Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

The last air-cooled 911 generation has lived in the shadows of the 964 for the past decade, but this colourful quadruple shows that with the right enhancements, the 993 can deliver a sharper, more focused ride that appeals directly to those who love to drive hard…

Written by Kyle Fortune

Photography by Steve Hall

993 The New Era

A vibrant splash of colour from four Stuttgart sports cars punctuates the autumnal surroundings in Shakespeare country, as their current custodians make some finishing touches ahead of a day in front of the Total 911 cameras. See the full feature starting on.


Porsche 993s

Kyle Fortune takes a look at a colourful collective of Porsche 911 993s all modified with modern tech… but which is best?

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

“It’s hugely improbable that you’ll have come across another 993 Carrera 4 in Blood orange”

As commutes go it’s not a bad one. Caffeine & Machine, the Warwickshire hub of all things wheeled, will be the base today and, handily, it’s about five minutes from my house. Two of the four 993s are already here when I arrive. Andy Brookes, owner of the red striped and duck-tailed example which you’ll likely recognise from the regular Living the Legend pages, says the other two are incoming. Andy’s had a lengthy run this morning up from the south coast, but he’s his usual effervescent self despite the early start. Toby Dyer, owner of the Rivera blue Carrera, took a more sensible and enjoyable approach: he overnighted in one of C&M’s rooms, so his commute’s been even shorter than mine today.

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

“It’s hugely improbable that you’ll have come across another 993 Carrera 4 in Blood orange”

The coffee’s hot and strong as we wait, with Andy revealing that the pair of incoming 993s are similarly unique to their owners. That’s the point today. We’re gathering a bunch of 993s that deviate from stock, to create their own character, and suit the needs and wants of their respective drivers. George Smith will be arriving in a 993 that’s built as an RS Clubsport in Speed yellow, while Chet Manani’s Carrera 4, among some other more subtle modifications, has had a colour change from Aventurine green to Blood orange (018 Blut Orange, sometimes referred to as Tangerine, for the colour fans among you).

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

As a lover and previous owner of an Aventurine 993, hearing about Chet’s car gives me a larger jolt than the caffeine this morning, and that’s before I’ve even seen it. It all brings the promise of a colourful day though which, given that 993s are typically more usually conservatively painted, is a good thing. It’s also certain to keep lensman Steve happy, too.

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

Chet’s now here and, despite my concerns, his Carrera 4 looks absolutely sensational. His bravery in his colour change is utterly vindicated and to be celebrated. We hear George arriving before we see him, his slight tardiness today completely forgivable because, in contrast to mine and Toby’s easy commutes this morning, George stepped off an overnight long-haul flight first thing. He’s still on Vancouver time, having recently moved to Canada where he works as a GP. Yet, he admits that as a treatment for jet lag the RS couldn’t be better prescribed. That’s not just because of the visceral intensity it delivers, but because as a proper, full-on Clubsport build it’s completely devoid of interior trim. George is hugged by Recaro Pole Position buckets in a cocoon of Speed yellow – yellow apparently being one of the best colours for energising and stimulating the human brain.

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

As is usually the order of things, getting all four cars in front of Steve’s cameras is a priority. It’s impossible to ignore the colour on display, the unusually overt collective underlining that the 993’s shape suits a splash of bolder paint. Ludicrous as it might sound to admit, but George’s wonderful RS build arguably looks the most conventional in this company. Perhaps because with an RS the expectation is of a bolder colour. Porsche’s own press shots of the 993 RS back when it was launched featured Speed yellow for a non-Clubsport car. By association RSs should be bright. Carreras, on the other hand, are more often conservatively silver, blue or black. Not today.

Last air-cooled Porsche 911 993 generation

“The sounds emanating from it, particularly at idle, are almost V8”

It’s hugely improbable that you’ll have come across another 911 993 Carrera 4 in Blood orange, though on evidence of Chet’s car that should perhaps change. There’s good reason behind the inspired colour switch. Chet’s fanatical about the early Supercup, which might leave you wondering why he’s not running around with the sort of aero George’s car so gloriously exhibits here. As Supercup savant Chet will point out, the ’1994 season cars were aerodynamically unadorned – the last Cup cars to be so – but they would be brightly coloured. The Blood orange isn’t specific to any Supercup car, then. Instead, the inspiration for the Carrera 4’s change came from a pair of 993s (a GT2 Clubsport and RS Clubsport) each uniquely painted in Blood orange. Chet popped a bravery pill and did the same, and it looks superb.

