he Porsche 911 is probably the single most recognizable car shape in the world, an instant "Classic." For those who wanted to feel the wind in their hair while enjoying 911 motoring, Porsche manufactured for many years a "Targa" version of their immortal coupe. This "Targa" incorporated a rollover bar behind the cockpit as crash protection.

In the early 1980s, Porsche, like many other car manufacturers, believed that bureaucracy, particularly in America, would prevent a truly open car from being built. When their designers saw that this was not going to happen, they set to and swiftly came up with the classic Cabriolet. This 911 Carrera, with its simple one-handed hood operation, without having to fasten or release any buttons, proved an instant hit, especially in the USA. Another welcome feature is the rear panel carrying the transparent rear window can not only be opened by pulling a zip fastener but it is entirely detachable and can be replaced if the vinyl becomes damaged or scratched.

By this time, the 911 itself had been well developed into a fast, comfortable, fine handling car with its six-cylinder air-cooled 3.2-liter engine, which gave well over 200 hp some 5,900 rpm.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1985 Porsche 911
Years Produced:1984-1989
Number Produced:22,283
Original List Price:$37,500 (US delivery)
SCM Valuation:$20,000-$23,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:Under front hood, stamped in horizontal bulkhead, just aft of gas tank
Club Info:Porsche Club of America, 5530 Edgemont Dr., Alexandria, VA 22310
Alternatives:Ferrari 308, Mercedes-Benz 560SL, Corvette C4

This 911 Carrera Cabriolet sold for $33,000 at the recent RM auction in Monterey, California, August 28, 1999. The 911 Carrera, built from 1984 to 1989, was the final run of the original flared body that began with the 1978 911SC. Both the 911SC and the 911 Carrera were tremendously popular cars with quick and reliable powertrains.

The 3.2-liter horizontally opposed six of the Carrera finally solved the Achilles’ heel of the 911 engine, the pair of hydraulic cam chain tensioners. While earlier 911s had a sealed tensioner that eventually leaked and collapsed, the Carrera introduced a tensioner pressure fed from the engine oil supply, essentially ending tensioner failure. Because the 911 is an interference design, should a tensioner fail, the valves can hit the pistons and do tremendous damage.

We can tell some important facts about this Carrera, but need more data before we can make an informed judgment on the price paid. The letters ZZZ in the chassis number alert us this is a gray market car. We can also see that this car was built as a regular 911 Cabriolet, even though it now sports a slant nose and highly modified Turbo-style bodywork.

What we can’t see is whether the modified bodywork was completed by the factory, as part of the Special Wishes program or by some aftermarket firm somewhere. We also aren’t told if the body is executed in steel or fiberglass-another important issue.

At 70,000 miles this isn’t a low mileage Porsche, but the 3.2 engine has proven to be robust. I would like to see maintenance records to insure the valves have been adjusted more or less on schedule, to prevent premature valve wear. Otherwise, unless the car has been raced, the powertrain has a life expectancy in excess of 150,000 miles.

The price paid for this car, by any measure, seems quite high. Assuming this isn’t a factory car and following the rule that all body modifications to a street car only diminish value, the seller should be quite pleased with his day at Monterey.-Jim Schrager

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