Rare 1993 Porsche 911 Targa Florio 964
A Targa that finally lives up to its illustrious name? We get behind the wheel of the latest build from PIE Performance. It’s a semi-open-top 964 with a dash of Florio, as we’re about to find out...
Words Steve Bennett
Photography Dan Sherwood
REBORN CLASSIC TRIED AND TESTED
RARE 964 TARGA FLORIO DRIVEN FRESHLY ENHANCED AIR-COOLED ICON
A reborn 964 Targa Florio breaks cover.
I must be getting old. Well, actually, I am getting old, there’s no ‘must be’ about it. Can this explain why I’m starting to get the whole Targa thing? There was certainly a time when a 911 had to be a coupe and nothing else would do. The Targa’s crime? Despite the fact it was named after the Targa Florio (the epic Sicilian road race Porsche dominated for two decades, coining eleven wins, nine second-place finishes, twelve third-place finishes and eight fastest laps), a 911 Targa was and is no road racer. More a California cruiser.
This might be true of the Porsche factory version, but here I am, roof panel removed, driving some of my favourite Suffolk roads and, despite the November chill, the experience is only being enhanced by the breeze. It’s also being boosted by a number of other factors, thanks to some modified magic from our friends at PIE Performance in Sudbury. You will have spotted this is a 964 Targa. Appropriately, in view of the above observations, it’s also a limited edition dubbed Targa Florio. Not that Porsche saw fit to create a more hardcore version of the regular Targa. Indeed, it’s easy to view the addition of ‘Florio’ as something of a cynical marketing exercise to get rid of the last remaining 964 Targa bodies in 1993, thereby clearing the path for the incoming 993.
The result, however, was actually quite special, not least thanks to special leather trimming courtesy of the Porsche Exclusiv department, the manufacturer’s crest embossed liberally throughout and the addition of model-specific script badges on the Targa-defining rollover hoop. This is one of just six such 964s configured in right-hand drive. A rare 911, then. And to think, PIE Performance had two of these cars under its roof until very recently! One a completely standard car recommissioned for sale, the other the black beauty I’m driving today. Make no mistake, the 964 Targa Florio is a special starting point for an equally special project. This is no hardcore road racer, though. That was not the owner brief, but the car is dynamically superior to the standard 964 Targa in both performance and handling, while also adding custom elements that even Porsche Exclusiv would be impressed with. It is also an example of how PIE Performance handles a project, from car sourcing to working with clients to final completion. And while this particular PIE Performance Tuning (PPT) build might be based on a 964 Targa Florio, there is no limit to potential projects or suitable donor cars.
Above A 964 Targa remains one of the most affordable routes into air-cooled 911 ownership.
In this instance, though, the Porsche was already known to PIE Performance head honcho, Chris Lansbury. Indeed, it was the perfect donor, having been brilliantly maintained over its lifetime and being solid both mechanically and bodywork-wise. Not a 911 needing a full ground-up restoration, or indeed any restoration at all. That said, if that’s what the customer wants, then that’s what the customer gets, but from a pragmatic point of view, in this instance, it wasn’t deemed necessary. Yet another 964 starting point? Well, there’s good reason this generation of 911 makes for the perfect donor. It’s the air-cooled sweet spot, retaining a solid link with the original 911, certainly in terms of bodyshell, offering a retro look, but adding an extra level of modernity, such as power steering, air-conditioning and instant performance, which doesn’t come with the G-Series cars. By comparison, the 993 is a much harder Porsche with which to apply the backdate look. It’s also the last of the air-cooled cars and so, perhaps, there is less of a temptation to play? Not that the cover of this very magazine would suggest as much. Ahem.
As far as our star car’s exterior is concerned, Chris’s team has taken elements of the 964 parts catalogue and added enhancements, thus creating something subtly different to the rest of crowd. Witness the custom rear bumper, housing the PPT stainless steel exhaust. Note the one-off rear spoiler, adding a slight ducktail kick to the rear. The Carrera RS front brake ducts are a nobrainer, and you wouldn’t want to replace the aero mirrors, because they look great anyway.
