Porsche 968 Sport 2022’s Best Buys
With the used car market remaining buoyant following unrealised predictions of a pandemic-fuelled nosedive, we present our hot picks for the year ahead. Kicking off proceedings is the amazing 968 Sport, one of Porsche’s best-handling models and yours for less than twenty grand…Words Dan Furr Photography Ade Brannan.
SPORT OF KINGS UP TO £20k
Rediscovering the Porsche 968 Sport 2022’s Best Buys: one of the Porsche scene’s best-kept secrets.
When we were compiling our list of 2022’s best buys with specific price points in mind and, subsequently, when we attempted to reduce the number of selected Porsches into a manageable number corresponding to the available column inches this magazine has to offer, one model refused to be dismissed: the 968 Sport. It’s a modern classic we’ve raved about in recent issues of 911 & Porsche World and, with the 968’s thirtieth anniversary celebrations now coming to a close, we considered this buying-themed issue of the magazine the perfect forum to round out our own honouring of this utterly brilliant sports car.
Before we go any further, and for the benefit of those who may not have seen the July 2021 (dedicated to thirty years of 968 and currently available to order as back), here’s a reminder of what the Sport is and how it came to be.
The 968 Club Sport (manufactured from 1993 through to the 968’s discontinuation two years later and latterly a fixture of many private Porsche collections) was configured as a ‘race car for the road’, stripped of creature comforts and tipping scales at less than one hundred kilos than the standard 968. The loss of sound deadening material, power windows, boot locking mechanism, heated washer jets, engine bay shrouds, rear wiper, back seats, audio equipment and the introduction of a smaller battery contributed to the Club Sport’s 1,320kg kerb weight, which was helped by a vastly reduced wiring harness and fixed hardback Recaro sports seats (with shells colour-coded to the host Club Sport’s body), which did away with the bulky electric motors of the standard leather ‘tombstones’.
SAM’S CAR WAS PROVING A LITTLE TOO FIRM AND A LITTLE TOO UNCOMPROMISING FOR COMMUTING ON BRITAIN’S WOEFULLY MAINTAINED ROADS
Seventeen-inch wheels — huge for the time — with a wider contact patch replaced the standard 968’s soft sixteens, while body colours were limited to Grand Prix White, Speed Yellow, Guards Red, Riviera Blue, Maritime Blue and the imaginatively named Black. Shedding a few more grams, the 968’s airbag-kitted steering wheel was ditched in favour of the legendary Club Sport three-spoke. Ride height was dropped twenty millimetres.
RÖHRL WITH IT
With a ringing endorsement from Porsche test driver and two-time World Rally Championship victor, Walter Röhrl (who announced the 968 Club Sport as the best-handling Porsche he’d ever driven), as well as contemporary road reports suggesting Porsche had outdone itself by presenting a model with even better corner-hugging abilities than the 944 Turbo, the range-topping 968’s status as an instant classic was assured, but in reality, not everyone wants to drive around in a Porsche robbed of all its luxury equipment. Nowhere was this more pronounced than the United Kingdom, where the terrible state of the nation’s highways (not much has changed in thirty years) made the Club Sport’s stiff suspension and noisy cabin difficult to live with. By comparison, the standard 968 felt too refined, too wallowy. It was, frankly, too tame for thrill seekers. A halfway house was the obvious solution.
The UK-only 968 Sport was offered from 1994 until 1995 and was a Club Sport with much of the regular 968’s equipment reinstated. Electric windows made a return, as did central locking, the thicker wiring loom, rear seats, the tailgate lock and many other features. Leather, however, was kept away from the Sport, as were the Recaro hardbacks, which were replaced by reclining Comfort seats finished in model-specific fabric. And if you think we’re guilty of exaggerating by claiming the 968 Sport to be a Club Sport by another name, then you couldn’t be more wrong — a 968 Sport is listed as a Club Sport on its logbook and accompanying build record (or Porsche Certificate of Authenticity) due to being an altered version of its better-known big brother. The ‘Sport’ bit is referred to as a “CS Luxury Package”, with model-specific badging applied to the rear of the car.
