Friday, September 30, 2016

Coffee Brake: What's the Everyman's 911 Alternative?

This Coffee Brake brings a challenge to readers seeking maximum explosion per monetary input, as the popular saying goes. Our fellow cost-conscious gear head, Rod, writes:

"My question is for DTers is: what car can the everyman acquire and maintain that offers most of the 911 experience but without burning your life savings?"

With the entry ticket to Porsche 911 ownership rapidly approaching the cost commissioning a functional copy planished entirely from gold leaf, the question is of increasing importance. What defines the 911 experience? What bits can be left out for the sake of savings?

Exempli Gratia: The right Corvair has dual carbureted air-cooled flat 6 power, a 4-speed, and front disk brakes, which all sounds quite vintage 911 like if you ask us. Does that really equate to a $150,000 demerit? We eagerly await your thoughts.


  1. Having only driven a 68 912 one time? and no other Porsches (that I can remember, at least), I don't think I'm qualified to answer. But lets see, what criteria ultimately matters here:

    Anyone can buy a new car, ammirite?
    Rear engined?
    If it's got to be rear-engine, then the options are quickly limited. For that reason, I'm tossing it aside.
    Prestige / Image?
    I fear prestige / image weigh too heavily into the decision.
    Engineering / Furrin'?
    Foreign not absolutely required - see previous question, however, for what it influences.
    Whatever is under consideration will have been engineered well enough to survive to today and make the list for consideration.
    Enough power to get out of its own way needed.
    GT / 2+2 optionality?
    Touring capability important.

    A few options that tick the majority of the boxes above:
    Volvo 123GT?
    635CSi/(early) M6/L6?
    Early XJS?
    Lotus Elan 2+2?
    Benz 450SLC?

    What say you?

    1. And I like the Corvair suggestion above. They've been slowly but surely calling to me - though I'd probably end up with a Greenbriar version since I can't help myself.

  2. I haven't driven a 911, but I used to have an early C4 Corvette with the Z51 suspension package, and that could definitely give you the experience of a not quite exotic car with a lot of grip that would try to swap ends on you if you got careless driving it at the limit. Not quite as end swapping prone as a 911 is supposed to be, though - maybe a second generation MR2 Turbo might be a better fit for being easy to accidentally spin out.

  3. In the early '90s I had a '66. Nice cars, easy to drive, scary to drive at the limit, well built, smell like a vintage car, some things are easy to work on yourself, but the prices today, come on. It will depend on what about the 911 experience you are looking for.

    Easy to drive maybe a Karmann Ghia
    Well built maybe a 380SL
    Smells like a vintage car maybe a Datsun 240Z
    Easy to work on yourself is almost anything before the '80s
    Scary to drive at the limit, think that here is where my answer comes a TVR Griffith, sorry if I spelled it wrong. They are will give the 911 experience, cost less, not cheap, not quite as well built but easier to work on.

    1. TVR - hadn't thought about them. Would depend on your proclivities and fondness for either angular design or extremely small coupes.

  4. For the price of a very used and beaten 911 you could get yourself a ridiculously sweet Turbo Beetle that will give you everything you asked for. Good tires, reliable 2276cc engine that has enough grunt to stomp everything but a supercar off of the line at a stop light.... JMO!

    1. Or a turbo Type 3 with some front disk brake action, just like a 912!

    2. I like the idea of a really well built Karmann Ghia, start with the Fuchs wheels, dial in some better steering and make some seats that look relatively stock, but allow you to stay on them when the car starts to turn.
      I've owned a '62 Ghia, '65 Corvair and '72 911 and loved them all. The Corvair is still probably the most flexible for ease of entry cost, available mods and 4 person utility. Besides, they were forgotten for so long, people are drawn to them when they see them out there now.

