1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

With bomb-proof build quality, the Carrera 3.2 represents the bedrock of 911 history, combining classic looks and driving traits with a relatively straightforward maintenance regime. Now, three decades on, even the best examples need restorative measures. Who better to demonstrate than a leading conservator of the breed?! Words Johnny Tipler. Photography Dan Sherwood.


TIME TRAVELLER

Immaculately restored 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2


The Carrera 3.2 was introduced late in 1983 for the 1984 model year, replacing the 911 SC, whilst inheriting the older Porsche’s body-chassis unit and gaining a number of detail improvements. The new model was available in Coupé, Targa and Cabriolet format, with Slant-nose, Speedster, Club Sport and Super Sport intriguing ad hoc spin-offs. You thus had a choice of configurations in which to enjoy the experience, open to the elements or not.The small increase in capacity to 3,164cc lifted horsepower from 204bhp to 231bhp, providing a torquier response in the process. What’s become evident — and appreciated — more recently is how the Carrera 3.2 range was better built than the foregoing SC and the subsequent 964, manifest in solidity of componentry and controls, and reflected in rates of deterioration.


YOU CAN RUMBLE OVER POTHOLES ON A FARM TRACK AND THE CARRERA 3.2 WON’T BAT AN EYELID

1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2


The Carrera 3.2 model line-up comprises straightforward cars, unpretentious, and yet thoroughly involving to drive, even today when the youngest of them is thirty-three years old. Yet, while some folk may baulk at the notion of running a classic 911 as a daily drive, the reality is that the Carrera 3.2 is well up to the job. A decade or so ago I did it myself, tackling an eighty-miles- a-day cross country school run (there and back), accomplished in short order with two kids belted into the rear seats. The Tipler squad completed several trips to our Portugal gaff in the Porsche, too, though with ungainly top-box mounted to the gutters. In addition to Portugal runs, I travelled across France and Spain with the top-box attached, and although the engine runs a bit hotter due to airflow over the roof being disrupted, you can stow a lot of kit up top and still have plenty of luggage capacity under the front lid.

Carrera 3.2 specification evolved continuously, becoming more sophisticated mechanically and internally with each passing year. Immediate improvements on the SC included hydraulic timing chain tensioners and a Bosch Motronic ECU, plus bigger brakes. In 1985, Boge dampers became standard, the radio aerial was integrated in the windscreen, a new four-spoke steering wheel was fitted, as were electric seats with taller backrests, a shorter-throw gearshift and active carbon filters in the breather system. The following year, the model received fatter anti-roll bars, bigger rear torsion bars, a revised dash with larger air vents, seats twenty millimetres lower, new sun visors and a handy cabin temperature sensor.


1984 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2

YOU CAN RUMBLE OVER POTHOLES ON A FARM TRACK AND THE CARRERA 3.2 WON’T BAT AN EYELID

In 1987, the Getrag-made G50 gearbox replaced the Porsche-built 915 unit, together with a hydraulic clutch, new rear torsion bar housings, two rear foglamps integrated in the rear panel and lights in the door handles for nocturnal identification. For 1988, Fuchs wheels became standard, replacing ‘teledial’ alloys. Headlight washers and central locking were also standard equipment. Finally, in 1989, the alarm system became linked to the central locking. Production ended in September that year, marking a total of 80,684 units built.

The Carrera 3.2 clan divides into cars produced between 1984 and 1986, and from 1986 to 1989. The fundamental divide is the aforementioned change of gearbox. It’s not crucial, but it certainly does merit consideration if you’re out shopping for one of these cars. Introduced by Porsche because it was cheaper than the 915 (which needed its own oil cooler), the G50 is often touted as the be-all and end-all of classic 911 transmissions, but that ain’t necessarily so. While the 915 feels like a piece of vintage kit, relatively slow to engage, yet more akin to the fabled ‘knife-through-butter’ epithet (more like ladle-through-trifle?), the G50 shift is rubbery and indefinite, although it is a swifter operation traversing the gate from notch to notch. The benefits of the later unit lie in its robustness and, hence, willingness to accept missed shifts — synchros don’t wear out at the rate they seem to succumb in the 915, although once replaced, the older transmission’s synchros hold up well enough. What will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the 915 when they come to use a G50 unit is the location of reverse on the newer shift pattern. It’s to the left and up, just where you’re accustomed to finding first in the old ’box.

The dials didn’t vary much throughout the production lifespan, although there are updates in the fascia. There’s a device for lowering or raising headlamp height in later editions, and switchgear presents as slightly more modern, flush-faced and rounded. Heater controls have evolved and the lower dash panel is of a tacky plastic. If you carry passengers in the rear, it’s worth noting later cars had lap-and-diagonal belts.


