By on October 1, 2012

In a former life as an occasional participant on the fringes of the ol’ illegal street racing, I was a member of an “underground message board” where matches were set up, smack was talked, grammar was tortured, you know the deal, right? The board was well-known for being completely cop/narc-free, largely because the cops didn’t care about two community-college dropouts racing 15-second Hondas behind a grocery store in the sticks at two in the morning and then creating twenty-eight-page forum threads detailing their particular excuses for losing. In fact, until some GTO-driving halfwit managed to kill himself and cripple an innocent woman traveling the other way on the freeway, it was pretty much open season for 40-rolls on the freeways of Columbus, Ohio.

But I digress, so we shall return to the topic at hand. There was a fellow vaguely known as “Concrete Sam” on the boards, some mouth-breathing driveway-pourer who had managed to funnel his entire career’s earnings into a tuned-up C5 Corvette. His “signature” on the boards was “THE VETTE GETS THEM WET — Call me for all your concrete and masonary (sic) needs”. Crass, but honest. You know what you’re getting with Concrete Sam. He has a Vette. It is popular with his chosen genre of female. Also, he is available to do actual work for actual cash, which he probably will plow into his Corvette, enabling him to win more street races, drop more panties, and ever it shall be thus. Concrete Sam is the real deal.

Imagine a spectrum of self-delusion and pretension, if you will. Concrete Sam, tirelessly filling sidewalks by day and chirpin’ in third on the mean streets by night, is on one side of that spectrum. On the other side? Why, it’s the Hublot Big Bang.

 

As the Reagan era came to a close and the last vestiges of disco died screaming under the relentless, atonal attack of Kurt Cobain’s Fender Jag-Stang, America’s men came to a sudden, almost universal realization: it was no longer okay for men to wear jewelry. Of any kind. Almost overnight, gold rings and sterling-silver necklaces disappeared from the public attire of the middle and upper-middle classes. Perhaps it was the always-present “preppie” influence given additional teeth by post-Carter prosperity. I really couldn’t tell you, but it happened with the kind of speed normally reserved for a change in preferred tie width. It also appears to have been a remarkably durable change; even today, only our urban disaffected wear gold chains. Even such harmless staples as the high-school class ring went from mandatory to horrifying tout suite.

Still, there was one piece of jewelry a man could wear: his watch. This made watches “hot” all of a sudden. The default watch on which one could visibly spend money was the Rolex, so everybody bought a Rolex. But once everybody had a Rolex, wearing a Rolex meant nothing. The “Holy Trinity” of watchmakers — Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audermars Piguet — boosted their prices into the stratosphere to ward off the proles, scarcely understanding that only the (ex-)proles had that kind of money anymore anyway. The demand for new and unique luxury watches far exceeded their supply. What happened next was an odd sort of pre-Cambrian watch explosion as old factories were reopened, meaningless old names were dusted off, and heritages were invented with the sort of free-wheeling fictional license typically reserved for a salesman’s resume. Ulysse Nardin, Bovet, Panerai: out of the Swiss graves and onto the wrists of the oligarchs!

One of the more offensive designs of the Luxury Watchpocalypse was the Hublot “Big Bang”. The recipe for a Big Bang is simple: take the same movement one finds in a $500 Hamilton Jazzmaster watch, put it in a case which is a grotesque, oversized knock-off of Gerald Genta’s designs (full disclosure: your humble author owns a titanium Ingenieur, designed by Mr. Genta), then add a ten-dollar rubber strap to pay homage to Hublot’s “heritage” as a twenty-year-old maker of rubber-strap watches. The resulting watch is “worth” ten thousand dollars or more and is worn by such persons as Bernie Ecclestone (who did an advertisement after he was beaten and robbed of his Big Bang by some watch-ignorant thug who probably overlooked a JLC Master Compressor on the wrist of the guy next to Bernie) and Diego Maradona.

The Big Bang is the perfect “luxury watch”. Its worth consists solely of its price. It is cheap to make and contains cheap parts. Its manufacturer doesn’t even bother to fabricate a “heritage” the way the brand-disinternment crowd does. The only reason to wear a Big Bang is to advertise that one can afford to wear one. Plain and simple. They aren’t even well-made within the confines of their modest technical brief; at a very rainy Petit LeMans a few years ago, a good friend of mine endured the agony of watching his Big Bang Carbon’s face cloud up with internal condensation from an improperly-sealed case. Fifteen grand for a watch you can’t wear in the rain! Luckily it never rains in the Moscow EDM clubs or at David Guetta’s Ibiza DJ-in-residence gigs, or the Hublot would be entirely worthless. Hublot’s razor-sharp sense that a Big Bang is only valuable because of its sticker price finds its most sublime expression in the “Big Bang $3m”, a Big Bang which was loaded with enough diamonds and other junk to not-really-justify a price of three million dollars. Apparently someone was willing to buy it, which caused Hublot to release the “Big Bang $5m” this past year in search of the proverbial bigger fool.

