From a technical perspective, the 911 Carrera Type 964 represented one of the most significant steps forward for Porsche, for many years. The new Type 964 looked like a 911 that had just undergone an annual face-lift, but this was because the only real external changes were to the wheels and details below the bumper line, which were designed to improve aerodynamics. Even the interior looked familiar, but beneath the surface lay an altogether new model, capable of providing a platform to support a whole new generation of 911 models, well into the future.
In 2018, the 964 celebrates its 40th anniversary, but back in 1988 this model was introduced to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the 911, which had been launched at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The 911 Carrera 4 Type 964 (1989)
Project 964 was the first attempt by Porsche to market an all-wheel-drive production car for the everyday Porsche driver. Although the company had built up considerable experience with four-wheel-drive systems, substantial changes were needed in order to prepare this model for normal assembly line production. The 964’s introduction comprised two models, the Carrera 4 and the Carrera 2, and although they were developed simultaneously, the latter was held over until the following year so as not to overshadow the significance of the new all-wheel-drive model. The decision was also taken to introduce the Carrera 2 the following year due to the additional workload in the factory in producing what was essentially two new models simultaneously.
A totally new floor pan had to be developed which allowed the driveline that transmitted drive to the front wheels, to be installed in the assembly process from below, thereby also easing any future maintenance requirements. Considering that the wheelbase and track dimensions are virtually unchanged, the Stuttgart company had worked wonders in introducing an almost entirely new vehicle, which shared as little as 15 per cent of its components with its predecessor.
In the Carrera 4, the drive torque is first directed to a centre transfer case, and from there, under normal driving conditions, drive is distributed in a 31:69 ratio to the front and rear axles. As driving conditions change, the unit adjusts this distribution automatically without the driver even being aware of the change, except through an indicator light on the dashboard. This torque split was best suited to the Porsche rear engine layout, as with most of the weight over the rear wheels, a 50:50 torque split would have produced the characteristics of a front-wheel-drive vehicle. The objective of the all-wheel-drive system was not only to provide improved traction but also better handling, especially in the wet and on slippery surfaces, as this is where the four-wheel traction would produce its greatest gains.
The all-wheel-drive system added more than 100kg (220lb) to the overall weight of the car, necessitating the installation of power steering as standard on the Carrera 4. This was the first time that power steering and ABS brakes were included as standard features on a 911. To carry this extra weight around, more power was needed and so at the time of its launch, the Carrera 4, fitted with a bigger 3.6-litre engine, was the most powerful naturally-aspirated model in the 911 range. Developing 250bhp and giving a top speed of 162mph (260km/h), it covered the 0–62mph sprint in just 5.9 seconds. This increase in capacity was achieved by increasing both bore and stroke, which necessitated the development of an entirely new crankcase.
Porsche has always strived to maintain a strong 911 family resemblance over the years, and this approach has set the marque apart from other manufacturers. With the 964 model, this was achieved despite 85 per cent of the car’s components being totally new. Altogether, 33 prototypes were built and tested during the development phase of the 964, with a large proportion of the test time being focussed on handling on wet and slippery surfaces.
While the interior came in for a mild upgrade, it was the underside of the car that received a radical makeover as the new 964 road car was fitted with a full-length belly pan providing several benefits. Not only did this result in a reduction in external engine noise, it also reduced cabin noise. While noise reduction pleased the authorities, this did not necessarily sit well with Porsche enthusiasts who craved the sound of that sweet six-cylinder boxer engine.
A revolutionary new rear spoiler automatically extended from the engine lid at speeds above 50mph (80km/h), and retracted again when the speed dropped below 6mph (10km/h). A Porsche press release in 1988 put it this way: ‘Porsche led the way with the introduction of today’s common additional spoilers for nose and tail. The extendable spoiler of the Carrera 4 now underlines the functional character of an aerodynamic lift-reduction aid, something Porsche would never see as an optically fashionable attribute’.
