Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera versus 3.4 engine Conversion

My latest 911 & Porsche World magazine article comparing Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera versus 3.4 engine conversion is below. It’s big air-cooled engine rebuild week!

siblings

This piece was a lot of fun to do: two 911-owning brothers from Birmingham, who had developed their cars in tandem but approached from different angles. I think it came out as a good read and the boys love it.

Sibling Rivalry

When car-crazy brothers modify sibling 911s, there’s bound to be some rivalry. Ferdinand Porsche writer, John Glynn, decides whether someone should be sent to their room.

Born in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, Shirish and Anil Patel are brothers; youngest of five, two years apart. I’ve known both for a few years now, and they are a credit to good parenting: intelligent, well spoken and always immaculately turned out (you can stop reading now, mum).

Like many brothers, it was while they shared a bedroom as kids that their mutual fascination with classic cars kicked off. Also like many brothers, neither will say who started it. “It was always there,” Anil declares. “Dad was a Ford man, devoted to Cortinas. With the blue oval as household badge of choice, we were RS crazy, and the walls were plastered with hot Escorts and Capris. We knew about 911s, but were never Porsche obsessed. The 911 thing didn’t happen until years later.”

Older brother Anil was first to bring a Porsche badge to the party. “I was looking for a classic car up to £10K, and thought an Alfa Romeo might be the way forward. Searching a few dealer websites, I found 911SCs lined up alongside the Alfas. I hadn’t considered 911s affordable, so I started digging about, to see what I could find. The first few trade cars I saw were ropey at best, so I increased the budget and started looking at private examples.”

This 1987 Carrera Coupe in shimmering Diamond Blue is what he ended up with. “The seller was a farmer who’d owned the car for ten years. He loved it but hadn’t really been using it, so the mileage was fairly low. I’d already looked at a 25th Anniversary Carrera in the same blue and liked the colour, so the paint was a plus. The owner had changed the registered colour of this one to grey as he was convinced that, were it ever stolen, the police would never find it if they were looking for a blue one.”

The bizarre logic did Anil a favour. The reluctant seller’s lacklustre ad for an old grey Porsche, being sold due to lack of use, had aroused little interest. Big brother bagged a nice G50 Carrera in his favourite shade for sensible money.

Shirish’s path to Porsche ownership was a direct result of driving the new arrival. “When Anil said he’d bought a 911, I shot straight over for a spin. After I’d had a go, no way was I missing out.” It took almost a year for Shirish to find the right car: a minty fresh Carrera Club Sport. Though the boys were clearly enjoying their shared interest in Stuttgartian sporting elegance, the rest of the clan didn’t quite understand.

“No one else in our family is all that fussed about cars,” says Shirish. “When Anil and I started getting into 911s, the age of our steeds caused some consternation. My mum asked, “why an E reg, why not buy a newer one?” They weren’t aware of how well older Porsches held their value.”

The Club Sport lasted a couple of years, before London life took its toll, and the absence of a garage for the cherished 3.2 forced Shirish to sell. An Audi RS2 filled the vacant parking space. The Polar Silver 4wd estate, a Porsche in all but silhouette, was a blitzkrieg-wagen par excellence, but the lure of the flat six never faded. The RS2 was eventually advertised for sale, only to be stolen the same weekend. It was found crashed and burnt out a few days later.

Losing the RS2 convinced Shirish that, without secure parking at home, another big-money Porsche was not what was called for. Anil had started playing about with his car, taking bits off and trying new stuff, so Shirish followed his older sibling’s example and decided to go for something more affordable, a car that could be customised with a clear conscience.

First registered in August 1987, Shirish’s Granite Green Carrera predates its Diamond Blue brother by eight months and a day. The owner admits the dark metallic shade had sold him on the car before he ever saw it in the metal.

Side by side here on the beautiful Berkshire Downs, the colours of these sibling Carreras compliment the landscape, and each other. The diamond hue harmonises with the hazy purple horizon, while the green melts into the subtle tones of this earthy environment.

Diamond Blue and Granite Green were both introduced with the G50 transmission for the 1987 model year. They stayed on the menu during 1988, before Granite was dropped for 1989, the final year of the impact bumper cars. I confess to being a big Diamond Blue fan. Its silvery sleekness shifts in sunlight to be sometimes sky, sometimes slate but always seductive over the curvaceous flanks of a classic Porsche.