“The sounds emanating from it, particularly at idle, are almost V8”

Toby’s Rivera blue car looks similarly sensational. Indeed, it’s interesting comparing how the different colours deceive the eye into creating different forms with the 993. Here, the Rivera Carrera’s headlights look a touch more upright, while the way the light works on its front sides flattens them slightly, before flattering the 993’s shapely rear arches with the colour popping above the rear wheels. Obviously, the rear light and linking reflector bar contrast against the Rivera blue and Speed yellow cars to tremendous effect, with the Blood orange car’s less prominent. Andy’s Guards red is somewhere in between, being a bit more obvious thanks to them being Carrera S items, with a darker smoked red finish standing out against the red paint.

“The sounds emanating from it, particularly at idle, are almost V8”

Andy wasn’t looking for a Guards red car, but he’s grown to love it and like every owner here he’s made it his own. Most obviously, and relatively recently, he’s added stripes: a triple orange graphic from aft of the front wheels that kick up sharkfin-style fore of the rear wheels. These take inspiration from a G-body Targa in the US, as well as the BB 911-30 Turbo Targa Polaroid press car that BB used to showcase the extensive personalisation possibilities it offered in the ’80s. Andy also cites a striped baseball cap for RADwood, an event focused on ’80s and ’90s car culture, as another source of inspiration.

“The sounds emanating from it, particularly at idle, are almost V8”

“This is a build that’s so faithful it uses an original 3.8 RS engine”

The same triple stripe is used across the top of the ducktail. It, like those on the side, is so neatly integrated and executed it could be OEM. That’s true, too, of the subtle body modifications that Andy’s made, specifically around the front of his 993. With the ducktail at the rear he wanted some visual balance at the front, though he admits he isn’t a particular fan of the Turbo bumper or, indeed, RS corners. He explored other solutions and Techart would provide a fix in the form of its Aerokit bumper corners. Doing so left the standard grille between them lacking to Andy’s eyes. However, Techart again provided an answer, though one that Andy needed to spend a bit of time looking for because it’s an out-of-production part. His patience was worth the effort.

Fitting the piece and painting it black gives his 993 a unique look, and one that works particularly well with the RS air ducts beside the indicators. While jostling for position for the cover shot, it’s immediately clear that they’re all running different exhaust set-ups. It’s amusing to listen not just to the eight differing pipes, but to the reaction of each owner to the other cars. The differences are pronounced despite the same flat six pumping behind them – with the obvious exception of the 3.8-litre flat six that’s in the RS. It has a 200 cell cat sports exhaust with a bypass. The sound it produces has a beautifully rich, slightly metallurgic tone that’s underpinned by a strong flat six bass. It’s something of an RS signature.

Toby’s is the surprise here, and the one that everyone’s commenting on. It again features a 200 cell cat, but being a Roock system the sounds emanating from it – particularly at idle – are almost V8 with a muscularity and bass-rich intensity that’s wonderfully appealing.

Chet’s Carrera 4 is running a stock exhaust, which he admits he’s been happy with. And rightfully too, because it’s not lacking in aural appeal. Yet on evidence of his reactions here there’s every chance the Carrera 4 might sound a bit different in time. That leaves Andy’s car, which has had a de-cat and has a valved bypass. It gives Andy the ability to keep things relatively quiet when he wants to, or not when he doesn’t. It sounds breathy but muted at idle, but pulling the dashboard-mounted knob with a simple musical note symbol ups the tempo significantly, with a more guttural, down and dirty note that’s more than a little bit naughty.

