1985 Porsche 911 Long-Term Road Test


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This has been a long time coming. We almost bought a used 911 back in 2007 when we started buying fun modern classics for our long-term fleet, but a 1984 Ferrari 308 GTS caught our eye and our dollars. After that we were shopping 911s when we bought a 2002 BMW M3 (E46). And again, we were cruising for Porsches on eBay last year when we bought our 2002 Chevy Corvette Z06, which we still own.

And now we finally have one: a 1985 Porsche 911. And it's either going to be a complete blast or a bottomless money pit.

Either way we figure it'll be fun.

What We Got
Honestly, we were shopping for a 993. You know, the last of the air-cooled 911s, built from 1995-'99. They're just old enough to have endless personality, but new enough to be reliable, fast and air-conditioned. We wanted a 993 coupe with a real manual transmission in a decent color. And we had the $25,000-$30,000 to get the job done.

Then we saw this 1985 Turbo-look 911 at Cars and Coffee in Irvine, California. It stopped us in our tracks. A couple of months later we spotted it again at Cars and Coffee, only this time it was wearing a "For Sale" sign. We called. We inspected. We negotiated. And we bought.

It's a 1985 Porsche 911 "Turbo look," which means it has the rare and highly desirable M491 option. So it looks like a 930 Turbo, only it's powered by the normally aspirated 3.2-liter flat-6 that powered the standard-width 911. Now you're wondering, "Where the heck is that big turbo whale tail?" Well, for now it's in a closet.

In its place, our Porsche's derriere wears a wingless deck lid, which we think gives it a more menacing stance. You'll remember that the ultra-cool 1989 Speedsters wore this look; they, too, had wider Turbo fender flares and a plain hood. As did the legendary silver RSR that ruled the Mulholland Highway in the late 1970s and early '80s. Watch the video below to check out that chopped-top beast.

The seller, a well-known player in the So Cal Porsche culture, also powder-coated the 16-inch Fuchs black for that Darth Vader thing, swapped some of the black interior panels for maroon and lowered the car a bit. He was also up front about the 911's storied past.

Seems a previous owner's girlfriend wrecked it once heading home from the hair salon, which explains the salvage title. "It once took a hard hit in the left front," the seller told us. "You can still see the dent in the gas tank from where the battery was pushed into it. But it aligns fine, goes down the road perfectly and the tank doesn't leak." But the car was totaled and now carries a salvage title.

What else is wrong with it? "Well, the speedometer doesn't work, the air-conditioning system is in a box, the driver's door lock is sticky and the driver seat fore/aft adjustment is broken." Good things? The sunroof works, the clutch and transmission were recently replaced and rebuilt, the brakes feel great and the engine never seems to smoke.

Sold. $16,500.

And now we own a 1985 Porsche 911. One with 202 horsepower, 185 pound-feet of torque, five gears and manual steering. Oh, and an odometer that reads 113,897 miles.

Slow? Compared to a 997, no doubt. But it only weighs 2,860 pounds (110 more than a standard-width 911) and Porsche said it would hit 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. Top speed, however, was just 127 mph due to the 915 transmission's short 0.861:1 5th gear.

When new, this 911 would have cost $43,440, which was a ton of money during Heather Locklear's prime. Even now, a nicely kept Turbo-look 911 demands a premium over a standard car. The option was only offered between 1984 and '89 and cost an incredible $11,490, which kept the take rate low. Only 391 Turbo-look 911s were imported into the U.S. in 1985, and less than 1,000 came to the U.S. overall.

In addition to the 930's bodywork, the package included the Turbo's wider tracks, rear suspension arms and torsion bar tube, larger brakes (the Turbo cross-drilled brakes are derived from the brakes for the Porsche 917) and wheels and tires.

Porsche has made a similar option available since the 993 era, which is when it started calling it the Carrera 2S. Like our car, a modern Carrera S wears the Turbo's wide body, brakes and suspension but not the Turbo's tea tray spoiler.

Why We Got It
They say the entry-level Porsche is not the Boxster; it's a used 911. Well, you don't get much more entry-level than this.

In other words, it's bitchin' and it was cheap. Plus, we've watched the Charlie Sheen classic No Man's Land a few too many times and we've always wanted one of these 3.2 Carreras from the 1980s, which are arguably the last real 911s before Porsche got to fussing with it.

Costs so far include a $70 detail job to get the black paint its shiniest and to rid the interior of the seller's cooties. We've also dropped $5 for a key fob, $36 for two real Porsche key blanks and $4 for a jack point plug.

Over the next 12 months we will drive this car anywhere and everywhere, hoping to take in a bunch of PCA, POA and other Porsche culture events along the way. After only a few weeks of ownership we've realized that this Porsche thing is more lifestyle than anything. Heck, we've already run into Jerry Seinfeld at a happening.

If you see a very black 911 on the side of the road, engine cover up, please stop and give us a hand.

This is going to be a fun year.

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.