Rare Cabri­o­lets

Think Porsche re­serves its spe­cial edi­tions for Coupe-only vari­ants? Think again, as To­tal 911 dis­cov­ers…

Total 911 - - Contents -

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

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