Porsche 968 (1991-1995)
Premiere: September 12, 1991 IAA Frankfurt Motor Show press day
|MY1992 N||MY1993 P||MY1994 R||MY1995 S|
|Street cars||968 Coupé 3.0 176 kW|
|968 Cabriolet 3.0 176 kW|
|968 CS 3.0 176 kW|
|968 Turbo S 3.0 224 kW|
|Racing car||968 Turbo RS 3.0 257 kW|
|MY1992 N||MY1993 P||MY1994 R||MY1995 S|
|Seats and 17" wheels in 993-style|
The successor to the 944 S2 was called as the 944 S3. The very good looking and ergonomic interior was already near perfect, so there were no plans to change that. The plan was to revamp the exterior design - to update the front spoiler, but especially the rear end and rear lamps, which - although nice - had been there since the first 924 in 1975. Both the 944 S3 coupé and cabriolet were developed simultaneously and an interesting part on the way was the movable rear spoiler of the cabriolet. The spoiler was flush with the rear lid when retracted (like on the 1986 Ferrari-engined Lancia Thema 8.32). Cabriolet's rear spoiler didn't go further from the prototype stage, though. Or luckily. The idea of a hardtop for the cabriolet was considered throughout all the years of the new model development, but was finally dropped. In addition to the new looks, the S3 was to be made less polluting (and as a result, more fuel efficient). This meant the evolution of the 944 was based on the 3-litre 16V normally aspirated S2 engine and not on the more powerful 2.5-litre 8-valve 944 Turbo. In order to lower emissions and rise peak power, the variable valve timing system called VarioCam was developed. Porsche had patented the idea of valve lift adjustment and duration already in the end of 1950's, but Italian and Japanese manufacturers were the first to implement valve adjustment systems in series production. The Porsche's VarioCam was the first system to provide continuous valve adjustment.
In addition to the VarioCam, a 6-speed transmission was to be created to lower fuel consumption. Until then, the only Porsche to possess a 6-speed gearbox was the 959 supercar. Now it was the turn for the 944 S3. (But not for the 911!? Money was scarse at the time and the 911 received the 6-speed box only with the introduction of the 993-generation.)
The last news with the 944 S3 was that a new automatic gearbox would be introduced with the new engine. Remember, earlier only the basic 944 was available with the automatic gearbox - Turbo and S2 were never offered with an automatic. Implementing the new automatic for S3 was interesting for Porsche also because for 911 (964) they had invented the new automatic with manual shifting possibility. They called it Tiptronic and that would also go into the 944 S3. The 944 S3 prototypes were ready and testing in 1989. It looked like the S3 would be ready for production by 1990, until it was decided that the front-end will be rewamped completely, not just the front spoiler. Deleting the 924/944 style hidden headlamps meant this wasn't the 944 anymore. It was decided to rename the 944 S3 to 968. The 968's smooth front and rear end design meant it needed new aerodynamic mirrors and door handles aswell, which it got. Now it looked like the interior should also be redesigned. A sparing fix were the new door cards. The 968 was introduced in September 1991 at the Frankfurt Motor Show as a 1992 model.
To sum up the exterior design work done on the evolution of the 944, here's what the 968 got:
- Front spoiler design similar to the 928 S4
- Front lid design similar to the 911 (though, without the 911-typical cockpit vent channel)
- Really beautiful unique front fender design
- Pop-up headlights similar in their solution to the 928
- Mirror design from the 911 964 Turbo
- Unique door handles
- Side sills similar to the 911 964
- Slightly new shape of the rear quarter windows and rear wings
- Completely new rear end. Similarly to the 928, the rear lamps were mounted into the rear bumper lining. The very modern tail lamps were fully red (except on cars for Japan where technical rules demanded clear lenses for reverse lamps).
In the eighties the 944 had passed the 911 Carrera in development. The 944 Turbo with 184 kW engine was superior in power and handling compared to the G-model 911 Carrera. The next generation 911 (964) got a new bigger engine that was equally powerful to the 944 Turbo. With the introduction of the less powerful 968, the entry level Porsche was sent back home - the 968 was now the least powerful Porsche in production.
Like the 924 and the 944, the 968 has ideal weight distribution thanks to its front engine and rear-mounted transmission. Ideal weight distribution means the car handles predictably in the high speed situations where the rear tyres loose traction. When driving a 968 compared to the 944 S2, the S2 seems to have more low-end torque, which means it is a bit better to drive in the city, while the 968 has a bit more high rpm power. The new precisely shifting 6-speed Porsche gearbox replaced the Porsche-modified 5-speed Audi unit of the 944. The Tiptronic is two gears short and 1.4 seconds slower in sprint to 60 mph or 100 km/h. The Tiptronic ads 30 kg/66 lb to the car. And the Cabriolet version ads 70 kg/154 lb compared with the coupé (open body has reinforcements in the floor).
