Think Porsche reserves its special editions for Coupe-only variants? Think again, as Total 911 discovers…
Last issue we looked at the positives to owning an opentopped 911. This time we look at the rare examples
Porsche isn’t one to miss a good marketing opportunity. Throughout the 54 years of 911 production, in which over a million examples of this iconic sports car have rolled out of Zuffenhausen, the company has bestowed worldwide customers with a whole host of special editions to celebrate anniversaries, milestones and notable racing achievements. The latest addition is Motorsport’s new 935, a track-only car based mechanically on the 991 GT2 RS but styled on the revered Moby Dick of 1978. More interestingly though, there’s also a new Speedster. However, the fact it’s being built to commemorate 70 years of Porsche isn’t particularly significant, and neither is the numbered production run of just 1,948 examples. No, it’s a special-edition, open-topped Porsche.
Think about it, most special-edition Porsche
911s are Coupes. From the 930 S to the 991 Turbo S Exclusive Edition, via the 993 GT2, 996 Anniversary and 997 Sport Classic, these limited cars, often built on a numbered production run, are tin-top. There appears no specific reason for this: all body styles hail from the same production line at Werk II, and it’s not like an open-topped 911 is unpopular – in fact, widespread endearment to both the Cabriolet and Targa is such that Porsche has kept both models running concurrently since 1983. And while it’s true 911 Coupes will always enjoy a certain cache over their open-topped stablemates, what’s not to like about a special-edition Cabriolet?
To find out we’ve come to Long Beach in southern California to sample two stellar open-topped examples of rare Porsche in the 3.2 Commemorative Cabriolet and 964 America Roadster. Owned by serial Porsche owner and Total 911 subscriber Bruce Brown, these cars are used as they were intended, cruising the boulevards and carving through the inland canyons, roof down, revelling under the year-round Californian sunshine.
The cars arrive at the beach just after us, pulling off the highway and driving onto a slipway down to the Pacific Ocean, the 964’s almost V8-like thrum a striking note against the 3.2 Carrera’s more agricultural resonance. Bruce, in the 3.2, and his friend Simon Birch, piloting the 964, kill the cars and jump out, which gives us a chance to absorb both 911s as they cool off in the brisk sea wind.
First, the Commemorative 3.2. Built to honour 250,000 911s having been built, it’s sometimes referred to as the 25th Anniversary – this at a time before Porsche thought of the 30, 40 and 50 Jahre Anniversary models in the ensuing years. The 3.2 Commemorative Edition was available in either Coupe, Cabriolet or Targa body styles. All were
finished in special Diamond blue metallic paint with colour-coded 16-inch Fuchs wheels, with an enviable specification including power seats for both the driver and passenger, central locking and improved headlight and windshield washers all as standard. Inside, the seats, usually finished in ‘silver-blue crushed leather’, have Ferry Porsche’s signature stitched into the front headrests.
A total of 875 Commemorative cars were produced, with 300 coming to the US. However, like all Us-bound Carreras, these came with the Typ 930/21 flat six and not the 930/20 engine of ROW cars. Modified to satisfy emissions regulations, these US engines came with a reduced compression ratio from 10.3:1 to 9.5:1 and a revised Bosch electronics system with a heated oxygen sensor to better regulate the air/fuel mixture. The result was a maximum power output of 207hp instead of the Row-spec 231, with peak torque registered as 260Nm instead of 283. It mattered little, particularly in a country where the maximum legal road speed had only just been increased to 65mph from 55mph.
Bruce stumbled across the 3.2 Commemorative Cabriolet on Craigslist some nine years ago. “It was for sale at a super-low price because the owner at the time believed the engine had blown,” Bruce tells us. “So I went to look at the car and took some oil with me, as from his description it didn’t sound like a blown engine – for example, he said he was able to start the car.” Checking the 911 over, Bruce found that although the car was haemorrhaging oil, the transmission was tight. “We made a deal. Afterwards I had the head studs fixed which had come loose and the car was good to go. I’d intended to flip the car, but I’d never had a Cabriolet at that point and thought, well, I live near the beach, so deserve one!”
Its Sport trim and G50 gearbox make the car a desirable 3.2 Carrera regardless, but that Diamond blue hue with colour-coded wheels is what helps set this car apart from the rest of its contemporaries. Sure, Coupe and Targa variants were also available for the Commemorative 3.2, but among the sundrenched topography of Long Beach, surely only a Cabriolet will do. Like some of the best 911s though, only a concerted enthusiast would likely realise what this car was.
The 964 America Roadster, on the other hand, is a different proposition entirely, its wide Turbo hips a rare sight on the 964’s Cabriolet body style.
Released in 1992, the 964 was built to commemorate 40 years since production of the original America Roadster, a significant Us-export model for Porsche at the time. Essentially a Turbo-look 964 Cabriolet, the America Roadster came equipped with the Turbo body and chassis, albeit with the electric active rear wing from the Carrera. Its enhanced specification includes an upgraded sound system, leather upholstery, heated seats, an onboard computer and automatic climate control. The 964 Carrera’s 3.6-litre, 250hp flat six was used, though customers could choose between either the five-speed manual or fourspeed Tiptronic gearbox. Porsche did produce the car for worldwide markets under the name of Turbo Look Cabriolet, though using the name of America Roadster for the US market, just 250 examples were produced. Sources say the car had a Stateside price tag of $94,960, the equivalent of about $11,000 less than the Turbo Look Cabriolets in Europe.
The America Roadster has resided with Bruce for five years now. “My mechanic told me the car was available – I’d never even driven a 964 at the time. It was stock height and I didn’t like it. He told me to buy it regardless and that we’d get new tyres and a better geo to improve the drive. I then had it lowered on HR springs with Bilstein dampers. I’m glad I listened to him because I love the car now!” he says, admiring the car against the backdrop of the Pacific.
Bruce says he’s fortunate to own two such rare 911 Cabriolets, but which does he prefer? “It’s the 964 for me,” he says with little hesitation. “I prefer its speed, and the way it corners. Whereas you can feel the 3.2 Cabriolet twist a little bit, the Roadster stays flat.” Some might counter with the fact the 3.2 Carrera’s narrow body is less weight than the Turbo-spec 964, but that’s part of the appeal of the 911 and the culture around it – there’s a car out there for everybody.
With Dan done with his static pictures we fire up the two air-cooled 911s and head for the highway, having to first crawl through the stop-start traffic lining Long Beach’s busy boulevards. Following them with their roofs stowed, the sumptuous wide hips of the 964 draping over its Cup wheels makes for a rousing sight, the car looking more squat to the road without the upper proportions of a Coupe roofline. They both look incredible: so uncommon is it to see a single open-top, special-edition 911, the sight of two riding side-by-side is nothing short of fascinating. A unique cache of al-fresco motoring and high collectibility, a rare Cabriolet makes for a fine Porsche 911 ownership experience.
Thanks to Bruce Brown for supplying the two 911 Cabriolets in our feature, and Simon Birch for facilitating. Your help is greatly appreciated.
“Providing the unique cache of al-fresco motoring and high collectibility, a rare Cabriolet makes for a fine Porsche 911 ownership experience”
above 3.2 Commemorative Edition has the coveted G50 manual gearbox
above Bruce’s 3.2 has a rare temperature management system with VDO gauge