Monday, May 23

At $52,000, Does This 1990 964 Cabriolet Postpone The Porsche Tax?

Nice Price or No Dice 1990 Porsche 911 Cabriolet

The opportunity to get into an air-cooled 911 at anything less than a crazy price is fading fast. We’ll have to decide if today’s Nice Price or No Dice 964 is one of the last chances to get one at a non-crazy price. Or if it’s already too late.

I get asked a lot of times “what’s the best car or truck,” and I always respond by asking, “the best for doing what?” If there were one best car or truck, honestly, every automaker would have figured out a way to make a version of that very same vehicle. Instead, we have a variety of vehicles that are good at one or more things but typically not the best all-around.

A few vehicles come close to that automotive nirvana, and the 1995 Ford F-150 XLT we looked at yesterday is representative of one of those. It could serve as the perfect solution for many needs by offering a never-say-die OHV straight-six, un-fussy five-speed, and solid body-on-frame construction. At $7,500, it wouldn’t break the bank either. At least, according to the 68 percent of you who awarded the truck with a Nice Price win.

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It’s hard to quantify whether or not Porsche’s 911 is a perfect car, but considering the model’s longevity, it’s safe to say that it must be doing something right. To stay relevant that long, especially in the sizable production numbers (over 1,000,000 sold to date) Porsche has managed to pump out, the car hasn’t exactly been resting on its laurels. Over eight generations, the 911 has evolved. Sometimes slowly and methodically, and sometimes with jarring immediacy.

We generally split the 911 line into two major categories — air-cooled and water-cooled — and then into sub-categories of each of those. Today we are looking at a 1990 964 Cabriolet, a model which falls within the air-cooled class. Indeed, the 964 was the second to the last of the initial wave of air-cooled cars. It was also one of the least well-received.

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The reason why it was less popular than both the preceding 3.2 Carrera and the following 993 can be attributed to three main issues. The first is that while the 964 carried over much of the earlier G-Series bodywork, it adopted new, somewhat ungainly bumpers that few buyers found handsome. Secondly, this was the first 911 to offer AWD, with a system that was derived from the 953 rally car and 959 hypercar. The problem was that while it tamed the 911’s infamous reputation for tail wagging, purists complained it went too far, dulling the car’s handling overall. It was also unnecessarily complicated, so much so that Porsche devised a much simpler AWD system (that was also half as heavy) for the later 993 models. The last issue was pricing. Adjusted for inflation, the 964 was one of the most expensive 911 editions out of the gate. Couple that with a general economic downturn during the time of its production run and it’s not surprising that sales didn’t meet expectations.

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The thing of it is, these days there’s not a single 911 model that hasn’t caught a ride on the crazy train to the sunny state of can’t-afford-it, and so finding even lesser-desirable models at reasonable prices is getting harder and harder to do.

This Guards Red over black base leather Cabriolet is kitted about the best you could want for a basic 964. It’s 2WD-only so it still has the classic 911 feel, and it sports a five-speed manual. Being a 964, it comes with a significantly revamped chassis featuring coils-springs in the front in place of the G-models’ torsion bars, along with a much better HVAC system and numerous other updates.

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Some may counter that a coupe would be more desirable owning to the stiffer structure that body style affords, but for weekend work, the convertible is stout enough and for resale, convertible sports cars almost always offer a better draw than do the tin roof cars.

According to the ad, this 964 comes with 158,000 miles on the clock. That seems like a sizable number, however, the seller notes a partial engine rebuild at 80K and a new clutch at 100K. One of the issues of the pre-1991 964s is the engine design. This model came with a substantial redesign of the flat-six engine, bumping displacement from 3.2 liters to 3.6 and switching to dual-plug heads. Porsche also thought it a good idea to omit the gaskets between those heads and the block, thinking that the perfectly machined aluminum surfaces of the head and cylinder block would eliminate the need. That theory proved specious in practice and in 1991 Porsche made a running change in the engine design returning gaskets to the game. It is not possible to retrofit an older engine to the new gasketed design, but if this one’s not leaking significantly at 158K then there’s likely nothing to worry about.

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The ad does note a bit of oil weeping from the engine, which is common with these cars. There’s also a 1-inch tear in the canvas of the top that will need addressing. Aside from the minor top issue, the car looks terrific. The paint pops and looks to be original. The car runs the optional 17-inch Cup wheels (Design 90s were the standard fare) and those seem to be in decent condition. Both boot and interior show only minor wear, and the car carries a Continental stereo which, while not era-appropriate, at least looks at home in the dash.

The title is clean and the ad touts a CarFax that shows an accident-free history. All this comes with a Buy-It-Now price of $52,000.

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Now, as I noted, there are no cheap 911s anymore. Well, I mean, they used to be cheaper. Five or six years ago, this car may have been a $15K — $25K car at best. Today, you can find the rarer 964 models — those like the Turbo look cars and the RS America — vying for six figures. At $52,000, This nicely presented Cab asks about half of that.

But is that still a deal? What do you say, is this 964 worth that $52,000 asking? Or, is that just the caboose of the Crazy Train?

You decide!

eBay out of San Diego, California, or go here if the ad disappears.

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