Because the 993 is the “newest” air-cooled 911 available, for many buyers it may indeed be the best.
If you’ve been following along with our collectible market guides to newer generations of the Porsche 911 – specifically the 996 and 997 market guides – we’ve been hinting at the major change to Stuttgart tradition that came with those two models. That change to water-cooled engines, spurred by emissions regulations and market expectations of higher performance that could not be both managed by the classic air-cooled powerplant, makes the 993 generation (built between roughly 1994 and 1998) the last in the line of the “classic” Porsche experience for many enthusiasts.
With the 993, the standard suggestion of “buy the newest and the best one you can afford” may very well apply here – because the 993 is the “newest” air-cooled 911 available, for many buyers it may indeed be the best. The 993 was the last one to be built without input from Toyota, so the cars were more hand-built compared to the mass-produced 996 and later cars – and in significantly lower quantities.
Stylistically, the 993 was still quite clearly a 911 – but a 911 where the rough edges have been smoothed over. The model was around thirty years old at that point – time for a midlife makeover of sorts. The headlamps laid back more so than in prior generations, with a slightly elliptical shape that made the car just a bit more aerodynamic. Bumpers were finally fully integrated into the styling of the car.
A big change with this generation over the prior models was the disappearance of the traditional semi-trailing arm suspension on the rear of the car. The 993 received an all-new multi-link rear suspension system that gave the car significantly more stability, better ride quality, and less interior noise – all while minimizing the fabled tendency of the 911 to suddenly oversteer under hard cornering with a lift of the throttle.
Mechanically, the big change from previous generations comes in front of the engine – the 993 is the first 911 to have a six-speed manual transmission. Further, the automatic Tiptronic four-speed was available – and the available Tiptronic S gave steering wheel buttons for easier manual selection of the four forward cogs.
Since the 993 generation only spanned four model years, there is no significant “break” within the model years like there is with the 996 and 997 generations. In the 1996 model year, the standard 3.6-liter flat six in the Carrera model did have a mild engine update that bumped the power by about 13 horsepower.
Adding to its appeal, the 993 generation was a relatively low-volume era for Porsche. Total production across all variants – Carrera Coupe, Cabriolet, Turbo, Targa, GT2, RS, etc. – comes to 77,298 according to HowToPorsche. Contrast that with the roughly 175,000 samples in the 996 generation, and 200,000 samples for the 997 generation.
With regards to production numbers, it’s worth noting that 993 records are spotty at best. Although we will generally quote Patrick Paternie’s Red Book, which seems to be the preferred data source for most, lively discussion surrounds the topic on the Rennlist forums. So when it comes to 993 production numbers, best to consume them with a grain of salt.
Naturally-Aspirated Porsche 993 Models
993 Carrera 1995-1998
The standard 911 Carrera of the 993 generation was initially fitted with a development of the M64 3.6-liter flat six that had been found in the prior 964 generation. With a redesigned exhaust system and new hydraulic lifters, the engine produced 272 horsepower. For the 1996 model year, a variable intake runner system (called VarioRam) was added to the standard Carrera, bumping horsepower to 285. Approximately 23,000 coupes were built and 15,500 cabriolets.
993 Carrera S 1996-1998
The Carrera S trim for the 993 generation took the same mechanicals of the standard 993 Carrera and put them in the wide body of the Turbo. With three additional inches of width at the rear and a lowered ride height, the car wore 17” inch alloy wheels compared to the 16” wheels on the standard car. A total of 3,714 were made. There was no cabriolet version for the Carrera S except for a handful of factory prototypes.
993 Carrera 4 1995-1998
The 993 Carrera 4 uses the same powerplant as the standard 993 Carrera, but puts power down to all four wheels to help with all-weather traction and to further help with minimizing drop-throttle oversteer. A “Carrera 4” badge on the tail, along with silver-painted brake calipers and clear front and side turn signals, help distinguish the all-wheel drive C4 from the C2 sibling. Approximately 4,700 coupes and 2,400 cabriolets were made.
993 Carrera 4S 1995-1998
Much like the 993 Carrera S, the 993 Carrera 4S takes the 993 Carrera 4 powertrain and fits it into the widebody Turbo shell. The C4S has 18” alloy wheels. Approximately 7,000 coupes were made. The 4S did not have a cabriolet version.
993 Carrera RS 1995-1996
The 993 Carrera RS is a lightweight, stiffer version of the naturally-aspirated 993 Carrera meant for ultimate street performance – along with excellent track performance. The engine was bored out to 3.8-liters, bumping power to an even 300hp. Attractive 18” three-piece alloy wheels were standard. The Carrera RS was never officially imported to the US, though as we’ve reached the DOT 25-year rule on private imports we’re starting to see some of these lightweight specials on these shores. A bit over 1000 of these were built.
993 Carrera RS Clubsport 1995-1996
The 993 Carrera RS Clubsport, 100 of which were built to meet the FIA GT2 homologation requirements, is a race-ready, although street legal variant of the 993 Carrera RS, not to be confused with the track only 993 Carrera Cup RSR. Emphasizing its competition credentials, it came with a welded-in roll cage as standard, considerably increasing its rigidity, racing bucket seats, six-point safety harnesses, battery isolator switch, fire extinguisher, and a huge fixed rear wing, the latter also available on the ‘ordinary’ Carrera RS.
