Buying a Porsche 911 as a project car could end up being the greatest car experience of your life, but it can also potentially end up being a great financial catastrophe. But the feeling of saving a prized classic 911 from a scrapyard, or making a track-focused 996 certainly does seem priceless.
Parts for most Porsches are readily available due to high demand, especially for the older air-cooled 911s. Some 996 models are also experiencing an all-time low, and maybe now is the perfect time to buy a 996 or even a 997 and start building your ultimate 911 project car.
If you want to make a profit by restoring/modifying a 911, the chances of actually earning a decent amount of money are slim to none. Maybe if you are able to source out an older limited edition 911 model, but the work needed can easily stretch into the eye-watering territory.
911s are iconic cars, and no matter why you might opt to buy one as a project car, in the end, you are getting a piece of automotive history, and there are only a few more appropriate project cars for a true petrolhead.
Older air-cooled 911 project cars
If you are looking for a cheaper air-cooled 911 as a project car, some 1974-1977 911S models come to mind because you can source one of these out for $20-30k. These 911s were considered fairly soft back in the day, so this means that a project mid 70s 911 might seem like a bargain.
A 1978-1983 911 3.0 SC is widely regarded as the best air-cooled 911 under $30k, and there are lots of evidence to back it up. This means that this model may seem like the best air-cooled 911 project car. Some mechanics even estimate these models to be able to cross the 300k mile mark between engine rebuilds.
1990-1994 964 Carrera is also a fairly valued 911 that offers some modern-day technology for under $40k. These 964 models can be tuned to offer 300 or even 400 horsepower without sacrificing reliability too much. No matter the case, all three of these are reasonable project car options.
Finding a decent engine and a rust-free body should be your number one concern. Older 911s are a style icon, and many car enthusiasts will always appreciate a classic 911. There are also a bunch of aftermarket companies offering custom upholstery and many other styling and mechanical components for these 911 models.
Newer 996, 997 track-car projects
If you ever visited places like the Nurburgring, you must have seen at least a dozen of 911 project cars. A track-focused 911 is an incredibly popular project car idea and compared to a classic 911 resto or resto-mod, these projects are usually a lot cheaper and faster to complete.
One of the first steps is weight reduction because weight reduction is the number one go-to when it comes to track-focused cars. The good thing is you are able to shave off a bunch of weight by removing the factory seats and installing dedicated lightweight racing seats.
Furthermore, you should also invest in a harness belt and a roll cage for safety and structural rigidity. Many owners don’t even tune their cars that much because you can accomplish incredible handling characteristics with just a decent set of tires and a bit of weight shaving.
Furthermore, a bunch of aftermarket performance mods are readily available for the 996 and the reliability aspects are also fairly promising. As far as 997s are concerned, the value of these is not as approachable, but the aftermarket scene is booming with a bunch of performance and handling upgrades.
Good-to-knows when buying a project car
No matter if you opt for an air-cooled 911 or not, or even a Porsche at all, you should consider these aspects of potential project car ownership before you make any purchasing decisions. First of all, look out for rust because rust kills cars, and a restoration of a heavily rusted 911 is way too costly and downright frustrating.
You should also have a bunch of high-quality tools available if you plan on working by yourself. If you are planning to increase the power of your 911, go with a set-up that is going to offer the best reliability because some owners go through a few engines before they realize that 800hp is way too costly.
Invest in better cooling, better brakes, and better ignition control. Don’t just spend money on large turbochargers that are likely to cook your engine up. While doing a project, try to be as tidy as possible, this means that you should also label everything you touch to always be sure what each and every bolt does.
And remember, in almost all situations, a project car will cost you more than you think, and it will also take longer to complete. Proper research is also extremely important, and don’t be afraid to talk to someone with decent experience if something does not go to plan.
Am I devaluing an air-cooled 911 if I use it as a project car?
Well, it depends on what you are trying to do. If you are doing a bolt and nut restoration, the value aspects are probably going to be beneficial, but complete bolts and nuts restoration is only reasonable for the most expensive air-cooled 911s.
If you want a track-ready 911, then yes, the value of such 911s is peanuts. But doing a track-ready project 911 is never about value, it’s all about how fast can you go, and how far will you push yourself to do it.
What are the best project cars out there?
Probably the most popular project car options are some of the JDM cars such as a Mazda MX-5 Miata, a Subaru BRZ, Nissan Silvia, and such. A Nissan GTR is also a fairly popular project car because of the highly tune-able 6-cylinder engine.
A Ford Mustang or a Camaro is also a fairly popular project car option. For European cars, older BMWs, Porsches are the most popular project cars. With an occasional Audi or a VW Golf, most Europeans prefer modifying older BMW 3-series models.
Which 911 models are not a good project car idea?
Some 911s are better of stock, especially the newer limited edition models such as the 991 911R or the GT 3 Touring. Some older air-cooled RS 911s are not good track-ready project car ideas, but they are often being restored to OEM specifications.
Basically, every limited edition 911 should be either standard or OEM restored, but a cheaper, more common 911 model is usually a perfect project car.