When new, the 968 Sport was available in UK main dealer showrooms for £29,975. This price was not only significantly cheaper than a Club Sport, but a massive £5,550 less than a standard 968. Needless to say, the Sport outsold the regular model by a huge margin (a reported 306 Sports shifted between model launch and the 968’s end of production, while it’s thought only forty standard 968 coupes were sold in Britain during the same period), giving it the rare distinction of being a bargain Porsche then and now. To put this into perspective, in today’s market you need to budget only fifteen grand to get your hands on a Sport to call your own. Compare this cost to the current asking price for a 968 Club Sport — pretty much the same car, remember — which regularly eats in the £45k zone.
Now, you don’t need to be a genius to work out how reversing Porsche’s fitting of comfort equipment can return a 968 Sport to track oriented Club Sport status at significantly reduced cost when measured against the reduction of your bank balance if buying a stock-spec Club Sport. Reverse engineering is the route taken by Matt Rowley, owner of the 1994 Guards Red 968 Sport gracing the cover of our July issue. Formerly prepared as a spare race car by marque specialist, Hartech, but never put to use due to the company’s primary 968 motorsport machine proving so reliable, the three-litre, front-engined, watercooled Porsche was converted to Club Sport specification by Matt, with a step-up from Porsche’s M030 suspension package (chiefly Koni dampers, thicker anti-roll bars) through the appointment of KW Variant 3 coilovers, a Weichers strut brace and Powerflex polyurethane bushes.
None of this escaped the attention of Sam Grange-Bailey, Sales Director at Manor Park Classics, the Runcorn-based automotive auction house which generously offered us use of its halls when we were getting ready to point our cameras at Matt’s car. In fact, Sam was so taken with his red road rocket, she became its owner not long after we said our goodbyes. “I instantly fell in love with this Porsche,” she beams, agreeing with our claim the 968 Sport is one of the scene’s best-kept secrets. Discovering the model is more or less a Club Sport in all but name, and recognising the work Matt carried out to reinstate Club Sport equipment, she didn’t hesitate in making an offer for the car, which she duly put to work as her daily drive. Here’s where it gets interesting. Six months into ownership, and with her kids requiring regular ferrying to swimming classes, football practice and the need for general ‘mum’s taxi’ duties, the lack of two seats in the back was beginning to prove problematic. Easily remedied, of course, but there was more: reflecting exactly the conundrum UK-based Club Sport buyers found themselves grappling with three decades earlier, Sam’s car was proving a little too firm and a little too uncompromising for commuting on Britain’s woefully maintained roads. It was exactly this frustration which encouraged launch of the 968 Sport in the first place.
Obviously, she could have returned her car to Sport specification, but where’s the fun in that?! Recognising she had an opportunity to enjoy the best of both worlds, she decided to buy a second Sport, this one in standard specification. It should be noted, this is no mean feat — as we mentioned earlier, few Sports were produced and, as you’d rightly surmise, they’re not exactly a common sight in classifieds. Furthermore, owners lucky enough to be in possession of a 968 Sport often want to keep their car, recognising how difficult it will be to find another Porsche offering so much for so little and not being oblivious to the fact they’re in charge of an appreciating classic. Nonetheless, Sam happened upon a Polar Silver 1994 example with impressive history.
Original throughout (down to the Blaupunkt Hamburg cassette player), the only known modification to the car was the installation of a Janspeed stainless exhaust system. Still carrying AFN dealer plates and treated to a full respray in 2018, the car’s care has been overseen by Porsche Centres throughout its life, with the Tonbridge and Harston-based Cambridge sites carrying out recent work. Receipts from Hartech also populate a bulging history file. “I’ve owned classic 911s in the past, but the way Porsche’s transaxle cars handle is something else,” Sam tells us. “I’ve totally fallen in love with the neutral balance of these machines. They deliver an amazingly surefooted drive,” she adds, referencing how a 968 encourages you to explore its performance potential through class-leading handling, as famously proclaimed by Röhrl all those years ago.
Sensibly, she recommends any new owner pass their 968 (Sport or otherwise) to a recognised chassis tuning specialist. After all, there’s little point buying one of the best-handling Porsches of all time and then driving it with compromised suspension. To this end, she drove her new steed to Suspension Secrets in Knutsford, where work was carried out to return the car to its factory geometry, before the company’s technicians dialled in a tune to suit her driving style and the roads her silver stunner is most likely to be travelling along. At the same time, to further aid traction, a Quaife ATB limited-slip differential was installed. The results, she tells us, are transformative, making her retro ride an absolute joy to drive around twisty country lanes, as well as when darting around town while ferrying her kids to their various after-school clubs. She also suspects the car will perform brilliantly at a track, but she’s in the enviable position of being able to call upon the Guards Red machine for battle. “Is it greedy to have two 968 Sports, or is it sensible to have a spare?!” she asks, semiseriously.