Shooting done, it’s time to drive, and with the heavens having just opened prudence dictates that the Carrera 4 makes the most sense for a drive on some favourite and familiar roads. Total 911 Editor Lee Sibley’s behind in the Speed yellow RS, which may or may not prove to be wise. What’s immediately obvious when getting into Chet’s car is just how tight it all feels. The interior is beautiful, having been re-trimmed, while the hardback sports seats – with Blood orange painted backs, naturally – introduce some colour to the otherwise black inside. It’s genuinely impossible to believe that this is Chet’s daily driver, such is the lack of any wear and tear, or mess – something which might change should he find the suitable child seat for his baby son that he’s looking for.

It feels so surefooted, so brilliantly planted that it quickly gets up to speed. I’d happily drive it all day – it’s difficult to comprehend that it’s a near 30-year old car. It feels so tight, and right. The 3.6-litre flat six has benefitted from being chipped by Wayne Schofield, while there’s a midweight single mass flywheel instead of the standard item. That does imbue the engine with an improved eagerness to rev, but it’s not so quick and demanding that it’s something you need to keep on top of.

The slight improvement in immediacy feels natural rather than busy, and works neatly with Chet’s daily driver requirements. Likewise the suspension, using Bilstein B6 dampers and H&R Springs, delivers a nice balance between composure and control. The C4 has had an RS +10 alignment at Tognola Engineering, and it’s done a superb job. Chet’s car rides on Michelin Pilot 4s, which are fitted to Tramont Cup 2 wheels, in a nod to the ’94 Supercup cars. The steering has some pleasing heft to it; the 993 Carrera 4 not betraying its four-wheel drive as obviously as a 964 C4 does, to the point that it’s arguably moot, even here when in such esteemed rear-wheel drive company.

Clambering over the cage into George’s Carrera RS Clubsport build is in stark contrast to the interior of the Carrera 4, or indeed any of the other cars here. George did the sensible thing and bought it in this condition, this car having faithfully been built at considerable outlay to RS specification. It’s wonderfully raw: this is a build that’s so faithful it uses an original 3.8-litre RS engine, though being a build as opposed to an original car means it gets used.

George is only too happy to do so, even if it currently involves a lengthy flight from the other side of the Atlantic, which makes his handing of the keys over to us all the more appreciated. It feels authentically RS to drive: everything from the chatter from the clutch release bearing to the way the cabin fizzes with the intensity of the 3.8-litre engine behind – whether at idle, or reaching for the redline. The speed of its response is matched by the car’s lack of mass, its deftness and agility enormously appealing. It’s immersive and engaging, yet not so overwhelmingly demanding so as to be exhausting.

The connection is heightened so much by your situation. Those bucket seats, the touch points on the steering wheel, which feel so much harder wired than the necessarily more mute Carreras. Here, the RS exhibits its greater singularity because of its uncompromising specification. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy an RS on the road, though, and George’s car replicates it faithfully. It’s a car that’s enjoyable at road speeds, simply because the sensations it delivers are so rich and loaded with feel. The steering’s a particular highlight, the wheel full of detail, the front light and needing a touch of management as you’d expect, but so rewarding when you get it to tuck in and get back on the power and feel the car’s lack of mass as it starts to gain speed. This is a joyous machine that rewards on so many levels, even when – as is the case when we’re out in it – the roads are less than perfectly dry.

Still buzzing after the intensity of the Speed yellow car, the worry is that Toby’s 993 Carrera will feel underwhelming. It doesn’t. The exhaust, which sounds so muscular from outside, is remarkably calm and cultured inside. Toby’s car, like all four here today, exudes a sense of solidity and quality that it feels like it could have rolled off the production line days, as opposed to decades, ago. It helps, like Chet’s car, that it’s not long been re-trimmed, and similarly it’s fitted with hard-backed sports seats. There’s also a 964 RS gearknob and a Porsche Clubsport wheel.

The suspension is MO33, with the alignment having been done by Steve Winter at JAZ, and like all the cars here, on the road it reveals that money spent on a proper, expert alignment is money well spent. It feels remarkably similar to the Carrera 4, such is the way it glides down roads that I know are far from perfectly surfaced. The Michelin PS2s are able to find plenty of grip and, much like all the early 3.6 nonvarioram cars, it benefits from the slightly shorter ratios in the gearbox, which gives it an eagerness that’s hugely appealing.

