968: The Perfect F/R Porsche?

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?



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Comments (96) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Fat Albert 01 Apr 2011

    I have a 944 Turbo and completely agree with the 'Swivelling around your @rse' statement, they handle so well and yet are comfortable cruisers, I cover up to 2,500 a month in mine and it has just clicked over on 210k miles.

    I am trying to decide whether to just hang on to mine or whether to step over to a 968 to get that extra 10% handling finesse - at the expense of the addictive boooooost i have currently!

    There seems to be a widening price gap between the manual and Tiptronic cars, some Tips now at the same price as a good 944...for my mileage and mainly motorway driving that makes a 968 tip even more attractive.

    Whilst the Sport is the most desirable, at this age most cars have had some suspension work/renewal so there is less of a gap between the models on that score, a Coupe on KWs will be more desirable than a Sport on its original suspension

  • rallycross 01 Apr 2011

    The 944 and 968 are superb old cars, still great to drive and could teach many more modern coupes a thing or two (starting with amazingly good steering feel and a compliant chassis with excellent handling). A good Turbo is still a better car than a 968 though.

    My 968 sport was a great day to day car (except it had no air-con). It was quick, comfy and really good on long trips, MPG was decent and even my girl friend liked driving it.

    The Sport is currently good value when you compare it with the prices of the Club Sport which have soared in value in recent years. The Sport is basically the same car just with comfort seats and rear seats, the difference in weight between Sport and Club Sport is so little I don’t think you’d feel it on the road.

    Previous to the 968 I’d had 944 Turbo’s SE (2.5 8v) and a 944 S2 (3.0 16v). The S2 feels very similar to drive to the 968, main difference being the 968 has 6 gears and the engine has a bit more urgency about it, the interior is almost the same, just different enough to feel its not a 944 and the 968 looks that bit more modern with the smoother rear end and different front lights.

    I went from my 944 turbo Se (which had some mods to take it from 250 bhp to closer to 300) to the 968 Sport; the Turbo was a much more exciting car to drive, the suspension set up is stiffer (but still compliant) and the Turbo S has an LSD which makes quite a big difference (the S2 and 968 sport and C/S didn’t have an LSD and will spin up the inside wheel when pushed hard, they feel quite soft compared to the turbo). Very very few 968 c/s had MO30 fitted.

    The turbo was great on track days and I can agree with that description that these cars pivot round the hip – they really do!. And when they do slide its such an easy car to play with on the limit, they are not in the slightest bit twitchy or nervy which was ideal for me when I took the Turbo to the ‘Ring for my fist trip there, it proved to be the perfect car learn that track – and it made the journey out there and back a very pleasant comfy place to be, even the aircon worked - not bad for a 20 yr old car on original suspension!

    If I was buying one today I'd buy a Turbo if I was going to do some track days and if it was only for road use I'd find a 968 with aircon.

    The great thing about these cars is they are so well made if you find one that’s been well maintained the mileage is simply not an issue – there are a few 944 turbos out there in regular use that are well past 200,000 miles mark and still going strong.

    My current 944 is one of the older ones - a 16v 2.5 S Ventillier model, its just a cheap weekend ‘fun car but it still has that superb feeling of great handling and steering and bullet proof build quality. I would recommend a 944 / 968 to anyone thinking of getting their first Porsche, they are nice to drive and can be run without spending a fortune on maintenance.

    Edited by rallycross on Friday 1st April 15:42

  • Garlick 01 Apr 2011

    Still VERY tempted by 968's, particularly a white CS

  • slikrs 01 Apr 2011

    I've never owned a 944 or 968 but I am a great admirer of both and have come very close to owning both in the past. The only thing which took me to a new 350z was the 90 miles a day I was subjecting my 106 Rallye to and thus wanting the extra wee bit of piece of mind but I have no doubt I would be having more fun in a 944....

    AM Vantage next on the cards for me, though this article has made me think about that!

  • sjmoore 01 Apr 2011

    My first Porsche (in fact first proper fast car) was a 944 Turbo and I still have a soft spot for the 944/968. However, whenever I've thought about getting one I've ended up with another 911. 968 probably a better handling car than a 911...but the 911 has something special about it - looks, the six cylinder engine, the different feel you get from the engine in the rear, the quirky interior (on the air-cooled ones at least).

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