From 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 to 1989 911 SC: why these are the 911s to buy now

From 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 to 1989 911 SC: why these are the 911s to buy now

From under-the-radar collector status to realistic daily-drive prospect, the G-Series is the air-cooled 911 of the moment. As it hits its 50th anniversary, Porsche authority. Steve Bennett tells us why.


Photography Dean Smith

We test the top four G-series + 50 years of the 911 Turbo

G-SERIES 911


From 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 to 1989 911 SC: why these are the 911s to buy now

From 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 to 1989 911 SC: why these are the 911s to buy now

The Porsche 911’s endurance in production is part of its continuing appeal. There always seems to be a significant date or anniversary to mark. Look away now if such things make you feel old, but this one definitely deserves recognition because 2024 is the 50th birthday of the G-Series. The 911 had already been 11 years in production, yet this ‘impact bumper’ generation was the first significant styling and engineering revamp since launch, albeit an enforced one.

‘IT’S ALL BETTER, THAT’S WHAT PROGRESS IS ABOUT, BUT ITS 911 SOUL IS STILL VERY MUCH ALL THERE’

The period 1973 to 1974 was a traumatic one for sports cars. American safety and pollution-busting legislation meant a hefty aesthetic blow from the ‘ugly stick’ combined with a double-whammy drop in performance. Previously elegant and svelte designs grew unattractive appendages front and rear. Think MGB, Fiat 124 Spider, X1/9. And, of course, the 911 didn’t escape either.


From 1974 Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 to 1989 911 SC: why these are the 911s to buy now

Predictably, perhaps, Porsche executed and integrated its response rather more sympathetically. So much so that the G-Series cars it ushered in lasted from ’74 to ’89 – fully 15 years with no significant styling changes. The similarly imposed drop in performance was also soon negated with the introduction of Bosch fuel injection systems, which wrung the absolute max from the fuel and air mix.

Perhaps fittingly, it’s fair to say that the US-market machines never truly caught up, hobbled by catalytic converters and fuel as weak as Budweiser. Yet this sort of stuff was becoming ever-more important and Porsche saw it as a point of principle to improve fuel economy and efficiency. As the G-Series cars became faster, with each new model they became increasingly abstemious, too.

‘THE CARRERA 3.0 IS STILL VERY MUCH THE RAW, HARDCORE CLASSIC 911 EXPERIENCE’

And that still matters, although it’s not really the point of this gathering. Today, the G-Series represents the classic 911 market in its broadest and most usable sense. It’s where the majority of 911 junkies congregate, to take advantage of a still-plentiful supply of cars, prices and mileages that encourage use, yet with a tangible connection to the purist pre-1974 cars, unlike the later air-cooled 964 and 993.

So, what have we got? Well, the full gamut of naturally aspirated 911s, from the rare-groove 1974 Carrera 2.7 MFI (Mechanical Fuel Injection) to the end of G-Series life: the Carrera 3.2. In-between come the 3.0-litre duo of Carrera 3.0 and 911 SC. That’s 15 years of development, and an accurate snapshot of G-Series values versus performance. So, first up, the 1974 Carrera 2.7 MFI. A 2.7 RS in all but name? Not far off, and in Coup. form built in near-identical numbers (1508 versus 1534 for the MFI). Seems incredible now, but for years the 2.7 Carrera MFI was considered nothing special, with values pegging those of any other G-Series 911, whether Carrera 3.0, 911 SC or Carrera 3.2. But then the real-deal ’73 RS took off, the coinage cascaded, and the Carrera 2.7 went tearing off in hot pursuit.

We’ll get more into values later but, to put 2.7 RS and Carrera 2.7 MFI into perspective, the Hagerty Guide values a concours ’73 RS Touring at fully $786,000, and touts $222,000 for a matching ’74 Carrera. That’s $560,000 difference. And in terms of spec, the ’74 Carrera is much the same as the ’73 RS Touring. They even both weigh 1075kg, debunking the notion that the big bumpers added weight. Today’s example is a leftie, which means the pedals are better-placed: LHD is barely a hindrance in a car this narrow. It’s also quite a rarity in Guards Red, which was introduced in 1974 but didn’t gain popularity until the Yuppie ’80s: definitive ’74 Carrera colours are the vibrant glam rock Lime Green and Signal Orange. Still, we really had to have a Guards Red 911, so here it is.

