Why an air-cooled 911 is the rad-era legend we really wanted

David S.
By David S. Wallens
Jan 6, 2024 | Porsche, 911, Porsche 911, 911 Carrera | Posted in Features | From the May 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

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We lived through the ’80s and ’90s and spent a lot of time with the era’s greatest hits–drove them, raced them, even knew them when they still had that new car smell. We fondly remember shopping for Kamei air dams, Hella lamps and 14-inch tires.

But were the cars of those times really that rad? 

We wondered that ourselves, so we ditched the rose-colored glasses for a few to take a look back. Were they all winners, or did a few duds get released? Let’s slip on some Vans, break out the vinyl and take a trip back in time.

This week, we're looking back at the Porsche 911 Carrera.

Forget the Countach. Forget the Testarossa. This child of the ’80s wanted a 911. And as someone who barely passes for an adult a few decades later, I finally got it: an air-cooled Porsche 911. Still have it, in fact, nearly 15 years later. 

After deciding that we needed a Porsche, we fell into a 1984 Carrera, the first year for the 3.2 and the Bosch Motronic injection. It already had the wider Fuchs; we lowered it a bit using the factory torsion bars and swapped out the Turbo tail (too big) for the ducktail. The color, Ruby Red Metallic, was only used for ’83 and ’84. 

We were lucky to get in before the rush. At Mecum last year, I watched a similar car go for $100,000 on the dot. Other than doing the heads nearly a decade ago, maintenance since then has mainly involved regular oil changes. I wax it a lot. 

But the experience–then, now, tomorrow–is very much worth the price of admission. It’s no longer the quickest or the fastest, but the sounds, the smells and the view over those fenders cannot be beat. It’s easy to get in and out of, too. 

This is basically a ’60s car updated to ’80s specs, meaning fuel injection, galvanized bodies and an understressed engine. And it still regularly gets positive attention–at the pumps, at red lights and on the Radwood showfield. 

Verdict: This is our keeper.

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CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand Dork
7/14/23 5:47 a.m.

I know it's a sign of my age, but the "easy to get in and out of" becomes more of a draw every year.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/14/23 9:08 a.m.

In reply to CrustyRedXpress :

I hate to agree, but it does. 

ToManyProjects Reader
7/14/23 11:12 a.m.

You guys are making me sad that I've done so little on my 911 project.... I can't wait.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/14/23 11:14 a.m.

In reply to ToManyProjects :


Tom1200 PowerDork
7/14/23 12:47 p.m.

I know it's the 911 I want but man the prices hae gotten crazy. The push the envelope of what I can buy so naturally I've already written them off.........sadly.

ToManyProjects Reader
7/14/23 7:00 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to ToManyProjects :


Not very many good pics, and I haven't really done anything photo worthy since getting it, mostly just cleaning the shell up for paint since it came basically dissassembled from the last (crappy) paintjob. I've been buying parts, but unopened boxes aren't very photogenic.

The day after she arrived: (since then I've cleaned up some duct tape residue etc. but haven't done much else to the car)

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
7/14/23 9:28 p.m.

Super bonus points for the RWL Cooper Cobras. 

dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
7/15/23 1:54 a.m.

Looked at a 74 911 tin top today.  Not sure what I am going to do. 

ddavidv UltimaDork
7/15/23 6:40 a.m.

It's easy to dismiss the 911 as a six cylinder Volkswagen. I did for years.

Then I drove one.

A car the spec sheet doesn't tell the story about. Very unique in many ways (why do the pedals pivot from the floor?!). Truly not easy to drive well at speed. But when you get it right, they will do things other cars can't do. 

Unfortunately, the prices have left me behind.

914Driver MegaDork
7/15/23 8:16 a.m.

I know that itch.  Unfortunately this one is back living under a lean to, na'er to see sunlight again ....

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