And those Fuchs? They’re the real deal — you can’t really argue with an icon. Classically finished in silver with black accents, they’re largely responsible for the car’s retro aesthetic. That said, if you wanted a more contemporary look, then we’d fully understand the use of BBS split rims, for example.
Needless to say, painted black, offset by the predominantly silver Fuchs, the effect is really rather stunning. And this is before we’ve checked out the interior or experienced time behind the wheel.
ONE THING WE’VE NOTICED WITH THESE SORTS OF BUILDS IS THAT THEY REALLY ARE USED BY THEIR OWNERS
Let’s climb aboard. One thing we’ve noticed with these sorts of builds is that they really are used by their owners, who conceive the cars as 911s to be driven. The bespoke interiors, added comfort and extra functionality is therefore very important and has to work. In this case, the Targa Florio’s special Porsche Exclusiv furniture has been removed and stored, should a future owner want to reinstate it. We’d suggest this scenario is unlikely, given the new standards set here with the custom PPT interior — the Braun Nappa and black leather really works against the black interior, as do the charcoal carpets. The modified seats are heated, while the donor car came with air-conditioning as standard, a massive bonus for all round usability.
Below Engine hasn’t been build for ballistic street work, but feels decidedly more urgent thanks to the implementation of a trick PPT ignition kit
A custom-built centre console adds a bespoke touch. The soft wood 917-inspired shifter might be somewhat ubiquitous these days, but there is something very tactile about it. Likewise, the classic MOMO Prototipo steering wheel. For enhanced open cabin space, the PIE Performance team has developed low-rise rear seat backs. There is also added technology in the shape of a Porsche Classic Communication Management (PCCM) head unit, which means Apple CarPlay, DAB radio and navigation on tap. And if you like loud, then a Focal audio system delivers with eight speakers and two concealed subwoofers. It certainly enhanced my enjoyment of The Archers on a two o’clock afternoon re-run on Radio 4. Not that I’m getting old or anything.
Talking of old, open the glovebox and you’ll find not a tin of travel sweets, but the whizzy digital interface for the included TracTive suspension system. Yes, we are getting closer to the driving experience, and this is very much part of it, as is the engine. In standard form, the 3.6-litre 964 produces 250bhp, which you might argue is plenty, but there is always the temptation for more, especially when extra power can be achieved by relatively simple means, something not always that easy with a normally aspirated engine. Fuel injected powerplants of a certain 1980s/1990s vintage are rather more receptive to change.
The stock 964’s Bosch Motronic engine management system has a built-in restriction in the form of its rather primitive airflow meter. This sits between the air filter box and the throttle body/inlet manifold and consists of a flap (AKA ‘barn door’), which opens and closes with the throttle and is attached to a potentiometer interpreting the flap’s ‘swing’ to calculate the amount of air entering the induction system, relaying the gathered data to the ECU to form a key part of the ignition and fuelling parameters. It works, but it’s a major blockage in airflow, much like an additional, rather big and slow throttle butterfly. Bin it and you get the massive benefit of unrestricted flow into the induction system. More air means more fuel to mix with the air, which equals more power. Enter PIE Performance’s PPT ECU and ignition system, replacing the airflow meter with an intake pipe, which runs from the stock air box. The air now enters the engine uninterrupted and is measured by a mass air flow sensor (MAF) housed in the air box. This MAF reports back to the new ECU for fuelling and ignition. Such is the increase in airflow, bigger injectors are required to keep up.
