A car that means everything to some.
That’s pretty much how Ferry Porsche described his ambition for the Porsche 911. It’s a model we’re all familiar with, and regardless of whether you love or loathe Stuttgart’s rear-engined sports car, you will almost certainly hold some kind of opinion on it.
In aftermarket circles, the 911 has been pretty difficult to ignore over the last decade. The rise in popularity of the likes of RWB, Singer, Gunther Werks et al. has brought both new and old 911s to the fore. That’s not to mention the lifted rally-style conversions, the countless custom builds, or the resurgence of legendary Porsche tuners like RUF.
For a model which has spanned over 55 years, the 911 has experienced considerable evolution through its life. There have been significant changes over the years resulting in some very good cars, and some, well… less good ones. Today, nearly every 911 seems to be revered, as most people who want one are left with little choice but to buy in at the bottom of the 911 ladder, such has been the surge in prices for used examples. There are no ‘bad’ ones anymore (relatively speaking), but there used to be.
The 964 was one of the variants that met with a lukewarm reception when it launched in the late 1980s. In fact, within Porsche circles it was considered to be fairly undesirable until not all that long ago. Its weight (heavier than the model that preceded it) and its big front bumper didn’t do the 964 any favours, but it’s still strange to think that this model was once regarded as much of an outlier as the 996.
The 964 was the 911 of the world as I was growing up, and as I’ve written about previously, I was never a fan. There wasn’t a poster of one on my wall (but there was one of an F40, for those of you that want to imagine my childhood bedroom wall).
My first experience driving a 911 was less than good. To be fair, it was a pretty tired example of a 996 Carrera 4, which had lived its life doing laps and laps of Mondello Park. The driving position in a RHD car felt awkward, it wasn’t particularly quick, and it was a bit numb to drive. This only confirmed my then beliefs that 911s weren’t for me.
The turning point for me came early this decade, when I was introduced to Brian Henderson’s 964 on a road trip to Wörthersee. Coincidentally, it was around this time that the Porsche bubble started to grow and grow. I wasn’t familiar enough with the Porsche scene in 2013 when I first shot Brian’s 964, but it was a build that completely shifted my perspective on the car.
It was utterly gorgeous, it was very simple, and it seemed to excel at everything it had to do over the course of that trip to Wörthersee and back, including some track time at the Nürburgring.
A couple of years later, I was back in Austria shooting another friend’s 964. This was Richard Payne’s Rubsytone example, and again it only increased my appreciation for the model.
I think Richard’s stands out for me because I remember him telling me that he had bought it very cheap before restoring it, and that it had appreciated so rapidly in value during his ownership that he could barely keep up. Thankfully, it hasn’t stopped him from continually enjoying it and it still raises a smile when I see it.
At the point of this shoot, there was a clear style recipe being applied to 964s around the world, a style which most continue to follow today, and for good reason, too. It just works.
With the obvious exception of Magnus Walker’s Outlaw 964, it’s a style you’ll likely be familiar with. But rather than being tired of seeing the same thing, I find that I just want to appreciate it each time. As a community, the 964 owners of the world have developed the perfect treatment for their cars. It’s restrained, but does enough to alleviate some of the original design quirks.
You don’t see much in the way of variation on it, because they don’t need to fix things that aren’t broken anymore.
It was somewhat inevitable then, that I would end up shooting another 964 at Wörthersee this year. It was only a quick 15-minute shoot at the tail end of the recent static Audi A6 and A1 story, and the language barrier proved difficult. But I don’t really need to write too much, just because it’s a 964.
This car belongs to a very kind (and tall) gentleman called Sascha Papenfuss, and it’s bloody exquisite. It’s detailed, clean and follows the 964 recipe pretty much to the letter. If anything, Sascha has made his example slightly more hardcore than most by stripping and painting the interior, and adding a bolt-in cage.
It’s lowered on Bilstein coilovers over perfectly-sized split wheels. Colour aside, there’s nothing shouty about it, and it’s another car which rewards a closer look. Just how it should be.
While I don’t consider modern car culture to be stale (far from it), it does feel that we’ve seen everything we are going to see from this era, and the trend of ‘shock’ modifications (i.e. cutting up supercars for wide bodies, crazy engine swaps for the sake of crazy engine swaps etc.) is behind us for the most part.
There’s a part of me that hopes that instead of superficial, box-ticking builds designed to attract the most amount of likes on social media, that people will start honing and perfecting the processes and end results, much like the Porsche community (and others) have.
As prices of used 964s settle, it’s clear that they will remain unobtainable for so many of us. Still, I hope that those who are fortunate enough to be able to own them will continue to carefully and considerately evolve these cars for years to come, and to share them with the rest of us. Please don’t lock them away as investments, use them as they should be used.
Here’s to the next 964 I get to shoot, and hopefully it’s even better than the last one.