Low-mileage cars are a funny part of the hobby; you can't use your new toy or you drive away its distinction
All 911s were not created equal, and they are not treated equally by vintage car buyers. Each move in the market favors certain models, making superstars out of some and leaving others behind. Herewith we present the top five gainers in the vintage 911 world, with an eye toward which might be best to scratch your itch.
Early 911S (1967-73)
These cars have roughly doubled in the last five years, from about $25,000 for a nice driver to $50,000-and you can double those prices again for the always-steep value increase from #2 to #1 condition. In some ways this is no surprise, as the S model has always been the ultimate street-going 911 (other than the Euro-only, single-year, Carrera RS, of which more later).
On the other hand, there are surprises in the strength of the S cars. In the first place, S cars are tremendously similar to the "lesser" cars in the line. Yes, the S has more horsepower and extra options like the iconic Fuchs forged alloy wheels, bigger brakes, special trim, and from 1969 to 1973, mechanical fuel injection. But at the end of the day, many other 911 models are still great cars for all-around enjoyment.
Second, these are not rare, with over 11,500 made over seven years. That's quite a large number for a car heading into the price stratosphere. But buyers are seeing them as "exceptionally rare" (to quote a recent eBay ad) and sellers seem happy to add fuel to that fire.
In the end, the S will remain a great early 911 to own, and I recommend that every serious Porsche fan own at least one true, first-generation 911S sometime.
Original 911 (1965-66)
These are still quite reasonable compared to the 911S cars, and they are rarer, too. Don't go thinking they are slow as a toad; they aren't. Much more of a city car than an early S, these 911s have delightful gobs of torque up to about 4,500 rpm, then not much pulling power beyond. The early S cars, by contrast, are all about high rpm torque, and if that's your ticket, only an S will do.
The first two years of the 911 have their unique charms, such as wood dashboards and steering wheels, chrome road wheels, gas heaters, Hella fog lamps-all standard. They are the most ornate of the 911s and forge the closest link to the well-loved 356s. Find one of these in nice condition and it can be worth all of $25,000-perhaps more in the right venue. Because of their rarity, these are harder to find than a nice early S, and a bit more of an acquired taste.
Ultra-original, low-mile 911 (1967-1973)
This is one of the recent surprises: that almost any lowly 911, even the T model, can bring big, silly money-say $50,000-plus-if it is dead original with verifiably low miles. It's a funny part of the hobby because you can't use your new toy much or you risk driving away the distinction for which you paid so dearly.
Any good 911 is a great car to drive; few were parked and most were driven, making true low-mileage examples tough to source. Be sure to verify mileage with service documents, as 911s wear like iron and looks can be deceiving.
Soft-rear-window Targa (1967-71)
These weren't a good idea when new, hence the short life span. Just like the 356 Speedster that preceded the soft Targa, they didn't make much sense unless you were located in one of the few parts of the world with permanent sunshine. Now that we only drive our cars on sunny days, they are in great demand. You almost can't pay too much, and you'll be helped by the elite Porsche cognoscenti who previously would not have owned anything but a Coupe. Hey, it was the same for 356s, with the vast majority of new ones being Coupes. But what's worth the big money today? Speedsters.
All Targas were soft in 1967, there were some built in 1968, and just a few from 1969 to 1971. Although any 912 is worth less than any 911, you can even buy a 912 and do well if it is a soft Targa. Soft Targa 911S cars are especially delightful, and confined mostly to 1967. Prices vary widely based on model and condition, but expect to pay anywhere from $25,000 to $45,000.
Carrera RS (1973)
These have gone to the moon, doubling a few times since a decade ago when a driver could be had for $40,000, even though over 1,500 were made, taking them out of the truly rare category. Today it takes over $200,000 for a decent car, maybe $250,000 for a Touring model with no stories and a bit of street provenance. Beware of anyone pushing a car at much less money, and be certain you understand why it is on the market cheaply. As with any certified collectible, liquidity on one of these is high and there are few good reasons you'll find one being given away.
Most cars will be the street version, known as the Touring model, although there is a Lightweight version and also a full race RSR. Some Touring cars have been converted to Lightweights and they sell at the same price as if they were original Touring models. Color changes to another originally available hue also don't seem to hurt the value much, as long as they are well executed. About 20% of all cars had sunroofs, far higher than the regular production cars (estimated at 5%), and many buyers like this option for a street car. Few race their original RS cars anymore, even in club races, as clones are much cheaper. Watch out for re-tubbed cars with correct data plates but wrong numbers, especially the hidden pre-production chassis number underneath the knee pad directly below the radio.
Your biggest gamble with an RS at today's prices is how well the market in general will hold up. If it stays strong, you'll be fine, as these are highly desirable. But if it stumbles, these will suffer. If you're feeling lucky today, go ahead and write the check.
Overall, early 911s, if bought in good condition, are easy to live with and reliable. It seems as though collectors, after ignoring them for many years, have finally figured out they have been undervalued and are now prepared to pay a premium. Given how old they are now, and how few truly unmolested, excellent examples remain, I can only call honest cars fairly priced, even at today's values.