WHEN JOHN MERVIN BOUGHT HIS 1995 CARRERA 4 CABRIOLET, it was a good secondhand buy, a 993 that just needed a little sorting to make into a truly great car. “It was a little neglected and needed some freshening up,” says Mervin, who pauses before he makes an admission: “I just took that a little too far.”
How far did the Berkeley, California resident go? The car now does a pretty convincing impersonation of a 993 Turbo Cabriolet, a model Porsche never offered. In fact, prior to the 996-based Turbo Cabriolet that the company launched in 2004, Porsche officially had only offered a 911 Turbo Cabriolet from 1987 to 1989.
However, Porsche — being Porsche — has always quietly turned out a few factory specials. Witness the 993 Speedster, a model variant that kind of exists only because Jerry Seinfeld and the late F.A. “Butzi” Porsche wanted one. So while there was never a production 993 Turbo Cabriolet, there was a small batch of 993 Cabriolets that got Turbo bodywork and a turbocharged flat six.
“According to Adrian Streather’s Porsche 993, The Essential Companion, ‘a Porsche dealer from Munich, Germany asked the Exclusive Department to build twelve Turbo Cabriolets,’” explains Mervin. According to Streather, the factory ended up building 14 examples. The book also goes on to explain that the 993 Turbo Cabriolets utilized the CIS-injected, single-turbo flat six from the 964 Turbo and produced 360 hp. All of them were based on the rear-wheel-drive 993 chassis, rather than the 993 Turbo’s all-wheel-drive setup. In reality, they were merely turbocharged, drop-top versions of the 993 Carrera and far from the technological wonder that the 993 Turbo coupe was.
“I wanted to build the 993 Turbo that Porsche did not make, at least in any significant numbers,” says Mervin. Actually, scratch that: Porsche didn’t sell anything close to the car Mervin would end up building, since his take would have significantly more power and even better handling. It is, for all intents and purposes, a far more authentic take on the concept than even the back-door factory cars were.
Mervin acquired the 993 in 2008 after a business trip to Eugene, Oregon. “I spotted it for sale at a Kia dealership, which was a shock. Someone had traded it in on a new Kia!” he says, shaking his head. “I’m not sure you could call that moving up in the world.”
He couldn’t resist stopping in to take a closer look. An admitted fan of Porsche Cabriolets and convertible sports cars in general, Mervin has owned a 1966 Datsun Roadster, a 1966 Jaguar XK-E roadster, and multiple 911 Targas over the years. At the time, he had a 1958 356A Cabriolet that had been imported from Belgium. He still has the car, which he bought from an elderly woman and restored over time. The 993 that he found himself looking over at the Kia dealer looked like a bargain.
“It was in clean, used shape, and it had never been in an accident,” he says. Its paint had faded a bit, its body had a few dings, and its once-beautiful wheels had seen better days, but the Porsche ran great. The only obstacle was convincing his wife, Nan, that the 993 was a smart purchase — a task he tackled as soon as he flew home.
“I had young children at the time, and convinced my wife that it was plenty big enough for the kids and her too…” begins Mervin. “I neglected to mention that the kids might have to forgo circulation in their legs while riding in the back, but hey, whatever it takes.” In the end, he managed to convince her the modern, ostensibly four-seat Porsche was the perfect family car. A few days later, Mervin flew back to Oregon and drove the 993 home.
While his wife chuckled good-naturedly when she saw the sorry excuse for a back seat all 911s are known for, Mervin couldn’t have been happier with his acquisition. “Having owned many 356s, 912s, and 911s, the 993 represents the pinnacle of the air-cooled 911,” he says. “The power, braking, multi-link — as opposed to torsion-bar and trailing-arm — rear suspension… (it) has a powerful, refined, and well-engineered feel.” On a side note, Mervin even tried to find a rare factory Porsche baby seat, but was ultimately unsuccessful.