As noted earlier, Diamond Blue was the colour chosen for the Anniversary Carreras, built to celebrate 25 years of the 911. The cars featured ruffled leather seats in purple (in reality more blue than purple), headrests emblazoned with Ferdinand’s signature, and thick Silver Blue carpets throughout. On body-coloured Fuchs, the Anniversary cars are an attractive package, though Anil and I agree it’s a while since either of us has seen one in genuinely nice condition.

The younger car’s bodywork is in good shape, following a bare-metal respray last year. Anil chose a recommended bodyshop in Reading to do the work, but is not best pleased with how it has worked out. One or two spots on the car are showing clear signs of poor preparation – frustrating having spent a substantial chunk of cash. He’d like to take it back and get it sorted, but who wants to send their pride and joy back to the crowd who messed up in the first place? I know where he’s coming from.

Still, the car looks amazing. The silver bonnet badge sets up a smooth theme that flows, through the front fog and headlight washer delete, to the deleted rear wiper and badgeless rear end. The bright-petalled 16-inch Fuchs work well with the colour and the ride height, emphasising this Porsche’s thoroughbred profile. The whale-tailed engine cover cements the flowing motif. This car looks fast, even when parked.

Big brother has made a few changes since buying his Carrera back in 2001. Bilstein HD dampers were one of the first purchases, but the suspension is otherwise pretty stock. New Neatrix bushes sit in the spring plates, with standard torsion bars all round. The front end features turbo tie rods, an ERP bump steer kit to correct steering angle on the lowered ride height and a Steve Wong strut brace, replacing the previous Weltmeister. The car was lowered by Steve Bull in Devizes and aligned by GT One in Chertsey.

Anil believes in evolution not revolution, and changes in the engine compartment are true to that philosophy. The ECU received a custom Steve Wong chip, with Magnecor plug leads taking the sparks to the internally stock powerplant.  Drilled airbox, Club Sport engine mounts and a rear heater blower delete pretty much covers it in here.

Underneath, the exhaust has been modified with a H&S crossover, pre-silencer and silencer, but Anil is not convinced that this setup was the right decision. “You can’t do the valves without taking the exhaust off. This adds to the cost of servicing, plus I’m not sure about the additional heat on the heads. Also, we recently discovered the gaskets they fitted were handmade efforts with holes the size of 2p pieces – nowhere near big enough.” The restrictive metal gaskets physically melted under the pressure; factory parts now seal the joints. Finally uncorked, the car runs a lot better, though further engine developments are on the cards when top end rebuild time comes round. A look in the back of baby brother’s motor gives us a clue.

Shirish’s second 911 was sourced through an independent marque specialist. Following a litany of post-purchase issues, he’s been left unimpressed by the dealer experience, but money spent in the right places has since brought the car on leaps and bounds. The main reason for the gaping chasm in SP’s deposit account is hidden from view: an engine rebuild to 3.4 litres that was done by Winter. Steve Winter that is, at Jaz in Wembley.

Soon after taking ownership, the 3.2 was found to be using a litre of oil every 800 miles: time for a top end rebuild. A 3.6 transplant was an option, but that is not so much building as swapping, and the costs only make sense if the 3.6 never goes bang. Shirish took the decision to keep the bombproof 3.2 bottom end, and increase capacity with a big-buck Mahle 3.4 conversion.

Anyone who has ever investigated this upsize knows one thing: it’s not cheap. Consider the cost of putting an upstairs on a bungalow, relative to the value of said bungalow, and you’re in the right ballpark.

Build time for the mega motor was initially estimated at two weeks. The case was leak free, so the decision was taken to leave it together, refurb the heads and assemble the new parts. Two weeks became six and, in hindsight, Shirish would rather have split the case and balanced the bottom end.

Brand spanking Mahle pistons and 98mm barrels were not the only bits little brother bought. A pair of Dougherty Racing DC20 cams were found, and a 3.2 throttle body was bored out 3mm to increase the charge at wide open throttle. A lightweight starter was added, as well as Club Sport mounts and an upgraded K3 alternator. The list goes on.

Smart Racing valve springs, 993 head studs and rod bolts, refurbed injectors, new ICV and crank sensors, gearbox sensor, oil pressure switch, new seals everywhere. The transmission was given a lift with the G50 clutch fork mod, and new master and slave cylinders. The clutch was replaced with a 930 clutch disc, new release bearing and a Kennedy lightweight aluminium pressure plate.

Mothy heat exchangers and crossover pipe were replaced with standard Porsche items, flowing into a Scart pre-silencer and a DP Motorsport muffler. The engine fittings were replated, tinware was replaced and powdercoated, and new rear wheel bearings were the final while-you’re-in-there. Phew!

