It’s no secret that I’m a huge admirer of the Porsche 911. There ARE a few worthy alternatives, though.
I started contemplating this very serious subject as I learnt that a good friend has now become Porsche 911-less. After five years with a 1978 911 SC, he sold it at last weekends Classic Race Aarhus. He does not want to live without a classic car though (I think the ViaRETRO-motto: “Any classic is better than no classic” is proving itself as one of the great truths of the universe) so he has already started looking. But for what?
The thing is, the 911 is such a great car that one must inevitably question what could possibly compete with it. But I think there are a few direct alternatives – such as the car below on the left:
See? Same period, six cylinders and even more sexy and curvy bodywork. Directly comparable performancewise, stemming from the same period as the original classic 911 and truth be told I’d much, much prefer the Dino.
But has a Dino ever been a real alternative to a 911? On paper yes, as Ferrari, at the end of the Sixties, tailored the design directly to combat the Porsche 911 both in the showrooms as well as on the country roads. Visually, the Dino has the upper hand, but very few would ever dare to argue that a Dino exhibits the same all-round qualities of a 911. Sadly, prices have also skyrocketed and it’s now in another league. My friend’s budget is nearer the low Porsche 911-entry level. So let’s get more real.
Here, of course, it is important to keep in mind that “a 911” can be many things. I consider the early F models and G models as the true 911s, so let’s conveniently stick with the Sixties and Seventies. Which reasonable alternatives do we have out there? And needless to say, I mean similar cars – that is, cars brimming with sports talent and history, usability, quality, performance and not least a comparable price tag on the current classic car market.
So let’s jump straight to a really good alternative: BMW’s E9 coupé.
BMW’s big coupé does not have quite the same sporting nerve as the 911, but on the other hand it’s a bit more elegant. It’s also a bit more spacious, comfortable with a more delicious cabin as well as slightly slower. On paper at least, but importantly still featuring delicious six-cylinder technology. It remained in production for a shorter timespan than the 911, but lived its life to the max as a racer: Mostly on track, where the 911 also danced on gravel. They rusted, yes, but so did early 911’s. And in addition, I have the feeling that the BMW quality did not fall far behind Porsche 911, and thus could (and should) really be used. A proper alternative to the 911, then. Sadly the prices have recently taken a huge hike upwards and my friends budget would only allow for the lowliest E9-coupés on the market.
But my second best bet comes very close and is cheaper – and it’s a Datsun. Yes, I have considered the 240Z and 260Z as the poor man’s 911 for a long time now. Feast your eyes on that elegant roof line – there are even tones of 911 to it. In addition, both size and proportions are very similar to the German. I can almost imagine that the Z is how Porsche would have built the 911, if it had done so a car generation later and had given it a front engine. I’m not quite sure how sharp a road-Z is compared to a road-911, but one should not doubt the sports talents of the Z: Like the 911, it excelled both on rally and at tracks – though most know only of the former as the Z is quite legendary for its victories in the Safari Rally through Africa. It lends the Z some toughness and some brute attitude. And of course, the Z also rusted – but surely no worse than a BMW E9? The other things, however, correspond very much with the 911 profile, and so it’s just a bonus that a Z is much cheaper than a 911.
However, from my perspective, the most obvious alternative to the connoisseur is probably the Alpine Renault A310 V6. The French 911 shares so many qualities with the real 911. Rear engine, 2+2 layout, rally history, six cylinders. Even the driving experience is very much comparable. How about the design then? Well, I know this is highly debatable, but for me the Frenchman wears the sharpest cut suit of the two. For me personally, the rarity factor also contributes to the strengths of the A310, even though this of course is of no practical value.
For all those reasons the A310 became my own choice as an alternative – which of course largely rules it of out my friend’s list: I’d prefer to be the only one amongst my friends driving a A310! I must confess, I have not mentioned the A310-possiblity for him yet, but I guess he’ll get to it himself eventually, and ask for a test drive. To which I’ll naturally oblige, as my mission in life is to help enthusiasts out of their classic car-lessness.
Maybe you’ll help him too, dear readers? The above were my best bids for 911-alternatives. However, I have a nagging feeling that I may have overlooked something. So please share your thoughts and experiences so that we together can determine todays best Porsche 911 alternatives.