Not everyone is so readily fooled, however, so Hublot and other watchmakers are busy CAD-creating their own “manufacture movements” to replace the generic ETA/Sellita/Valjoux movements found in their products. In this, the Cretaceous period of watch enthusiasm, the ability to engineer and manufacture one’s own mechanical watch movement is essential for “credibility”. Not that the genuine prestige watchmakers all used their own movements anyways, but there’s a certain amount of Cadillac-at-the-Nurburgring idiocy going on: Rolex makes their own movements, and they are a respected brand, so we need to have our own movements as well, even more complicated and feature-packed, and then we will be more respected than Rolex.

There’s just one little problem with that strategy. The proliferation of quick-bake “manufacture” movements is creating an entire generation of hugely expensive, amazingly complicated, completely “bespoke” watches which will be impossible to fix. Most watch repairmen can fix the ETA 2892 movement found in affordable Swiss watches, and most watch repairmen can fix a Rolex because they are numerous and well-documented, but can anybody fix a Grand Complication Tourbillon watch from some company which was in business for three years, selling watches at $150,000 a pop to Chinese entrepreneurs, before going bankrupt and disappearing?

Of course not. These watches, which can’t match a eleven-dollar Taliban graduation watch for accuracy, are also imperfectly ticking down the seconds to their own deaths. That’s good! They are even more perfect as luxury items than the original Hublot Big Bangs, because they are ephemeral. There’s something unpleasantly Protestant about a Rolex, you see. One might wear it for a lifetime, or buy it used, or simply purchase it affordably on the used market and enjoy it for a long time. It isn’t a perfect statement of immediate, current, present wealth. A Rolex or Omega might cost as much as a Ulysse Nardin, but how can one be sure that one just bought it for a large sum of cash on the barrelhead? It might be old, or refurbished! It isn’t a true luxury good unless it expires, the same way a trip to Spain expires, the same way a week in a five-star hotel expires. Only then is it completely unnecessary, totally flashy, utterly ephemeral.

My Porsche 993 is like my Omega Speedmaster Broad Arrow. I bought them both lightly used for a fair price. I’ve maintained them, had them refurbished when necessary, kept them up to spec. They both appear reasonably new, even though they are not. I expect to give — or leave — them both to my son, who will take the uncomplicated ignition key of the Porsche and the polished wooden box of the Omega some time around his eighteen birthday, I expect. Neither is a simple machine, but they are well-understood and can be fixed correctly when required. Neither is a marker of wealth in 2012, and they will be even less so in fifteen years. There’s a simple, mechanical, tangible pleasure in touching and using them both. They exist as worthwhile objects in their own right, farther and farther away from sociological meaning as the years pass. They’ve also both stopped depreciating.

My Boxster S, on the other hand — well, the other day, I heard it groaning. Oh, how it moaned as I drove around the Wendy’s parking lot. Off to the internet to find out that the Boxster is known for eating power steering pumps. It also requires that the fluid be frequently topped-off. I confess that after just 42,000 miles on the car I hadn’t considered its power-steering needs. The power steering pump is $375. Quite a bit of money for something that can’t last 42,000 miles. If a Hyundai Accent had a power-steering pump failure at 42,000 miles I’d call it an unreliable piece of shit. Still. I’d better fill the reservoir and see if that helps.

I’ve detailed the steps below to check the power steering fluid on a 2004 Boxster S. I want you to read them, and consider what Porsche’s own opinion was of the Boxster’s likely durability when they designed the car. Is this a car which will persist for thirty years?

  • Unlatch the top and open it to the approximate half position. At this point, the metal cover for the top will be cantilevered away from the body and the fabric top will be half-folded.
    Reach into the car and find the snap-ball connector which keeps the top attached to the body. This piece feels flimsier than a Suntour derailleur clamp. Pop it off.
  • Go to the other side of the car and do the same thing.
  • There is a plastic/vinyl sheet which is held taut by the top mechanism on one side and two cheap looking plastic clips on the other. Unlatch the plastic clip closest to you. DO NOT BREAK IT. If you do, your top won’t work any more.
  • Go the other side and do the same thing.
  • On the passenger side of the car, push the now-freed glass rear window up and reach down until you find an electrical connector, similar to a computer hard-drive connector. Squeeze it to unlatch it.
  • There is one plastic rotary latch on each side of the top of the carpeted subwoofer. Yes, you have to remove the subwoofer to check the power steering fluid. Unlatch your side.
  • And the other.
  • Lift the subwoofer assembly out of the car. Don’t scratch your $3,600 GT Silver paintjob. Put it somewhere on the ground.
  • There are four more rotary latches to undo on the carpeted panel beneath the subwoofer. Unlatch the ones on your side.
  • And the other side.
  • Lift this flexible carpeted panel out of the car. It’s nice to have help to do this, by the way.
  • Now you’re confronted by a plastic/metal panel sealing the engine compartment. This, at least, has metal fasteners. Unlatch the fasteners on your side.
  • And the other side.
  • Lift this panel, which weighs about 25 pounds, off the top of the car without scratching or damaging anything. Put it somewhere. Again, nice to have help at this stage.
  • The power steering fluid filler and dipstick is at the very edge of the engine comparment. Unscrew and check.
  • Perform all the steps in reverse to reassemble. Be exceptionally careful about the snap-ball connectors. They have a limited lifespan.

