993 Cabriolet road trip
Total 911 lowers the roof of a 993 Cabriolet and heads for the mountains to drive three passes in three hours among South Africa’s Winelands district
Wilhelm Lutjeharms explores South Africa’s Winelands region in a 993 Carrera Cabriolet
Sundays are made for driving. The winter in South Africa’s Western Cape is, compared to Europe, not that long or cold, but it is wet. As is also the case in Europe, the winter is our rainy season here and it can rain continuously for days. But you are guaranteed that after a cold front, it will clear up and the sky will be perfectly blue again. It is for those days that you need to plan your drive and, in this case, take the roof down and head for the mountains.
The owner of this 993 Carrera 4 Cabriolet has known about this car for a good five years, and several of the previous owners he also knows through the local Porsche Club. He explains: “This car was delivered to its first owner in South Africa on 29
May 1996. It has its regular service stamps in the booklet, mostly at official Porsche dealerships and a few at specialists. My neighbour at our flying club has owned it for a while and when he started talking about selling it, I sat up and took notice. It is truly a fantastic car on the open road, roof up or down. This is the first 993 I’ve owned, but owning a mint SC and having owned a 997 GTS, this 993 feels like a more modern interpretation of my SC.”
I’d seen the car in pictures, but pictures never do a car justice. Only upon closer inspection I realise how well cared for this example is. As I page through the service booklet, I note the usual service stamps, but more interesting is the fact that the car has had ten owners. Usually if a car has had that many owners, somewhere along the line one or two of these custodians will have not cared for the car particularly well. Thankfully this is not the case here – which is quite remarkable.
The university town of Stellenbosch is in the centre of what is South Africa’s Winelands district, and from here you have access to a number of mountain passes, depending on how long a drive you want to take. First up is Helshoogte Mountain Pass, a dual carriageway that has ten corners, all of them fairly fast – if the mood takes you. It is not a long pass, but one with beautiful views and a favourite for all who like to experience their performance machines over weekends.
First though, we take the roof down, an electronic system that initially lowers it, but then the black cover has to be pulled over manually. Once this is done, it looks much neater and we can hit the road. As the owner is rather tall, he admits that he would have liked it if the driver’s seat could have been moved another click or two rearwards. Being righthand drive, the pedals are off-set to the left, but the moment you start driving the car you forget about it.
We settle into a cruise and at first, I admire the diminutive size of the 993. Adding to that, the solid
“Air rushes through the cabin and allows me to enjoy the 993’s throaty exhaust sound”
feel of the car as a whole is immensely impressive. Yes, the roof is down (it will be for the entire trip, it is a convertible after all), and I’m sure there will be a few sounds when the roof is up, but there are no rattles or squeaks – impressive for a 25-year-old car. The cabin feels more like a car that has done only 20,000 miles.
This Carrera 4 was bought in February with just over 89,000km (55,300 miles) on the odometer. The owner hasn’t held back though, and he and his wife have been on a number of trips since the purchase. This included a trip of more than 600 miles through South Africa’s Western and Southern Cape, along with 17 other cars.
Studying the sticker on the inside of the luggage lid, this 911 was indeed originally earmarked for South Africa with the country code C26. Options that the first owner selected, and some which the importer probably specc’ed on all the cars coming to South Africa, include air conditioning (573), a six-disc CD changer (692), wind deflector (551) and code number 150, which means it will run on leaded gas and no catalyst is fitted.
It seems fellow enthusiasts and motorcyclists have already headed home, as the roads are fairly quiet. We make our way towards Franschhoek, known for its wine farms and restaurants, but for us petrolheads, you head there to tackle the mountain pass. The pass is blessed with two tight hairpins and a few straights in which to stretch the engine’s legs. With the wind deflector stowed away and windows down, air rushes through the cabin and allows me to enjoy the 993’s throaty exhaust sound, neatly finished off with its two chromed tips.
As I gather speed, the wind noise overpowers the exhaust note though, but every time I brake for a corner and shift down, the mechanical symphony returns as the wind noise dies down.
