Is a 911 with Sportomatic gearbox desirable?
It’s no secret that in the current climate of collectible sports cars, a manual gearbox sits central to a model’s desirability. Certain Pdk-only models have of course bucked this trend, including the 997 Turbo S or, more recently than that, the 991.1 GT3. However, previous to that 911s with two pedals just haven’t appealed to the collector market in quite the same way.
This is largely because when we think of a classic, automatic 911 we think of the Tiptronic gearbox – a thoroughly agricultural system by today’s standards. However, delve into the archives and you’ll find Porsche utilised a Sportomatic gearbox on some of its earlier models, it carrying gravitas as the unit fitted to a triumphant 911R at the 1967 Marathon de la Route. The unit was then fitted to a selection of pre-impact bumper and G-series models, eventually being dropped by Porsche in 1980. Sportomatic 911s are a rare find today, so does that make them more desirable?
“It’s an underrated gearbox and actually offers a really involving drive,” says Adam at Crawley-based specialists Nine Excellence, pointing to the fact a Sporto 911 still involves a manual gear shift. “There was a period of time, even fairly recently, when Sportomatic gearboxes weren’t as well thought of, and swapping the unit out for a manual gearbox was a common occurrence in a 911. Conversely, that means a genuine matching-numbers Sportomatic 911 is actually a rare find,” agrees Ken Napier, proprietor at Nine Excellence.
Nevertheless, according to Jonathan Franklin at Hexagon Classics, a manual will of course be worth more. “When people think of the 911, they think of the manual gearbox and a purist driving experience. While fun, the Sporto doesn’t quite deliver in the same way,” he says. So what’s better, an original Sportomatic 911 or an example that’s had this unique 925 gearbox swapped out for a manual 915? “Good question,” is Jonathan’s reply. “If it’s a mint, low-miles car then originality is key, otherwise a buyer will want a manual, simple as that.”
Of course, a Porsche 911 Coupe with a manual gearbox is always the default choice for those wanting a purist example of classic sports car driving and therefore will always be much more desirable than any automatic or semi-automatic gearbox. However, the Sportomatic gearbox presents part of the charm of the 911’s unique history – to some, that’s worth something.