Thirty-two steps. To check the power steering fluid. In a car that is well-known to require checking of that fluid on a frequent basis. If you actually need to replace the power steering pump, prepare to enter a new and exciting area of Hell itself. You’ll be lucky if that’s all you have to do. Boxsters are notorious for melting the very lines which carry the fluid to the rack. The lines are more expensive than the pump and require massive disassembly to replace.

My power steering reservoir is empty. My Porsche dealership no longer carries the appropriate fluid, since this 2004 Boxster is a very old car by the standards of people who only expect their watches to last a few years. The nearest shop to have it is on the other side of the city. I’ll refill the reservoir tomorrow and see what happens. It might fix it. It might be just the first stop on a multi-thousand-dollar adventure, on a car which is still depreciating at considerable speed and which, I remind you, has under three years’ worth of use on it by commuter-Hyundai-Accent standards.

I’ve been reading the Paris Auto Show coverage. Most of it was written by people who were flown to Paris by a manufacturer or an exceptionally generous media conglomerate. These people will never own a Porsche. They certainly won’t ever have to take personal responsibility for diagnosing and fixing one. They swallow the sewage-like PR poured down their throats about how wonderfully “upscale” and “luxurious” and “desirable” the Panamera and the 991 and the others are. They don’t ever stop to consider what it means when a company requires thirty-two steps to perform a basic fluid check. Many of them don’t even own cars. Very few of them could fix a car themselves or even perform an oil change.

Modern Porsches, just like the Hublot Big Bangs and their ilk, are ephemeral. Fleeting. Fake. Faux. Luxury. Junk. The pleasure of purchase is all you get. After that it’s a full-tilt rush to buy the next thing. Their Eloi owners won’t think about the Morlocks who own, maintain, race, and enjoy old Porsches. We don’t exist to them. They are simply chasing the next brightest thing. An unfixable watch, worn to a meaningless meeting and left in a disposable “luxury” car. We know it’s luxury because they tell us so, with every press release, with every five-star hotel used for the first drive, with every Chinese-sewn-junk branded polo shirt left on the hotel bed.

The old Porsches, the old Mercedes-Benzes, they had some integrity, some value for the Morlocks, for the third owners, for the hobbyists. They endured. They were like old Rolexes; expensive to run but durable by design. That’s no longer desired, if it ever was. Today’s “luxury” car is just like today’s “luxury” watch. The value of the thing is the price, the presence, the heavy flame-surfaced tank-like offensiveness of an X6 imposing your prosperity on your neighbor’s fragile psyche like a heavy gold chain worn around one’s neck a thousand years ago.

It won’t last. It cannot last. It is a house built on sand. I want to believe that the tide will turn, that we may value vehicles once again for their integrity, their construction, their durability, their real-world performance. The day may come when the Panamera’s successor meets the same icy disdain among the upper-middle-class as the downsized Fleetwood did in 1985. The purveyors of instant junk may push too far, too hard, dare too much, fly too high, crash too hard. The ultimate status symbol may become an old 560SEL, that million-mile aerosedan from another era. It may become the 993, that perfected expression of the air-cooled ethic. It might be an E34 BMW M5, the last six-cylinder gasp of the true M-car. Aw, hell. It could be a C6, for all I know. Concrete Sam could wake up and find that, against all odds, the Vette now gets them all wet.

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142 Comments on “Avoidable Contact: the watery Big Bang, the 32-step power steering fluid check, disposable faux-ury....”


  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    VL:DRIA and so many points one could comment on…

    I’ll just leave it at I liked most of what I read.

    Btw, isn’t an OEM obligated to provide service parts for ten years in the USA? Isn’t the p/s oil a service part just like a switch or sheet metal is? If they say no, ask them to show you the absence of a part number relating to that service juice.

    • 0 avatar
      Lt.BrunoStachel

      A common misconception or “myth” as I would call it. I can’t find a good link to reference it to but in “real word” terms the OEM only needs to supply parts and service so long as to satisfy warranty requirements. In other words if the vehicle was under a warranty, not an extended service contract, than they would have to have the parts available. I sell parts for a living. I can’t tell you how many times people walk through the door spouting off how I’m supposed to sell them crap to fix a 20YO POS.

      Which leads me to ask….Don’t all Porsches use the same type of PS fluid?

  • avatar
    Dukeboy01

    If you have to ask how many steps it takes to check the power steering fluid in a Porsche, then clearly you can’t afford it. Having never ventured into any place fancier than a Honda dealership, I have to imagine that if you start asking routine maintenance questions of your salesperson at a Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, or other luxury dealership that they would find some way to show you the door.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      Having never ventured into any place fancier than a Honda dealership, you clearly have no clue about owning a Porsche. Or the demographics of Porsche owners. And how those demographics differ from the demographics of Ferrari or Bentley owners.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        vaujot – so explain it to us… Or don’t you know what you are hinting about?

