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Porsche Buying: Air-Cooled or Water-Cooled?

Updated: May 2, 2020

Thinking about buying a pre-owned Porsche? The big question is do you buy a classic air-cooled Porsche or do you buy a more modern water-cooled Porsche?

What type of Porsche to buy?
What Porsche is Right for You? An Air-Cooled Porsche or a Modern Water-Cooled Porsche?

It is pretty obvious why you would buy a water-cooled Porsche; you will have a vehicle with:

Better performance: horsepower, braking and handling

Greater safety: ABS brakes, airbags, traction aids, etc.

Modern styling: aerodynamics, fuel efficiency, current and stylish

So, this sounds pretty good, so why would one even consider a classic, air-cooled Porsche made prior to 1998. (The official Porsche Classic definition is a Porsche that is 10 years or more since the platform stopped being produced so including in their definition of a classic are 996 911’s and early Boxsters. Air Brigade uses the term Classic to refer to air-cooled Porsches.)

A Classic, air-cooled Porsche is a different beast than one of the water-cooled 911’s, Boxsters or Caymans.. With an air-cooled Porsche 911, 914 or 356 you drive a vehicle that:

Requires the driver to drive, since prior to 1989 the classics offer no driving aids such as traction control, ABS, PDK, etc

Provides driver feedback from the engine sound and handling characteristics from the notorious rear-engine over steering

Requires true driver input with steering and braking since the models prior to 1989 lack power steering and power brakes.

Delivers a classic style and look that says sports car, speed and power

Offers the owner the option to still be able to work on their car if they enjoy that aspect of car ownership.

Fulfills a dream. In many cases one either first saw or experienced an air-cooled Porsche as a child or young adult that made it the object of automotive desire. Acquiring that dream car from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s is the requirement as opposed to a newer model that is further distanced from the car that gave you the Porsche desire.

When I bought my first Porsche, a 1986 Porsche Carrera 3.2, water-cooled Porsches weren’t an option so I bought the dream Porsche available in the 90’s and have enjoyed owning and driving it ever since. That is not to say, that I don’t appreciate a new modern Porsche as I also own a 2009 997 911 Turbo.

I love the ride, power, safety and comfort of my 997 but there is something visceral and exciting to climb into the first love, my 1986 911 Carrera to pilot and drive this car around the mountain curves where entry speed in, braking, momentum and exit speed carries you quickly through the mountain roads as opposed to the brute strength and driver aids offered in the 997 911.

Thinking of buying that first pre-owned Porsche: what are your driving needs and driving desires?

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