£1,800,000-£2,150,000).

We understand that every vehicle is unique, which is why our Agreed Valuation policies take the true value of your classic car into account.

Ferrari will have a strong showing at the sale, too. A 1955 Ferrari 121 LM Spider by Scaglietti (£4,700,000-£5,500,000) that was raced by works drivers Maurice Trintignant, Harry Schell, and Piero Taruffi will cross the blocks having been subject to a full restoration in 2023.

In addition, you can bid on a 1969 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona Competizione (£4,100,000 – £4,450,000), while more modern machinery comes in the form of a 2006 Ferrari F430 GTC (£650,000 – £850,000). 

Fancy something a little bit different? Then how about a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTE 2+2 Series III that served as the Le Mans Safety Car that same year. Expected to make up to £550,000, it’ll cross the block carrying no reserve. 

Other cars that caught our eye include one of two beautiful 1954 OSCA MT4s (£1,100,000-£1,300,000), class-winning 1967 Alpine A210 (£1,000,000-£1,300,000), Mark Blundell’s pole-setting 1990 Nissan R90CK (£850,000-£1,300,000), an early works 1996 Chrysler Viper GTS-R (£500,000-£600,000) and a factory-entered 2005 Spyker C8 GT2-R (£215,000-£300,000).

We’ll bring you a full auction report after the sale. 

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Image of classic red Porsche 944 driving on road

Porsche 944

BUYER’S GUIDE

Porsche 944 Review

Once under-appreciated, the 944’s unashamedly ’80s looks and beautifully balanced handling are finally getting the recognition they deserve…

What Is It?

After too long in the wilderness the Porsche 944, along with the other ‘transaxle’ models like the 924, 928 and 968, is finally getting the recognition it merits, and is maturing into a desirable modern classic. Developed from the 924, the 944 arrived in 1981 with an all-aluminium four-cylinder developed from the V8 in the 928 to silence criticisms of the previous, VW-derived motor. This, and the wider, squared-off arches gave the new model a much more muscular look while the extra power complemented the natural balance of the engine up front, gearbox in the back layout.

That was further enhanced with extra power, both from a 16-valve head and then turbocharging, which the 944 lapped up. Snootier types may have never got over the lack of cylinders but appreciation of the predictable handling, strong performance, decent practicality and ‘80s looks has grown in recent years, and these ‘baby Porsches’ are now looking much more grown-up propositions.

Corrosive Areas

Sill trailing edges

Rear trailing arm mounts

Front arches, inner and outer

Checklist

  • Engines range from naturally aspirated 2.5 and 2.7-litre eight-valves and a 16-valve 2.5 for the original S; this was later increased in size to 3.0-litres for the S2
  • Turbo models are based on the eight-valve 2.5-litre motor, and arrived with 220PS (162kW) or 250PS (184kW) according to model and age; all S2 Turbo models have the full 250PS (184kW)
  • The 944 was upgraded constantly throughout its life but key changes to consider include the 1985 model year switch to a more modern ‘oval’ dashboard design and new aluminium suspension arms, a revised front suspension and geometry in 1987 and the 1989 arrival of the S2 with one-piece bumpers previously introduced on the Turbo and the 3.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine
  • While the looks remain fundamentally similar wheels, bumpers, spoilers and other trim vary according to the year, model and options; the slotted rear valance available on early cars, distinctive underbody spoiler from the original Turbo and S model and Fuchs wheels were all popular and can add desirability
  • Earlier 944s have a 924-style two-piece front bumper incorporated into a slot in the front bodywork; on Turbos and S2s this is replaced by an arguably neater one-piece moulding with bigger indicator and sidelight lenses
  • The five-speed manual gearbox is mounted in the rear and on Turbos gains an oil cooler and, in some cases, a limited-slip differential; it’s generally tough and light whining is characteristic while vague shifting can be cured by replacing the shifter bushings; anything more serious can require a rebuild; this and clutch changes are expensive
  • A three-speed automatic was also available but wasn’t popular at the time and doesn’t really suit the 944’s character so won’t be desirable now
  • Engines can rack up huge mileages with the right care; regular oil changes are a must and a four-year timetable for new belts for the cam(s) and balancer shafts should be adhered to; every other belt change service should also include a new water pump, tensioners and pulleys
  • Poor maintenance can result in scoring of the aluminium bores; check compression and for persistent smoke along with all the usual inspections for coolant in the oil
  • 944s were well made with galvanised bodies but corrosion can still be an issue, especially at the rear of the sills and around the rear suspension mounts, on the front wings, around the sunroof and in the engine bay
  • Handling should be precise and rattle free – if it’s not check bushings, dampers and mounts, bearing in mind the ball joints on the front suspension arms are integrated so you’ll need to replace the whole unit if worn

How Does It Drive?

