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Air-Cooled Porsche Classic or Air-Cooled Porsche Modern?

Once you have decided to purchase an air-cooled Porsche, you then have to decide to you want a Classic Air-Cooled Porsche, or a Modern Air-Cooled Porsche.

Classic Air Cooled Porsche, Modern Air Cooled Porsche
1967 Classic Air-Cooled Porsche (top), 1996 Modern Air-Cooled Porsche (bottom) | Courtesy RM Sotheby's

What is the difference?

If you buy a Porsche 356, 914, 912 or 911 from the 1950’s up through 1987 you will be buying what I consider a Classic Air-Cooled Porsche while in 1989 Porsche introduced the new Porsche 964 platform that was 85% all new over the previous models and defined what I consider a “Modern” Air-Cooled Porsche that was available from 1989 through 1998.

Significant advancements occurred with the introduction of the “Modern” air-cooled Porsches with the 964 and the 993 platforms. The most significant was the move from the unique Porsche torsion bar suspension to one that used coil springs and shock absorbers. From a driver comfort standpoint, other significant changes included the addition of power steering, power brakes, and an improved climate control system for improved cabin heating and cooling. New safety features included ABS and air bags.

Air-Cooled Porsche 993
1995 Porsche 993 Modern Air-Cooled | Courtesy RM Sotheby's

What I have found is that if someone came up through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in the Porsche world they seem to desire the Porsche experience offered in a Classic Porsche Air-Cooled model. While those enthusiasts that were introduced to Porsche later in its life cycle with a more modern water-cooled Porsche with all the safety and comfort “bells and whistles “ of a modern car tend to choose the more modern air-cooled Porsche models when Porsche started to offer power assisted driver aids, with the comfort provided with an improved climate control system with the reassurance of modern safety features.

If your first Porsche was a Cayman, Boxster or 996, 997 or 991 911 then you are used to a certain level of comfort, convenience and driving experience. However, many of these owners hear the wonders of an air-cooled Porsche driving experience and long to enter the air-cooled Porsche club. Their jump into a Classic air-cooled Porsche is often a shock as they have to muscle the car through the turns with manual steering, press that brake pedal and use the window winders to control the interior climate.

However, a Porsche owner who was first introduced to the brand in those early days of a pre-1989 modern air-cooled Porsche consider it the only air-cooled driving experience. You “drive” the classic air-cooled Porsche and when you complete the drive you know that you were the driver and you lived the experience of every turn, shift and stop. No driving aids for you, it is all in your control.

Air-Cooled Porsche 911
1969 Classic Air-Cooled Porsche | Courtesy RM Sotheby's

So what experience do you want? I am asked a lot about what air-cooled Porsche one should consider when entering the world of air-cooled Porsches. You’ve probably surmised from the article: I point someone to a modern air-cooled Porsche 964 or 993 if they have come to Porsche through the more modern water-cooled models offered in the 21st century while I point to the G-Series models for those enthusiasts that experienced Porsche in the Classic Air-Cooled days pre-1989 and want to return to the brand for that experience.

The early classic air-cooled Porsche 911’s, 912’s, 914’s and 356’s are really reserved in my mind for those enthusiasts that want a very visceral driving experienced, lived Porsche during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and want to re-capture that moment in Porsche history and driving experience.

You can’t go wrong with any of the air-cooled Porsches when you want to have what I consider the “real” Porsche driving experience that made the brand what it is today. One may also find that your air-cooled Porsche needs evolve as you age with a move from the classic air-cooled Porsches to modern air-cooled Porsches as you desire more comfort in your driving experience.

And when I say a “real” Porsche driving experience I do not want to diminish the 21st Century Porsches. They are terrific vehicles and I own one and enjoy it regularly for the comfort it provides in a sports car package for my daily driving needs. But for pure fun on the roads during my weekend blasts through the mountains, you’ll see me in my Classic Air-Cooled Porsche every time.

Air cooled Porsche classic
Classic Air-Cooled Porsche vs Modern Air-Cooled Porsche | Courtesy RM Southeby's

Tags: Classic Air-Cooled Porsche, Modern Air-Cooled Porsche

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