There are some cars that just have it all, yet for some reason they’re below the radar. Take the Porsche 968 for example; it’s got the right badge, superb dynamics, excellent build quality, ample performance and it’s practical with it. Plus, it’s not as though the purchase or running costs are exorbitant. Yet this is one of those classics that’s overshadowed by more high-profile classics – not least of all the 968’s evergreen rear-engined big brother.
The 968 was Porsche’s last front-engined four-cylinder sportscar, developed directly from the 944. Short of cash, Porsche had to develop the 968 on a shoestring, so while the 968 looked like a significantly new model, underneath that distinctive skin is 944 running gear – and it’s all the better for it. That smooth, torquey 3.0-litre engine provides plenty of muscle and while the soundtrack isn’t as thrilling as a V8 or flat-six, the balance that it provides makes the 968 a seriously under-rated fast road or track day tool – which is why you don’t want to let this four-pot Porker pass you by.
As soon as the press got hold of the Club Sport and discovered what a brilliant drivers’ car it was, the credibility of the 968 went through the roof. Even Walter Röhrl reckoned it was the best handling car that Porsche made. It won numerous accolades including Performance Car magazine’s Car of the Year, and raised the profile of the 968 so that showroom traffic increased and lifted sales of the standard car – some potential buyers didn’t want the Club Sport’s uncompromising high-backed bucket seats and lack of rear seats and electrical goodies.
Which one to buy?
The only 968 that many buyers want is the Club Sport, and while it’s true that this can be the pick of the bunch (and is always likely to be the most collectible), any good 968 is worth owning. Because the Club Sport is the one that so many buyers gravitate towards, values are higher, so if you’re on a budget opt for a regular model and you’ll get more for your money.
The regular 968 is the most luxurious of the lot; it comes with all of the equipment you need such as heated mirrors, powered windows, tinted glass, electric height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and if you buy a cabriolet, there’s a powered roof. On that note, the drop-top 968 isn’t as stiff as the coupé and it weighs 70kg more, but it’s still a great driver’s car.
Apart from the rear seats, other kit the Club Sport jettisoned included electric windows and mirrors, central locking, the rear wiper, electric tailgate release and a chunk of sound-deadening material. The result was a saving of 85kg. The suspension was the same apart from a 20mm lower ride height but this, along with the bigger 911 Turbo-style alloys and wider rubber, released the 968’s untapped potential.
The Club Sport may be a bit hard-core for you for everyday use, which is why the 968 Sport may be a better bet. It’s not quite as luxurious as the standard car but you still get all of the essentials – and more.
If you’re in the right place at the right time and your pockets are especially deep, you might be able to secure one of the 14 Turbo RS editions. Capable of 175mph along with 0-60mph in just five seconds it’s the 968 to have – but you’ll be doing well to find one.
Performance and specs
Porsche 968 Club Sport
Engine 2990cc, four-cylinder
Power 240bhp @ 6200rpm
Torque 225lb ft @ 4100rpm
Top speed 154mph
Fuel consumption 30mpg
Gearbox Six-speed manual
Insurance group 20
Dimensions and weight
• Corrosion shouldn’t be an issue thanks to the shell and body panels being galvanised, although Sports and Club Sports didn’t get factory-applied underseal, so these need extra checks in the obvious places such as wheelarches, sills, valances and floorpans.
• What’s more likely to be a problem is crash damage, so look for kinks or creases in the inner wings, chassis legs and the bulkhead in the separate compartment behind the engine bay, near the heater matrix. Also check the boot floor from inside as well as out; any rippling will be obvious.
• If buying a cabriolet make sure the fabric is undamaged and that the mechanism works smoothly – also ensure the plastic rear window isn’t cloudy.
• The DOHC four-pot is tough but the Variocam variable valve timing mechanism can cause problems. At the heart of this are various sprockets and a chain, with the teeth of the former prone to wear, potentially leading to valves and pistons colliding. It’s worth replacing the camshafts (with integral sprockets) as a matter of course, before things break.
• Ensure the cam belt has been replaced along with its rollers and the balancer shaft belts within the last five years or 60,000 miles. If there’s any doubt replace them as a matter of course.
• The Getrag G44 00 manual gearbox is tough but wear eventually is inevitable so listen for whining from tired bearings – this also applies to the differential, which wears too.
• The dual-mass flywheel fails; when it does so is down to how the car is driven. Listen for rattles from the transmission and feel for slack; if a new flywheel is needed the bill will be quite large – especially if a new clutch is also required. Regular flywheels are available in place of the dual-mass item.
• Up front are MacPherson struts; at the rear are semi-trailing arms and torsion bars. There’s lots of adjustment which is why it’s worth investing in a four-wheel alignment every so often – it can work wonders for handling as well as tyre wear.
• Windscreens can go cloudy and while replacements are available, they’re expensive.
• The electrics are usually dependable but check that the dashboard instrumentation works as it should; temperature and oil pressure gauges can be erratic.
• If the flip-up headlamps don’t operate completely smoothly, restoration of the mechanism before you assume they’re beyond redemption.
1992: The 968 coupe and cabriolet replace the 944. There’s a 240bhp 2990cc four-cylinder engine, standard catalytic converter, six-speed manual gearbox or an optional four-speed auto.
1993: The 968 Club Sport arrives. It’s a lightweight 968 so the rear seats are removed along with the central locking and electric windows. Up front are sports seats and a sports steering wheel, while there’s firmer suspension too.
1994: The 968 Sport goes on sale with a tilt/slide steel sunroof, Cup-design alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors plus central locking and powered windows.
1995: The cabriolet is now offered with a Tiptronic S transmission, with paddle shifts.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
Summary and prices
So there it is, one of the greatest handling cars Porsche has ever produced – without the severe tax applied to the rear-engined models. Whatever form your 968 takes, you’re guaranteed to have a great time, and with prices of nice examples on the rise, there will never be a better time to buy this 1990s performance hero.
Prices for the highest mileage and least desirable models start from around £10,000, but you will struggle to find anything usable for less than £15,000. Nicely specced and cared for examples range from £20,000-£25,000, however Club Sports are significantly more expensive with top cars often selling for in excess of £35,000.