Porsche 993 Buying Guide
Last of the air-cooled 911s! Prices have flattened but they won't stay that way for ever, so here's how to buy one
How much to pay
• Project £20,000 • Good £35,000-60,000 • Concours £60,000-£200,000
• Most expensive at auction: £1.8 million (GT2)
Running costs ★★
DIY Friendly ★★★
For many people, this is the ultimate 911. It’s the variant that retains all of the essential elements, from air-cooled engine all the way to floor-hinged pedals and haphazard ergonomics, and combines them with modern touches such as ABS, electric everything, airbags and a double-wishbone rear end that keeps it firmly planted to the road.
Designed by Harm Lagaay and Tony Hatter, it more radically updated the classic shape than the 964 had done, but it did so in a brilliantly cohesive manner. Buyers could – and can – choose between two- and four-wheel drive, Coupé, Targa and Cabriolet, Tiptronic and manual transmission, versatile Carrera and bonkers Turbo. And that’s to say nothing of the ultra-collectible and highly focused RS and GT2.
Buying can be a minefield, so be patient and make the most of the specialist and club back-up that’s on offer before you settle on a car. Do your homework and you’ll be left with one of the most electrifying driver’s cars of its generation.
Your AutoClassics Porsche 993 inspection checklist
The 993’s engine is tough and reliable, although the higher-stressed turbo tends not to be as durable as the naturally aspirated version. Many of the faults that you’ll see, such as the need for new distributors and leads, occur on cars that have either been stored or which cover very low mileages.
Check for oil leaks, which can often be traced to the lower cam-cover gaskets because they have been known to shrink over time. Also make sure that the air-conditioning pump’s belt is in good condition and at the correct tension.
Regular oil changes are essential, so go through the history to ensure that they’ve been carried out. Any smoke emitted from the exhausts on cold start-up is a bad sign, and could point towards worn valve guides. Don’t be surprised to find a sports exhaust in place of the original.
The 993 was available with either a six-speed transmission – a 911 first – or the four-speed Tiptronic that allows a ‘manual’ change via buttons mounted on the steering wheel. As with the rest of the car, the gearbox is pretty robust, but cars that are abused or routinely driven hard might display signs of a worn clutch. During the test drive, ensure that it’s not slipping. A ‘clonking’ noise could signify problems with the dual-mass flywheel.
The Tiptronic models aren’t as popular with enthusiasts and now tend to be slightly cheaper. The ’box sapped some of the flat-six’s power and, while it’s proven to be a reliable unit, you don’t want to hear any noise from the torque converter.
Suspension and brakes
Overhauling the 993’s suspension is an expensive business. Problems can occur in cars that don’t get much use, or that are used hard without the necessary attention being paid to maintenance.
Check for wear in the wishbone bushes, top mounts and balljoints. If the dampers are worn and need to be replaced, that will be particularly expensive, as will new lower control arms for the front end.
Standard ground clearance was 120mm for US cars and 110mm for European models. The Sport chassis dropped that to 90mm and added 17in wheels rather than 16s. It’s now rare to find any 993 still on the latter, and be wary of Cabriolets or Targas wearing 18s. They can put undue stress on the bodyshell.
The brakes should still feel impressive. Cars that have been in storage or little-used can suffer from caliper problems and sticking pistons. DIY rebuild kits are available.
The 993’s bodyshell was 20 per cent stiffer than the 964’s and, like its predecessor, was galvanised. Even so, you need to be vigilant. Check the floor of the front compartment, plus the areas around the front and rear screens. Carefully ease back the rubber seals to look for bubbling.
You’ll also need to look at the sills, wheelarches and valances – the area under the front bumper can begin to rust if it’s been grounded. The rear-bumper support tubes can rust, too, and it’s important to look at the rear chassis legs.
The Cabriolet was 30kg lighter than the Coupé while remaining stiff. The Targa used the same shell but was 60kg heavier – there’s extra bracing around the windscreen. With the Cabriolet, the plastic rear window can go cloudy. As with the soft-top itself, cheap replacements can be a false economy because they wear more quickly.
Look all round for uneven panel gaps, and make sure that the door check straps haven’t failed. The tell-tale sign is a crack as the doors reach their fully open position. Replacing them is expensive so some owners don’t get it done.
Specialist knowledge will be vital in terms of assessing these areas, in particular with regard to the quality of any repairs, so pay for an inspection on any car before buying it.
The 993 boasted superb build quality, even by Porsche’s own high standards. Interiors therefore last well. Leather seats were standard and wear on the side bolsters, but replacement or repair isn’t difficult. The 1996-onwards optional sport seats have plastic backs, and on all of them ensure that the electric adjustment operates as it should.
As always, try everything electrical. Although the system is reliable, any repairs that are needed will be expensive. If the heater doesn’t blow hot air through once the engine is up to temperature, the heat exchangers could have rusted out, and they’re particularly costly. The RS will have fewer goodies because of its simplified loom and weight-saving ethos.
The 993 Targa featured an electrically operated sliding glass roof that’s watertight but which can fail with age. The Cabriolet’s roof is also powered, so check that it raises and lowers itself properly.
- 1993: 993 launched in Carrera form.
- 1994: Cabriolet and Carrera 4 added.
- 1995: RS, RS Clubsport, Turbo, GT2 and Targa all introduced.
- 1996: RS production ends. GT2 Evo and Carrera S (turbo body) launched.
- 1997: 996 replaces Carrera – production of 993 S, Turbo and Turbo S ends in ’98.
Condition is the most important factor when looking for a 993. Considerations such as colour and spec should be secondary to that. The range can be bewildering, so specialist knowledge will be key to ensure that what you’re looking at is what it’s supposed to be – and to help you avoid the expensive pitfalls. Originality and a rock-solid maintenance record are what counts, and are worth paying a premium for.
The agile Carrera and versatile Carrera 4 each have their champions, while the top end of the 993 market is inhabited by the Turbo and, in particular, the highly collectible RS and the hardcore GT2. Each one benefits from the model’s revered status as the final air-cooled 911, with the recent rise in prices providing a stark contrast with its immediate successor, the 996.
Ready for a Porsche 993? Here are the 993s for sale on AutoClassics