The Case for Buying a Porsche With Over 100,000 Miles

Courtesy of the so-called 1989 911 Targa "RS" that won the first ever Porsche Classic Restoration Challenge

A 1989 Porsche 911 Targa G-Model in red and black restored by Porsche Ontario for the Porsche Classic Restoration Challenge sitting in front of a bunch of other sports cars
Who wouldn't want this car? Seven months ago, the answer would have been most people.

Back in February when Manni Viana said he had acquired a “really nice black 1989 3.2 Carrera Targa that needs quite a bit of work,” he wasn’t telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The Porsche 911 in question was, truthfully, a complete mess. It had 117,000 miles on the odometer and scars to match, from a leaking engine to a cracking and peeling leather interior. 

His rose-colored view of his situation is understandable, though, as he was about to begin the process of competing in the first-ever Porsche Classic Restoration Challenge. At the beginning of the year, the German automaker challenged its U.S. dealerships to find an older car that needed some TLC, bring it back to life and then pit it against fellow dealers. Viana, the service manager at the automaker’s Ontario outpost, was facing stiff competition from a raft of legendary cars (from a few 356s to a rare 1988 911 Turbo “slantnose”) in addition to months of grueling work, so he was apparently just trying to get off on the right foot.

That power of positive thinking paid off, as Viana and his team won the inaugural event this month when three finalists faced off at the Porsche Sportscar Together Fest at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His team’s 1989 911 Targa G-Model “RS” triumphed over a 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Targa Type 964 from Porsche Dallas and a 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Type 964 from Porsche Warrington. (Anyone sensing a bit of a specific 911-era bias?)

While the whole Porsche Classic Restoration Challenge, put on by the automaker’s classic car division, is obviously a big marketing play, attempting to expand awareness around all the parts and services Porsche offers in-house, the specific vehicle that won ended up making a compelling case for buying a vintage car that otherwise may seem too far gone. It’s also a testament to Porsche’s continued thaw when it comes to the push-pull between respecting heritage and respecting car culture. 

As can be seen in a video from Porsche Ontario recapping the restoration process, the ‘89 911 was in rough shape when Viana acquired it. It was not one of those barn finds hiding under an inch of dust but otherwise in good shape with low mileage; as Viana admits after months of work, “there wasn’t an area of the car that didn’t need some kind of attention.”  But after taking apart, assessing and reassembling the engine, redoing the suspension and brakes, and giving it a fresh red-and-black makeover inside and out, this 100-thousand-mile beater came out the other end like it was about to hit the auction block at Amelia Island. 

The most intriguing aspect of the car, one that certain Porsche fans may already be wondering about, is the “RS” classification. That stands for Rennsport, or racing sport, and in consumer cars it generally designates street-legal vehicles that are based on Porsche racing models. In short, the legitimate RS models that Porsche has built throughout the years are über-powerful and highly coveted. But this particular car was never offered as an RS. 

“We decided that it would be a cool idea if we, instead of just restoring the car as it came out of the factory, why not turn it into an RS? Turn it into something special?” Viana says. “So that’s what we did.” 

To do that, not only did the Porsche Ontario team whip together a distinctive paint job with a red stripe and “Carrera” lettering running down the sides (with matching red wheels) and punch up the interior, they also lowered the car to European specs, added a front spoiler and capped off the rear with a ducktail wing, an RS signature. (They documented some of the steps in a series of short YouTube videos.)

Of course, anyone can build their own faux-RS or pay someone to do it for them. It’s another thing entirely to get Porsche to co-sign that build. Throughout the restoration competition, judges have been made up of various Porsche Classic and Porsche Cars North America managers and experts, and by choosing this RS-inspired 911 as the winner, the automaker is continuing to put its stamp of approval on custom builds that stretch the idea of what it means to be a classic Porsche. It’s a subtle but significant shift that’s been ongoing as the company offers expanded in-house customization options.

“Porsche Ontario produced a restoration that captures Porsche passion,” said Jonathan Sieber, Porsche Classic manager with PCNA.

In 2021, that passion includes much more than the brand-new Cayennes and Taycans at your local dealer — it apparently includes cars that never even existed. If you’re in the market for a special Porsche, consider taking a page out of Viana’s book, and picking up one with an absurd number of miles on the odometer. Just be sure you have your mechanic on speed dial.

Win the Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix Experience

Want the F1 experience of a lifetime? Here’s your chance to win tickets to see Turn 18 Grandstand, one of Ultimate Formula 1® Miami Grand Prix’s most premier grandstands!