A well-sorted 944 of any type should quickly silence the fears you’re missing out on the true Porsche experience by not having six air-cooled cylinders hanging behind the rear axle. For some people the fact there are only four under the bonnet of the 944 will always be an emotional barrier but, in truth, it’s a cut above the average thanks to twin balancer shafts and the ability to feel both torquey and revvy in one.

The modest 165PS (121kW) or so of the eight-valve 2.5 and short-lived 2.7-litre engines is just about enough but things get a lot more exciting with the 16-valve versions, the 211PS (155kW) of the S2’s 3.0-litre not far off the original Turbo while also more exploitable and flexible. The more powerful Turbo S and S2 Turbo versions have a decisive kick and a different character but, in all cases, the natural balance of the 944 is a delight.

True, the vibe is more junior GT than on-the-ragged-edge sports car thanks to relatively leisurely steering and weighty controls. But it’s still a Porsche, and one that can carve a twisty road or track more confidently (and, whisper it, probably faster) than a 911 of similar vintage.

What’s Good?

The 944’s looks are maturing very nicely indeed, the pop-up lights cementing its ‘80s icon status but the distinctive shape and discreetly muscular arches all holding up well. It’s also very practical, the two seats in the back perhaps a little snug for all but smaller kids but the huge load space under the bubble-like rear hatch capable of carrying all your kit for a road trip away with space to spare.

Like many cars of its era, the size and performance also feel increasingly relevant on modern roads than many newer fast cars, meaning you can enjoy more of its talents more of the time. Expectations on running costs need to be grounded in reality and won’t be the cheapest but, properly looked after, a 944 should prove a reliable and relatively affordable car to run.

What’s Bad?

Not a lot, in truth. With values rising there’s more incentive for owners to invest in proper restorations and upkeep, though many cars will have lived through times where that wasn’t necessarily the case and may have scrimped by on bodged bodywork fixes and less than diligent care. As ever, it will cost more in time and faff to bring one of these back to standard than simply start with a good one.

The risk is, of course, you get hoodwinked by one that presents well but turns out to be hiding all manner of horrors. So, pay due diligence to known corrosion traps like the rear of the sills, the rear trailing arm mounts and – in particular – the void in the rear arches between them. Milky windscreens can be a sign of water ingress and rust can also form in front chassis legs and on the strut towers.

History will be everything, and a high-mileage car with a folder full of receipts and signs of proper upkeep will serve you better than one with apparently low miles but no provenance to back that up.

Which Model To Chose?

Much will be dictated by your budget, with especially desirable models like the early ‘Silver Rose’ Turbos and others with the ‘right’ specification now reaching quite serious heights. If you like the idea of the additional performance, the beefier looks and the old-school boosty power delivery a Turbo of some sort or other may be worth the extra cost but naturally-aspirated versions shouldn’t be ruled out. In truth a 16-valve S or later S2 isn’t that far behind in usable performance, after all. In terms of vintage most buyers favour the later oval dash interior while opinions vary on whether the earlier front end is more faithful to the original design than the modernised Turbo/S2 look. Each will have their fans but a pre-facelift S with the quirky underslung rear spoiler seems a nice balance of pace and timelessly attractive looks, while an eight-valve 2.5 or 2.7 could save you a bit of cash. The convertible – launched with the S2 – is another option and has its fans but, for most, the coupe remains the more appealing option.

Specifications – Porsche 944 S2

 

Engine

3.0-litre four-cylinder, petrol

Power

211PS (155kW) @ 5,800rpm

Torque

280Nm (206lb ft) @ 4,100rpm

Transmission

Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Kerb weight

1,310kg

0-62mph

7.1 seconds

Top speed

149mph

Production dates

1981-1992 (total model production)

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