I’m asked what I think, and I’m genuinely at a loss to babble anything other than it’s a wonderful car. My only criticism is the thickness of the leather covering the steering wheel. Its padding feels a bit unwieldy, robbing the steering from the finer nuances of what’s happening at the 993’s nose. Toby’s in agreement, and it’s something that’ll be looked at in due course.

Andy’s car, more than any here, seems to be in a perpetual state of transformation or, more correctly, finessing. Andy’s an engineer by trade and that much is obvious in his precise approach to maintaining his car. It’s only just been dropped off his ramp at home after being treated to the sort of exacting rebuild underneath that, if others had done it, might mean it’s taken to a show, axle-stand mounted and mirrors placed underneath it to let you gawp in awe.

I don’t feel too guilty driving it, even in the rain, because Andy’s fastidiousness with his car is countered by an equally compelling demand that it be driven and enjoyed. Getting in isn’t a disappointment. As with all the cars there are nods to the owner’s character. ‘Twist for Smiles’ says the ignition surround, the red, canted-over rev counter and Built by Basil wood-turned (and striped, of course) gearknob revealing Andy’s humour, though like all the cars here it’s fantastically turned out.

Riding on KW V3 suspension, with gorgeous Rotiform NFN wheels with Michelin Pilot Sports tucked quite tight in the arches, I’d anticipated some compromises with the ride. There aren’t any. Andy thinks it’s a bit bouncy at the rear, but he’s nit-picking. ‘Gustavo’ rides with civility. Even so, this car is the one here that errs closer to the RS in its focus, but not to the point of adding compromises. The exhaust with the valve open is the most vocal here, too – perhaps a little bit too much at times, but then there’s always the ability to quieten it down if required. The engine feels fresh and keen revving. Like Toby’s it’s a non-varioram early car, though unlike the others here it’s not had any attention to the ECU.

Andy’s enhancements include differing engine and transmission mounts which, allied to the suspension, is instrumental in increasing that connection – exactly what he wanted from it.

That’s true of every car here. This isn’t a test where I’m looking to come to any comparative conclusions, where one car could be considered superior to the others. Each car here suits the needs of its owner as intended, and demonstrates the breadth of ability the 993, and indeed any 911, can accommodate. That the owners’ enhancements only increase the likelihood they’ll be used is something to be celebrated. Too many cars become coveted collectables rather than cars that are driven, and I’m mighty glad to be in the company of owners who subscribe to the latter point of view.

LEFT Toby Dyer’s Rivera blue Carrera is fitted with MO33 suspension, which was advertised by Porsche as a ‘lowered comfort suspension’. ABOVE Toby’s car is an example of the early 3.6 non-Varioram models, and benefits from the slightly shorter gearbox ratios.

“This car is the one here that errs closer to the RS in its focus, but not to the point of adding compromises”

LEFT An RS-inspired wheel, raised short shifter, and Comfort seats with chunkier side bolsters are all worthy improvements to the touch points of Andy’s 993.

BELOW Andy’s 993 offers a sublime ride on KW V3s, adding precision while dialling out the worst lumps and bumps. It corners the flattest of the four here, too.

ABOVE George Smith’s car is a 993 that’s built as an RS Clubsport in Speed yellow. Only connoisseurs would spot it is narrow-bodied.

LEFT The nose on George’s 993 is sensationally direct, this RS-inspired build offering the most scintillating turn of pace of the four cars here.

Article type:
Matthew Hayward Matthew Hayward 4 months ago #

In praise of the 993

Great to see a lovely collection of 993s taking your cover slot. Having owned four 993s myself over the past 20 years, I still believe the 993 to be the best era of the 911: last of the air-cooled, with exceptional build quality and engineering. If you wanted to, you could still drive a 993 every day (I believe one of the owners in your test still does), and its size and power-to-weight means it’ll always entertain on a spirited drive. I’ve never quite understood why 964s seem to garner such widespread adulation among fans when really the car was a stop-gap to the 993, but I accept my view may be biased. In any regard, great work underlining the merits of the 993 – we look forward to seeing more.

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