      • 0 avatar
        vaujot

        @joeaverage: Not sure if you’ll read this but here goes:
        I was commenting on the allegation that if one has to ask for spare part prices or maintenance procedures on a Porsche, one can’t afford one. I own a Porsche and know a little bit about the Porsche owner community. While I do not work on my car, I do know a few Porsche owners who do. Like the guy who works at the BMW assembly line near Munich and restored a 928 in his spare time. I don’t think you’ll find something like that among Ferrari or Bentley owners. There may be a few owners of old Ferraris working on their cars. But I’d imagine those wouldn’t be folks working on the assembly line in a car factory but guys who run an independent Auto shop.
        Before buying a Porsche, I looked into buying a used Ferrari. One was a Mondial sold at a well-known Ferrari dealer for something like 25k EUR. The seller suggested that the car best be sold to a pro mechanic as his hobby car. Another prospective seller showed me his service bills. Then I knew that Ferrari ownership was not meant for me.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        vaujot/DeadWeight – probably has alot to do how hard won the money a wealthy person has.

        If you sweat for it then it is more dear. The wons liek this I know are just as frugal now as they were when they were poor. They’ll die with a stack of cash in a safe somewhere and their heirs will spend it willy-nilly.

        If it is easy come, b/c they inherited it from a frugal relative…

        or…

        If they were born into a job – Daddy has a successful business that Jr was given a job at and perhaps Jr has awful work ethic. Or perhaps a beautiful face gets a job in the entertainment industry and gets paid millions for a decade or so.

        - then those “easy come/easy go” people that I’ve known seem to be all about trophies. Yeah I probably over simplified it all. Trophies need to be flashy. They need everybody’s attention. Porsches are not that flashy. Ferrari and Lambos and Rollers are still very flashy around my part of the country. Everybody stares. These same “easy come/easy go” folks have the cash to hire the maintenance and repairs for a while until they run out of money. I know a dozen Corvette guys, several Porsche guys and two vintage Ferrari guys. They are all frugal, fix it yourself whenever possible kind of guys. A $2500 repair is a serious problem b/c they are all tight in their own ways.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I’ll give my take-a-way, though it wasn’t solicited:

      It may or may not be good to have far more money than brains (okay, it’s bad), but even if you think it’s good, baby, you’d better hope you never experience a precipitous drop in income (unlikely) and/or trust funds (more likely), because you will be up shit creek with no paddle, beeeeeyotch, since you never learned how to wipe your own ass let alone CHECK your oil, and all the tokens of cheap, gaudy conspicuous consumption, that were once perceived by some of your fellow morons as in vogue, won’t be, and you won’t be able to afford the new substitutes that displaced your current collection, rendering your old collection paperweights, because you bought the sales pitch rather than the enduring quality items, and even some of your more astute “friends,” assuming you have any, who were too intimidated to tell you what a DOUCHEBAG you are before, will be happy to finally let you know, beeeeeeeeeeyotch!!!!!!

      p.s. – There are incredibly wealthy people with brains. They bargain hard on price for things of true and lasting quality only, and dismiss notions of what others think, and are totally impervious to the half-witted commercialization and status consciousness that keeps others as paupers, while they retain and grow their wealth.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        “It’s only the trappings of aristocracy that I find worthwhile – the fine furniture, the paintings, the sliver – the very things they have to sell when the money runs out. And it always does. Then all they’re left with is their lovely manners.”

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      +1

      As with many things in life, if you have money, you don’t have to ask.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    Wow, I live and work right by where the accident in Columbus happened. Amazing to read an international site like this and see something that happened right by home mentioned.

    John

    • 0 avatar
      Robert Schwartz

      Baruth lives in Powell. We should have a Columbus Meet-up some time soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I’m easy to find; drive straight out of downtown Powell and look for the guy trying to hold a Boxster top up while refilling a power steering fluid reservoir with the other.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        And no doubt you’ll be cursing all the while. But Jack, if so much of “premium” market is ephemeral, then what actual quality is left. Is there nothing worth aspiring to beyond an MX-5/Mustang/BRZ?

        Ah well, I’m happy with my Seiko 5, and with the automotive equivalent as well.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Invite my friend Susan to the Columbus Meet-up. She doesn’t know much about cars, but she looks like Kirstie Alley’s younger, thinner sister and she really liked Jack’s green Audi. Susan will be wearing a short dress and cheap watch with a dog or cartoon character on it. She once summed up her feelings about fake luxury by giving a guy in a nightclub the nickname “gold sh**”.

  • avatar
    seabrjim

    Wow. Nice article, Jack. Eye opening to say the least. My neighbor (an old M-B mechanic)never spoke nicely about Porsche. Now I know why. As if the IMS debacle wasnt enough.

    • 0 avatar
      Otterpops

      Mercedez Benz spent the late 90s and early 2000s with the kind of reliability and maintenance issues that he’s talking about from his Boxster here. I haven’t been following that story since the mid-2000s when they were supposedly improving; maybe they still are.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This piece was done before in another iteration but its all still relevant. I’ve said it before elsewhere… luxury cars today are built to stay in one piece for the length of the average lease.

  • avatar
    segfault

    I would have been uttering expletives after the first step of the power steering fluid check procedure.

    Many modern cars are difficult to work on. I decided to replace the dried and cracked serpentine belt on my 2009 four-cylinder Altima. I removed the old one, but clearance issues prevented me from installing the new one. I bought the exorbitantly priced Nissan tool for changing a serpentine belt, which also didn’t work. Today AAA will be towing it to the dealer 25 miles away to let them deal with it.

