Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

| 10 Jan 2020
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

Why you’d want a Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

After 10 years of production, the delicate and tail-happy original 911 had matured, with a longer wheelbase, some tougher bumpers and a robust, powerful engine.

Though never cheap, the 911 was well made and more durable than most sports cars of comparable performance – and more practical than many, with rear seats for children and sensible luggage space. It would still punish the careless, but in the hands of a skilled driver it was sensational. Porsche’s progressive development concentrated on increasing flexibility and refining the 911 to make it less raw – but there was a turbo for anyone wanting the ultimate driving challenge.

As sophistication and equipment were added, power outputs rose just enough to maintain performance levels. The run-out Club Sport of 1988 was only fractionally faster than the Carrera RS 2.7 Touring of 1973, but the 1980s 911 was without question a more usable everyday car – and remains so today.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
The classic 911 rewards sensitive driving, getting your braking done early and powering out of bends

Rust, despite the galvanised bodyshell from late 1975, remains the buyer’s biggest challenge on all 911s through to 1989. Start by checking the sills, then the ‘kidney bowl’ panels that run up from the back of the sills inside the rear wheelarches, just behind the B-post. Bodging is common here, and proper rectification costly.

On sunroof cars, the drains block and rot the screen pillars (front and rear), and on all cars rust can take hold below the windows. Check the front wings around the lights (new wings are £1000 each); the bottoms of the doors; A-posts; B-posts; the front boot floor, especially below the battery; floorpans front and rear; rear seat pans; and the torsion tube where it goes through the chassis legs. Look also for corrosion around these main rot areas, where past repairs are beginning to fail at welded joins. 

Most UK 911s of this era have had at least one restoration already, and it’s unlikely to have been no expense spared. There’s a lot to be said for buying a ‘dry state’ US car that will require some expenditure on de-restricting tired mechanicals and replacing sun-dried trim, but that only needs a respray over a largely rust-free bodyshell.

Rare models from this era command strong money, yet there are still reasonably priced 911s that offer a little less pace but all the same style and practicality. Buy on condition, rather than spec, if you want a car to drive and enjoy.

Images: James Mann


Porsche 911 (1974-’89): what to look for

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

Bodywork

See above for trouble spots

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

Engine

Flat-six engine is fairly simple, but costly to overhaul (£5k for top end, £3k for bottom end – more with a crank re-grind and pistons). Oil leaks can mean failed head studs: expensive on early units. Check history for oil changes and cam-chain tensioner replacement; many have retrofitted post-’84 pressure-fed tensioners.

Look at the underside of the engine to check the condition of the heat exchangers, which rust, and the heads and crankcase for leaks and corrosion.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

Gearbox

Most had a 5-speed gearbox; some early cars were 4-speeds, and a few Sportomatics. Improved G50 ’box with hydraulic clutch from late ’86.

Front boot

Check in the front boot, especially in the corners and under/around the battery tray for rust, poor repairs and signs of past accident damage.

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

Dashboard

Check dashboard top and surround for distortion and cracking, and that all instruments work. A healthy oil pressure is 4bar at 4000rpm, warm.


Porsche 911 (1974-’89): on the road

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

A good 911 feels taut, smooth and alive, with performance instantly available. Until the SC, a magnesium-alloy crankcase and Nikasil-lined aluminium cylinders were used on most 2.7s – they are light and efficient, but particularly prone to studs pulling out and distortion, especially in US spec with restrictive exhausts. Repair is costly, and not always successful due to block porosity, so beware.

American engines were de-rated (0-60mph in 8.2 secs and 131mph top speed on the base 2.7) and US Carrera 2.7s had K-Jetronic injection instead of the multi-throttle mechanical system on European Carreras. K-Jetronic is great when set up properly – many are now spoiled by split vacuum pipes, sticking throttle flaps and air leaks, but are easy to sort.

While some oil drips are to be expected on earlier models, excessive leaks are not. In contrast, 3.2 engines can corrode externally due to better oil sealing! Motronic injection on 3.2s was the first programmable system, and chip upgrades are available (£750 including the essential rolling-road session to tune it to the car).

The gearchange was a bit clunky when new, and is the same when newly rebuilt, but shouldn’t be sloppy (a fairly easy fix) or crunchy (budget £1500-3500 for rebuild). Listen for knocking from the rear end, indicating worn CV joints: the pre-’80 joints are scarce now and costly. Soggy dampers are common and inexpensive.

Notchy steering results from a seized bearing on the top of the rack, which can be replaced.