When contemplating Carrera 3.2 ownership, you first have to decide whether you want the Coupé, Cabriolet or halfway-house Targa. As an everyday or trackday car, a Coupé makes most sense. You can always opt for one with a sunroof if you crave fresh air. The Cabriolet chassis is not prone to scuttle shake and flexing like some open sports cars. Its top is of high-quality construction, lined, fits well and enjoys a reputation for being leak-proof (unless the rubber seals have perished). Within these three broad choices of style there are several sub-species of Carrera 3.2. The flat- or slant-nose Coupé (based on the look of the 935 racers from the late 1970s and early 1980s) featured pop-up headlights and Turbo rear arches. Between 1985 and 1987, the factory’s restoration workshop produced just nine slantnose Carrera 3.2s and, from 1988, it became a Turbo production option.

The Club Sport Coupé of 1987 was a stripped-down trackday special, conceived in the spirit of the legendary 1973 icon. Only 340 examples were built, almost all painted Grand Prix White with red Carrera graphics, with fifty-three configured for right-hand drive.

For obvious reasons, these cars are far beyond the price ceiling of top-condition ‘regular’ Carrera 3.2s. Similarly, the open-top Speedster of 1989 (2,065 units built) was a variation on the Cabrio theme and featured a slanted windscreen and low-line hood. In 1988, Porsche released a short run (875 units) of the Anniversary model, available in all three main body styles and finished in Marine Blue, commemorating twenty-five years of 911 production. Only fifty Anniversary builds came to the UK, the rest divided between the USA and Germany.

Here’s the thing. Unless it’s sat in a collector’s air-conditioned bubble for decades, almost every Carrera 3.2 will have needed refurbishment or restoration, mechanically as well as bodily. This despite Porsches being made from hot-dip galvanised steel from 1976 and carrying a six-year anti-corrosion warranty, and Carrera 3.2s allocated a ten-year perforation warranty from 1986. Bubbling around the B-post, door locks or the base of the sills is a warning rust has taken hold and the car should best be avoided. The corrosion points to look at first are the front and rear bumpers, which are aluminium, and oxidation shows mostly at the corners where the bumper meets the rubber concertina. Unless the car has already been repainted, they are likely to be showing minor signs of blistering paint.


HIDDEN DEPTHS

The sills are usually fine, but don’t confuse the outer panel with the actual sill, which is hidden away inside it. It’s worth checking the door bottoms and the inner door-shut panel for signs of corrosion and, while you’re at it, look under the headlights. There’s a dirt trap there and rust can get a grip if it’s not kept clean.

One little oddity in the car’s construction is the tiny gaps between the rear valance and the sills behind the rear wheels. The doors shouldn’t show any signs of having dropped on their hinges and the metal retaining straps should be in place. Keep in mind the driver’s door will clunk shut in a different way to the less-used passenger door. Hydraulic supports for front lid and engine cover hinges may well not be up to their task anymore, although the engine lid bearing the Sport wing is at a weight disadvantage.

Underneath the front lid there’s a sticker identifying the car’s VIN and chassis number — a quick reference in conjunction with the aluminium chassis plate riveted on the inside of the right-hand wing. You’ll also find a separate washer bottle in the top left of the luggage bay on post-’87 cars. Although the Carrera 3.2 left the assembly line with a perfectly serviceable alarm installed (activated by a secondary key in a lock located mysteriously in the door closure panel), this didn’t satisfy insurance companies, who demanded an aftermarket Thatcham-approved security system.

The suspension is tough as they come. The torsion bars don’t need any attention, though if the dampers are old, the car may start to wallow. A new set of legs will cure the issue. The rear anti-roll bar mounting brackets were a potential weak point on early Carrera 3.2s and are prone to breaking, but these were strengthened on later models. As is the case with all cars, bushes wear: the front anti-roll bar rubbers give up the ghost before those at the rear.

Most Carrera 3.2s supplied new in the UK came with fifteen- or sixteen-inch Fuchs alloys with body-colour-coded wheel centres, though, as mentioned earlier, ‘teledials’ were fitted to early cars. It’s worth noting, rubberband low-profile tyres don’t belong on a Carrera 3.2. This 911 needs to be shod with tall, old-fashioned balloon tyres like the originals, delivering a more accommodating ride with no tramlining or juddering at every pimple. Tyre pressures are important, too. Pump to 2.0bar at the front, 2.5 at the back.

