Porche's classic 911 has a long, illustrious history through numerous model runs and editions. This two-door, rear-engined sports car has achieved iconic status since its arrival in the sixties and remains the brand's flagship model today. Continuing technological development hasn't brought significant changes to the 911's basic design or character but has made successive editions of the car more powerful and refined than the model that went before.
The original, classic Porsche 911 had an astonishingly long production run from 1963-1989, while further major updates were effected in 1993, 1999, 2005 and 2011. Turbocharged versions came along in the seventies, then the super successful cabriolet in the eighties.
In 1990 Porsche showed again how to lead where others follow with the introduction of its semi-automatic Tiptronic gearbox and fitting dual airbags as standard from 1991. The nineties also saw the application of multi-link rear suspension, improving handling and rectifying the 911's well-known tendency to under or over-steer. A huge change came in 1999 in the form of a new body shape and the replacement of water-cooled engines for brand new, air-cooled versions. These changes weren't universally popular but the 911 sustained. 2012's 911 rides on only the third new platform since the car's launch and, with a mostly aluminium bodyshell is the lightest Porsche 911 yet, yet packed with new technology to improve performance, ride quality and fuel technology.
Massive commercial and competition success has been punctuated by various special editions, notably the very collectible Carrera RS, the famous Carrera and later the mighty Carrera GT, the futuristic GT1 and the racy GT2 and GT3 versions.
Bang for your buck
The approved used Porsche 911 is instantly recognisable in any incarnation, the shape curvy but smooth and always aerodynamic. While this car has always been about the performance, more modern versions have given concessions to practicality, such as airbags, electric windows and air-conditioning – it is after all a luxury car.
While early Porsche 911 cars for sale were Spartan in the extreme, favouring driving dynamics over driver comfort, build quality has always been exemplary and elements such as leather upholstery can be expected as standard. A 2+2 seating arrangement stops short of being a true four-seater, while body shapes include coupe, cabriolet and Targa (semi-hardtop) versions.
What you'll pay
Pre-1988 are a mixed bag and a rather unknown quantity. £10,000 should get you a 1989 Carrera 2, £11,000 a Cabriolet. Models from the second half of the nineties vary, starting below £20,000 and going up to £40,000 in the last year of the millennium for a rare turbo. Insurance is usually group 20.
What to check
The key here is to aim for main dealerships. As a magnet for thieves, a Thatcham category 1 alarm and immobiliser is an essential and make sure it's working properly as faults have been reported. Cast your eye carefully over the wheels and tyres as these are expensive to replace if not up to scratch. If there's no full service history, forget it. Non-mainstream paint colours can punish the resale value so aim for the perennially popular black or silver if that's a concern.
You get what you pay for, which in this case is quality engineering. The used Porsche 911 fortunately is pretty reliable so, although parts aren't cheap you shouldn't need too many of them. As an example, you'll pay about £400 for a new clutch, £450 for an exhaust system, £250 for a starter motor or a radiator and £390 for an alternator. A set of front brake pads is around £40 and rear about £50, while a replacement headlight is £215.
How it drives
Earlier second hand Porsche 911 were known for a lively rear end, dangerous for the unwary or inexperienced, but models from the last two decades should be safe enough in the wet. Controls are quick and willing but not so nervous that they punish the inattentive although, frankly, the 911 is so much fun to drive your mind is not likely to wander.
Traction is perfectly good enough to handle 0-60mph times of 5 seconds or less, depending which model you go for and the brakes are miraculously up to the task of stopping all that power. The 400hbp topping Turbo versions are particularly desirable and can keep up with the equivalent Italian supercars of the era.
The daily plod doesn't really exploit the Porsche 911's full potential, but treat it to a track day and you'll see a whole new side – cars don't get that sort of reputation for no reason and the 911 has a fearsome reputation. Its multiple awards include 'Coolest Car' status and an embarrassing number of sports gongs.