Despite being on the heavier side of the 993 range (compared to a Coupé or RS), the Carrera 4 Cabriolet still offers that true 993 experience. The gearshift is slick and direct, with relatively long throws in the fore-aft direction, but with the engine offering decent amounts of torque, shifting is mostly done for the joy of it. Even at 2,000 to 3,000rpm in a high gear you can expect the tractable engine to accelerate the car purposefully down the road.
With six gears on offer, it is the perfect cruiser and the owner proudly admits that on the open road during his trips he has been able to achieve fuel consumption averages of more than 28mpg. With the wind deflector in place and the windows up, aerodynamics improve along with fuel consumption of course, wind buffeting will be minimised and you will probably be able to listen to a few ’90s era CDS while still enjoying the beautiful vistas around you.
As with other 911 generations, the Coupe is the most desirable body style of 993. But when it comes to fresh air motoring, which is the better
993 buy: the Cabriolet or Targa? Jamie Tyler at Paragon offers us his thoughts: “The Targa is rarer than the Cabriolet, and it also gave you the best of both worlds: you have the look, feel and security of the Coupé with the roof closed, and with the roof open it gave you the convertible feel without all the wind buffeting.
“The downside with the Cabriolet is that when you put the roof down you need to put the tonneau cover on to make it look tidy – a bit of a chore when you maybe only want to head out for a few minutes.
“One doesn’t really need more maintenance than the other. Generally, the Targa roofs are pretty reliable. I can’t really think of many times when we had to do any serious work on this roof system. The Cabriolets are slightly more temperamental with their mechanisms.
“In terms of values, I would say a Targa is equivalent in price to that of a Coupé, while a Convertible is on average priced around £5,000 less. The market though is in an interesting phase at the moment where owners are holding on to their cars, so finding a good example of either could prove difficult currently.”
Franschhoek Mountain Pass, or Lambrechts Road to give it its official name, heads over the mountain into the Overberg region, home to deciduous farmlands, small towns and a beautiful landscape. However, we blast to the top and turn around, since there is still an hour and a half left before the sun sets and another mountain pass awaits.
Heading back through Franschhoek, we only have 20 miles to go before we find ourselves at the bottom of Du Toitskloof Pass, which is now our third mountain pass for the afternoon. As with so many other passes in other parts of the world, this pass was the original road that carved its way up and across the mountain and connected Cape Town with the Northern parts of the country. Today, it is still being used, although most of the traffic makes use of the more convenient tunnel that opened in 1988 and runs through the mountain.
This pass is slightly bumpier than the smooth surfaces of Helshoogte and Franschhoek, but the
993’s suspension does a sterling job. It is here that I notice the scuttle shake, but it is no more than I expected it to be. Even shod with relatively narrow tyres (255/40 rear, 205/50 front) on those classic 993 17-inch, five-spokes, the car still encourages you to push on a bit, but the subconscious knowledge that a four-wheel-drive system is keeping you glued to terra firma definitely also helps instil confidence. Having said that, I’m not going to drive the car that hard to experience the difference between this car and one fitted with rear-wheel drive. I always find it interesting that owners spec a 911 (Turbo excluded) with all-wheel drive in a country as dry as South Africa, when rear-wheel-drive 911s already offer such impressive levels of grip.
Nevertheless, it is here where I let the rev needle run a bit higher. Mid-range punch is perfect, but let the engine run past 5,000rpm and it comes alive – and then there is still several hundred rpms left after 6,000. With the car being so compact and you sitting so close to the door, that al fresco feeling is distilled compared to modern Cabriolets. With the entire nose of the car being in perfect view, I know exactly where the front extremities of the car are, and threading it through corners is a cinch.
At the same time, I feel like I’m doing the car a slight injustice. It takes all this enthusiastic driving in its stride, but at the same time, as I park it close to the top of the pass for our final photographs, I realise it is meant to be enjoyed at a more sedate pace. More than ever before I understand the merits of a classic 911 Cabriolet.