Friday 1st April 2011

968: The Perfect F/R Porsche?

PH tracks a foxy silver 968 to Harrogate, and picks up some pointers

The Porsche 968 in Polar Silver, courtesy of Gmund Cars in Harrogate
The Porsche 968 in Polar Silver, courtesy of Gmund Cars in Harrogate
A mate of mine is an ex-racer who's owned dozens of high-performance cars (writes Andy Craig), and he swears to this day that the most fun he's ever had driving on the road was in a 924 Turbo. I asked him to explain why and he said something about the way 'all front-engined Porkers swivel around your backside.'

I still give him grief for that one, but there's no doubt the front-loaded Porsches have a big following. However in spite of the best efforts of my mate's Turbo, it's hard to deny the 924 has a whiff of hair spray about it, which is why I've been taking an interest in 968s instead.

The model has quite a following
The model has quite a following
I found a good looking one in the PH classifieds at Gmund Cars in Harrogate and decided to pay a visit. Whilst there, I got talking to the boss, Andrew Mearns. "I'm surprised by how well they're doing from a demand point of view," he told me. "A good 968 will be similar money to a good Boxster, but they're totally different cars. We have a 2001 Boxster S which came in at same time as this one. Both cars were offered at about the same price but the Boxster had covered less miles. The 968 has sold first - in less than a week. It's a bit like comparing the air-cooled 993 to the later 997. The 997 came with much more technology, but today there isn't that great a difference in the values. I think that people are realising just how good the 968s were. They're a rare car too."

'Rare' and 'in demand' are fitting words. For starters the one I wanted to see had been sold by the time I arrived! Andrew reckons that Porsche models are typically produced for around seven years in which time over 100,000 examples are built. But the 968 was made for barely three years and in that time no more than 11,245 units left the Zuffenhausen plant, with something like 1500 cars coming to the UK - which explains the number of LHD cars on the market.

Especially in Club Sport guise...
Especially in Club Sport guise...
So which 968 should you look for, what do you need to be wary of, and what should you pay?

"Well first off these are a three litre, four cylinder engine," Andrew notes, "so each pot is relatively big at 750cc and as a result they seem slow to turn over when you're starting one - but this is normal. The main points to watch out for are all the belts on the engine. There's also a chain connecting the cams together, and this is where the Vario-Cam unit alters the timing plus or minus 15 degrees. You need to know that it's been serviced properly and in particular when the belts were last done. The one we've just sold has done about 81,000 miles and the belts were last done at 71,000 - but that was nine years ago. There's a time issue there, so as a matter of course we've replaced those. Also, while we were in there we checked the chain tensioner and water pump as well. But it's a good car to work on - not so complicated. Depending on what needs replacing it'll cost between £500 and £1000 to get this work done.

"Like all Porsches, if they're going to be driven hard, they're going to have to stop hard so take a good look at the brakes too, but all parts for 968s are readily available and support from the Porsche clubs is very good. In terms of what to pay, I'd say to budget the thick-end of £10,000 and upwards for a really good Coupe, and up to £20,000 - maybe more - for a Club Sport."

It's not unheard of for 968s to rack-up intergalactic starship mileages, but as is typical with most Porsches, as long as they've been properly looked after this isn't an issue.

In terms of which one to go for, apparently that's easy, too. Andrew says that when people call Gmund to offer a 968 they don't even ask which one it is. There are two reasons for this: One is because they're more interested in how it's been looked after, and the other is because there wasn't really that much difference between the models. All had ABS, power steering, either a six-speed manual or four-speed Tiptronic gearbox, catalytic converters, variable cam-timing, and driver's airbags. Also they all had the same 240bhp engine.

"Some people thought that the Club Sport had more power but it didn't," says Andrew. "It just had lower, stiffer suspension, special seats, and less weight. Having said that I've seen Club Sports for sale with sunroofs, electric windows, and air-conditioning!"

When pushed, Andrew did reveal his personal favourite though: "For the last year of production, Porsche GB created the 968 Sport, which was a 968 Coupe loaded with options including the Club Sport suspension. Of the three models, this for me is the one to have. The Club Sport appeals to track-day people, but the lack of any rear seats meant that there was plenty of room on the market for the 968 Sport, and these cars were great value at the time. Personally, I think a 968 Club Sport is almost too nice a car for track-days."

The Polar Silver, six-speed 968 Coupe I missed out on at Gmund was a fine example of the breed, as these photos show. It boasts a comprehensive history and there's not a ding or a scrape anywhere in sight. It just gives that reassuring impression of a car that's been used and looked after properly.

If you were so inclined you could even make a show-standard car out of this one, but the new owner will hopefully rather be driving it, right?



Author: silversixx

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