To find out about a pukka restoration, I spoke to marque specialist, Sam Corke, who, as you’ll see from the pictures on these pages, has recently finished restoring his own Carrera 3.2. Sam owns Impact Bodywork, sister company to Porsche indie, Precision, based at Uckfield, Sussex, and excels at mending and restoring 911s. He has a powerful penchant for the Carrera 3.2 and bought this example four years ago.

“I’ve owned several Carrera 3.2s and plenty of other 911s,” he reveals, before telling us one of the plus points of the 3.2-litre model is its simplicity, especially when compared to the later 964 or 993. He also confirms he hadn’t originally planned on restoring the car. “I simply wanted to own and drive a late Carrera 3.2, complete with factory-fitted 964 front and rear screens, as well as 964 front wings.” As he puts it, “there are a few little changes on the late Carrera 3.2, which wore these 964 parts,” referencing Porsche’s habit of installing new-generation parts on runout examples of its outgoing models. For this reason and more, he wanted a tidy example of a 1989 Carrera 3.2. How did the restoration come about, then?

“In November 2020, just before I put the car away for winter storage, I detected a little brake bind. I decided to send the calipers away to be refurbished,” says the man who restores 911s for a living and is retained by RUF’s UK outpost to attend to any repairs.

“My thirteen-year-old daughter, who races motorbikes at weekends, was with me in the garage helping to remove the parts. She kept pointing at various chassis and body components, asking if I was going to fix those, too! Obviously, this is a three-decade-old-plus Porsche, but even with it being an all-original, low-mileage Carrera 3.2, time had taken its toll on the suspension and running gear.” A fortnight later, the car was stripped right down. “It’s easy to get carried away!” he laughs, citing sixhundred hours and close to £30,000 invested in what he modestly now refers to as “a really nice 911.”

We’re talking all new parts and a bare metal respray here. “We regularly see Porsches subjected to bodywork and paint on the cheap and the work almost always needs doing again,” Sam continues, confirming he sourced much of the new componentry required for his car’s rebuild from independent parts supplier, Design 911. “What’s nice about air-cooled Porsches is how you can buy all the bits for them. To this end, anything starting to deteriorate was replaced. I bought new driveshafts, all new suspension, a new petrol tank and the accompanying fuel lines. In short, parts were either restored and powdercoated, plated or completely replaced.”

I wanted to clarify the point about the galvanized coating, which you remove when taking a shell back to bare metal. “This is true, but once a body is reduced to bare metal, we apply an electrophoretic coating. We actually wet paint the coating and then the shell is fully protected. If the job is done with a mechanical sander, the process can take the galvanizing off, but if you do it with paint stripper in a plastic spreader and take your time, usually a whole week, you won’t lose any of the galvanizing. In other words, my Carrera 3.2’s body is still galvanized, though it’s this laborious work which makes you realise just how many parts weren’t treated to anticorrosion measures at the factory.”

“You have to remember, even as late as Carrera 3.2 production, air-cooled 911s were effectively hand-made sports cars. This means you can expect to find a few imperfections, in the scuttle especially, perhaps where a technician at the factory had been across there with a sander, just before the car was painted, resulting in buzzed-off patches of galvanizing.” Sam sounds disparaging, but he is being realistic when he says, unflinchingly, “air-cooled 911s attract rust, the same as every other old car. The problem with 911s is that they don’t have enough under-body protection. Dirt sits up in the wheel arches and easily gets through the galvanizing, encouraging corrosion to set in. A 911 like mine is all box sections. The 996 was so much better in this regard. For a start, the 996 doesn’t have a scuttle panel, which was a serious Achilles heel for these air-cooled 911s.”

Having worked for Porsche specialists as a teenager, he recalls seeing Carrera 3.2s day in, day out, which is why he feels this particular breed of 911 is his specialty. “I know exactly what nut and bolt goes where and I know all the little tricks of how these cars go together,” he smiles, before telling us his personal Porsche build was finished at the end of summer 2021 and has since gone on to ferry him and his wife on hundreds of miles of leisure drives. “It feels like we have rewound time,” he beams. “This Porsche is going to stay with me forever.”

Now, if you’re encouraged by his words of wisdom and are thinking of living with a Carrera 3.2, here comes the reality check. Not only can you download the contents of a Waitrose shopping trolley into the front luggage compartment — with, perhaps, a bit of overspill into the cabin interior — you can also accommodate extraordinary amounts of cargo within the cabin. When performing with The Corruptors (a local beat combo) I found I could fit my whole five-piece drum kit in my Carrera 3.2. Toms and snare on the back seats, the cymbals behind one of the front seats, the bass drum occupying the passenger seat and the stands under the bonnet. That is to exclude any passengers, although I have achieved the same with a child buried under the smaller drums.

