There's a saying that goes, "there's no replacement for a Porsche." Anyone lucky enough to drive one can attest that the air-cooled flat-six, snug cabin, and rear-engine handling dynamics of a vintage Porsche add up to a truly special driving experience. And while not every Porsche worth driving is of the air-cooled variety, there’s something undeniably special about sampling the original recipe.
At one time, the 911 lineage contained the fastest, best-cornering and best-braking cars in America, and the 1983 Porsche 911 SC Cabrio I rented from DriveShare in the Centennial, Colorado, area offered a glimpse into that era. With the clutch depressed, I twisted the key (positioned left of the steering wheel, in classic 911 fashion) to ignite the 3.0-liter flat-six hiding under the massive, rubber-lipped whale tail. The engine fluttered to life before settling into a whirring, steady idle. Sitting behind the wheel, the first thing I noticed was the pedal placement, which forced my feet closer together than that of my personal Dodge 440 wagon. The driving position allowed for more precise footwork and smoother heel-toe motions.
I opted to drop the convertible top before takeoff, remembering that the ‘83 SC was the first fully open-top 911. The exhaust crackled with each downshift and rumbled through the valleys as the SC accelerated up mountainous inclines. For a U.S.-market car like this one, power is rated at 172 horsepower (at 5500 rpm) and 189 lb-ft, available at 4200 rpm. The Colorado roads were the perfect combination of elevations, bank variations, and esses to put it to the test.
The clutch requires a heavy left foot, and the five-speed 915 gearbox slots into the first and second vaguely, but not so much so that I risked missing a shift. It didn't take long to gain confidence in the unfamiliar gearbox, and once the car was moving at a spirited rate, I felt every turn, bump, and crease in the road through the steering wheel. The manual steering box is incredibly responsive, but it may seem cumbersome and none-too nimble to an inexperienced driver. The SC has a relatively firm ride, and the steering is sharp and precise, with reassuring weight—perfect for taking on faster bends and medium-speed sweeping corners. The compromise came on slower turns and hairpins, which gave my (decidedly weak) forearms a workout. The engine's distinctive whirring turns into a howl when pushing up inclines at higher rpms, and the car’s confident brakes will lock up if you aren’t careful.
The sense of occasion and exclusivity can’t be separated from the 911 experience. The feel of sitting in a purpose-built, minimalist cockpit has everlasting appeal, and the rear-mounted air-cooled flat-six played the part of the beating heart of Porsche enthusiasts for decades. Putting aside that air-cooled Porsches are thus far a much more sound investment than water-cooled models, the vintage flat-six formula is both nostalgic and proven to delight.
Still can’t decide on your favorite Porsche?DriveShare has you covered. Now you can drive the models you find most alluring to grasp the experience first-hand.