As you might imagine the extended Sports Purpose family has a thing for Porsches and 911s in particular. So when proprietor James Turner suggested I write about my favourite 911 not only did it provide me with the perfect forum to further pump values of the 964 RS (a quest I’ve embraced enthusiastically since buying one in 2006) it also gave me a welcome excuse to reflect on almost three decades of driving Zuffenhausen’s finest export.
My introduction to the 911 was quite a baptism. The year was 1993 and I was a 22 year-old, wet-behind-the-ears road tester dispatched to accompany seasoned motoring journo David Vivian on a twin-test for long defunct motoring title, Carweek. The protagonists? A BMW 850 CSi and a 3.6 964 Turbo. Not just any Turbo either, but Porsche GB’s infamous mint green press car, complete with ‘911 HUL’ registration plate.
Despite best efforts I managed not to crash the Turbo. God knows how, as the roads were patchy wet, ‘Viv’ was (and remains) a bit of a hand and my enthusiasm far outweighed my experience. Detailed impressions of that first drive have largely been lost to the mists of time, though I do recall profusely sweating palms.
Adrenalin rush aside it was the things common to all 911s up to that point in time which left the biggest impression. From the unmistakable clack of the door latch as it releases and the satisfying thunk when you slam the door shut, to the odd floor-hinged pedals, upright windscreen and dinner plate instrument dials. From that day to this these are the quirks and qualities that define a 911 to me.
My exposure to 911s took a welcome upturn a few years later when I joined Performance Car magazine. Porsches seemed a bit more exotic then, I guess because the company only made sports cars. Nevertheless 993s were pleasingly regular visitors to the PCcar park.
These were happy times. None more than the time we got a 993 Carrera 4 and Turbo together with Lord Mexborough’s 959 in North Yorkshire. Suffice to say me being in my mid-twenties, it being the mid-Nineties and my colleagues being John Barker and Brett Fraser, we drove these all-wheel drive 911s at some decidedly un-PC velocities. I think you’d need a helicopter to better my dawn commute from Camberley to Peterborough in the 993 Turbo, while the 959 made the straighter sections of road across the moors feel and sound very much like the Mulsanne. Naughty certainly, but no harm done.
Of all the tests involving 911s the one which had the most profound effect on me was conducted for the October 2001 issue of Evo magazine. The catalyst was the then-new 996 GT2, which we attempted to put into context by driving it with Lord Mexborough’s ’73 2.7 RS and ’74 3.0 RS (one of six right-hand drive examples), a 3.2 Clubsport, 964 RS, 993 RS, 993 GT2, 996 Turbo and a Gen 1 996 GT3. Oh and Mexy’s 959, just because we could.
This was the test that really educated me about the 911. How each and every generation moved things on considerably, with the best examples somehow retaining enough of the original DNA to feel connected to its ancestors and different to its contemporary rivals. It also underlined to me that you could only get the best from a 911 if you were able to identify its foibles, master its rearward weight bias and use its behaviour to unlock the car’s full potential.
It’s this process that has always made the 911 unique, and why I still find them endlessly stimulating machines to drive.