Speed Yellow Redux: My Porsche 968
Story and photography by Caesar Barton
I’ve been in love with cars ever since my four-year-old paws grasped a pink Matchbox Alfa Carabo. (Was ever a 1968 concept car more 1970s?) It was a fitting choice, as I’ve always been drawn to the more eclectic end of the automotive spectrum; friends are frequently bemused when I stride past modern Aston Martins and Bentleys without sparing them a second glance, only to zealously eulogize over something like a Suzuki SC100 Whizzkid or a Peugeot 309 Goodwood.
My car CV consists mainly of simple cars full of character that excel in finesse over bludgeoning power, starting with a Citroën AX GT and going on to include a Honda CRX Mk2, a duo of Peugeot 205 Rallyes, and a trio of Mk1 VW Golfs. Plus a Smart Brabus Roadster-Coupé—its shrunken Batmobile looks regrettably counterbalanced by a well-documented “porousness” that should’ve made a PADI scuba license a purchase prerequisite…
Though I enjoyed most of those cars, I’d always wanted a Porsche, but with so many models (not to mention the Russian nesting doll-like generational variations to consider too) I needed to pick and stick to some criteria before getting overwhelmed in the subtleties: it had to be a naturally aspirated, two-seater coupé with a manual ‘box, an absence of fripperies, but also with some personality to match the retro style. It turns out it had to be a 968, and the pared-back Club Sport model in particular.
Resplendent in Speed Yellow and complete with CS warpaint (matching-color 17″ Cup II alloys and black Club Sport decals emblazoned along her flanks) the car’s arresting looks were satisfyingly matched by the driving experience. The inherently analog transmission of its contact points (hefty clutch, beefy gear change action, and visceral steering feel) have remained blueprinted in my mind, fingertips. and retinas, even as a Porsche collector drove her away one day, thus bringing our three years together to a close. My 968 story doesn’t end there though.
A hankering to own BMW’s captivatingly odd/achingly cool M Coupe saw that car move into my post-CS orbit. In the metal, the M Coupe’s provocative looks more than lived up to my expectations, as did the inertia-free acceleration from its straight-six engine, but the overly light steering, gear change, and clutch were a massive disappointment. Talk about never meeting your idols. However, in the end destiny prevailed and this Speed Yellow 968 Sport came into my crosshairs: I had to have her.
The car was mechanically identical to my previous 968 CS, with the only differences being the inclusion of electric windows, mirrors, and sunroof, plus tiny rear seats, all of which were omitted from the track-day-favored CS. I’ve subtly modified the this Sport’s appearance with the addition of a chin-splitter, fog lights swapped out for cooling ducts, and clear front indicators, while in homage to the CS that led me to this one, I’ve had the Cup II wheels finished in matching Speed Yellow.
To drive “Bad Girl II,” as she’s known by… well, just me actually, feels just like the CS, only fractionally tighter thanks to her lower mileage and a lack track time. Settling into the “tombstone” comfort seat and twisting the archaic key, I actually like the way that the three-liter four-cylinder awakens with a conspicuous shudder that would horrify Weissach’s present-day NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) specialists. Though admittedly gruff, the way the 968 shivers like an excited border collie ready for its walk lends the car an unrefined charm that has now been schooled out of all but the most lairy low-volume Porsches. Moving off, it’s immediately apparent that the clutch isn’t a pedal you ever engage without being aware of the process, such is its urge to return to its resting point. The weightiness makes absolute sense when pressing on more spiritedly, but is nothing short of a left leg dominatrix in heavy traffic. The gearbox is perfectly matched to the clutch weight-wise, with its preference for measured changes supported by a positive centering action and a preference for deliberate selections.
Free of airbags and adornments, I find the CS/Sport leather-bound steering wheel perfectly proportioned for the task of lively driving, and it is the gateway to unlocking the car’s defining attribute: its steering. Beyond the feel through the wheels, the best part is the car’s eagerness to be maneuvered by the throttle, which allows one to pivot the 968 on its rear axle using the merest of inputs, making certain corners a third gear affair largely dictated by my right foot (something that’s even more entertaining in less than bone-dry conditions…).
Many observers of both don’t realize that I’ve owned two almost identical cars, often thinking that they’re one and the same, and in my part of South Manchester I often get told, “I saw you driving along/parked up at…” All I can say is that if you’re going to drive a bright yellow classic Porsche with bright yellow wheels, then you really do need to be on your best behavior when there are people watching with the ability to write tickets!
I love the fact that this car dovetails perfectly with my own ethos: take your own road. That’s been said in many forms and on many topics, and yet it fits here too; I don’t drive the 968 to impress anyone—desiring any kind of status or recognition from a car choice is ultimately hollow—I simply revel in the old-school tactility of the driving experience, the classic lines, the stunning color, and the fact that it has pop-up headlamps. You just have to love a yellow Porsche with pop-ups!