Featured: These Cars are Porsche's Soul and Saviors

These Cars are Porsche’s Soul and Saviors

Avatar By Markus Haub
June 11, 2014

Photography by Markus Haub

It’s been well documented that in the 1980s Porsche was in a deep crisis, the G-model was approaching its limits and customers wanted a more comfortable ride. But besides launching a replacement for the famous 911, the 928, Porsche also developed a new 911 at the urging of then-CEO Peter Schutz. And thus, in March 1984 the new project “964” was launched. It was presented in 1988 and initially only available in all-wheel-drive, which used a simplified 959 driveline. The central differential distributed, in typical 911 fashion, thirty-one percent of the torque to the front and sixty-nine percent to the rear.

Beginning in the 1990 model year there was also a rear-wheel drive version for purists. And while both the AWD and RWD versions displace 3.6L and produce 246HP, they say that the more powerful engines were installed in the Carrera 4 to compensate for the weight differential of 100kg. Compared to the previous model eighty-five percent of the parts were new. Significant parts of the body were redesigned and below the skin almost everything was redeveloped. The 964 has an advanced lightweight metal chassis and for the first time ABS brakes and power steering were available. Additionally, the car was equipped with an electrically-actuated spoiler (at 80 km/h), which improved the handling characteristics, but did not affect the design (obviously, below 80 km/h).

The bumpers were rounder and the underbody was fully covered which helped achieve a drag coefficient of 0.32 and performance on par with the 930 Turbo. Available body styles were the coupe, convertible and targa (the last one with the bow, which has just now been reintroduced as a stylistic feature). In 1991, a Turbo was added and in ’93 the Speedster variant was introduced. In total, over 62,000 units were built, of which 13,353 as C4 Coupe.

The “993” was the last air-cooled 911 and was debuted at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 1993 with 272 hp, (later 286 hp on the market). The development costs were in excess of 400 million German Marks and the car had to be a success, because the 928 was not selling well and the Boxster was not yet on the market. Design director Mr. Harm Lagaay and Mr. Tony Hatter, designer of the 993, found inspiration in the “Urelfer”-shape (first generation) with its integrated body and deleted bumpers. The 993 headlights are flat and more cohesive to the overall form. The doors, roof, and windows of the 964 have been retained, but the fenders and bumpers were restyled. The car is only eight cm wider than the previous generation but looks much beefier. Underneath the sheetmetal there was a new multi-link rear axle and also a six-speed transmission. Later, the Carrera RS followed with 300 hp, a turbo version with 408 hp, and from 1995, a Carrera 4S and a top-of-the-range the 424hp-strong GT2. Porsche landed back in the green, but an era came ended. On March 31, 1998 the last air-cooled Porsche rolled off the line.

The Porsche 964 and 993 are the two final generations of the air-cooled 911 and that alone makes them something special. But they both had a role in saving Porsche and retaining the essence of what makes Porsche special. Both examples here are Midnight Blue (Mittersnacht Blau) and the 964 is one of the last 964 Carrera 4s built in 1993.

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jeff NewmarkChris DyerFrankJack OlsenDustin Rittle Recent comment authors
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jeff Newmark
jeff Newmark

Your blog is very nice and interesting. But this post is very shocking but so interesting, i am impressed. Keep up the good work
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Chris Dyer
Chris Dyer

I’m a little late to this party, but for whatever reason this article decided to show up in my Facebook feed and I must have missed it a couple of years ago when it was originally published. The 964 and 993 were great cars (at least later model 964s), and the air-cooled 911 is undoubtedly an icon and the clearly holds “true” Porsche DNA. But, these cars didn’t save Porsche. The early 964s were plagued with electrical issues and oil leaks that Porsche was doing worse financially in the early 90s than they were in the 80s. Some people say… Read more »

Frank Siemerink
Frank Siemerink

I have recently changed my 911 SC for a fresher 964… Still the good Old shape but totally different to drive! The 964 was the most significant step in the evolution of the 911 and kept the bloodline for the 911 alive. It is true that 944 and watercooled models like the Boxster and the 996 were the rescue for Porsche but the true Porsche DNA is in the aircooled models….

Jack Olsen
Jack Olsen

Great pictures! It’s interesting to see those two models side by side. It used to be commonly accepted that the 993 was a styling home-run while the 964 served as a sort of awkward transition. Decades later, that is all changing (at least in my opinion).

Dustin Rittle
Dustin Rittle

I always a bit of love for the Porsche 964. I always liked the fact that it was able to carry on the basic Porsche 911 design we all grew up to love but yet somehow they added a modern vibe to it all. It didn’t stop with just the design either when they put in a powerful engine and revised the suspension. It was just a good mix of modern tech but still wrapped in a new but familiar design


A more false article could never be posted. By the time the 964 and 993 rolled around, customers were lethargic over the 911. The Porsche 944 is THE car that saved Porsche no questions asked. Even before the new plants were built, the 944 was the huge volume car they neede and had. Their CEO who slashed the enormous inventory of parts they had also helped with the profitability of the company.

David Greenbaum

I remember reading back in the day that Porsche asked Japanese car manufacturers (I forget which one and I can’t seem to find any info of it on line) to help them produce a more cost effective assembly process with the introduction of the 964 series. It is most evident in the 996 series 911 and the first Boxster, which look virtually identical from the doors forward because they shared basically the same front half of the cars. Porsche was the last family independently owned car manufacturer and intended to stay that way. Great story, thanks.

Afshin Behnia
Afshin Behnia

I believe it was Toyota. If I remember correctly, their first reaction upon seeing the assembly line was a provocative “this is not a factory! It’s a warehouse” or something to that effect. He was referring to large spare parts inventory that was required due to high frequency of parts that didn’t pass QA.