    Edited to add: The Nissan has otherwise been fairly easy to wrench on. I have one of those vacuum oil drain gadgets and can change the oil and filter without lifting the car off the ground.

    • 0 avatar
      Larry P2

      On the other hand, the Boxster has a gorgeous interior.

      The C5 mulleted and gold-chained driver will reliably doing 3rd gear burnouts for 20 more years. And then the fourth or fifth owner will buy the a high performance crate motor from the local farm implement store, paid for with the one weekend’s winnings from the newest models of eurotrash.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      By sucking the oil out of the top of the engine – do you ever worry that there might be a sludge sitting in the bottom of the oil pan that your oil vacuum might not be cleaning out?

  • avatar
    el scotto

    You have to separate the wheat from the chaff. Good taste and design never goes out of style.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Whoa JB, I know how you hate to hear it, but that was a well written piece. Also accurate: here’s how. SkipBarberRacingSchool recently sent an email out to learn more about its potential customers. One of the interesting questions was whether “I” owned a luxury watch costing more than 500 dollars.

    Now what was Skip thinking there?

  • avatar
    photog02

    So much truth here- certain German cars were made to have indefinite service lives. Hence the notes in my former W124′s manual about lubricating the power antenna; take care of this car and it will be your grandchild’s.

    Likewise the comparison to “luxury,” which seems to have changed from something that endures through quality of design and execution to something that most people do not have enough available credit on their cards to purchase that month. That shift towards the superficial is making it difficult to buy actual quality or good design.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    That was a rather long walk around to make your point. Though you did make it well. And I agree with you.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    I just sold the last Porsche I’ll ever own. That brand has been going downhill since the 993 in my opinion. JB is right, Porsches are for rich posers who don’t even know which end of a 911 has the engine.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I got a little tour of the Porsche specialist shop Mantis Racing in Toronto a few years ago and echo Jack’s consensus on the Boxster.

    In the shop were a half dozen Porsches, Boxters and late 90s early 2000s 911s with assends torn apart, powertrains sitting on hydraulic tables for whatever service they were receiving.

    In the case of the mid engined Boxster, this type of service is not even remotely practical for the 99% of enthusiasts who could hope to enjoy one for a modest price. Jack’s description of disposable luxury is embodied in that car.

  • avatar
    Toad

    Good article; however I’d argue that Porsche is giving their customers what they want: the ability to say “I own a Porsche.”

    For most of their owners it has always been thus. Porsche has finally dispensed with fiction that the car has some long term value; Porsche and their dealers know they make all of the real revenue within the first 6 to 8 years of ownership; revenue after that drops like a stone and the (poorer) 2nd or (much poorer) 3rd owners just complain about parts and service prices.

    For most people a Porsche is a bauble. If you thought otherwise you were an outlier. Pretty soon you will be shocked that a Rolex does not have any more time keeping value than a Timex or Casio; it is just a few thousand dollars spent so the owner can say “I own a Rolex.” Your kid would be better off with a college/tech school fund.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      “Porsche and their dealers know they make all of the real revenue within the first 6 to 8 years of ownership; revenue after that drops like a stone and the (poorer) 2nd or (much poorer) 3rd owners just complain about parts and service prices.”
      Revenue =/= profits. Replacement parts is a rather profitable segment for the OEMs, so taking a long-term perspective, they’d be well advised to design their cars in a way that makes it viable to keep them on the road even when they’re old.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        I’d agree with you regarding most vehicles. However, Porsche may have perfected the planned obsolescence model with their products targeted to a specific customer base.

        Look at a Porsche the way a millionaire looks at a supermodel: highly desirable and beautiful to possess for limited amount of time, but much less beautiful and too expensive to maintain for more than a few years.

        The demand for supermodels is high and constant, it just shifts to the newest models while the older versions suffer cliff-face depreciation. Just like a Porsche.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Totally agree. My wife has an expensive watch, not thousands of dollars, but more in the range of hundreds. I have a $30 Timex from Target. Guess which one tells time accurately for years and without requiring constant attention?

    • 0 avatar
      GiddyHitch

      As far as watches go, spending more money typically gets you a more complicated, less reliable, and less accurate timepiece.

  • avatar
    Syke

    Somewhere along the line, sometime in the future I was seriously considering trading my 924S (130k, very solid, very reliable, maintenance has not been bank-breaking, I really enjoy the car) for a Boxster (it’s a roadster, something I’ve never owned, and I want one before I’m too old to drive anymore). You’re giving me very strong second thoughts on that idea.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      There have been convertible versions of the 944 S2 and the 968.

    • 0 avatar
      Gannet

      There’s a lot to be said for a C5, ignorant and outmoded stereotypes about Corvette owners notwithstanding. It’s a seriously well-engineered car, it received the award for “Best Engineered Car of the 1990s and Best Engineered Car of the 20th Century” from The Society of Automotive Engineers.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    Oh wait, because I forgot that Porsche itself is ephemeral. Didn’t the finance department blow up the whole knackwurst a few years back? Some kind of options trade that forced them into VW’s bosoms, and now there’s legal issues and lawsuits about attempted market manipulation?

    See a pattern here, volks?