The proof that the 968 was a 944 S3 until the last moment before the production started is for example the fact that the exhaust is stamped "944 S III". As the change for the model name to 968 came late, the ordering code for the first (1992) model year was 944 XXX for LHD cars and 945 XXX for RHD cars (the last three number combination was dependent on the market, body style, transmission etc.). You can find the ordering code on the VIN and option code sticker (placed in the trunk and service book).
The spare part codes of the 968 also start with 944. The strangest 968 spare part to order is the rear panel '968'-logo as it, too, has the 944 ordering code (944.559.220.03.70C)! Among the thousands of spare parts there are just a few, which have the code starting with 968 - in addition to the body in white, for example the trailer coupling (yes, no joke, the ordering code for the 968 trailer hitch is 968.722.901.00).
968 was made at the Porsche's own factory in Zuffenhausen. The production of the last 944s was already moved from the Audi plant in Neckarsulm (where the 924 and 944 had been manufactured under contract) to Stuttgart.
The most impacting option was the M030 sports chassis package. It included shorter springs at front, lowered rear torsion bar suspension and additional springs at the rear! The stiffness of the Koni shock absorbers was adjustable. Visual distinction were the drilled brake discs. Drilling improves braking performance in the wet and helps with cooling. The front discs were slightly larger - 304 mm instead of 297 mm and their spare part ordering codes started with 965, but they were not the large 964 Turbo discs. The front brake calipers came from the 928, which meant the steering knuckles were also different. M030 also included stronger anti-roll bars - at the front with 30 mm diameter instead of 26.8 mm and at the rear 19 mm with manual gearbox and 18 mm with Tiptronic (16 mm stock). The M030 option could not be ordered without the 17" wheels. Interestingly the 17" 964 Cup-look wheels for the back of the 968 came from the 964 Turbo 3.3 (9"), but the fronts were even 0.5" wider (7" on 964 Turbo 3.3, 7.5" on 968).
On March 14-15, 1992, a 968 Tiptronic was driven flatout on the Italian Nardo test track for 24 hours and the covered distance was 3459 miles/5566 km. Despite the fueling stops the achieved average speed was 144 mph/232 km/h!
The track day version of the 968 coupé was introduced in the end of 1992 as a 1993 model. It was significantly cheaper than the 'regular' 968 coupé. Porsche had to reduce the 968 price in order to improve sales, so the introduction of the CS was the perfect possibility for price reduction without showing that the company is struggling and is lowering the prices because of that. Although Porsche's financial problems were initiated by economic problems in the USA (Porsche US sales had fell from 30.000 to 4.000 between 1986 and 1992) - the CS was not a product for USA.
The 968 CS was put into production with the following weight reduction measures:
- Without airbags (instead a nice 3-spoke sports steering wheel produced by German company Atiwe and dashboard from the 944)
- Without electric motors for windows (manual winders)
- Without electric motors in the seats (fully manually adjustable seats), optional bucket seats lowered the weight further
- Without analog clock and exterior temperature display (instead digital clock/stopwatch from 944)
- Without air conditioning, but also without automatic temperature control (basic heating system from 1985.5 944)
- Without electric motors in the mirrors, without mirror heating
- Without alarm system, without central locking
- Without rear seat
- Without electric motor to open the rear hatch latches. Instead, a cable-operated manual release behind driver's seat. In the rear bumper there still was the lock opening, put no lock anymore (it was blanked off). In the regular 968, the lock in the tail is an electric switch that actuates the electric motor that releases the tailgate, but there is no such motor in the CS and therefore the hatch cannot be opened from outside.
- Lighter lower amperage battery, lighter alternator, radiator cooler with only one electric fan instead of two (all this assuming the optional AC system was not ordered)
- Lighter door cards from 944 and only 2 speakers
In addition to the weight-saving measures, sportiness was extended with lowered suspension (shorter springs at the front, different torsion positions at the rear), but the "CS-essential" M030 performance chassis package was not a standard feature and had to be paid for. The wide 17" wheels added some weight, but were worth it.
As very sporty cars - cars with bucket seats and without airbags - are not allowed in the USA, Americans could only dream of the CS. In UK, the 968 CS was titled Best Car of 1993 by Autocar & Motor magazine.
