It is easy to pick out the most outstanding cars from Porsche’s 911 range over the past five decades. Play with the letters S, R, RS, RSR or the word ‘Clubsport’, and you would cover pretty much all of the most traditional and iconic 911s. But most of these cars’ values have gone through the roof over the past decade. As such, even if you do have the financial means to purchase them, you need to be patient and wait until an owner is willing to part with one – especially if you’re after the earlier, air-cooled models.
However, for a fraction of the money you would pay for one of Porsche’s limited number cars, you could have a classic 911 that offers all the necessary ingredients and idiosyncrasies we associate with Zuffenhausen’s famous flat-six offerings. Total 911 has long championed the entry-level 911 through the generations, be it the Sixties ‘T’ models that have become highly collectable of late, or the modern 3,4-litre 996 Carrera. For the Eighties generation in between, most think of the 3,2-litre Carrera as the entry-level 911, complete with Guards red paint and tea tray spoiler. However, many overlook the car that originally offered the entry into 911 ownership of the time: the 911 SC.
Traditionally, it can be argued that this was the least-loved 911 for several reasons: it wasn’t particularly powerful – power was actually down from the earlier 3,0-litre Carreras – and it didn’t sell in particularly large numbers either. As a result, many SCs were used in backdated RS or Turbo replica projects, so today you might find it hard to acquire an immaculate example that has been well looked after.
However, this Pewter brown 1983 example (paint code U1U1) belongs to an owner with a serious love affair with both of Stuttgart’s most famous automotive manufacturers, and as such has nurtured a beautiful SC to relive the merits of a true forgotten classic in. Purchased in 1999 from its second owner with 85 000 km on the clock, just 13 000 km have been added since. As can be expected, this SC was in near perfect condition.
As usual, the heart of this 911 is below the louvred rear engine cover. The 2 994 cm3 unit can trace its roots back to the original 3,0-litre turbocharged engine that had been used for the first 930 Turbo (with a matching code of 930/10 for later models). However, the SC relied on naturally aspirated engine breathing.
The first SC made its debut in 1978, developing a mere 134 kW at 5 500 r/min and offering a top speed of 227 km/h and a 0-100 km/h time of 6,5 seconds. Opinion was initially divided about the clean design, too, and there’s no doubting the car looked particularly lean next to the bulky 3,3-litre Turbo that was released at the same time.
The SC was revised only slightly in 1980 when power was increased by a marginal 6 kW, a clear sign that under the guidance of Ernst Fuhrmann, the 911 had no remit for production beyond 1981.
However, the arrival of Peter Schutz as CEO signified a turnaround in the 911’s fortunes against the new projects of the 924 and 928, and SCs from the 1981 model year were given a further boost in power to 152 kW at 5 900 r/min, owing to better combustion efficiency and the implementation of steel injection pipes. The result was a top speed of 235 km/h.
The new 3,2-litre Carrera was introduced in 1984, making this SC one of the later models.
Only days before this photoshoot took place, the car was sent for a full service at Porsche Centre Cape Town, South Africa. The result was a serviced car with a perfectly clean bill of health some 30 years after it left the Zuffenhausen factory.
First impressions were that the clean lines of this standard SC, without the optional rear wing, ticked all the boxes for almost any real 911 enthusiast. The tradition continued from behind the wheel, too: in textbook classic design, the front wings were much more pronounced than the water-cooled 911 generations, aiding the thrill of piloting a pure 911.
That solid metal ‘thunk’ on closing the door will be recognisable to anyone who has ever driven an air-cooled generation 911 and appreciated its build quality. Down at your feet, the off-set pedals grab your attention and further remind you of the charm carried by a Porsche of yesteryear.
A host of options were available to SC buyers, and this example is testament to that. Equipped with a sunroof, leather seats, electric windows and front fog lights (which didn’t become standard until the 3,2-litre Carrera), the spec of this SC doesn’t suggest such a basic, entry-level Porsche sports car, as some contemporary classifieds may suggest.
The factory interior had the same feel of earlier 911s: there were almost no rattles in the cabin, and the controls were still solid. I giggled at the ‘Fasten belts’ sign above the audio system, more commonly seen in aeroplanes these days than classic cars.
The bent gear lever is mounted from the floor just in front of the cassette holders, providing that inspiring long throw that any classic 911 aficionado has long admired. The steering wheel design is not Porsche’s best effort, though those with a penchant for nostalgia will gladly accept this as the same steering wheel design in the 911 that won the 1984 Paris-Dakar Rally.
Despite having no steering wheel adjustment, meaning the wheel is permanently fixed perilously close to the dashboard, I simply needed to move the seat a few inches closer to the wheel and the backrest a little more upright to have the perfect driving position. I then had enough leverage on the steering wheel while my left hand had perfect access to the gear lever. This is rather special, as the cabin, despite being snug, provided enough room for my six-foot-one frame. The rear-view mirror gave good visibility, but there’s no denying the side mirrors were more limited.
As I pulled off and settled into a slow cruise, I was impressed with how much better this fivespeed 915 gearbox felt than a 930 Turbo’s four-speed 915 gearbox that I had driven recently. As is the case with all 915 gearboxes, you can’t rush through the gears, but this unit transmitted a more solid feel than I had expected, inspiring confidence from the driver’s seat. Not every gearshift feels the same through its execution, but you quickly learn the best way to handle it as the gearbox oil warms.
Pleasingly, the steering was beautifully direct, especially through the first few degrees on either side of the dead centre position. As I increased my speed, I was buoyed by the realisation of how little body roll there was when I turned into corners.
Use the first 4 000 r/min in the rev range, and you can expect to cover ground at a respectable pace. With the 267 N.m of torque available at 4 300 r/min, I opted several times to leave the car in the selected gear, only to be left surprised by how strongly it pulled. As the only straight on the pass presented itself, I revved second gear past 4 000 r/min and delighted in the new engine note. The raw sound of the flat six engine’s mechanicals singing beautifully past 5 000 r/min is not dissimilar to that of more modern 911s passing 6 000 r/min.
The throttle pedal was another characteristic that still impresses. Although it has a long travel action, it is the first third of pedal travel that is the most important. The accelerator is sensitive to start with, so you almost never use the entire travel range, as the last part before the stop seemingly has little effect on the engine’s performance.
Equipped with a fresh set of Pirelli tyres all round, grip levels for this 1 160 kg coupé were rather good, but in the tight confines of the mountain pass I preferred not to experiment with the outer grip limits or try to overcome them. If you own such a car, I can see what an inviting challenge, not to mention exciting experience, it would be to learn to drive this to its maximum grip levels. Should you prefer to cruise along the highway, the engine will sit at a relaxed 2 800 r/min in fifth gear, with the speedometer reading 120 km/h.
As we headed home, one final mountain pass beckoned, with much longer and faster sweeps than the one we had first encountered. Heading into the first corner, I entered with far more commitment than I had done before, and the SC responded admirably with a deft poise through turn in. For the next few miles I couldn’t help but be immersed in the sense of occasion combined with the stimulating dynamics this 30-year old car offered. The faster you go, the better the feel of the steering gets, as the wheel transmits more information from the front wheels and even tramlining. This rarely happens in today’s cars.
I don’t know how soon I will be able to drive such a well-sorted SC again, as many of these delightful models have suffered from serious neglect under their misnomer as the forgotten, fun 911. But what I’ve learned is that if Eighties 911s get your heart going, a base 3,0-litre flat-six SC is all you need.