The introduction of this extendable ‘lift-reduction aid’ as it was called, served two purposes. Firstly, the company did not want a fixed rear spoiler as seen in the Carrera RS 2.7 or the later Turbo 930, as they wanted to retain the unspoiled, original 911 silhouette. And secondly, through the extendibility of this spoiler, it almost doubled the area of the air intake without compromising the body lines of the car.
In developing the 964 concept, feedback received from dealers and selected customers, who were aware of the impending new model, was that the engineers and designers were not to mess with the original 911 shape. These groups were emphatic that the factory maintain the strictest adherence with the traditional 911 silhouette. To build an entirely new concept, housing new technology and a new engine, retaining traditional brand and image qualities, while at the same time modernising an old shape sufficiently to support the next generation model, is no small task for any team. In fact, not only did the 964 meet these stringent parameters, it clearly surpassed them in many respects and the Carrera 4 went on to become an unmitigated success, receiving the accolade of the ‘best 911 ever’ up to that time.
At the introductory price of DM114,500 (August 1988 – 1989 model year), the Carrera 4 Coupé represented good value for money with its all-wheel-drive system, comfort, ride and handling, and with Porsche’s renowned build quality. Even at launch, the entire first year’s production of the Carrera 4 had already been sold out.
The 911 Carrera 2 Type 964 (1990)
If the Carrera 4 had been a success, its younger brother was an even bigger success. For many, the Carrera 2 represented a purer form of Porsche motoring, with its traditional rear-engined, rear wheel drive layout. Customers had the added bonus of a car which weighed 220lb (100kg) less than its all-wheel-drive sibling, and at an introductory price of DM103,500 it was a full DM13,100 cheaper than the Carrera 4. Including all body shapes, Coupé, Targa and Cabriolet, the Carrera 2 sold 32,766 units in twelve months while the Carrera 4 sold only 19,484 examples in a twenty-four-month period. Externally, the Carrera 2 is indistinguishable from its all-wheel drive brother save for a prominent ‘2’ or ‘4’ next to the Carrera lettering on the engine lid.
On aerodynamics, the company had this to say: ‘On the subject of aerodynamics of the 911, lift is just as important as drag. Reducing lift via the use of front and rear spoilers as well as special modifications to the underbody is of paramount importance.’ Due to the overall aerodynamic improvements to the car, the drag coefficient was reduced from 0.39 to 0.32, resulting in better overall performance.
A brand-new automatic gearbox with manual override, called the Tiptronic, was introduced on the Carrera 2. Taken from a company press release at the time of the car’s launch, ‘The new Porsche Tiptronic that was designed especially for the 911 Carrera 2, opens up new dimensions in 911 motoring.’ This new piece of technology relied on the experience gained with the Porsche dual-clutch (PDK) used in the successful 962 C competition model.
In essence, some supporters in the Porsche two-wheel-drive camp saw the Carrera 2 as the spiritual successor to the Carrera 3.2 of 1984. While you could argue the pros and cons of two-wheel versus four-wheel-drive format on the same vehicle, the truth is that the Carrera 4 represented a major technological step forward for the company, which served to elevate the Porsche marque into the top echelons of the sports car world. If you didn’t want that, then you could buy the Carrera 2 and save yourself some money in the process!
Other Type 964 models
The world premiere of the Porsche Carrera Cup took place at Zolder in Belgium on 1 April 1990. On the starting grid were forty identical 911 Carrera 2 Cup cars.
Following the success of the Turbo Cup, which had used front-engined 944 Turbo cars racing, the management wanted to initiate a series that utilised the 928 model. In order to get the new series off the ground, Porsche lured stalwart Herbert Linge out of retirement and put him in charge of the overall programme.
Linge recalls, “The idea after the 944 Turbo Cup was to do a series with the 928, and I told them immediately, if you want to do it with the 928, I am not going to do it.” When asked why not, he replied, “Because that car was not built to be a race car. The 928 was a very good GT road car, but it was not a racing car; it was too heavy and too big. I told them that if I was to run the series, then I would do it with the 911. ‘Oh’, they said, ‘the 911, it is too expensive. It is going to cost a lot of money’, but I said, “No, it will cost less money than a 928. So they finally agreed that I could do it with the 911.”
