Porsche 964 Buying Guide
The Porsche 964 blended classic looks with the latest mod-cons, and is now a fast-appreciating 911. Here’s how to buy the best
How much to pay
• Project £20,000 • Good £35,000-100,000 • Concours £100,000-300,000 •
• Most expensive at auction: £1.7 million (Carrera RSR)
Running costs ★★
DIY friendly ★★★★
For a while, the Porsche 964 occupied a slightly awkward position between the classically styled 3.2 Carrera and the ‘last hurrah for water-cooled cars’, the 993. But no longer. Buyers have long since cottoned on to the appeal of its vast range, from Coupe to Cabriolet and Targa, normally aspirated to turbocharged, two- to four-wheel drive, and refined sports car to stripped-out weapon.
At its launch, the 964 boasted improved aerodynamics via its facelifted body – complete with more integrated bumpers – plus, for the first time, coil-spring suspension, ABS and power-assisted steering. The Carrera 4’s all-wheel-drive system was also new to the 911.
Later cars feature better build quality over earlier examples, while a number of mechanical improvements were added year on year. Check the VIN; the tenth figure is K for 1989 cars, L for '90, M for ’91, N for ’92 and P for ’93.
It’s vital to get any potential purchase checked by a specialist before you part with your hard-earned cash. As a wise man once said: “There’s nothing so expensive as a cheap Porsche.”
Your AutoClassics Porsche 964 inspection checklist
A high-mileage 964 with impeccable service history is a much better bet than a low-mileage one with a sketchy maintenance record. Look for evidence that a car has been well looked after – even those that cover very few miles will need, at the very least, an annual oil change.
Early 964s didn’t have a head gasket, so oil leaks were common until Porsche redesigned that area in 1991. The pipes between the dry-sump oil tank and engine can corrode, and the cam covers can also leak.
The original Freudenberg dual-mass flywheel caused all sorts of problems, and it was replaced in 1992 with a far more reliable LUK-made variant. Most cars will feature the latter by now, but DMF failure will show up as a ‘clonk’ or serious vibration at low revs.
Normally aspirated engines have twin distributors that are linked by a rubber belt. Ozone build-up within the distributor housing can erode the material and cause it to fail. It’s common for the 993’s vent to be retro-fitted so that the ozone can escape.
It’s not unheard of for even an engine that’s been well looked after to have had a top-end rebuild once the mileage gets into six figures – weak compression will show itself via a lack of power. A misfire at high speeds, meanwhile, could point towards broken cylinder-head studs. Check that Turbos don't kick out any blue smoke under acceleration. This indicates a worn turbocharger.
The 964 used a development of Porsche’s G50 gearbox, which has proven to be robust and reliable. The Carrera 4’s variant was the G64/00; the Carrera 2’s G50/03 five-speeder featured a shorter shift. Meanwhile, the Cup and RS 964s gained the G50/10 box, and the Turbo had a stronger G50/52. All were five-speed – not until the 993 did the 911 gain a sixth ratio.
Gear-selection problems can be due to a failing slave cylinder – it’s advisable to change the flexi hose at the same time – while 964s that are regularly used on-track can suffer from failing synchromesh on third and fourth gears.
The Tiptronic option is as generally reliable as the manual, but make sure the torque converter isn’t noisy.
Suspension and brakes
Bushes for the front lower control arms can perish but, while it’s a common problem, it’s relatively easy to sort and replacements improve the ride no end. If all the dampers are tired, though, you’ll be looking at a four-figure bill.
For the first time on a 911, ABS was offered as standard. This was a welcome step forward in terms of safety, but does add to the complexity of the system. The calipers are aluminium but the pads use steel backing, so corrosion can occur – something that’s well worth checking for. Being able to get a potential purchase up on a ramp will pay dividends in terms of properly inspecting the brakes.
The RS was lowered by 40mm and used stiffer springs and dampers, plus Turbo front brakes and rears from the Carrera Cup racers.
Although the 964 features a fully galvanised bodyshell, giving it a thorough inspection is still essential. Corrosion can be found around the rear-suspension mounting points, as well the wheelarches, door bottoms and under the lights. Check the windscreen surround for bubbling, too, as well as the scuttle. If the sunroof drain holes get blocked, the area around the aperture can rust and water can make its way into the cabin.
Look for stone chips and cracks in the bumper. Certain colours, including Guards Red, can be difficult to match if only a small area or a single panel has been resprayed. Badly fitting seals and dodgy panel gaps can be evidence of substandard repairs, while it’s worth looking beneath the carpet and spare wheel in the front compartment to see if there’s any sign of accident damage.
If you’re looking for an RS, it’s even more important that you get it inspected, as a specialist will be able to sniff out the details that confirm a car to be the genuine article. The Vehicle Identification Number, data labels and paint code can all be found in the front compartment.
Check that everything electrical functions as it should, especially on cars that have been little used. That includes the heater, windows and mirrors, cabriolet roof, and the seats. If air-conditioning is fitted, check that as well – rebuilding the system is an expensive job.
Build quality should be typically solid – rattles or other untoward noises from the trim could be another sign of a 964 that’s been rebuilt on the cheap. Check the carpets to make sure they’re not damp, too. Most components for the Cabriolet roof are still available, from the latch motors to fasteners and seals.
The 964 was the first 911 to feature an electric rear spoiler, which rose automatically at speed or could be operated via a switch in the cabin. Make sure that, either way, it deploys correctly. The RS 3.8 had a fixed single-plane wing, while the Turbo retained the ‘whale tail’.
- 1989: Launched in Carrera 4 Coupe form. Carrera 2 follows for 1990 model year as Coupe, Targa and Cabriolet.
- 1990: Turbo introduced with 3.3-litre M30 engine.
- 1991: Turbo-style wide body available on Carrera 2 Coupe and Cabriolet.
- 1992: 260bhp RS introduced.
- 1992: Turbo gains 3.6-litre M64 engine.
- 1993: Speedster and Carrera 4 Celebration launched.
- 1993: 3.8-litre RS added to range – 55 built.
- 1993: Coupe and Targa production ends.
- 1994: Turbo, Speedster, Cabriolet and Carrera 4 Turbo production ends.
The 964 was almost 90 percent new compared with its predecessor, but it retained much of the classic 911 styling. It’s therefore an enticing blend of modern and traditional, and helped Porsche to weather the economic storm that struck in the early 1990s.
The Turbo and RS are particularly sought after for their epic performance and focused nature, but all 964s are engaging. In period, some criticised the Carrera 4’s tendency towards understeer, yet it now makes a fine all-rounder.
As with every 911, the 964 responds well to being used. Don’t shy away from a high-mileage car, as long as it’s been fastidiously maintained. With the wide range of body styles and specifications, there should be a 964 to suit most tastes. Whatever one you go for, though, get it inspected by a specialist first.
Picture courtesy of John Colley
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