Porsche 911 (1974-’89) price guide

2.7

  • Show/rebuilt: £70,000
  • Average: £35,000
  • Restoration: £10,000

 

SC

  • Show/rebuilt: £55,000
  • Average: £28,000
  • Restoration: £6000

 

3.2*

  • Show/rebuilt: £60,000
  • Average: £32,000
  • Restoration: £5000

* Rare/desirable models worth considerably more


Porsche 911 (1974-’89) history

1973 Aug 2.7 production begins, for ’74 launch as 150bhp 911, 175bhp S and 210bhp Carrera

1974 Aug ‘Whale tail’ spoiler option, full-width rear ‘Porsche’ reflector added

1975 Aug Fully galvanised body; Carrera goes 3-litre with 930 engine & K-Jetronic; standard 911 gets 175bhp 2.7; S model dropped

1977 Aug 3.0 SC replaces 2.7: electronic ignition, Sport (big spoilers) and leather options

1982 Oct SC Cabriolet launched

1983 Aug Carrera 3.2 replaces SC: Motronic management, 231bhp, optional ‘turbo-look’ 

1987 Club Sport & Anniversary (50 each for UK)

1988 Aug Speedster added 

1988 Carrera 3.2 replaced by 964


The owner’s view

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
Owner Angus Watt with his 911

VW Camper Co boss Angus Watt had his first VW, a Fiberfab buggy, at 15. “I ignored 911s for years,” he admits, “then I went
to San Diego to buy campers and they were all rubbish, but there was a 2.7 targa. We took off the roof and went for a drive: it was an epiphany moment. I bought it, then three more, starting an enjoyable learning curve. 

“I bought this Texas car in California four years ago. We’ve rebuilt the ’box, replaced the original clutch, tidied up the engine, restored the fan and sourced the correct wheels – it’s original apart from our retrofit CDI multi-spark system and I’ve just enjoyed it. We’ve been to Le Mans, the Coppa Europa rally and Donegal. The next step is to turn it into a Carrera RS replica with mechanical injection – it’s already the right colour!”


Also consider

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)
Alpine A310 V6 (left) and Ferrari 308/328 are alternative buys

ALPINE A310 V6

With dramatic styling and a rear-mounted V6 replacing the ‘four’, this was the French 911. Its 148bhp gave 137mph, but sales were held back by a lack of development.

Sold 1976-’84 • No. built 9276 • Price now £20-35k


FERRARI 308/328

Mid-mounted V8 gave Porsche-topping pace and price, but this was a car to cherish not to rack up autobahn miles in. Lovely Pininfarina styling, but costly to fix.

Sold 1975-’88 • No. built 19,555 • Price now £50-100k


Porsche 911 (1974-’89): the Classic & Sports Car verdict

Classic & Sports Car – Buyer’s guide: Porsche 911 (1974-’89)

If the classic 911 look appeals, with air-cooled flat-six, organ-type pedals, offset driving position and thoroughbred performance and handling, a good car from this era will not disappoint.

The 2.7s are the most fragile; prioritise finding a car with no rust and a well-sorted engine above any particular model or spec. Targas and (rare) Cabrios suffer more from rot and flexing than coupés, and beware fakes of the rare models.

FOR 

More capable of everyday use than almost any other supercar, great parts and specialist back-up and a huge knowledge base for support

AGAINST

Durability doesn’t mean they last for ever, and extensive rebuilds are very expensive. Parts are costly compared to lesser cars, too


Porsche 911 (1974-’89) specifications

Sold/number built 1974-’89/215,743

Construction steel monocoque

Engine magnesium/aluminium alloy, ohc 2687/2994/3164cc flat-six, with Bosch K-Jetronic/Motronic fuel injection; 165bhp @ 5800rpm to 231bhp @ 5900rpm; 174lb ft @ 4000rpm to 209lb ft @ 4800rpm

Transmission four/five-speed manual or four-speed Sportomatic (to 1979), RWD

Suspension independent, at front by MacPherson struts rear semi-trailing arms; torsion bars, anti-roll bar f/r

Steering rack and pinion Brakes discs, with servo from SC

Length 14ft 1in (4290mm)

Width 5ft 31/2in (1612mm)

Height 4ft 4in (1319mm)

Wheelbase 7ft 51/2in (2274mm)

Weight 2378-2697lb (1081-1226kg)

0-60mph 7.2-5.1 secs 

Top speed 135-155mph

Mpg 16-24

Price new £16,732-18,179 (1980)


READ MORE

All Classic & Sports Car buyer’s guides

Starter classics: 14 great cars for a first-timer

28 appreciating classics and what you should pay for them