I have been lucky enough to drive a few RSs and there really is nothing in it in terms of the driving experience. And why would there be, with the same 210bhp flat-six and Type 915 gearbox, plus largely identical suspension. Maybe the later car is slightly more refined, and there are detail changes to heating and ventilation and interior trim, but really all that’s lacking is the RS badge.

The driving experience is pure, undiluted air-cooled 911 and worth expanding on here, not least because it’s a little while since I’ve driven one, and there’s always a bit of realignment involved when you get back in an old-school 911. Good ones help the readjustment process, and this example is exactly that: it’s been used but in no way abused. Quite often a fresh, mega-bucks restoration or a lowmileage, little-used garage queen will feel reluctant to give, its engine tight, the gearbox unwilling to release one ratio for another and the brakes wooden and unused. There’s none of that here, and it ticks all the RS-alike boxes with factory-optioned ‘Ducktail’ rear spoiler, Carrera script and 15in Fuchs alloys on correct Pirelli CN36 tyres.

And what makes a good, classic air-cooled 911 so satisfying to drive? From the churn of the flat-six catching, to the physicality of the controls and the unique balance of the weighty, twisting rear and the floating front, it’s just an immersive experience that feels like nothing else. A real thrill. I’m rarely this effusive about any car, 911 or otherwise, but really, I could drive this one all day. The Type 915 ’box often gets a bad press and bad ones deserve it. Not this one. Sure, it won’t pay to rush it, but it’s mechanical and methodical in feel and precision.

The steering chatters through the slender wheel-rim. You guide with your fingertips, rather than wrestle, unless it’s a particularly tight turn, in which case the helm requires a full upper body heave. Excellent outward vision, compact size and a clear view of the front end bobbing around make placement on the road a doddle. Pedals sprouting from the floor demand that 911 thing of lifting your foot to operate them, bar the long-throw organ-pedal-style accelerator. And then, of course, there’s the engine and its hardedged, turbine spin cycle. A 2.7 MFI is always special, it’s got soul, it’s got character. The mechanical injection adds to the living-breathing feel. It’s not linear smooth. There’s the occasional fluff and hesitation and explosion of gas and air in the exhaust, resulting in the odd pop, chuff and bang.

Powerful? Well, 210bhp is plenty powerful enough in a car that weighs 1075kg, and the flat-six is elastic and wide in its delivery and powerband. You can work it hard through the gears, or let it work for you, floating along in fourth and fifth as the road opens out through the upright windscreen. OK, I’ve enthused enough about the 2.7. The point is, like the ’73 RS, it is kind of peak classic 911, just not quite as pretty. In terms of G-Series, it’s almost a case of the best coming first, but with prices where they are it’s a good thing that we’ve three other 200+bhp 911s that come within 95% of the MFI’s full 100%, and all for up to $160,000 less at the widest point of value disparity. So let’s carry on.

The Carrera 2.7 might have carried on the 2.7 RS legacy, but it was only ever going to be a stop-gap. Unable to sell it in America, because of the emissions issue, Porsche had been working on a replacement: the Carrera 3.0, which arrived for the 1976 model year.

Its 200bhp flat-six was in essence a naturally aspirated version of the recently introduced 930 Turbo engine, with an increased compression ratio, plus the lighter flywheel and crank from the 2.7 MFI. Crucially, fuelling and ignition were taken care of by a newfangled Bosch K-Jetronic injection system. The Type 915 gearbox remained and performance was broadly similar to that of the Carrera 2.7. Usefully, while peak torque of 188lb ft remained the same, it arrived at 4200rpm, rather than 5100rpm.

And this is another rarity. It’s as if Porsche was having trouble finding its feet in the mid-1970s: like the 2.7, the Carrera 3.0 had a production run of just two years. Only 3687 were built and only 2564 of those were Coupes; fewer than 40 were in UK RHD spec – of which this is one.

In 1970s-style Sienna metallic with an equally 1970s Cork leatherette interior and velour pinstripe inlays, it’s very much of its time. Typically for a UK car, it’s a Sport model with wings and 16in Fuchs wheels. Weighing in at 1120kg, it’s a slightly porkier Porsche than the Carrera 2.7, thanks largely to that plusher interior, but the extra is easily negated by the extra capacity and torque and so performance figures are pretty much identical. Both hit 60mph in 6.3sec and the Carrera 3.0 romps on to a similar 145mph.

