Thursday 26th September 2002


964 SPEEDSTER

A posers' plaything, or a serious sports car? asks Alex Sharp

Porsche Speedsters are a tad rare, so before diving into the pros and cons of the model, a bit of background info is in order.

356

The Speedster bodyshape was first created on the 356 model primarily as a basic and thus cheap Porsche for the Californian market. With 4000 cars produced it was a strong seller, particularly stateside, with 80% of sales to the good old USA.

3.2 Carrera

Porsche obviously didn't want to rush to produce the Speedster body for the 911 and it was over thirty years until the Speedster again made an appearance. In 1989 the 3.2 Carrera received the Speedster treatment, with 2000 cars produced in both standard and turbo width bodywork. Almost half this number went to the USA and a mere 139 examples were RHD.

964

The last outing to-date for the Speedster was in 1993, with the 964 model. The 964 Speedster is the rarest of them all, with only 936 cars produced, all based on the Carrera 2 floorplan and available in only standard, i.e. narrow, non turbo width bodywork. Again the USA was the prime buyer with 427 cars heading to the States. The RHD versions were really rare this time, with only 14 cars having the steering wheel on the 'proper' side

Who am I?

The 964 Speedster is sort of a cross between a Cabriolet & an RS. It has softer suspension than the RS but has almost none of the comforts of a normal Carrera 2 or Cabrio. The manually folding pram-like hood is a bit basic, (Porsche actually call it 'an emergency soft top for inclement weather.') but it fits quite snugly and is far better than the camping tent arrangement on an Elise.

Yellow Fever

I visited Paul Stephens Specialist Cars to check out a Speedster they had for sale recently. It was a bright example in extreme yellow. A YELLOW! that cannot be ignored and on a sunny day Stevie Wonder would ensure he was wearing his trademark sunglasses when lurking about near this. The car however was in particularly fine condition, with only a few stone chips on the front bumper and a couple of chips on the offside rear wheel proving it wasn't a brand spanking new car.

Step inside

The interior is shared with a 964 RS, and thus is as bare as Geri Haliwell's fridge. Yellow is very much in evidence, but for those who like more sober interiors, all the trim parts can cheaply and easily be replaced with black Carrera or RS items. There are however two exceptions to the stripped out interior. Firstly unlike an RS you do get electric windows, and secondly the first owner ticked the box marked 'air conditioning' when ordering this car. Its usefulness on the Speedster with the UK's climate is however debatable.

Hood up & cruisin'

The Speedster is a bit lighter than a standard Carrera 2 Cabrio and on the road it feels slightly quicker than its more luxurious brother. It certainly handles better than its boulevard cruiser image may suggest and the 33,000 mile 250bhp engine felt in good form.

Due to foul weather, cruising with the hood down was unfortunately not an option. However I'm happy to report that with the hood up, the cabin is a relatively relaxed place to be. The roof may be basic, but wind noise levels are not as far below Cabriolet levels as you might imagine. Only well into licence losing speeds does it become really intrusive.

The strange effects of LSD


(library shot)

The standard fit limited slip differential is another part shared with the RS and could catch out the unwary. Basically until you are used to its effects, it feels like the car wants to understeer on fast tight bends. I'm not a great fan of LSD's on 911's and feel it really is a bit brutal on what is primarily a summer cruising wagon. However for the serious fast road driver and those who enjoy track days it is certainly an attraction.

Shaking

Under heavy braking there was quite a kickback from the steering wheel, suggesting warped front brake discs. However this is relatively inexpensive to fix was fixed prior to the car being sold.

A future classic?

Porsche have never produced a 993 Speedster and it seems unlikely that a version will ever appear on the 996, as arguably the Boxster fills that position. The 964 is currently the most modern Speedster ever produced and surely will achieve classic status in the future. Given its rarity, the price at £24,000 didn't seem excessive.

Verdict

Pros - The less rare Carrera 2 RS is now appreciating rather than depreciating and seems to be achieving modern classic status. As possibly the last 911 based Speedster I can't help but feel this car is going to do the same.

Cons - LHD may put you off, but RHD 964 Speedsters are very rare and priced accordingly. The lack of rear seats maybe a pain for those who want to bring a couple of mates along to enjoy the experience. The yellow wheels look a bit naff, but replace them with RS type silver 'Cup' wheels and the car will look significantly better.

The car was offered for sale by Paul Stephens of Paul Stephens Specialist Cars at www.paul-stephens.com