I’m very pleased to (finally) share some photos of my new pride and joy – my 1995 Porsche 968 CS. I picked this car up last Tuesday in Melbourne at the end of our road trip up the east coast of Australia.
The purchase story’s a bit complicated. I went to the mainland with the idea of returning with a Porsche 944. I got to Melbourne early and drove two 944’s prior to Mrs Swade coming over for the road trip – a 944 S2 and a 944 Turbo.
The first car I drove was the S2 and I was extremely impressed. The S2 has a 3.0 litre 16-valve engine with heaps of bottom-end torque. The owner had also fitted Porsches revered ‘M030’ suspension and a limited slip differential. Consequently, the car handled like it was on rails. It was incredibly stable at speed, very comfortable and easy to drive.
The Turbo was unmodified but with optioned-up sports seats that hug you like a long-lost grandmother. The car presented a major contrast to the S2, however. The clutch was much heavier and there was a lot of turbo lag and the 8-valve engine was relatively lifeless until the turbo kicked in. When it did, however, the car was very impressive.
I was much more comfortable with the S2 and began negotiations with the owner at the beginning of our road trip. We eventually agreed on a price and I drove Simon’s Saab 900i up the east coast happy in the knowledge that there would be a nice 944 S2 waiting for me when I got back.
I didn’t happen that way, however.
I picked up a couple of problems – cosmetic, not mechanical – on my final test drive and while they might have been fixable, I wasn’t in the mood to wait around to see how much it would cost. I could have negotiated further with the seller but I’d already held him up 2 weeks and promised that I wouldn’t go below the price I’d already offered him. It was time to walk away. I was heartbroken to leave this car behind because it drove so well (seriously, very very good) but given that this would be my first foray into Porsche ownership, I didn’t want anything hanging over me that I was unsure about.
Backing out of that deal left me with 24 hours to find another car. I had a booking on the ferry for the next day and no car to bring home. What follows is quite possibly a textbook example of how NOT to buy a car like a Porsche 968.
Put simple – I bought the car on gut feel.
The owner was a retired gent and this was his ‘other’ Porsche. His regular P-car was a 911 Turbo (996) and this car had been specifically set up for club activities (sprints). And it’s been set up very, very well, with only the best components used and no expense spared. There’s one invoice in the history file that scared the daylights out of me: a low oil pressure warning that ended up with what was essentially a major engine rebuild at a cost of $15,000. It’s scary to think that might happen to me, but at the same time it’s comforting to know it was all rebuilt just a few years ago.
I don’t want to get all Zen on you, but sometimes you know from talking to an owner, from reading a history file and seeing how they’ve set up the car, from feeling how the car drives. Sometimes the build says enough about the builder’s technique to show that they know what they’re doing. I could feel that in this car as soon as we took it around a sweeper.
About the 968 ClubSport
The 968 was the final version of Porsche’s front-engined water-cooled experiment that began with the 924 back in the late 1970’s. Porsche were going to call it the 944 S3 but so much of the car was new (around 80%, they say) that they gave it a new name.
The 968 saw the 3.0 litre engine from the S2 dressed up with variable valve timing (Variocam) to push it to 240hp. Coupled with a new six speed manual gearbox the 968 was capable of both 0-100 in around 6 seconds AND 30mpg in the US measurement. The car retained the 944’s 50-50 weight distribution so it’s extremely well balanced from the get-go. Add in some fancy shocks, tyres and other gubbins and the 968 can stick to the road like poo on a blanket.
The ClubSport model was a reflection of the times. Porsche, as was so often the case in the 80s and the 90s, was in financial trouble. They stripped out a lot of the creature comforts in order to offer a cheaper entry level model. Of course, taking out the rear seats and a lot of electronics means there’s a lot less wire, fewer electric motors and other bits. The end result was an even lighter version of what was already an impressive performer. The 968 ClubSport cost less than the fully equipped version of the car and performed better – instant cult classic!!