Our response is to suggest everything comes in threes. The 968’s engine is a naturally aspirated three-litre unit once touted as the world’s largest capacity four-cylinder production powerplant.
Featuring a 104mm bore and an 88mm stroke, the smooth-running straight-four featured Porsche’s new-for-the-time VarioCam variable valve timing. Much like Honda’s more famous VTEC system, VarioCam continuously varies the timing of intake valves by adjusting the tension on the chain connecting the exhaust and inlet camshafts. This process ensures the engine is performing at its best for the driving conditions experienced at any given time, whilst keeping emissions at a safe and sensible level. Unlike the various versions of the 944, all production 968s share the same powerplant — believe it or not, there are no changes beneath the bonnet, whether you pick a standard 968, Sport or Club Sport, a fact further emphasising what a great buy the Sport is.
On the 968 you’re thinking about buying, check for any rattling noise coming from the VarioCam system. Ask the seller when the parts were last examined for signs of wear. Also, look for documentation highlighting a change of fluids, filters, belts and the engine’s water pump. If there is no sign of this work taking place, consider it as a bargaining point. You won’t want to be driving the car far until the jobs are carried out, so factor the cost into the price you’re prepared to pay. If in doubt, call your nearest independent Porsche specialist and ask for a quote. It’s in their interest to put your mind at ease.
Finding a 968 with less than average mileage is a good result, but maintenance trumps distance covered on these cars — regular servicing and frequent oil changes are required on every classic Porsche, regardless of how much ground they’ve explored. Look for stamped service history, but keep in mind the historically low cost of these cars encouraged many owners to take care of routine maintenance themselves. This isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, but ask to see evidence of receipts for parts correlating with claimed condition and work completed.
As far as spares are concerned, 968 owners benefit from their cars having 944 heritage, even though Porsche designer, Harm Lagaaij, claimed the newer sports hatch to be eighty percent new on model launch (not that you’d know from a cabin identical to that of the 944 Turbo and later 944 S2), meaning all mechanical parts and related consumables are in plentiful supply. Moreover, Porsche Classic and independent specialist retailers, including Design 911, FVD Brombacher, Frazerpart, Rose Passion, Heritage Parts Centre and 9Apart, stock new genuine and aftermarket components for these cars.
Second-hand items are also in good supply, with Porsche Spares UK (formerly Woolie’s Workshop) recognised for possessing a wide variety of difficult-to-source trim, chassis and body components in excellent order. As you can see, in contrast to the experiences of owners looking after similarly aged sports cars from other manufacturers, spare parts supply is no barrier to enjoyable 968 ownership.
With values only going one way, there’s never been a better time to secure a 968 Sport. The biggest problem you’ll have is convincing existing owners to part with their cars. Even so, buy the best example you can find and you’re sure to be in for plenty of smiles to the mile from a Porsche as powerful as it is practical, with superior chassis dynamics and looks which have aged remarkably well. If only there were enough 968 Sports to go around.
THE HISTORICALLY LOW COST OF THESE CARS ENCOURAGED MANY OWNERS TO TAKE CARE OF ROUTINE MAINTENANCE THEMSELVES
Above Three-litre powerplant was the world’s biggest capacity production inline-four at the time of manufacture.
Above and below Following our earlier celebration of the 968 Sport in the summer, Sam fell in love with the model and now owns two examples, including this Polar Silver stunner. Above Comfort equipment makes the Sport an easy 968 to live with as a daily. Below Rear end is a significant move away from the 944, with more integrated bumpers and lights mirroring the style of the 928 S4. Above Even in unassuming silver, the 968 looks fantastic
A 968 ENCOURAGES YOU TO EXPLORE ITS PERFORMANCE POTENTIAL THROUGH CLASS-LEADING HANDLING, AS FAMOUSLY PROCLAIMED BY WALTER RÖHRL