The Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 is fantastic to drive and a sensible investment. Here's how to buy one

Tim Pitt

For all its exalted status among enthusiasts, the Porsche 911 isn’t a rare car. The millionth example recently left the Stuttgart assembly line, and around 70 per cent remain on the road. Why, then, has the 911 become such a sought-after and fast-appreciating classic?

Mostly, it’s about the driving. With an air-cooled engine aft of the rear axle, any pre-1996 911 feels involving, invigorating and defiantly idiosyncratic. The styling is undoubtedly important, too. That sleek silhouette has barely changed in five decades; even the key to a new Porsche SUV is shaped like a 911. Factor-in practicality – there are four seats, remember? – and typically Teutonic build-quality and you have a viable daily-driver. Try that with any comparable Brit or Italian classic and you’ll need the AA on speed-dial.

If this is your first foray into Porsche ownership, the Carrera 3.2 is a great place to start. Launched in 1984, it was the last hurrah for the original car before the modernised 964 arrived in 1989. As such, it offers a traditional 911 experience – air-cooling, torsion bar suspension, no driver aids – but with a more tractable engine, decent brakes and some creature comforts. A few years ago, you could find a usable 3.2 for £15,000; now you’ll pay more than twice that. The Slate Grey 1989 example seen here is one of the best, currently for sale at £60,000 with Canford Classics (01929 472221).

The first rule of classic motoring is that, over time, so-called ‘faults’ mellow into charming quirks

Stepping out of a modern car (even a modern 911) the 28-year-old Carrera initially feels quite alien. Its interior is sparse, the controls are haphazard, and your feet are skewed sideways for the floor-hinged pedals. That impression of ‘otherness’ continues when you fire up the flat-six. It’s odd to hear the engine behind you, the non-assisted steering is heavy at low speeds and the gearbox – despite being the slicker, post-1987 G50 unit – demands a deliberate shove.

However, the first rule of classic motoring is that, over time, so-called ‘faults’ mellow into charming quirks. And thus this undeniably quirky car soon has me charmed. Every input feels deliciously analogue, and the compact dimensions (shorter and narrower than a new Porsche Cayman) mean you can carry speed with confidence. That engine is magnificent, too, its rambunctious rumble building to a hollow howl that’s more than a match for any Ferrari V8.

The Carrera 3.2 came in three body styles: coupe, convertible and halfway-house Targa. The whale-tail rear wing was optional as part of the Sport pack, which also included firmer dampers and shapelier seats. A separate Supersport model aped the style of the flagship 930 Turbo – with wider wheelarches and uprated brakes. But don’t get too hung up on spec: finding a solid, well-cared-for car is what matters most.

“Originality is key to a classic 911’s value,” says Chris Lowe, lead technician at Canford Classics. “Many will have a Certificate of Authenticity from Porsche, which details the original specification – including any options fitted.” Chris advises checking bodywork carefully for signs of corrosion, and paying equal attention to the paperwork. “Many 3.2s are due engine or gearbox rebuilds,” he explains, “and the same goes for suspension. Bushes will usually need to be replaced.”

Clearly, it pays to do your homework – and bear in mind that, even if you do, there’s no such thing as a ‘cheap’ Porsche. Despite the potential pitfalls, however, Lowe is effusive about the merits of the Carrera 3.2. “It has better brakes and a more powerful engine than the 911 SC it replaced, and larger wheels make it more drivable day-to-day. Plus, it’s still air-cooled, so it doesn’t stray too far from the original formula. Overall, they’re just super-cool cars.”

Tim Pitt works for

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