    3. When did Jeremy Clarkson start trolling DT??!!

  5. What does an old 911 give you? IMO:

    Prestige brand: Porsche is a prestige brand. It's near exotic, the way a lot of other stuff isn't.
    The sound: A flat six sounds better than most other engines short of a v8 or v12.
    Unique engine location: Rear engine car list: 911, beetle, corvair, alpine..... not much else. (however, mid-engine layout is probably good enough)
    Light weight: 911s are typically less than 2800lbs, and can be made to be near 2000lbs. Very light when your average modern performance car is at least 3500lbs.
    Good looks: the 911 can be very pretty, especially the early cars with no bumpers. And, if you want you can 'backdate' an 80s version too.
    Race pedigree: the 911 in various iterations was raced very successfully in the past.
    Reputation: 911s have a rep for dangerous handling, so by driving one, you get an image of having conquered something dangerous. True or not :)
    Toughness: 911s were rallied, and they generally have an air of reliability and simplicity. Good things for classic cars.
    X factor: 911s and their drivers tend to bond with one another, perhaps more so than other cars. Whether that's because they're rewarding to drive, or own, or whatever, this seems to occur more frequently than other cars.

    Add all of those up, and it's hard to find other classic cars that do all of that. For instance, the Corvair above has quite a few of those characteristics, but it falls down hard on prestige, and looks, IMO. It looks just like a 2 door sedan, not a sports car.

    1. Obviously a Subaru WRX or STi.

      Boxer engine like the 911, only with less cylinders and in the front instead of the rear, unique bonding with fellow owners, cult following, air of reliability (That's Japan for ya., A real Rally car, superior handling in inclement weather, decently light weight if you remove everything non-essential.

      And you can do sick burnouts on a floating barge like Ken Block. Oh wait, that's a focus...never mind.

  6. Having owned a 65 Corvair Corsa and a 69 911E the big difference is $$$. They both had that smell of petroleum smell when you needed the heater on cool days. The Porsche had better brakes and prestige but if I were to do it again. I would find a nice Corvair and with a little creative modification, I think a nice driver would be easy to build. Plus how many Corvairs do you see anymore?

  7. E36 M3 coupe

    Great handling, great sounds, good power, great looks, good on the track or as a DD, affordable to buy and maintain.

  8. E36 M3 coupe

    Great handling, great sounds, good power, great looks, good on the track or as a DD, affordable to buy and maintain.

  9. why not the 912? just two less cylinders but everything else. and a decent one costs as much as any new sport compact car.

  10. Every man can afford a 911... in 1:18 scale.

    Let's face it, if you bought a nice 911 you'd be too scared to drive it. So why not get all the style with none of the headaches?

  11. Thank goodness for Porsche 911 Prices ! Without them a car like this Jaguar XKE 2+2 would never seem like an affordable alternative.
    I'm not saying that that Jag is inexpensive or that these cars offer the exact same type of driving experience but I feel Like they are in comparable condition and that a lot of the boxes being talked about are being checked by both; reasonably powerful, some level of prestige, racing heritage, not made in USA, Seating for 4, same vintage (same year actually)..........

  12. a thoroughly built Karmann-Ghia TC, if you can find and build one, would be my choice. exclusive, great looks, RR layout. I don't think a Subaru swap would be an heresy here.

  13. You could always go with something like a TVR but it doesn't get the recognition in North America that it should as a proper performance car, same holds true for the Rover. As far as style AND performance go I would head over to and pick myself up a 1983 GTV-6 Callaway.... seats 4 people, has some style ( it's Italian!), has a racing heritage and pedigree (great GT car!) and it has a perfect weight split and front engine/ rear drive. SOME people will call me out on the expensive eye-talian parts needed. Given some time to work on it (I assume you all can spin a wrench) 95% of the potential problems can be removed from the equation before they begin to multiply (ehh.. a math analogy!).

    1983 Alfa-Romeo GTV6 Turbo

  14. Corvairs did NOT have front discs, they were drums. However, you can fit '67-'68 Comaro spindles & discs.

  15. A 914 gives you the same experience as a 911 for less money.


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