IT JUST BUILDS AND BUILDS AND YOU CAN EITHER USE THE GEARS FOR THE FULL EFFECT, OR JUST THE TORQUE
Power? An additional 40bhp is achievable, with corresponding increases in torque. In this instance, 280bhp has been liberated from the otherwise stock engine, more than a 964 Carrera RS. Chris’ crew is justifiably pleased and proud of this. And the PPT ignition kit isn’t confined to PIE Performance projects — it’s available to order from the firm as a ‘plug and play’ kit. According to Chris, “anyone with a bit of spanner skill should be able to successfully fit the kit to their 964.” He also reveals there’s a similar PPT offering for the 911 Carrera 3.2.
Above Set against the glossy black bodywork, tan leather is an inspired choice and has been stitched to perfection.
Power, of course, is nothing without control. Chassis control, that is. It’s significant that once again we’re driving a modified 911 with TracTive’s gamechanging damping. Think aftermarket Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) and you’re halfway there. It’s actually TracTive’s Active Controlled Electronic (ACE) system, delivering millisecond-fast damping adjustment by way of what the company refers to as a Dynamic Damping Adjustment (DDA) valve. This ACE/DDA combo allows control of front and rear damping, mid-corner roll and pitch during corner entry. A large range of damping options is available and can be prompted via a touchscreen controller. The end result is five distinct user-configurable settings. Should you wish, you can go from loping, Citroën-like, to a maxed-out track attack, with progressive variables in-between.
Regular readers will know we’ve driven and reviewed a number of TracTiveequipped 911s. I suggest to Chris they have a distinct ‘feel’ to them. “Absolutely,” he concurs. “It’s the way they absorb bumps and compressions and keep the mass of the car in control, but not at the expense of compliance.” Yep, what he said. Er, seriously, perhaps the biggest and most noticeable improvement is how the system keeps the weight of the rear-slung engine in check, but never entirely at the expense of the distinct 911 feel we love.
Above and below Tech galore, with modern lighting, a PCCM head unit and TracTive CANchecked touchscreen panel.
A LARGE RANGE OF DAMPING OPTIONS IS AVAILABLE AND CAN BE PROMPTED VIA A TOUCHSCREEN CONTROLLER
So how does this modified 964 Targa Florio drive? First up, I have to say the experience is greatly enhanced by the interior ambience — I must concede to the Targa aspect. I get it, I really do. It’s a sports car, after all. And besides, isn’t one of the 911’s greatest strengths the fact it can be a Coupe, it can be a Targa, it can be a Cabrio?
The power and the glory? That 280bhp output figure aside, one of the big gains that will always come from this sort of conversion is drivability and throttle response. Bin the slow-witted airflow meter and, all of a sudden, you’ve got a much quicker connection between throttle foot and what’s happening at the sharp end. The 964 has never felt slow. Its relatively old-school, 3.6-litre, two-valves per cylinder, quad cam is the antithesis of the peaky screamers of today and is well suited to road use, with torque aplenty. But with the magic electronics, it has all this and more. The power band is positively bulging, with no let-up in the delivery, which feels ‘fat’ throughout. There is no sense of it coming on cam, so to speak. It just builds and builds and you can either use the gears for the full effect, or just the torque. A 964 Carrera RS owner wouldn’t see which way you went. Indeed, an RS owner could fit this PPT kit. It’s easy to switch back to original specification, so no worries regarding originality or resale.
All this would be a complete handful if the suspension wasn’t tuned into UK roads. Indeed, a 911 which doesn’t work on UK roads isn’t fit for purpose, and this applies to stiffly sprung suspension kits, too. The TracTive set-up combines a relatively soft spring with firm-but-fair damping across its five modes, which never lets the spring rate wallow at the softest setting, but compensates at the hardest. As ever, the middle way is best. Set the system at option number three (via the concealed touchscreen) and this is a very civilised and comfortable way to demolish a B-road.
Above and below Even on the Porsche scene, few people know the 964 Targa Florio exists, such is the model’s rarity.
There’s no need to grip and hold on tight, just go with the very rapid flow. Stuttgart might not have added a dash of performance to the limited edition Targa Florio, but Suffolk and PIE Performance certainly have. This rare 964 more than lives up to its name.