The 968 ClubSport came with no rear seat, the front seats were recaro shells with the fibreglass backs painted the same color as the car, no air conditioning, no central locking, no power mirrors, no power windows, only 2 speakers for its basic stereo, a manual tailgate release and a smaller battery and alternator (unless a/c was fitted as an option).
The end result was a 50kg weight reduction compared to the regular 968, or 100kg when compared to the 968 Sport sold in the UK, an optioned up package available at the time.
About *my* 968 ClubSport
Whilst all of those creature comforts were removed to create the ClubSport model, they were all still available as options. A lot of CS buyers optioned their cars up and many of the cars you see on the market today have ‘comfort seats’, a rear seat, air conditioning and other bits.
I’m pleased that my CS is pretty much how Porsche intended it to be. It’s only concessions to comfort are air conditioning and an aftermarket stereo (with a faux-woodgrain fascia and a 12-stack CD player, neither of which strike me as very sporting and both of which will meet a dumpster in due course).
Furthermore, my CS has the all-important Option 220 fitted as standard – the limited slip diff – and the previous owner shelled out around $1800 plus labour to fit the yellow Koni coilover dampers that were standard on the M030 suspension option. The car sits on Porsche Cup II alloy wheels shod with Yokohama road/track tyres that are very grippy but very noisy, too. Uncomfortably noisy, in fact. I’ll be getting some more suitable tyres later this week and will keep the Yokahamas aside for club events (it’s a waste to use them on the road, anyway).
The feature items in the cabin are, of course, the half-rollcage fitted by the previous owner and the Recaro A8 racing seats with harness on the driver’s seat. Note: these aren’t the original Recaros fitted by Porsche to the CS. They’re aftermarket Recaro seats purchased by the previous owner. The originals as fitted by Porsche are very hard to get and sell for around $4000 a pair!!
The seats have a pattern on the upholstery that brings to mind a 1990’s era Hyundai but if you can get past the looks, they’re very comfortable and incredibly supportive. I haven’t tried the harness yet (regular seatbelts are still in place on both sides). The other interior feature is the steering wheel; a think leather-clad wheel special to the CS that is the most comfortable wheel I’ve ever driven with. It oozes quality.
Actually, the whole car oozes quality. I love some of the little touches like the chrome surround for the door lock. Porsche were noted for their build quality during this era and the 968 is no exception. My car feels as tight as a drum and solid as a rock. The exterior still looks factory fresh, even after 19 years (built Sep 94). All interior surfaces are covered with quality materials and the doors, buttons, stalks and shifter operate with a level of precision and intent that I haven’t experienced in one of my own cars before. The sole exception is the driver’s window crank, which feels wobbly.
It’ll likely be a loooooong time before I’ve even come close to the limits of what this car is capable of. Right now I can tell you it’s fast and it’s enormous fun to drive. It makes you feel good just walking up to it and as a driver, you feel confident as soon as you sit behind the wheel. This car is designed and built to be driven.
Right now, what I feel most is a small sense of foreboding at the potential service costs that lie ahead and a huge sense of responsibility towards this car.
As mentioned at the top of this story, I never intended to buy a 968 ClubSport. When the 944 S2 fell through, I invoked the “buy the best” maxim and went straight for the best front-engined 4-cylinder Porsche the company ever made. I blew my budget out of the water in the process, but right now I couldn’t be happier. Ask me about that again in 12 months when I’m still paying money into our mortgage to pay this off, but as my sister is so fond of telling me – you only live once.
My ambitions for this car:
- Enjoy absolutely everything it has to offer.
- Be as worthy an owner as the guy I bought it from. Hopefully one day in the distant future some lucky person will feel as good about this car and the person they bought it from as I do.
In the meantime, there’s a journey ahead. I’m not sure if this is the continuation of an ongoing automotive journey or an all-new automotive journey. All I know is I’m enjoying the ride so far.
The 968 ClubSport is an outstanding car and I feel pretty lucky to have this opportunity to own one.
Click an image below to enlarge.