When is a 1993 Porsche really a 1994?
Friday, December 04, 2015
Let's say you own a North American (NA) 1994 968. While attending a Porsche Club of America show, you park next to another NA 1994 968. The strange thing is, while your car has 944-style seats, the '94 968 next to you has the 993-generation-911-style "comfort" seats.
A perusal of an original 1994 968 sales brochure shows a car with the 993 seats, so why does your car have the older 944 style? How could this be?
The answer: Option code 718.
Back in the early 1990s Porsche was suffering through some difficult times. Its cars were fantastic, but the company was still employing a lot of hand assembly, which resulted in high prices. On top of that, the global economy was experiencing a recession. All of this translated into slow sales for Porsche.
Launched in 1992, Porsche had high hopes for its new 968 line, which shared many components with the outgoing 944. Despite cost savings realized from reusing the 944 platform, the 968 didn’t sell well. By 1993, the automaker’s product inventory began to back up across all of its model lines, but it found an innovative way to deal with the situation.
Porsche created option code 718, which allowed it to "re-VIN" an "already produced" car into the upcoming model year. Porsches with this option code were then sold as new cars. Under normal circumstances, a Porsche model year would have run from July to June of the following year.
For model years 1994 and 1995, hundreds of 968s received the option code, as detailed below in production statistics I’ve gathered. (Porsche employed the same practice for contemporary 911s and 928s.)
Of the 2,008 NA 968 cabriolets produced (model years 1992-95), 495 (25%) came with option code 718:
- 189 — 1994s (actually 1993s) with option code 718 produced between March 1993 and June of 1993.
- 306 — 1995s (actually 1994s) with option code 718 produced between February 1994 and June of 1994.
Of the 2,234 NA 968 coupes produced (model years 1992-95), 360 (18%) came with option code 718:
- 161 — 1994s (actually 1993s) with option code 718 produced between March 1993 and June of 1993.
- 199 — 1995s (actually 1994s) with option code 718, produced between February 1994 and June of 1994.
Interestingly, not a single NA 968 cabriolet was a true 1995 model — or produced in line with Porsche’s normal production schedule, without option 718. Only 60 of the NA 1995 coupes were true 1995s (built after June of 1994).
It gets confusing. Cars with option 718 reflect the prior model year's features, options, and colors. Take, for example, a 1994 968 painted in F4 Horizon Blue. This is a '92-'93 standard metallic paint color offered by Porsche, but there are a few 1994 NA 968 cabriolets in that color out there, too, even though the color was not standard for the 1994 model year.
I have seen at least one case where one of these special 968s was registered as the wrong model year. Someone looked at the build date on the door-jam sticker to determine it and didn’t consider the specific letter in the VIN (10th position, N='92, P='93, R='94, S='95) that indicates the model year.
So remember, if you see a 968 with an unusual combo of features and colors for that year, they are not necessarily special-order "color to sample" cars. They exist because they have option code 718. If a 968 doesn't have that option, then it was truly manufactured for its designated model year.
The next time you are at a PCA car show and you are looking over a fine early '90s example but something is just not right about the car, consider the fact that you may be looking at a "718 car." That could just explain it.
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