February 2, 2023

Porsche 964: That One Time I Met My Hero


When I was 9 my father purchased a 1989 Porsche Carrera 4. It was Linen-on-Grey, and my family called her “Luna” due to the ever-changing color of the paint in different light. To little Gavin, nothing could be cooler. The car came with a bumper-installed radar detection system, It literally had lights popping out of the dash for the radar! It had an aftermarket exhaust that made the car roar, rather than howl as 911s normally sound. It’s safe to say that this car really made an impression on me as a child. My dad and I would drive it on boys trips down to Moab and play golf. He and my mom would go on dinner dates in the car, and he would kill time before dinner just going on a drive in the evening light of the summertime.

This 964 911 had such an influence in my life that, with a saved up allowance, I got myself a subscription to Car and Driver. I would bring the latest issues to school, read articles during my lunch just to learn as much as I could about new cars. This 964 would be the leading proponent in me falling in love with cars. We had the car for two years, but sold it to get my mom a new car: a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5 XT.

They say never meet your heroes, but I got the chance to do meet mine.  Did it live up to the hype? Was it everything I ever hoped it’d be? I mean, 15 or so years of pent-up feelings can only fester and put the car on a fairly high podium. After having experienced all the cars I have over the last 5 years of filming and photographing them, then eventually getting into driving them….. Yes. The car was exactly what I was expecting.

A howling flat-6 that produces ~250hp that revs to 7,000 rpm and a suspension geometry that is quite frankly, rudimentary by today’s standards. The car is in no way groundbreaking or game-changing in the year 2018. However, after being handed the keys, and hopping into the driver’s seat, it made my inner 9-year old’s dreams finally come true. It felt like jumping into a time machine. It gave me the biggest shit-eating grin on my face that I am still wearing as I write this article.

The noteworthy features of the 964 are as follows: Increased engine size from 3.2 liters to 3.6 liters, the introduction of Anti-Lock Brakes, All-Wheel Drive, and the infamous automatic spoiler (ACTIVE AERO, YO!)

The powerband of the 964 is like any naturally aspirated 911. It’s a completely linear build in power that gives you exactly what you put into it. Very livable and predictable down low through the midrange, and then starts to really pull around 5,000 rpm. All three pedals are floor-hinged and fairly strange to operate if you aren’t accustomed to that sort of feel. On-center steering isn’t exactly tight, but once you load the car up in a corner you receive two fists full of communication with the road and the chassis. Primarily what the rear end is up to, strangely enough. I’m also not talking about hooning a car at 8/10 or 9/10. I’m talking a leisurely 5/10, and just going out for a nice drive. Having driven 996s, 997s and 991s, this car felt much more raw and visceral than its younger cousins. The gear throw isn’t too long or too short. Just the right amount of throw while still feeling nice and notchy.

Some brief history of the specific car that I drove. it was actually a former display car for Porsche of North America. Every time Porsche would debut a new 911, they display all the former cars in a line with the new car on the end. Of those cars that Porsche consistently used on display, this specific 911 would represent the 964 generation. It was used on display until the 997 generation and then was sold to a gentleman in Los Angeles. He daily drove it until Nathan (the current owner) purchased the car late last year. As of now, the car has over 180,000 miles. Which is an interesting coincidence because if you add an enthusiast’s amount of miles to the miles my dad had on his old car, then both cars would be at about the same amount of miles.

The great part of this whole endeavor was that the owner of the 964 also owns a 991.2 Carrera 2S with a Sport Exhaust and a 7-Speed manual gearbox. Being the incredibly gracious gentleman that he is, Nate offered me to drive that car as well. And good lord so much has changed in roughly 30 years of Porsche’s engineering. The 964, constantly wants the rear to come around and play like a puppy, whereas the 991 is so incredibly planted and grounded in the corners, despite being under power from the 3.0 turbo engine. Not to get too carried away here, but the point of this article is not necessarily to compare Porsche’s past and present, however it is worth noting that both cars provide interesting offerings in the company’s lineage. Upon its reveal for the 1989 model year, the 964 introduced legitimate safety features that previous cars never had, while the 991.2 introduces turbocharging for models in the lineup that are not known as the “Turbo”. Both cars push the envelope for the company in their moments in history and for that, I commend Porsche in continuing to push the envelope and look towards to future in improving their driving experience and being the best cars that money can buy.

Porsche. There is no substitute.

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