Used car buying guide: Porsche 911 (964)

The Porsche 911’s most ardent critics lament its supposedly unchanged 50-year-old design and once-close relationship to the lowly Volkswagen Beetle, but neither of these now tired condemnations have really been relevant since 1989, when the 964 was launched.

The 911 underwent a dramatic (relatively speaking) design overhaul as it morphed into its new generation. The 964 was boldly claimed to be 85% new compared with the then-25-year-old original 911, gaining integrated bumpers in place of the old extended items, an electric rear spoiler and a plusher interior. More significantly, the 964 did away with the 911’s antiquated torsion beam suspension in favour of a coil-sprung set-up and gained power steering and anti-lock brakes as standard. It also underwent a heart transplant, with the old car’s 3.2-litre flat six swapped for a 3.6-litre engine that packed 247bhp as standard – plenty for a car that still tipped the scales at less than 1400kg with a manual gearbox.

A controversial new Tiptronic automatic option – available only on the rear-wheel-drive Carrera 2 – added around 100kg to the kerb weight and 0.7sec to the 0-62mph time but retained a good percentage of the manual car’s dynamic charm. It’s worth seeking out if you do a lot of urban driving, and you only have to read a couple of contemporary reviews for reassurance that it’s a lot slicker than you might think.

If you want full-bore, tail-out antics, however, only the top-rung Turbo shall suffice. The blown 964 packed an uprated version of the previous generation’s 3.3-litre motor until 1993 and came with up to 376bhp in stripped-out, stiffened-up S guise, and it was one of the most unhinged performance cars of its era. It took the fight to bedroom-poster heroes such as the Ferrari Testarossa, and today’s prices reflect its legendary status. Expect to pay upwards of £110,000 for a pre-1993 example and several times that for the most exclusive versions of the one-year-only 3.6-litre model of 1993.

The most outlandish 911 variant – and the one that’s most likely to be found tucked up in a collector’s heated, hermetically sealed vault– is the Carrera RS, essentially a road-going version of Porsche’s 911 factory racer. Wearing the Turbo’s widened rear end and weighing 155kg less than the standard car, this is peak-1990s 911, and you can expect to pay at least £140,000 for one today.

Prices for the standard Carrera are, thankfully, slightly more accessible, starting in the £35,000 region for automatic, rear-drive Cabriolets and rising to nudge six figures for the cleanest, lowest-mileage four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 coupés. So is that the 911 to go for? Well, the 964 is the penultimate air-cooled 911, offering a much more ‘analogue’ driving experience than its comparatively tech-heavy 993 successor, so if you want authenticity and durability with more than a touch of the old-school thrill factor, look no further.

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Also worth knowing

The 964 isn’t yet so collectable that you can’t find used parts in breakers’ yards, and that could save a fortune in the event of a prang or breakage. Examine body panels as you would on a whole car and factor in respray costs. If you can’t get a guarantee that an electrical component or moving part is fully functional, don’t take the risk.

How much to spend

£30,000-£49,999: Mostly early Carrera 2 coupés and Cabriolet daily drivers, some with the Tiptronic gearbox.

£50,000-£69,999: Clean Carrera 4s, including some Turbo lookalikes and rare Targa-top cars.

£70,000-£89,999: Low-mileage Cabriolet and RS models, some with performance modifications.

£90,000 and above: Turbos, 3.8-litre RS editions and ultra-rare Speedsters. Prices climb all the way to £1.4 million for the lighter, limited-edition Turbo S Leichtbau.

One we found

Porsche 911 Carrera 2, 1990, 129k miles, £58,990: One of the earliest and highest-mileage 964s on the market, which will no doubt scare off the less committed enthusiasts, but it’s undergoing a thorough recommissioning presently.