1978-83 911 SC
price range: $12,000-19,999
Even to the uninitiated, when talk turns to driving a Porsche on a race track (or anywhere else for that matter) most people conjure up visions of the iconic 911. The fantastic race history of the 911 overshadows the more obscure successes of the 944, and while Porsche has introduced an all-new mid-engine platform for the Boxster and Cayman, when the factory builds a race car it is based on the 911 platform. If for no other reason than that relationship, it is hard to argue with finding a Porsche 911 that is robust enough for some spirited track weekends but reliable enough to be driven to work during the week. Of course, finding all of this for under $20,000 makes it even more interesting but surely not impossible. On rare occasions a real deal will surface, like a friend who purchased a 911 Targa last year for the paltry sum of $10,000, and the car was race ready and still street legal. Today the car is still street driven and club raced, one of a dying breed.
And that may be the secret to finding the perfect 911 SC for road and track: Look at the Targa. Sure, they are not as rigid as the coupes, but since this is a dual purpose car, the addition of a cage will add rigidity to the car, provide a larger degree of safety and, frankly, add wicked style points when you drive to work. Just be certain to pad the roll bar in all the appropriate places, since you will be driving without a helmet to work.
With the ever growing popularity of “outlaw-style” Porsches, you have an opportunity to venture into both camps with an SC track car that remains street legal. The lower stance and performance upgrades, along with its race-car theme, make this very inviting, right down to leaving the numbers on the car.
The SC was introduced in 1978 and brought with it a near bulletproof 3.0-liter motor to replace the problematic 2.7-liter engine. The new engine produced 180 hp in the U.S., while 1981 and later SC models in Europe enjoyed a bump to 204 hp. This new engine was coupled to a 915 five-speed transmission, and it is all wrapped up in a package that weighs a mere 2552 lb. New valve guides gave the 3.0-liter a long and happy life, and while there can be problems with the chain tensioners and stock rubber-centered clutches, most cars today have had the appropriate chain tensioner upgrade (few 35-year-old cars still have the original clutch in service). If the car has been tracked extensively, it pays to give the underside a close examination at suspension pickup points to be sure the tub is structurally sound.
So what is the driving experience going to be like? Well, it is a visceral drive, assisted only by your ability and the overall condition of the car. A driver new to tracking an early 911 will no doubt hear the instructor say “don’t lift” often in a loud or high-pitched voice when the tail end starts to come around mid-corner. Like all Porsches, an SC has well-designed disc brakes. A well-maintained brake system along with some performance brake fluid and pads will serve you well, but be advised brake modulation is in the hands of the driver, as there is no ABS to prevent brake lock-up and the dreaded flat spotted tires that result from over braking. You’ll learn to drive a rear-engine Porsche well, and when you do few challenges in life are more rewarding. Moving on to a more powerful, late-model 911 with ABS will be easy after you’ve earned your stripes in an early car.
Finding an SC suitable for street and track should not be difficult; there are still plenty of them on the market. It appears prices are creeping up on all of the early aircooled 911s, so it may take a while to find the right car at the right price. Ultimately, finding a sunroof-delete coupe would be the ultimate track car, but as we mentioned earlier, the real deal lies in the Targa ranks. They bring less money and still prove to be capable track cars. Like most Porsches, we’d look for the newest SC you can find, and locating a 1980 and later is preferable. Of course, if you can locate any SC with “all the right stuff” for track weekends that is ultimately going to save you time and money, even if you pay a bit more up front.