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I inherited my grandfather’s Patek, but I wear a stainless steel Seiko (~$100).

    If you hold a Central OH meet up, I will wear the Patek.

    Good news bad news on Patek. They can service a 60 yro watch. But, only back in the old country, and it cost about the same as a good used car.

    Sadly, the days when you could find Hamilton Railroad watches in pawn shops for less than $100 are gone.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I too sometimes wear a Seiko 5 auto from back-before-my-day. Have a wind up Movado and Omega which each date from the 60s, but to be quite honest I frequently forget to wind them throughout the day and usually just stick with quartz.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckrs

      My brother has our grandfather’s railroad watch (Southern Railway engineer for 45 years – not the train driving kind). His Southern-issued nickel plated 32 snubbie went missing. As I understand it, it could be used to make sufficient noise to roust the hoboes and suggest to them that going away was a better decision than coming at’em – there was a remote possibility the .32 would do some damage.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        Chuckrs: Is the watch a Hamilton?

        I have read that most folks who are killed by the defensive use of a gun are killed by .22s. Apparently, accuracy is more important than power.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        Pot metal 22s with groove sights and 14 lb triggers have neither accuracy or power, but the most important factor in a high body count is affordability to the demographic that spends more money on their basketball shoes than their pistol.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert Schwartz

        That was a study of defensive uses. Not gangbanging.

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        Our august founder, Robert Farago, has a whole website about this sort of thing… but one of the reasons the .22 is deadly is because of the external (heel) lubricated bullet. The way the bullet interacts with human flesh causes a lot of infection. People also tend to pull the trigger more often with a .22, so instead of one “stopping” wound with a .45 that isn’t fatal, you have five .22 caliber holes creating septic infection.

  • avatar
    mcarr

    This article felt like a long, rambling conversation while sitting in a garage drinking beers. Or like a few stories my grandpa used to tell, and when he finally got around to the point, you realized he really wasn’t crazy, and he was tying the same nugget of wisdom from a lot perspectives.

    Loved it and completely agree. Today’s luxury is crap. I will always by substance over style.

    “Taliban graduation watch” made spit my coffee a little.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Excellent article Jack – thanks. At the suggestion of a friend who changes cars more frequently than some people change socks, I went to the local Range Rover dealer. The salesman couldn’t have been nicer and was very well informed. Interesting though, that he said “you’ll need to come see me again in three years if you buy a Range Rover because the maintenance will break you”. I grew up in a farm community where you bought the best quality you could afford and then took care of it and made it last. I hope I’m not the “last of the breed”, but I feel like a dinosaur because I want to change my own oil and expect a vehicle to last 10+ years. I think the new Boxster is beautiful, but perhaps not the best choice for me.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    It may be that, -after the German reunification- that Porsche decided to hire some of the engineers and designers who created the Trabant.

    Although this statement may be slightly unjust to the Trabant….

  • avatar
    Mrb00st

    Jack, you raise a number of interesting points here.

    This is why I wear quartz watches. A $40 Timex with more functions than I’ll EVER use at work, changing oil and mounting tires. It will even let you program in “occasions” to remind you anniversaries (I avoided an ugly skirmish thanks to this watch!), adjustable timers, all sorts of good stuff. It has an electroluminescent background light that stays on for 5 seconds, making it PERFECTLY legible at night – long enough to see hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, month. It’s waterproof enough – you can go in the pool or shower with it. The pushers (five of them) are large enough to operate with gloves, which I do. It’s clever, light, supremely comfortable, wonderful. It’s accurate to about +3 seconds a month.

    I have a few swiss quartz-movement victorinox SA watches which I like to wear when I’m not working. One of them is going on ten years old and loses between 5 and 20 minutes a day, even though the battery is fine. You have to reset the date every 30-day month. I have one fully mechanical VSA watch (a Seaplane XL) that I spent way too much money on, only to find that it doesn’t:

    -Keep time worth a shit. At all. +5 minutes a day, -10 another.
    -Can’t be set accurately. No “hacking” like most modern automatic movements. Once you wind it, it starts going. Can’t set the seconds.
    -No date. Really?
    -No visibility at night. There’s no radioactive or otherwise paint on it anywhere. Even though the hands are bright green.

    If you read on watch forums, the accuracy of these high-dollar automatic movements is absolutely terrible. I don’t understand why you’d paid so much more money for something that hardly does it’s job at all. Some of them are beautiful, but above all a watch must keep time. I’d say +5 seconds a month is about the maximum I find acceptable. It’s a watch, it has ONE JOB. How is it that my $40 (probably grossly inflated price) Timex does this hundreds of times better than a multi-thousand dollar Rolex/Panerai/Piaget/etc?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love nice watches. I would just prefer they had a quartz movement.

    Now on to cars.

    It’s funny that you can’t get parts for your ’04 Porsche. I can walk into my local BMW dealer and get literally ANY FRIGGIN PART I NEED for my 15-year-old E36. Anything. Most of it’s sitting on a shelf, actually. Intake elbow? on a shelf. main serpentine belt tensioner conversion from spring to hydraulic for the defunct part? One box, on a shelf. Water pump? I didn’t buy it there, but on a shelf. Window regulator? Ditto. Anything. how is it that Porsche doesn’t carry power steering fluid? I bet if you ask nicely you can get parts for your Sterling 827SLI from the Acura dealer.