Porsche was in financial troubles and could not keep true to its principles. This meant Porsche now sold what the customers wanted - many wanted the CS because of the CS-letters on the rear panel (sportier image), but were not interested in track days, so they filled their CS with all the luxury equipment found in the regular 968. This meant these cars were 968 CS on registration, but not in reality. The most correct 968 CS was ordered with only two options - the performance chassis package (M030) and the bucket seats (M383/M384). In reality, the chassis and bucket seats were rarely ordered and the CS cars were often specified even with sunroof and airbags, power windows, rear seats and an air conditioning system (which in addition to the AC system included heavier battery, heavier alternator and an additional cooler fan motor).
The 968 CS were painted Black, Guards Red, Grand Prix White, Speed Yellow or Blue (1993 Maritime Blue, 1994-1995 Riviera Blue). Porsche importer for Great Britain had the sides of the CS covered with decals reading "ClubSport". These decals cannot be ordered from Porsche.
In February 1993, two 968 CS managed to take 1-2 victory at the Sandown 6 hour production car race in Australia. The winning car was piloted by Peter Fitzgerald, Brett Peters and Nicholas Leutwiler.
968 Turbo S and Turbo RS
The street legal 968 Turbo S and the racing Turbo RS were not only the coolest 968s, but are among the best Porsches made. The engine was a mix between the 8-valve head from the 944 Turbo and the 3-litre block from the normally aspirated 944 S2/968. The engine had massive 368 lb-ft/500 Nm of torque! The street Turbo S developed 224 kW (305 PS) and the racing Turbo RS 257 kW (350 PS).
The first turbo 968 was a red Turbo RS prototype built from a 1991 built 1992 model year US-version 968 Coupé (VIN: WP0AA2966NS820065). With near 1200 kg empty weight the Turbo RS had ~3.4 kg/PS, but in order to compete in the ADAC GT Cup, the required minimum weight had to be 1350 kg and the allowed power-to-weight ratio was 4 kg/PS (DIN hp). This meant that ballast was added to reach the weight minimum and the power was lowered to (1350/4=) 337.5 PS/248 kW. For the ADAC GT Cup shorter gears were also used.
The Turbo RS was built for customer racing as Porsche Motorsport was not in a position to spend on racing (without the victory in mind they don't race). The Turbo RS was almost three times the price of the basic 968 coupé and although that doesn't sound like too much for what it was, the Turbo RS found only four customers.
The first "production" RS (yellow, WP0ZZZ96ZPS896061) was sold to South Africa. The second "production" RS (black, WP0ZZZ96ZPS896062) was bought by Norwegian Erik Henriksen (it is not known if directly from Porsche or from a middle-man). And German Joest Racing got its ordered car, the third and last "production" RS (white, WP0ZZZ96ZPS896063) in the summer of 1993. In the first 1993 races they had used the red prototype from Porsche. All the three "production" Turbo RS had 1993 model year 968 Turbo VIN codes.
13 street legal 968 Turbo S (1993 model year chassis WP0ZZZ96ZPS890061...66, 68...71 and 1994 model year chassis RS890061...63) were built for lucky buyers. Considering the handling resulting from the near 50/50 weight distribution, the power and especially the torque, the 968 Turbo S might have been the best street legal Porsche produced at the time. The 964 Turbo 3.3 and Turbo 3.6 were more powerful, but a lot worse in critical situation handling. Interestingly, only the 911 Turbo 3.6 could beat the 968 Turbo 3.0 torque figure, but not the 911 Turbo 3.3.
All of the 968 Turbos were built with the 18" 3-piece lightweight wheels (Turbo S M407, Turbo RS M406) and bucket seats (Turbo S M384/385, Turbo RS M388/389). Eleven out of thirteen Turbo S were built with air conditioning system, six with central locking, five with airbags. Some cars were uniquely equipped, for example:
WP0ZZZ96ZPS890063 Turbo S had regular 968 CS seat on passenger's side (M382). This car was also the only one that was ordered without the model designation on the rear end (M498).
WP0ZZZ96ZPS896061 Turbo RS was built with passenger's seat (M389 bucket), other RS had only driver's seat.
While most of the Turbo S were built as German versions, there was one built for France (M124), one for Switzerland (M277) and one with North American spec (M553). The latter being the only 968 Turbo with third braking lamp.