The rest, as they say, is history…as the Carrera Cup approaches its 30th birthday!
911 Carrera RS Coupé (1992)
Made only in the model year 1992, the Carrera RS boasted an even more powerful version of the same 3.6-litre boxer engine. With the suspension lowered by 40mm, the Carrera RS was classified by the media as a ‘lightweight super sports version of the Carrera 2’. Tracing its roots back to the legendary Carrera RS 2.7 of 1972, this rear-wheel-drive Carrera RS amounted to little more than what could be called a street-legal ‘Cup’ model, which in marketing terms was the base model for their homologated GT race car.
911 Turbo 3.6 (1993)
In the last production year for the Type 964, the Turbo model was given a boost. The 3.3-litre engine was replaced by a 3.6-litre engine, and the car received improved brakes to cope with the additional performance. The suspension was lowered by 20mm and it was fitted with 18” 3-piece Speedline wheels. Buyers of this model could have their cars upgraded by the Exclusive Dept., giving the model the slant-nose treatment, but this was limited to just 76 examples.
911 Carrera RS 3.8 Coupé (1993)
Just when everyone thought the flat-six boxer engine had reached its limit, the Porsche engineers did a little bit more stretching. With motorsport never very far from the minds of the Porsche engineers, it was inevitable when they produced the Carrera RS 3.8 that it would end up on the race track, and it was therefore fitting that this model was developed and built by hand in the Porsche racing department.
With the 1993 Carrera 2 as the starting point, Porsche had to make at least 50 road-going cars in order to qualify this new model for the German ADAC GT Cup, which served as the basis for a motor racing variant to follow, the Carrera RSR 3.8. While retaining the same stroke of 76.4mm, the bore was increased to 102mm to produce an engine capacity of 3746cc, or 3.8-litre in marketing terms. Power output was up 15 per cent on the 3.6-litre RS, coming in at a storming 300bhp, and the Carrera RS 3.8 could do the 0–62mph dash in 4.9 seconds, topping out at 169mph (272km/h).
The early-mid 1990s saw a resurgence in GT racing which had sadly been lacking for the best part of a decade. With increased competition from Ferrari, McLaren, Lotus, Lister and Jaguar, Porsche needed to have a worthy mount on the grid in order to be noticed at these events around Europe and in the UK.
911 Carrera RSR 3.8 Coupé (1993)
Enter the Carrera RSR 3.8, which was an all-out racing car. The RSR 3.8 could be delivered to the track in a race-ready, ‘just-add-driver’ form. Just such a car won the GT class at Le Mans in 1993 (Joel Gouhier/Dominique Dupuy/Jürgen Barth) and the Spa 24-Hour race of the same year. The engine of this car was further tweaked and fitted with racing cams, the output varying from 325bhp to 375bhp, depending on track requirements. The top speed was a mighty 181mph (291km/h) and the 0–62mph blast took just 4.7 seconds. Production of this awesome racing machine in 1993, ran to just 45 cars.
The sales story
Over a five-year period 74,008 units of the Type 964 were made, slightly up on the five-year period leading up to the 964’s introduction. Although the 1980s had been a difficult period in the motor manufacturing business, what with the global recession, 911 sales did pick up through the early 1990s again. Having said that, 1993 was the exception, a year that saw production drop to levels not seen since the late 1960s. However, when sports car manufacturing is your core business, then you must make the best of what you have, and Porsche certainly produced several models during this time that found their way into the hearts of many enthusiasts. But then Porsche has always been able to manufacture its way out of tight market situations, that’s why their cars are so loved around the world…and long may it continue!
This is a condensed and adapted extract from the book by Glen Smale – Porsche: The Carrera Dynasty, which charts the history of the use of the name Carrera through Porsche’s history. Click here to see the book and to order your copy autographed by the author.
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale & Porsche Werkfoto