993 Carrera RSR 1995-1997
The 993 Carrera RSR takes the 993 Carrera RS formula and makes it even more track-ready by adding a roll-cage. Further, carpet, power windows, a/c, and even the radio were left on the factory floor – no need for these when bombing down the Nürburgring.
993 Targa 1996-1998
The 993 Targa revives the spirit of the original open-air with rollover-protection Targa that debuted in the Sixties, with an entirely different look. This Targa uses a sliding, retractable glass roof panel that slides below the rear window. This gives good airflow with greater safety over a convertible. Mechanically, the Targa was based on the 993 Carrera. Over three model years, approximately 4,500 were built.
Turbocharged Porsche 993 Models
993 Turbo 1995-1998
3.6-liters of twin-turbocharged flat six made the 993 Turbo a 402-horsepower monster. It’s distinguished easily from the rear, as the whale-tail spoiler is quite deep to house the intercoolers meant to cool the intake charge. This extra power might have been a handful for street drivers, so all-wheel drive from the 993 Carrera 4 added traction at all four corners. Approximately 6,000 coupes were made.
993 Turbo S 1997-1998
The 993 Turbo S bumped the power from the standard 993 Turbo up to 450hp with larger turbochargers and a modified engine management system. The Turbo S further was fitted with more luxury trim bits on the interior – with more leather and carbon fiber than on the standard Turbo. Next, a larger rear wing was installed. It was quite exclusive – only 345 were built.
993 Turbo Cabriolet 1995
The Cabriolet tends to be overlooked as a performance car – the extra weight and aero penalties from the open top makes it less desirable by speed junkies. Well, most speed junkies, that is. This is an incredibly rare car – only 14 were built in 1995. Rather than the contemporary twin-turbo powerplant, the 993 Turbo Cab was fitted with the single turbo 3.6-liter of the 964 Turbo.
993 GT2 1995-1996
The 993 GT2 was designed as a street-legal homologation special to allow the 911 Turbo to compete in the GT2 class of road racing. As all-wheel drive had been banned, the GT2 used a rear-wheel drive powertrain. That helped overall track performance, as removing the front drivetrain lowered the overall weight of the car. Wide plastic fenders gave clearance for wider tires. The relatively Spartan interior reflected the weight-saving philosophy for motorsport use. Power ranged from 430 to 450hp for street models. Sources differ, but it looks like right around 194 examples of the 993 GT2 were built.
Things To Look For When Shopping For A 993
Unlike the later water-cooled cars, there are relatively few serious maladies that typically befall a 993-generation car. That said, as these are now all over twenty years old, it pays to have a trained set of eyes looking over any potential purchase. ALWAYS spring for a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) on a 911 – this inspection will point out any problems the car currently has, while also plotting a path of future work that may need to be done. If this is your first Porsche, we encourage seeking a local specialist for your PPI so you can establish a relationship with a shop to handle your future needs.
In our research, oil consumption tends to be the biggest concern with the 993. Look at the service records from the seller to be certain fluids have been changed regularly. It seems that valve covers and main seals tend to leak – the valve covers can even warp, causing even more leakage. Oil also will sit in cylinder walls after shutdown, seeping past piston rings and causing blue smoke on startup. Check the oil levels frequently, and watch your oil pressure gauge when driving – if the oil pressure drops drastically, shut the engine down as quickly as possible.
Also, make certain everything electrical works properly. While small things like power seat switches and window lift controls can be replaced with ease, the wiring harnesses themselves can be a problem. Like other automakers, Porsche started using a soy-based wiring harness cover in this time period. That soy tended to attract rodents, who would gnaw on the wires and cause shorts. Further, the soy would degrade, again causing electrical shorts.
Which Porsche 993 is worth buying?
Let us preface this by saying that our response to this question is likely to be biased. After all, our founders are deep into the 993 market and placed a few bets some time ago. With that disclaimer aside, we like the 993 Carrera S for its wide body, low production volume (3,714), and relatively reasonable entry point. If you’re looking for a 993 under $100k, these can still be found even if you have to compromise a bit on the miles. We also like the 993 4S for the same reasons (…we’re looking for one as of this writing!), although the all-wheel drive could be a show-stopper for many a purist. At the higher end of the spectrum, the 993 Carrera RS is one that will remain front and center in our stable. With its 3.8 liter engine, it’s the most powerful of the naturally aspirated 993 variants. That, along with its rear-wheel drive, makes it a car that will forever mark the air-cooled era for the Porsche 911. And of course, there’s the 993 GT2: rear-wheel-drive, twin turbochargers, and aggressive looks, it’s a timeless piece of ‘bad ass’ German engineering. But get ready to break the bank.
Of course, when it comes to knowing what you should pay for your 993, we highly recommend checking out the Porsche 993 sales comps on CLASSIC.COM – you can explore past auction sales, and Follow the market to get alerts when we detect new listings of your favorite model.
Written by Chris Tonn. Market insights and opinions by CLASSIC.COM.