And to drive? Well, it’s all relative, but the Carrera 3.0 offers a slightly more refined experience than the 2.7. There isn’t quite the same raw mechanical edge to the power delivery, nor the need to rev it right out. The extra capacity and the softer Bosch K-Jetronic injection see to that. A more relaxing drive, then, but as we’ve already established, it’s all about small degrees and in isolation the Carrera 3.0 is still very much the raw, hardcore classic 911 experience. The immediate successor to the Carrera 3.0 was the 911 SC, offered from the 1978 to 1983 model years inclusive, during which nearly 61,000 were built at Porsche’s Stuttgart factory. It’s positively prolific compared to the Carrera 3.0, yet no-one today seems certain what those two letters stand for; Super Carrera seems to be the most likely explanation. The early 180bhp cars saw a performance dip, conceived as they were to comply and run on low-octane US fuel, but soon European-spec cars began to benefit from uprated versions of the 3.0-litre engine, with 188bhp for the 1980 model year and finally a definitive 204bhp for 1981. US cars, however, were stuck with 180bhp throughout. The full-fat 204bhp gave the SC a top speed of very nearly 150mph and 0-60mph in 6.8sec.

At first glance it’s difficult to tell the Carrera 3.0 and the SC apart, but as ever the devil is in the detail. Mechanically the SC took the Carrera 3.0’s 930 Turbo-derived engine and added a new electronic ignition system, plus improvements to the timing chain tensioners. The SC was also the first normally aspirated 911 to receive servo-assisted brakes, which came with bigger discs.

Inside there were subtle improvements in trim, soundproofing and finish, with vinyl, leather and Berber fabric. 1980 saw the arrival of the optional Pasha psychedelic trim, the ‘Marmite’ of all Porsche interior options. Basic non-Sport spec SCs were distinguished by a lack of front and rear wings, plus 15in Fuchs or ‘cookie cutter’ wheels, but we sporty Brits generally specified the well-known Sport pack, lowered on Bilstein dampers, 16in Fuchs wheels, with front and rear wings plus ‘Sports’ seats. This 1980 example belongs to Porsche dealer Paul Stephens and it’s really rather special, being totally original and unrestored with only 40,000 miles on the clock.

Unusually, it has had just one previous lady owner, which might explain the tasteful Ivory paint and equally tasteful Berber/brown interior, in place of the more usual Guards Red, Basalt Black or Grand Prix White of the era. It’s a non- Sport car, and looks just perfect without wings. It should really be wearing ‘cookies’ or 15in Fuchs and Paul plans to return it to standard.

To drive? Well, as close to a timewarp (or to a new 911 SC) as you’re ever going to get. First, the torque figure is up – 197lb ft at 4300rpm – which is what you notice on the road. It still likes to rev, though: peak 204bhp at 5900rpm is only 100rpm behind the Carrera 3.0.

Most cars that are 42 years old tend to feel it, but not this 911 SC. Normally we don’t hold with such parsimonious usage, but every now and again it is fascinating to drive something that is as original as this. It also serves to accentuate the further step forwards in refinement over the Carrera 3.0. This was a 911 that you could easily see as a daily driver, but again not at the expense of what makes an air-cooled 911 special. It still offers 95% of that Carrera 2.7’s 100% reference point.

And then we come to the end of the G-Series line. Porsche built a staggering 80,000 911 Carrera 3.2s between 1983 and 1989, not bad for a car that was supposed to have been killed off in favour of the front-engined cars. Cue customer outrage and an internal Porsche power struggle, all resolved in the 911’s favour.

Finally the 911 received a rather more generous horsepower hike: 231bhp at 5900rpm from its 3.2-litre flat-six, thanks to the Turbo’s crank and longer con-rods. Torque increased to 209lb ft at 4800rpm and the 911 finally broke the 150mph barrier, making 152mph. The Carrera went digital, too, with computerised fuel injection and RAM chips that even today can be manipulated to alter the fuelling and ignition. A far cry from the 2.7’s MFI.

Early Carrera 3.2s retained the Type 915 gearbox, but in 1987 the 911 got the gearbox that many would say it really deserved: the Getrag G50, which would go on to serve the 911 through the 964 and 993 ranges. It’s worth noting, though, that while the G50 gearbox had shorter ratios than the 915, its taller final drive rather negated any advantage and there are many that feel the 915-equipped Carrera 3.2 is the livelier iteration.

However, for most the ultimate normally aspirated G-Series 911 is a late G50-equipped Carrera 3.2. Which is handy, because that’s what we’ve got here, although not in era-defining Guards Red but Grand Prix White, with wings and Turbo-style Fuchs alloys. Just don’t call me a banker. The G50 may be the slicker shifter, compared with the 915, but it was heavier and that extra weight was in the back of the car, not necessarily where you want it in a 911.