    -James Mackintosh

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      You may find the history of the quartz timepiece interesting. The introduction of quartz almost bankrupted the Swiss watchmaking industry, because as you point out, it was more accurate for pennies on the dollar. I think people are still into mechanical watches though not because they are a better product, but they are still a hand made timepiece produced by actual craftsman, and not Chicom junk such as everything else produced today.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartz_clock

      http://www.spruancegroup.com/blog/bid/25960/The-man-who-saved-the-Swiss-watch-industry

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        Of course, Seiko and Citizen use quartz technology, and in Seiko’s case at least, have at least as much craftsmanship as the Swiss…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I have probably a dozen Seikos, mostly quartz, of various vintage. I particularly enjoy the 80s Miami Vice era thin SS dress models, despite the laughs had at my expense. I think they are stylish and until recently, could be had for a song on Ebay.

        A friend bought an ecodrive type Seiko two years ago at my recommendation. The materials seemed quite a bit different, if not cheaper looking, than my twenty five year old Vice City throwback. I wonder if they are still made in Japan?

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        As far as I know, they’re all still made in Japan, with the same level of quality in the movement. In terms of the fit and finish though, I think most are fairly mass-production except the Grand Seiko models, which are just pretty much watch nerd porn…

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        A good friend of my father’s was the North American president (or some similar title) of Tag Heuer in the 70s. They were seriously worried about quartz and digital. They actually didn’t anticipate people’s continued preference for analog compared to the cheap, effective and feature-laden impending digital watches.

    • 0 avatar
      Mrb00st

      28-cars-later: yes, it is interesting how the Quartz revolution nearly killed the big-name classic brands. Automatics and mechanicals and really complex movements seem to be making a comeback… now that the cell phone you carry constantly tells you the time quite accurately!

    • 0 avatar
      SpacemanSpiff

      My Casio G-Shock syncs itself with the atomic clock every night and charges via solar power. I always have the exact time and I can wear it in the gym, shower and ocean without worrying about it. Got it for around $60-$70 from Amazon a few years back and my mechanical and Swiss watches have been in the drawer since. I’ll buy another when/if it dies.
      What’s the automotive equivalent? I need one.

  • avatar

    John needs a Speedy Pro like Uncle Derek. $100 for a cleaning and oiling, no finnicky column wheels, can survive an 45 mph spill on a kart track…

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    When you have connoisseur publications that worship heritage, workmanship, and details, it’s hard to step back and see the forest for the trees.

    The cereal box quartz watch keeps better time than any tourbillon; a $500 loudspeaker designed to Floyd Toole’s NRC-principles will sound more neutral than a poorly measuring Nautilus or Grand Slamm; and designer clothes are ephemeral because fashion inherently involves messing with the status quo.

    Cars are last consumer good left in which I feel compelled to wallow in the daily drip of triviality. That’s why I’m here!

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Speaking of watches and watch movements, how is probably a great time to bring up the notorious Tag Heuer Caliber 1887, introduced in 2009 until eagle-eyed connoisseurs noticed that it was a re-finished Seiko 6S37 movement from 10-years ago. Ouch. Tag has never been the same since.

    To me, I never liked Rolex’s until recently. Too tank-like, to ubiquitous. I like them now, but not the new ones. If you go to respectable used watch shop (watch shop, not pawn shop!, a used steel case Date or DateJust of any vintage is not a bad proposition in luxury mechanical watches. Sort of like who I feel about old 911`s… I never used to like them until now either.

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    Everything wrong about today’s world wrapped up in a blog about luxury watches and a DIY on how to check power steering fluid. Excellent work, Jack!

  • avatar
    Advance_92

    Can you use Honda coolant in the Porsche? Everyone swears the stuff is magical.

    Regarding BMW dealers, for kicks I took the key from a 1972 Bavaria to a dealer to get it copied since I only had one and it was pretty worn out. They coped the number down and sent me a new working key for about $30. But it came direct to me from Germany after about a month.

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    The first time I had to peel back the top on a 986 it took about 10 minutes. Then I watched the youtube video of the guy doing it in a dress shirt in about 90 seconds. It takes me longer to pull the plastic covers off the bimmer to get to the engine’s fiddly bits then it does on the 986. Not to mention firewall access behind the seats or engine access underneath. In truth Jack, if you found getting to the top of the engine that difficult, there is probably nothing in there you should be touching anyway ;-}

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      It’s worth pointing out that the naturally aspirated Panamera’s engine bay is refreshingly conventional. The reservoirs are readily accessible and there are no obnoxious compartment covers. I didn’t see a dipstick, but then I didn’t look too carefully.

      • 0 avatar
        mattfarah

        the Panamera doesn’t have a conventional dipstick. It has a digital one, which I learned about upon getting an “oil level low” light after 200 miles of driving in a Panamera Turbo S press car. I refilled the oil, and it came on again 500 miles later.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I can do it pretty quickly now, too, and in the dark.