The 968 Turbos being so rare, many replicas have been made around the world. How to tell a real thing:
* All the 968 Turbos have option code M510
* 968 Turbo S has the option code M042 and the VIN in the following form: WP0ZZZ96ZxS8900xx
* 968 Turbo RS "production" (non-prototype) cars have the option code M005 and the VIN in the following form: WP0ZZZ96ZPS89606x.
The first 968 Turbo RS (the prototype) was entered at races more than ten times between 1993-1996. While it started its life fully in Guards Red, when Joest Racing entered it at ADAC GT Cup in 1993, it had yellow front spoiler. The first race for this Turbo RS was on May 9, 1993 at the AVUS high-speed track. Joest Racing team driver Manuel Reuter started from 3rd position and finished 4th. This would remain the best result for the Turbo RS. Joest had rented the car from Porsche for two races and then Seikel Motorsport bought it from Porsche. Seikel had the car painted yellow for 1994 season. The car was entered at the Dijon 4 hours and Paris 1000 km before the ultimate Le Mans race. Unfortunately, accident took it out from the French 24 hour marathon.
Seikel entered the Turbo RS in Vallelunga and Spa 4 hour races and sold it after the 1994 season to Lloyd Hawkins, who had it painted back to red. The career continued in 1995 starting with Sebring 12 hour race.
The racing history of the yellow RS, the first "production" Turbo RS, that went to South Africa, is unknown. The black Turbo RS of Erik Henriksen was raced by him together with Justin Bell (son of Derek Bell) and other drivers in the 1994 season only (Paul Ricard 4 h, Jarama 4h, Dijon 4h, Paris 1000 km, Vallelunga 4 h). The Joest Racing white RS only saw one race in 1993 (the ADAC GT Cup Nürburgring race, which it didn't finish due to an accident) and then was sold to Roock Racing, which raced it at the 1994 ADAC GT Cup.
It should be mentioned, that four more cars were built in Australia in mid-nineties using original factory Turbo RS parts. These were right-hand-drive cars.
1994 model year changes
In 1993, for 1994 model year, the 968 Coupé and Cabriolet received a few modifications. The inlet of the ventilation system was modified - instead of the left and right mesh that only prevented whole leaves from entering the cabin, the inlets were redesigned and particle filters were installed. It was a small, but contemporary improvement. From 1994 model year there came some minimal cosmetic changes that are shown on the following photos:
The ClubSport-lettering on the sides of the UK-sold 968 CS was not the last sales enhancement measure by Porsche Cars Great Britain. The next trick with the 968 CS was that PCGB rebadged some cars with 'Sport' and equipped these cars with several luxury options that would not go with the principles of the CS. Porsche had priced the CS significantly lower than the standard coupé and PCGB saw a business opportunity. If you didn't know that the 968 Sport was not a factory product, then you probably already thought that writing "Sport" on a sports car is as stupid as writing "Sport" on running shoes. Porsche would not do something so banal. And it didn't - it must be stressed!
By the VIN all 'Sport'-rebadged cars are 968 CS, because this is how they left the factory. Just that they were ordered with electric and heated mirrors, power windows, rear seats, sunroof, silver wheels (not to look CS) and without the rear panel '968 CS' script (M498). Being a 968 CS, the Sport had the 944 door cards. The Sport also didn't have the airbags which the standard 968 had or the limited slip differential that was typically ordered for the CS. Porsche Cars Great Britain introduced the UK/RHD-only Sport version in the beginning of 1994.
968 Roadster study
In 1997, Ludwig Heimrath won the Canada GT Challenge Cup in the GT2 class with normally aspirated 968. The CDN GT Cup races were rather cool for spectators - there were cars from 911 GT1 to Honda Civics in the GT3 class.
With less than 13.000 cars made, 968 is one of the rarest series-production Porsches. Its rarity, old-school durability, practicality, rather good performance and beauty make it desirable. As an entry-level Porsche, the 968 was replaced by the Boxster, which in no way was a worthy successor to it. The Boxster had a smaller engine with much less power and its engine was significantly less durable. Boxster's transmission had less gears (back to 5). Although the 968 had already stepped down compared to the 944 Turbo, the serious step down was made by the 968's successor. It is essential for the entry level Porsche to have rear seats as young people drive entry level Porsches, but unfortunately the 968 was the last entry level Porsche sports car with child seats at the back. Not least important is also the fact that it had more headroom at the back than the 911 and 968's trunk easily fits even a stroller. The 968 was Porsche's last real family sports car.
968 design legacy lived on in the 993-generation 911. The most beautiful 911 by many got its front spoiler design and especially its front wing design from the 968!
Article © James Herne / Stuttcars.com
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