As the car arrives at our meeting point, the sound is impressive; the engine exudes unadulterated authority through the chunky DP silencer. This muffler is heavy – Shirish reckons 12 kilos – but the noise is anthemic. So it should be: new ones cost circa €1200.

The chorus of both cars on the move is intoxicating. The 3.2 has a lighter tone than its bigger brother; the sweet spot of that air-cooled thrum meets the eardrum lower down the rev range. The 3.4 is understandably louder through its bigger pipe, but volume is not the main ingredient. The DC20s lend a bass heavy burble to the tune played at tickover which carries right through the revs: it’s racecar sound at sensible decibels. At wide open throttle, it rocks the casbah.

Shirish loves the noise it makes, but he has not really heard it yet. Just as an acoustic  guitar is never properly heard by the guitarist (the sound exits away from your ears, set behind the sound hole), so the sound of a 911 can only be appreciated when standing behind it. Now curious, he hands me the keys and I take off.

Take off is the right expression; this is a rocketship. I am expecting the bigger capacity to slow the revs down, but the reverse is true. Similar piston area with a slightly lighter rotating mass means the motor spins like a cartoon Tasmanian Devil. Flooring the throttle, I quickly hit the limiter in one and two: it revs that much faster than my Carrera 3.0. What the owner has spent is immediately justified by what has been gained: this missile is ballistic.

In a few seconds, I am knocking on big speeds and wishing Shirish had never swapped the tail for a flat lid. Standard ride height and all-original suspension means this new-found grunt really gives the chassis something to think about, and the underpinnings are the next job on the list. The engine was recently remapped, making 269 flywheel hp, but that’s unlikely to be ultimate power. With the engine and suspension upgrades Shirish has planned, this car will be off the scale.

Anil’s car might have fewer horses pushing it along, but a sharper, lighter chassis and highly effective brakes means that what it loses on the straights, it makes up in the bends. The middle pedal benefits from new calipers and genuine discs front and rear, with Goodridge lines and ATE fluid working Porterfield R4-S pads.

Both cars run Bridgestone SO2s on their 7 and 9 x 16-inch Fuchs, with 225/50s on the rear of the green car as opposed to 245/45s on the blue. On these slightly damp country roads, I can discern no difference.

Driving Anil’s car is a delight: gorgeous red-backed Recaros from a 968 Club Sport and a Martini Racing Momo wheel give the Carrera real sporting comfort. Deleting the electric seats and internal sound deadening removed a lot of weight, and the RS carpet set and door panels are pointers to more purposeful intent. Big brother will receive the same treatment some day soon.

Apart from the Momo steering wheel, the red-piped grey-green sports trim of Shirish’s car has rightly been left unchanged. RGA in Vauxhall recently resprayed one side of the Carrera, partly thanks to an errant Land Rover driver. A new near side wing and fog delete front panel, smooth engine cover, work to the passenger B-post and fresh paint over the lot cleared out what was left in Shirish’s piggy bank. The driver’s side will be done when funds are replenished. “No rush,” says Shirish, “Anil and I have plenty to keep us busy in the meantime.” ‘Us’ is the operative word.

On the subject of rivalry, the great Luciano Pavarotti once wonderfully observed: “The rivalry is with ourself. I try to be better than is possible. I fight against myself, not against the other.” The same can be said of so many of the brothers I know who share this love of classic cars.

My own younger brother lives in another country, but his friendship, support and opinions are very important to me. So it is with Anil and Shirish. If there is rivalry, it is low key and outside the core relationship; differences are accepted with mutual respect. This is brotherly leapfrog; co-dependence based on the realisation that the key to all successful friendships is to keep them moving forward. If there’s a better case to be made for sharing classic Porsche ownership, I’ve not seen it yet.

 

4 Comments

  • Marco Leijten says:

    Thumbs up for the article John. Good story and nice fotowork too. You must have had a good time with these guys.

    To my opinion, in depth articles on these carrera's are rare, especially fine tuned ones as these. So, tanks for sharing with us!

  • johndglynn says:

    Thanks Marco! Sun is shining here – hope it is shining on you too 😉

    I hear some other Dutch 911 guys are coming to the Revival now too, so you may get to hook up and speak the language over coffee or a beer.

    • Marco Leijten says:

      Anyone I know? I'm meeting up with Leonard and his father anyway.

      Drop me a pm so you can tell mee who is going to the Revival. Us Dutch 911 guys could than discuss how to rease the Porsche presence on that otherwise magnificent event. I would hope to see some 911R's S'es and 904/906's competing at Goodwood for example.

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