Six Decades, Seven Porsches

Brian Konoske

1987 911 Cabriolet

I can totally see myself driving this thing home to Greenwich after spending my day hawking junk bonds on Wall Street. Buy! Sell! Coffee's for closers! (OK, wrong era.) I mean, does anything say '80s yuppie like a red 911 Cab?

Paul Tagliamonte bought this car twelve years ago with 7000 miles on it. Now it's got 16,884 miles on the clock. Basically, I'm getting an accurate facsimile of a new 911 test drive, circa 1987.

By that time, the 911's engine was up to 3.2 liters and 214 hp. But the behind-the-wheel experience is remarkably similar to the 1973 car. Driving these two models back-to-back, you can see how glacially the 911 evolved -- and even then, the refinements were mainly mechanical. Legend has it that the styling changed so little over the years that the windshield from a 1964 911 will fit any model up to 1998.

It's been a while since I drove any car from the '80s, but I'm pretty sure power steering was a common feature by 1987. Not on the 911, though. Midway through a corner, I hit a seam in the pavement and am faintly amazed to feel the steering wheel twitch in my hands. Was that just...bump steer? Wow. The Lotus Elise has nothing on a vintage 911 for steering feel.

It's a sunny day, but I keep the top up. Tagliamonte says it's easy to lower the roof, but the two special wrenches sitting on the passenger seat hint otherwise. Even in 1987, you needed tools to put the top down? I'm beginning to understand why Porsche felt the need to develop the 928. By the '80s, the 911 exhibited some alarmingly anachronistic elements. Or charmingly anachronistic, depending on your perspective.

Tagliamonte points out that this car represents a different era, not only for technology but for Porsche's manufacturing methods as well. "I'll tell you what I love," he says. "In 1987 they still did fine coachwork. It was artisan work. They were like the German versions of U.S. hot-rodders -- you poke around the car and see that they used really cool brackets and mounting methods and hardware. Everything was built to incredibly tight tolerances. It's very apparent that the car was handbuilt. The sheetmetal has hammer marks where they folded it over."

They literally don't build 'em like they used to. In the case of the 911, progress is at least a little bit bittersweet.

I have recently parted with my 1987 Diamond Blue Metallic coupe. It was by far the most enjoyable car I have ever owned. I removed the cat, added a custom exhaust from B&B, installed a cold air ram system and had it chipped. The car put out way over 300 hp. It was a joy to drive just to listen to the engine. The pedal position was never an issue and nothing short of a turbo is a better car, even today than a late 80's 911 Carrera
And one last thing (this article really bugged me, obviously). Bump steer is not a twitch in the steering wheel when hitting a seem. Bump steer is from a suspension bottoming out, and a typically problem in "slammed" cars that have been lowered by hacks. Come on guys, really. And yes, it was common for sports cars to not have power steering in the 80's. Emphasis on sports cars...the typical chevy Impala did have power steering.
Too bad cars have all grown by one third or more on average. At 6'3" and 220 pounds, I never found a classic 911 too small. And I never had trouble adjusting to the way the pedals are mounted on the floor. The humorous exaggeration doesn't work in this case.
The author had never driven an air cooled Porsche? What is he, 16? At 42, I didn't think I was old enough to have nothing in common with the current crop of auto journalists. I recently read another auto journalist state he'd never driven a Z3. That dude must be all of 8 years old. And he pretends to know what the quintessential 80's yuppie car is? (It's a grey BMW btw). My 86 Carrera still keeps up with most anything on the track. And it's a rock solid daily driver.

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