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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:

I not least included the Dino in this article simply because this photo is so stunning.

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.

Please note the sunglasses, the hair, the sideburns. Well, and that the car is a CSL.

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.

Lovely. Simply lovely.

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.

5 Responses

  1. Anders Bilidt

    Claus, if your friend is now looking for something which best encompasses all the attributes of a 911, well then he clearly needs to be looking at….. yup, you guessed it: another 911. ;-)

    However, if your friend is looking for new experiences, then yes, there are of course other alternatives. You mention the stunning E9. Well, despite 911 prices having dropped somewhat recently, I would still argue that he should be able to find a good E9 within his budget. After all, seeing as his 911 was a SC, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who is obsessed with owning the top-of-the-range ultimate performance version. So perhaps he needs to look for a 3.0CS or even a 2800CS, which should see him in a good driver condition E9.

    Alternatively, how about looking at its successor: the BMW 635CSi? To me, it has always been a valid 911 alternative.

    He could also go Italian and seek out the best GTV6 on the market. Or how about a rare manual Jag XJ-S? Or a performance Capri of some sort? A TVR (pretty much any TVR!) would be fun too Or if he’s in the mood for some serious swinging, he could dare to go for something quite different, but still very sporty (in that American way…) and try on an early seventies Corvette C3 for size.

    Plenty of options…

  2. Claus Ebberfeld

    @anders-bilidt , he has in fact in his earlier life owned TWO Alfa Romeo GTV6’s. And, I should add, will probably never go back: When he converted to the 911 he could barely contain himself in the revelation of how vastly superior a machine the 911 is to the Italian wedge.

    Therefore, I think, he would never venture within touching distance of any TVR!

    He has also mentioned a car like my SLC, but then again – if he liked the sharpness of the 911 he’ll feel numbed by the Mercedes. So I agree, the BMW’s are much better bets – even the newer one. You know I love the 635 CSi too…

  3. Tony Wawryk

    There are indeed alternatives to a 911, just that few, if any, are as good, imo. I’ve had an E9 and loved it ( how I wish I’d kept it), but it’s not a sports car in the way a 911 is. However, if you’re going to look at the likes of the E9, or 240Z, I’d suggest a different Dino, by Fiat. Ferrari engine, beautiful to look at, 2+2 practicality, and still relatively reachable except for perfect ones. Thoughts?

  4. YrHmblHst

    May I chime in here?
    “how vastly superior a machine the 911 is to the Italian wedge”? In what area? Build quality? Yes. parts availability? yes. straight line performance? yes. But style? a resounding no. Passion/character? No again. Handling? I say no yet again.
    IF build quality / NVH and instant status are your friends benchmarks for cars from that era, then he should probably stay with a 911. He will not be satisfied with a TVR, Lotus, anything Italian, an Alpine, or even a late 60s/early 70s Corvette. The BMWs mentioned are undoubtedly nice cars, but not the same ‘class’ – meaning type/style – of vehicle as the 911 imnsho.
    I have personally owned a 911SC – lovely car that I probably shoulda kept, especially given the current nutball prices they bring. I have also owned an Alpine [GTA Turbo], a Jag for a short time, altho with a slushbox [and it would be more a contemporary of the BMWs methinks than a 911] Ive had a GTV6, as well as a 70 Corvette, so I think I can give a somewhat informed opinion, but an opinion nonetheless. What your buddy should consider depends entirely on his priorities ; if style is his highest goal, gonna hafta go with an Italian car i fear. [dont know about the price issue, but may I suggest a Lancia 037? Always thought those were cool, even tho we never got them…] If he wants power and little [and simple] maintenance, get an American V8 like the Corvette or a Mustang or something. If absolute handling is his nirvana, then nothing but a Lotus will do. If the coachwork and NVH is more important these days, look at the BMWs, the Jag [if he wants to try and keep it running] or even the Mercedes you mention.
    Also, depends on how old he wants to go; if new-ish cars are OK, get an 06-08 Z06 Corvette ; it’ll outrun anything on the list so far -as well as 90+% of the cars on the road – handle and brake a WHOLE bunch better than his 911, and be very low maintenance to boot. However, if he wants to stay at least pre-85 – which I dont blame him a bit – and wants a 2 seat sports car [lets face it, a 911 is a two seater] the 911 is the best of the bunch in many areas. My Corvette was faster, and certainly had more testosterone, the GTV6 was way cooler and stylish as the day is long. The Alpine was funky to the inth degree and a lot of fun also, as was my TVR. But the 911 is hard to beat as an all around package.
    [of course, i would suggest a second gen Corvair also if you like rear engine cars; I mean what IS a 911 really? A Corvair with a funny looking body…]
    But whatever , the datsun shouldnt be even mentioned in the same paragraph.
    Keep us informed as to his decision please.

  5. Claus Ebberfeld

    Current status is that he is looking into – another Porsche! The 968, to be more specific. Far too new for my tastes, but a brilliant car, of course. And it’s his money so I don’t say anything :-).

    @yrhmblhst, regarding the GTV6 my friend has been there and done that, so that car is not an option. But even I he hadn’t I’d say the GTV6 is a poor substitute for a 911.
    Sure, I absolutely agree that it has lots of character, but in my opinion it can’t touch a 911 handlingwise. It’s more comfortable, though – an overlooked quality, I think. And the engine is a gem.

    Personally I think the GTV6 is roughly on par with a 240Z. And personally I’d prefer the Japanese car mainly because it’s older. None of them are quite as good as the 911. But both are much cheaper as well.

    I’ll follow the case closely!


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