Kerbweight increased from 1160kg to 1210kg, yet further from the Carrera 2.7’s 1075kg, but that’s progress and at least the Carrera 3.2 is dimensionally the same. The 3.2 also has a plusher interior, with improved ventilation (always an air-cooled 911 issue), sound insulation and electrically adjustable seats. The deep-bolstered ‘Sports’ version is still one of the best thrones Porsche has ever made.

And that’s where I’m perched for this final drive. If the Carrera 2.7, Carrera 3.0 and 911 SC were typically incremental in their development relative to each other, the Carrera 3.2 really does feel like a leap forwards. It’s the refinement that you notice first. The engine surges and whooshes, but without the hard-edged, saw-mill mechanical clatter. A heavier flywheel calms the gearbox chatter and yes, the shift is at least twice as quick as the 915’s and the clutch action super-light, thanks to hydraulic actuation rather than a cable. It’s a bit of character lost, but you’d have to be perverse to say that the 915 ’box is better.

Indeed it’s all better, that’s what progress is about, but its 911 soul is still very much all there, if a little cloaked: the balance, the swagger, the rear digging in as the front goes light, the tactile steering. All that stuff that I got really quite enthused about while driving the Carrera 2.7. The Carrera 3.2 still has it, it’s just not quite so in-yer-face. Still 95% to the 2.7’s 100%? Pretty much, but you perhaps have to dig a bit deeper to expose it, which to modern 911 owners will probably sound familiar.

Sounds obvious but, if you can afford it, the Carrera 2.7 is the car to have. To all intents and purpose it is a ’73 RS Touring in all but name, yet it’s equally rare and beyond the reach of most, at well over $200,000 for a good ’un. However, as already pointed out, that’s more than half-a-mill less than the market dictates for a concours ’73 RS Touring!

Still, for most people the 2.7 is out, which leaves the other three cars. And, again, the Carrera 3.0 is rare meat. If you really wanted one, and a good one at that, then you might have to hold out or even compromise. And that rarity means it’s pricey. The market reckons on over $100,000 for a concours example and an only slightly more palatable $80,000 for a merely excellent one. Worth it? Only if rarity is your thing, because the driving experience offers nothing over the others in this quartet.

Which means for most it comes down to a 911 SC versus Carrera 3.2 shoot-out, handy as both are plentiful on the market, both are easily separated in terms of character and driving experience, and prices are at near-parity. For a (relatively) raw, lighter, revvier 911 experience, then go 911 SC. It’s been the starter-classic, air-cooled 911 of choice forever, and for good reason. For very good to the very best put aside $40,000 to $60,000. Or to put it another way, at the top end that is close to $160,000 less than the Carrera 2.7. Crazy, huh? Even better, there’s plenty of margin in the SC market, which starts down at around $25,000, but, for reasons that we will come to, beware.

Go for the 911 Carrera 3.2 and the upper end spans $50,000 to $70,000. In other words, a $10k premium over the SC, and that for most is probably not enough to make separating the two a financial matter. That bit extra gets you the ultimate development of the original 911, albeit one that perhaps doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve quite like the other three.

What about restorations? Continuing with the numbers, in the 911 market G-Series or otherwise, it really pays to get the best that you possibly can. Projects are beyond sane money now. That $25,000 SC or $30,000 Carrera 3.2 could very easily swallow more than $80,000 in labour and parts, which you will never recoup.

Me? Even in a fantasy world, I can’t rationalise the value of the Carrera 2.7, which for most would make it almost too valuable to use as intended. And it’s rarity over driving experience for the Carrera 3.0. Thank goodness, then, that Porsche built the 911 SC and Carrera 3.2 in sufficient numbers as to make them abundant and reasonably affordable. So, I’m down with ‘The people’s Porsches’ and I’ll have a 911 SC, thanks very much. End

THE 911S TO BUY NOW

THANKS TO specialist Paul Stephens, who supplied his own 911 SC and the other three fine specimens – all to be driven as intended. See paul-stephens.com.

