The cars we loved.
The 968 can trace it’s roots to humble beginnings as a sports car concept forVolkswagen. Proposed
by Audi in the seventies, the concept was rejected by Volkswagen and became the basis for corporate
sibling Porsche’s 924. As the 924 evolved into the 944, extensive changes at the end of its life cycle were planned. So extensive were the changes that only 20% of the original 944’s parts made it into a new model now called 968.
The 968 was interesting for many reasons. On top of being the highest performing entry-level Porsche
in decades ,it was almost affordable by Porsche standards at around $40K. The key to the 968’s performance was its big 4 cylinder engine. At 3 liters, it was one of the largest 4 cylinder engines available at the time. At 236 hp, it
rivaled many V8 in power output. Due to its use of variable valve timing, it retained some of
the efficiency associated with smaller engines. It was also the last application of a 4 cylinder in a
Porsche. Inside it resembled many other Porsches, especially the 911, due to the dash design it shared with that car. It was very spartan looking, even when well equipped.
Another milestone for Porsche was that 968 had the distinction of being the last front engined car driven by the rear wheels sold by them (they now sell SUV’s with that configuration). The front engine rear drive layout, combined with the big straight four engine made the 968 a competent road and track car. Unlike another big 4 cylinder engined car from the time, the Nissan 240SX, the 968’s chassis was better matched to its engine. Most versions sold in the US were loaded with options and were more or less comfortable grand- tourers. Even loaded with options, the run of the mill 968 had a 0 to 60 time of about 6.6 seconds, on par with the fastest Z cars and MR2 Turbos of the time. Porsche realized that it customers expected more, even from an entry level car, so special performance editions were available up until the end of the production run in 1995.
Most of the special edition cars were stripped of heavy luxury equipment and featured bolstered suspension systems. The fastest and most unattainable of these was the Turbo RS. Introduced in 1992, it was built with racing in mind. This stripped down turbocharged race car had more than 300 hp from the 3.0 L engine. Of the other more available and road ready variants included the popular Clubsport and the very rare and Europe only Turbo S. Both versions were stripped down with larger wheels and brakes. The Clubsport was immediately recognizable by its body colored wheels and “Clubsport” script on the doors. The Turbo S featured nearly similar performance to the stripped down Clubsport with a 0-60 time under 5 seconds. The Clubsport was very popular with the public as well as the press, garnering many car of the year awards in European publications as well as praise in America.
When the end came for the 968, Porsche had been working on its successor. The market, influenced by the Miata, had swung towards small convertibles. BMW’s Z3 was popular and Porsche’s counter would be a small convertible that would anchor Porsche’s entry level car slot. The 968 had been available as a popular convertible and may have further influenced Porsches decision to base the 968 replacement on a convertible only model.
Because of the 968’s rarity and high performance used examples are easily selling in the 20s, with un-molested examples in the mid 20k range. The 968’s design was at a crossroads for Porsche, combining the sleek look that would later be seen in future 911, while bringing to an end Porsche’s flirtation 4 cylinder front engine layouts.