Note: Some images from this article provided by Roger Katz.
The Type 964 Porsche 911 was a revolutionary car when it came to market in 1989. It was the first non-supercar Porsche to feature all wheel drive as an option. It was the first 911 to come as standard with a driver’s airbag. It was the first to include ABS. It was the first production 911 to offer the PDK semi-automatic transmission.
Granted, just a few short years before, the Porsche 959 supercar was developed, and it lent many of its technological advances to the 964. Almost all of the above mentioned technologies and advancements came about from that immense project, although at a price that did not require three mortgages, a bank loan, and possibly a kidney sold on the black market. So many new things were introduced with the 964 that it was roughly 85% new, with the only carryovers being the engine location, the headlights, and the hood of the last of the G-series.
The Legacy Of The Type 964
Prior to 1989, there would once in a while be a special version of the 911 produced in limited numbers. Think of things like the Type 930 Turbo Flachbau, or the 1989 911 3.2 Carrera ClubSport that was the swan song of the G-series. With the Type 964, however, it was as if Stuttgart had given all the designers and engineers a bit of homework—to come up with their very own special edition.
There would be the standard levels of 911, of course, with the Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 starting things off. The 911 Turbo came a year later, bearing the final version of the famous whale-tail combined spoiler and air intake. Cabriolet and Targa versions emerged as well, but that’s where the “normal” ends.
What the Type 964 is possibly most famous for, and what defines its legacy, is that in five short years, there were more special editions, model variants, and race cars based on the model type than in any similar timeframe in the G-series generation.
These included no less than nine (!) different race cars, from the Turbo 3.3 IMSA to the Le Mans- bound Carrera RSR and Turbo S LM 3.2 models. 1992 saw the introduction of the first batch of Carrera RS models, including the Lightweight, the Touring, and the Competition. Two versions of the Carrera Cup race car were made that same year—one for the USA and one for global competition. This year also saw the America Roadster 3.6 model, which was one of two cars that were for the US market only.
The other car that was US only was the RS America: a lightweight, naturally-aspirated rocket that borrowed the whale-tail spoiler from the Turbo, as well as the cloth seats, brakes, and wheels, but used the standard Carrera 2 engine and gearbox. Because of the weight stripping, it could run circles around said standard Carrera 2. It also cornered like a beast and could almost keep up with a European-spec Carrera RS.
The 964 Speedster
The most coveted of the special editions, however, were the Speedsters. There was an initial version in 1989 that was, for all intents and purposes, a 930 Turbo body with a hard cover for a Cabriolet folding roof, and 800 of those cars were made.
The 1994 Speedster, however, was designed with the original 356A Speedster in mind. It was a focused, pure driver’s car, a hybrid combination of the Carrera 2 Cabriolet and the Type 964 Euro-spec RS. While you could get the car with the 964 Turbo’s flared wheel arches and wide-body looks as an option, the original design language was that of a 911 pared down to only what was necessary, an aggressive, sleek road missile with a dark secret beneath its skin: an entirely new suspension setup for the Speedster, and only for the Speedster.
It also benefited from the later-model Carrera 2’s 3.6L flat six, giving it some serious grunt with peak horsepower of 250 at 6,100 RPM, and good midrange grunt with 229 lbs-ft of torque at 4,800 RPM. This was enough to get the Speedster to 60 MPH in just under 5.5 seconds, aided slightly by the more severely raked windscreen compared to the standard Carrera 2 Cabriolet helping aerodynamics.
A five-speed manual with improved ratios in first, second, and third also helped motivate the car towards its top speed of 161 MPH, and like almost all Porsche manuals, was very positive and mechanical, letting you feel the gears seat home through the stick before your foot came off the clutch.
It handled superbly, it would go like stink, and it seethed restrained aggression in a very German way. It was a championship prize fighter in a tailored business suit, capable of calm and amicable discourse, but ready to punch you in the face when you put your right foot down. From the original plan to build 3,000, only 936 were made, and of those, the final 200 were given the 964 Turbo-look flared wheel arches and wider stance. However, it is the non-Turbo look models that are the more pure expression of the 356A’s looks, and are therefore, in a bit of an odd reversal for Porsche special editions, the more coveted cars.
