1974 911 Carrera
1974 911S Targa
1987 911 Carrera Turbo Look
1988 911 Carrera Cabriolet
1989 911 Speedster
The 1974–89 911s offer strong valü because they are nice, reliable, and affordable Porsches that can still be used as everyday cars. They can be segmented into three groups: The first group comprises the 2.7-liter cars built from the 1974 through 1977 model years; the 911 SCs were manufactured from 1978 through 1983; the Carrera 3.2s were the last of the group, built from 1984 until 1989. Between 1974 and 1989, Porsche produced 169,747 911s. Thus, there is a very good selection in the marketplace.
Within this group, the cars range from one of the most troublesome 911s to some of the best. So there is something for everyone, from masochists to enthusiasts. Some consider 2.7s to be the worst 911 dü to several weaknesses that are expensive to rectify. Even so, it’s still a 911 and good ones can be great buys. 39,597 2.7s were made — 23,448 coupes and 16,149 Targas.
The 911 SC, which followed the 2.7, is thought by many to be one of the best 911s built. There were 57,890 911 SCs built in the six model years from 1978 through 1983 — 31,796 coupes, 20,757 Targas, and 5,337 Cabriolets. They have proven to be very reliable cars. I know of one SC that has logged over 450,000 miles without any major engine work.
The final group is the 3.2-liter Carreras, introduced in 1984 and built for six model years until 1989. The Carrera carried on the Porsche tradition of reliability and is a more modern, contemporary car. There were 76,260 of them built — 36,359 coupes, 17,468 Targas, 20,329 Cabriolets, and 2,104 Speedsters. In addition to the standard Carreras 3.2s, there were a number of specialty cars made during this production period. The limited editions will usually command a 10-20 percent premium over the standard models on the used car market.
One specialty version of the 911 Carrera 3.2 was the Turbo-look, which resembles the 911 Turbo in appearance (but not performance). It was introduced in 1984 in coupe version only, and then built as a coupe, Targa, and Cabriolet from 1985 through 1989. The Turbo-look package added about $10,000 to the price in its first year and then increased to about $14,000 by 1989. Turbo-look Cabriolets are rare and can command a premium in some markets. One of the most popular specialty versions was the 911 Speedster, made for 1989 only. Of these, 1,939 had the Turbo-look option. All 800 cars that came to the U.S. were Turbo-look models.
For 1988, Porsche offered a Club Sport version (Option M-637) of the 911 Carrera. This stripped-down version provided improved performance through reduced weight, tuned suspension, and minor engine modifications. The Club Sport was offered in the U.S. in 1988, but only 21 were sold here from a world production total of 169 for that year. The Club Sport finished production in 1989 with a total of 90 cars, but only 7 arrived on U.S. shores. Since so few Club Sports came to the U.S., they are sought-after cars and priced accordingly.
Another special edition built from the Carrera 3.2 was a 1988 model commemorating the milestone of 250,000 911s having been produced. This 911 came as a coupe, Cabriolet, or Targa. The only color was Diamond Blü with a silver metallic-blü leather interior and wheels painted to match the body color. A second limited edition was the 1989 Silver Anniversary model, commemorating the 25th year of 911 production. There were a total of 500 coupes and Cabriolets built. Of the 300 coupes manufactured, 240 came in silver-metallic with the remaining 60 sporting black metallic paint. All versions had a leather interior. Of the 200 Cabriolets produced, 160 were painted silver-metallic with the remainder finished in black metallic.
What to Buy
When the 3.0-liter SC engine was introduced in 1978, mechanics hailed it as a big step forward. There had been a variety of troubling and costly repairs with the 2.7-liter powerplants. Because the newer engine solved so many problems, the 3.0-liter 911 SCs carry a substantial premium over earlier cars. This could make a 2.7-liter 911 a tempting purchase, but buyers can’t fix much of what can go wrong with the money they save. The 2.7-liter 911 is still a fine car and many owners have enjoyed them without problems for years. However, that is not the case with most owners. If you are a prospective buyer for one of these cars, you should consider how much more reliable the 3.0-liter engine is.
One trouble spot on the earlier 2.7 engines was the valve guides. Until the 1977 model year, they were made of a copper material and usually failed at 30,000 miles in the thermal-reactor cars. They lasted about 60,000 miles in cars without thermal reactors. During the 1977 model year, new guides made of silicon-bronze material were introduced and proved to be much more durable. I have seen some 911 SCs with these guides that have logged over 350,000 miles and the valves are still quiet, a sure sign the guides are in good shape.