1974 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 2.7 MFI

  • Engine 2687cc air-cooled flat-six, OHC per bank, Bosch mechanical fuel injection, dry sump
  • Max Power 210bhp @ 6300rpm
  • Max Torque 188lb ft @ 5100rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, torsion bars, anti-roll bar. Rear: trailing arms, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Vented discs
  • Weight 1075kg
  • Top speed 149mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph 6.3sec

1976 911 PORSCHE CARRERA 3.0

  • Engine 2993cc air-cooled flat-six, OHC per bank, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, dry sump
  • Max Power 200bhp @ 6000rpm
  • Max Torque 188lb ft @ 4200rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, torsion bars, anti-roll bar. Rear: trailing arms, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Vented discs
  • Weight 1120kg
  • Top speed 143mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph 6.5sec

1980 PORSCHE 911 SC

  • Engine 2993cc air-cooled flat-six, OHC per bank, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, dry sump
  • Max Power 204bhp @ 5900rpm
  • Max Torque 197lb ft @ 4200rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, torsion bars, anti-roll bar. Rear: trailing arms, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Vented discs
  • Weight 1160kg
  • Top speed 146mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph 6.8sec

1988 PORSCHE 911 CARRERA 3.2

  • Engine 3164cc air-cooled flat-six, OHC per bank, Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection, dry sump
  • Max Power 231bhp @ 5900rpm
  • Max Torque 209lb ft @ 4800rpm
  • Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • Steering Rack and pinion
  • Suspension Front: MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, torsion bars, anti-roll bar. Rear: trailing arms, torsion bars, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
  • Brakes Vented discs
  • Weight 1210kg
  • Top speed 152mph
  • Acceleration 0-60mph 6.1sec

Clockwise, from above First and last: Carrera 3.2 (in white) is the final evolution of the naturally aspirated G-Series; only incremental progress inside, but the 3.2 packs the most power in its tail.

Clockwise, from top left Period Cork leatherette trim for Carrera 3.0; SC will delight purists who prefer an unadorned 911 silhouette; demure tweed within SC – and it’s the only car present without a rear wing.

‘IT’S JUST AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE THAT FEELS LIKE NOTHING ELSE. A REAL THRILL’

Left and above Guards Red for this 1974 Carrera 2.7, which was far less common in the 1970s than the 1980s; this Carrera 3.0 wears Sport package wing with pride.

Below and right From front: Carrera 2.7 MFI, 911 SC, Carrera 3.0 and Carrera 3.2; $160,000 separates the cream SC from the red 2.7, yet they’re surprisingly close in terms of appeal.

Editor's comment
The 911s that make sense

When I was a pup – well, probably in my teens, which means my opinions were even more virulent yet even more unfounded – I didn’t much care for new Porsche 911s. You couldn’t blame me: I was born in 1968, so when I was most full of revolution and rebellion and looking for a system to smash, 911s were at their new-establishment peak, that thankfully brief window in the mid-80s when all the cliches were formed. Red-braces wearing yuppie a-holes going backwards into hedges in matching Guards Red impact-bumper 911s while swilling from a bottle of Pol was real (though perhaps rather less frequent than the tabloids made out). As was the 911’s guilt by association, sadly.

By the time I got into the classic car magazine game in the mid-90s, the big-bumper generation of Porsche was still unfashionable, all too often the cars were uncared for and poorly maintained daily drivers at the bottom of their value curve. They were what you bought if you couldn’t afford a ‘proper’ Porsche.

To those of us of a certain age, I guess they still are to a lesser degree, but to an only slightly younger generation of enthusiasts, the one that has also embraced all those 1970s shades of brown that still make my blood curdle – russet, sable, oatmeal et al – there seems to be no trace of that stigma. Of course, you suspect that they might change their minds the moment they have the wherewithal to test drive a 1968 S, but for now I am quite jealous that they can enjoy the later cars without all the social baggage that used to come with them, used to spoil them. That’s partially a comment on how quickly society and perceptions move on in the modern world, but mainly it’s testament to the longevity of a brilliant design.


Heck, the cars we are rightly celebrating this issue were in production so long that they easily outlived their own negative stereotypes in period. They emerged in 1974 and bowed out in 1989, they pretty much saw off their own succession plan when the front-engined cars came and went, and now they seem far more related to what came before than to what came after.

After all, with all the world’s 964s being hoovered up for restomods and 993s being sufficiently evolved to be an entirely different car, these G- (and on) Series 911s are suddenly looking extremely appealing in their own right rather than merely as an alternative to something you can’t afford. In the words of the wise Glen Waddington: ‘It’s the only “purebred” 911 that still exists in reasonable quantities and for almost sane money.’
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