Your classic Porsche 968
PORSCHE 968 SPORT
“Is it a 944?” intrigued observers frequently ask me, quickly followed by, “Is it a 928 then?” It’s understandable, because the Porsche 968’s styling combines a side profile inherited from its 944 predecessor with 928-like circular pop-up headlamps and a rounded rear which was clearly inspired by that model’s Rubenesque rump.
While the appeal of the vastly more popular rear- and midengined Porsches isn’t lost on me, there’s a brawny physicality to the front-engined transaxle models – 968s originating from the Club Sport production line (of which the Sport is a Uk-only derivative) especially – that causes them to resonate with me more than even the most revered Stuttgart steeds. Naturally aspirated, rear-wheel drive, with a manual ’box and light on extras, the recipe dispenses with unnecessary additives to create the automotive equivalent of Reinheitsgebot, the German beer purity law of 1516. At the heart of the appeal is the undiluted nature of the contact points: the hefty clutch, beefy gearchange and analogue steering feel – and I love the styling, especially in Speed Yellow.
On twisting, undulating ribbons of Tarmac – epitomised by my favourite local road, the A54 on the Cheshire/derbyshire border – it’s a largely second- and third-gearwringing joy. From getting the mobile rear stepping out just-so on second-gear inclined bends to near redlining in third on a succession of sweeping arcs, the high-revving Variocam engine sounds like heavy-duty cardboard being torn by a circus strongman.
Then there are those occasions where I’ve left a gig in the city centre after dark on a fine evening, when I’ve found myself in no rush to leave the neon-lit streets and Variocam vigour is exchanged for second-gear stealth. The labyrinth of artfully graffiti-clad russet brickwork and narrow ginnels of the city inspired these photos, taken in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. With six years of consecutive 968 ownership under my belt (I’d previously owned a near-identical and even more spartan Speed Yellow Club Sport for three years), I can attest to its resolute robustness when diligently maintained. The solidity of the dashboard and vaultlike way the doors close feels more durable than successive Porsche models – testament to the quality of cars rolling off the production line at Zuffenhausen at the time.
For body, paint and trim issues I’ll always used Cheshire Accident Management in Cheadle – run by the convivial Paul Moore – while dealer principal Jason and his staff at Porsche Centre Wilmslow (with a special mention for parts man par excellence Geoff) have always been the paragon of hospitality.
I love the fact that this car dovetails perfectly with my own ethos: go your own way. I don’t drive it to impress anyone – I’ve always rejected the hollow cult of ‘status’ – but simply revel in the telepathic tactility of the driving experience, the classy lines, stunning colour and the fact that it has pop-up headlamps. You just have to love an old-school analogue Porsche with pop-up headlamps!
Exterior mods include a chin splitter, front cooling ducts (in lieu of foglamps) and clear front indicators. Above right: Barton with his previous Club Sport
Dash quality owes everything to Zuffenhausen production