The 2.7-liter engines also have a problem with pulling cylinder-head studs. Unfortunately, this is a hard problem for a prospective buyer to assess. If a 2.7-liter 911 has logged more than 60,000 miles, it probably has had major engine work performed to repair worn valve guides. An exception to this rule may occur in cooler climates like the Pacific Northwest and Canada, which may extend the life of the valve guides. The valve guide problem can be a blessing in disguise because knowledgeable Porsche mechanics usually repaired head studs and other engine weaknesses while the engine’s valves were repaired. For a long time, the head-stud fix was to install Time-Certs and replace the head studs. I used to recommend that cylinder head studs all be replaced with Dilavar head studs, but there have been enough problems with Dilavar studs breaking that I no longer recommend them as replacement studs. I now suggest using the RaceWare studs, Time-Certs, or some form of case inserts.
In contrast, the newer 3.0- and 3.2-liter engines have been remarkably reliable compared to their 2.7-liter cousins. Very few people have had to overhaul an SC engine because it has worn out. That is not to say that none of these engines will have problems. Some have suffered from broken Dilavar head studs. Other potential problems are blown air boxes, rubber-center clutch failures, and the dreaded chain-tensioner failure.
The air-box problem occurs when the CIS fül injection creates a dangerous situation during cold start-ups (when the fül mixture is critical). If the mixture is too lean, a backfire will occur in the intake and the explosion will destroy the intake air box. This problem is easily solved by installing an aftermarket pop-off valve. The rubber-centered clutch was used from 1978 until 1983, when it was replaced with a more-reliable spring-centered clutch. The chain tensioners posed a problem in all 911 engines until the introduction of the Carrera 3.2 in 1984. The 1984 Carrera engine featured new, pressure-fed tensioners. If the tensioners fail on an earlier car, they can do extensive damage to the engine, so it is important to see if they have been updated on earlier cars.
The Carrera 3.2 seems to be carrying on the tradition of reliability that the 911 SC started. The only problems that we have seen is that some examples have exhibited excessive valve stem and valve guide wear. If you are considering a 3.2-liter Carrera and it smokes excessively or has noisy valves, the valve guides should be evaluated by an expert mechanic. Fixing this problem requires a valve job, which includes new guides and some valve replacements.
All 911s from 1972 through 1986 use the Type 915 transmission. In 1987, the G-50 transmission was introduced. It is stronger and easier to shift than the 915 unit. At that time, Porsche changed to a larger clutch from the 911 Turbo. The clutch activation was improved from the awkward cable arrangement to a smoother, hydraulically-activated one.
My advice on buying any of these cars is simple — buy the best, newest car you can afford. For instance, I would not buy a 1985 Carrera in so-so condition over a nice 1982 SC. Price aside, I?feel the best and most desirable of these cars are the 1987–89 911s with the better-shifting G50 transmissions. 15,883 of these final Carrera 3.2s were brought into the U.S., so fewer of them were imported than some earlier 911 models.
The 1974 and 1975 911 Carrera built for the U.S. market have always been popular cars, but they are particularly sought after now. While they don’t have the “real” 2.7-liter flat six from the European 1973 Carrera RS and 1974 Carrera, they are interesting, attractive cars. And they’re fairly rare: only 528 coupes and 246 Targas were built in 1974, while 395 coupes and 174 Targas were built in 1975. The 1974 model has always been a little more desirable and, as a result, worth a little more.
While I would avoid the rest of the 1974–77 911s because of the inherent problems discussed above, it is fair to say many of the ones still on the road today have been made into reliable cars. I?would insist on seeing records of the work, however. That said, I feel the relatively small price difference between the 2.7s and the 3.0-liter SCs fails to justify the risk of expensive repairs. The 3.0-liter flat six was quite simply superior — and the rear flares and other upgrades that come with the SC are worthwhile.
Thus, I?feel the best valü in this group is the SC. Porsche made a lot of 911 SCs and many have been maintained to high standards. They have proven to be reliable cars over the years, and I know of several with very high mileage. Since all SCs are roughly 30 years old now, a thorough inspection by a knowledgeable mechanic is a must. Take time in your search and find the right 911 within your budget for your needs — it will be a pleasure to own and drive.