Featured Car: 1994 Porsche Type 964 911 Carrera 2 Speedster #269
Roger Katz is the kind of quiet, reserved man that you would expect to have grown up in the Hollywood Hills through the 1950s. His was your typical upbringing, with the big Cadillacs and Fords of the 50’s cruising by while he and his friends would play in the street. However, every once in a while, this small, aluminum bodied, bathtub shaped car would zip by, annoying Roger and his cohorts as it would kick up dust and dirt in its wake. He never forgot that annoying car, and it stuck in his mind as he continued through into his teens.
It was only many years later, when he could appreciate what that bathtub shaped car was, that he found out that it was a 1957 Porsche 356A Carrera GS Speedster. In the world of big coupes and sedans, the land yachts that dominated the 50s and 60s, that Porsche was an elegant and refined choice for someone that understood the origins of the Speedster as a race car, and the technology passed down to the road car that made it one of the fastest sports cars of the day. His childhood racing hero, Dan Gurney, drove a racing version Speedster, and the allure of the no frills, bare bones, completely race ready road car set its teeth into Rogers’ mind.
By the time he was in college in 1970, and the racing rules of IMSA and the GT world had changed, converted race-to-road 356A Speedsters started to appear on the used car market. Being a college student meant that Roger had to pinch some pennies here and there, but by doing so, he was able to buy his first Porsche, a 1955 356A Carrera RS Speedster for just $800 (about $6,100 today).
It was, in his own words, a bit of a heap, but it drove beautifully, was reliable, and for the California weather, it was perfect. We all have that car that makes us grin like we’re slightly insane when we drive it, and for Roger, that was his first Speedster.
As time went on, he was able to buy a better-condition ‘55 Speedster in 1972 for $3,200 ($22,300 today), and in 1980, he was able to buy a 1958 356A Speedster, the type that his hero Dan Gurney was famous for driving, for $8,000 (about $28,750 today).
In a bit of a silly move by his own admission, Roger didn’t hang on to any of the three 356A’s that he owned, either selling them on or trading them for other Porsches. He continuously kicks himself for that, because they’re worth well over $250,000 in 2022. He did have a good series of cars through the 1980s, however.
As he recounts it, he’s had about 30 Porsches in total, ranging from 928 through to a 914/6, a couple of Porsche 944s, and more than one 911. He also has had more than one generation of Porsche Boxster in his garage, but the crowning jewel out of all of those cars is the 1994 Type 964 911 Carrera 2 Speedster.
His is build #269, in a gorgeous Guards Red. It was the closest he figured he could get to another 356A, and he did have to part with a few of his collectible Porsches and finagle some trades to make it happen, but it all paid off when he drove that 964 Speedster home.
Roger had done his due diligence, and the car had 26,700 original miles on the odometer, with regular services and maintenance in the paperwork, a clean title, and no reports on Carfax in regards to any incidents or major repairs. It was, as many would term it, a “unicorn” car for him.
When he bought it, the car had been modified, as the previous owner had taken out the standard seats and put in GT3 RS seats from the Type 996 generation, had removed the lower dash, removed the console area, and had replaced the stock steering wheel with a GT3 RS style one.
The only thing that Roger didn’t like about the modifications were the seats, as while they were excellent and supportive, they didn’t match the flow and aesthetics of the Type 964. Through either sheer blind luck or the intervention of fate, he was able to find a set of one-of-a-kind RUF Speedster seats that had been custom made by Recaro: suede red front, back, and sides, with black leather bolsters and headrests.
They weren’t cheap at all, but as Roger puts it, “$12,000 later and with the GT3 RS seats in trade, they were in my Speedster.”
The final thing that he wanted from his prized Porsche was for it to sound like a proper, air-cooled 911. Due to the constantly evolving smog and noise laws of the 1990s, Stuttgart had fitted a secondary muffler on the passenger side of the engine to combat emissions. However, this muffler did not have any sensor hookups like the primary muffler, and with about $100 in bent steel tubing, the 40+ lbs secondary muffler was heaved aside, and the exhaust was suddenly free to deliver the glorious howl of the air-cooled flat-six.
So if you happen to see a Guard Red Type 964 Speedster ripping up the pavement along the California mountain roads, or heard the howling song of an air cooled flat-six in the canyons, you can be fairly certain that Roger Katz is out there enjoying the Speedster as Porsche intended it to be enjoyed: Carving corners, foot to the floor, maniacal grin on the face, and enjoying it all to the fullest.