What does the Carrera 3.2 drive like? From the moment the clutch bites and you’re in motion, it’s direct. Pulling out of a parking space, there’s no power assisted steering, so a certain amount of muscle power is required. Why waste time at the gym?! A crucial factor about driving the Carrera 3.2 is your proximity to the steering wheel.

Better to be closer than might at first seem natural, then the gear lever falls neatly to hand and the bend in your knees is bearable. More importantly, you can steer more easily this way than with the straightarm technique. As for those floor-hinged pedals, your right heel may be on the deck feathering, nay, pressuring the throttle, but your left will be dancing in mid-air dealing with the heavy clutch and un-servo’d brake pedal. On the move, all your senses come into play. The absence of power steering means everything is full-on and sensitive. Feedback is instantaneous — you feel exactly what the suspension is doing and where the car is going. Your own reactions are honed to match. It’s not that you don’t get this with power assistance, you just experience things more directly without.

Left- or right-hooker, all Carrera 3.2s are hugely involving to drive, nowhere more so than twisty back roads. Docile as a donkey in a line of A-road cars, the flat-six responds right on cue to a spot of right- foot pressure and arm twirling on the fairground-ride back-doubles. On a poorly surfaced B-road, the front wheels bubble over every undulation as they feel out the topography. It’s alive, a creature working out which passage to take for best effect, and you’re controlling it by light movements of the wheel as it bucks slightly in your hands with each and every passing bump. As you go faster, the steering progressively loads up and the more physically demanding it becomes.

The Carrera 3.2 features relatively long gearing, both in 915 and G50 transmission formats, which matches with the slow and deliberate nature of the gearshift. You go from one notch to another quite deliberately — you can’t just bang it through. It’s not ponderous, because you have to be precise about where you move the lever. Bring a 915 ’box from fifth to fourth and you have to be calculated about your movement or you’ll quickly graunch into reverse. Of course, it’s second nature before long. Put your foot down in fifth and you can be sure it will deliver the power, although it’s not devastating. Better to drop a cog in an overtaking situation to be safe. Equally, you notice how strongly the 3.2 pulls when you get up the legal speed limit. It really delivers between 4,000rpm and 6,000rpm.


PICK UP THE PACE

Third gear overtaking on A-roads is stunningly fast, accompanied by that raucous flat-six bellowing as the revs scream towards 6,000rpm. The power builds relentlessly until you run out of road or come up on a backmarker. Conversely, the Carrera 3.2 will pull inexorably from 1,500rpm in top. You need to get your braking done first, ideally trail-braking up to a corner, although the anchors are so powerful that an occasional stab on the pedal will take off speed if you are going a tad too fast approaching a bend.

Talking of which, you drive the Carrera 3.2 through the corners. Get the lock on early and steer it through, lock off, a bit of oversteer induced with the wheel, perhaps, but most likely by use of the throttle: off to make the front end tuck in or on to drift out.

On back roads, you can drive the 3.2 by the seat of your pants, attacking rather than defensive, positive rather than passive. On a sweeping A-road, you’d better be sure you know what the limits are, both of the road and the car, to ensure you’re ready for the unexpected and you’ve got time to pull up or take avoiding action. On greasy rural lanes bearing a patina of tractor muck, you can feel the car sliding and you teeter round bends on the point of it breaking away. The thing is, it’s so sensitive you can feel this happening and be confident that the Porsche will carry on going without despatching you into a nearby hedge. Make no mistake, this is a strong Porsche and the suspension equally robust, meaning you can rumble over potholes on a farm track and the car won’t bat an eyelid.

Although it may not be the quickest vintage car point-to- point, the Carrera 3.2 is fun and rewarding to own and drive. It’s no more expensive to run and maintain than a ten-year-old family saloon, and as we’ve seen over the past decade, values have gone through the roof. If you want a classic 911 you can depend on as an everyday drive, and if you relish a challenge, then as Sam is only too keen to impress upon us, the Carrera 3.2 is likely the classic Porsche you’ve been looking for.

Above Well, what would you expect from a man who spends his days making classic Porsches look good?!

Above Gorgeous interior benefits from a Blaupunkt Bremen SQR 46 DAB head unit, retaining the look of the classic Bremen, but increasing usability for modern-day driving. Above Every component used during reassembly was either refurbished, restored or replaced with a new part. Above Sam has worked his way through every aspect of this truly stunning Carrera 3.2.

Above A vision of the poster adorning many a bedroom and office wall in the 1980s

ALL CARRERA 3.2s ARE HUGELY INVOLVING TO DRIVE, NOWHERE MORE SO THAN TWISTY BACK ROADS

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