      What bothers me is that there are at least eight chances for something to break while you’re doing it. The little snap-ball connectors in particular terrify me. Mine are already palpably looser after perhaps six disconnections. And if any of them break, and you aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere where it never rains and you have a garage for night storage, you are screwed until you replace the ends — and there’s considerable difference of opinion as to whether the plastic or metal ones should be used.

  • avatar
    vaujot

    “My Porsche dealership no longer carries the appropriate fluid, since this 2004 Boxster is a very old car by the standards of people who only expect their watches to last a few years. The nearest shop to have it is on the other side of the city.”

    Jack, if I am not mistaken, a Boxster S needs power steering fluid of the specification CHF 11S. Hard to believe that a Porsche dealership wouldn’t have that in stock. That’s something you should be able to get at a Jiffy Lube shop.

    And a remark about the Porsche 986 and 996 in general: These models were developped in the early to mid nineties, when Porsche as a company was close to bankruptcy. I think that goes some way to explain why some of the engineering in these cars is not up to the standards one would expect considering their price tag.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      The dealer wants you to use 202 now. Mostly because the 987 uses it and “there isn’t enough difference” to matter. Some of the Boxster forum people seem to think mixing with 202 helps send your power steering pump to the grave even sooner. I sent Vodka McBigbra to O’Reilly Auto Parts last night to pay $22 a liter for the stuff instead of taking it in the face from the Porsche dealer for 202.

      You’re correct about the spec: note the “tags” in the article :)

      • 0 avatar
        vaujot

        let me guess: you don’t use 0W-40 viscosity oil in the boxster because some people on the boxster forum think that it may cause the RMS to fail?

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        I’ve been using 15w-50 because that’s what I always used in the 993, but apparently that’s bad too so I went to the 0w stuff with the last change.

      • 0 avatar
        AKADriver

        It’s ridiculous in its own right that a vehicle should have such exacting standards for a common component – power steering is not a new thing. My car’s power steering system requires… Dexron II. And it will likely outlast the Boxster’s (it already has 131,000 miles with nary a leak or groan).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have several cans of CHF 7S? and I believe one can of CHF 11S if anyone is looking for it, purchased these and some more misc chemicals from an independent Porsche/Audi shop when it closed. My Audi’s gone now…

      I also think I have Brembo rear rotors for late 90s BMW 3 and 7 series.

      • 0 avatar
        joeaverage

        I have 240K miles on my Asian grocery getter and zero power steering problems or noises. No fluid changes either. My other German grocery getter got 168K out of it’s power steering pump. No other related problems.

        Why can’t Porsche engineer something as trouble free? Big price tags ought to equal extra durability on mundane things like power steering or window regulators.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Jack,

    I have two vintage watches that I wear regularly. One is a stainless steel Tissot. The other that I’m wearing to work today is a gold Omega that came to me through my late father in law who may or may not have won it in a poker game.
    The inscription says

    Ron (last name too faint to read)
    for (xxx years) of
    faithful (service, I presume)
    Boro of Pottstown
    July 31, 19(6)9

    I’ve had this watch since 1986 and it’s never been serviced during my ownership. Still works perfectly. Better yet, it doesn’t need a new battery every year.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’d love a gold Omega automatic, sounds like you’re treasuring it.

      • 0 avatar
        Darkhorse

        I bought an Omega from a PX in Vietnam in 1968 as a gift for my father. When he passed, I refurbed it and gave it to a nephew when he graduated from college. He’s still wearing it.

        I heard from someone who the pre 80s Omegas were great but the company fell on hard times and now makes crap. Sounds like Porsche.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        @Darkhorse

        You’re probably right, whole Swiss watchmaking industry almost went away in the late 70s, the gentleman who founded Swatch bought out the brands and more or less saved the Swiss industry.

        http://www.spruancegroup.com/blog/bid/25960/The-man-who-saved-the-Swiss-watch-industry

      • 0 avatar
        Monty

        I own my father’s college graduation present, a silver 1948 Omega Seamaster automatic. When my grandfather purchased the Seamaster, he also bought himself a gold Omega Constellation, which I will inherit upon my father’s passing. I suspect that both timepieces are worth a small fortune, especially the Constellation, as it still has the original wrist-band and box.

        They’re both unadorned in bling, fairly thin and lightweight, and both keep perfect time. My grandfather bought them because Omega watches were among the best watches made, not because they were a status symbol. As an illustration, he could afford a Rolls-Royce, but preferred Packards, and then later Buicks, because they were far more reliable and less ostentatious.

        The value system of that time – buy the best you can afford and keep it forever – has been lost by the “Conspicuous Consumerism” generations that followed. C’est la vie, I suppose.

  • avatar
    Norman Yarvin

    Jack, I think you’d like Marc Weber Tobias’s article on genuine fake watches:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcwebertobias/2012/09/19/how-to-buy-a-fake-watch-in-turkey/

  • avatar
    86er

    “The default watch on which one could visibly spend money was the Rolex, so everybody bought a Rolex. But once everybody had a Rolex, wearing a Rolex meant nothing.”

    Hey, you just described Cadillac.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      +1

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not a Caddy guy or even a GM guy, but is is somehow sad to see Cadillacs handed out at rental agencies.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’m glad someone else ‘gets it’. Cadillac in 2012 is pretty much Oldsmobile in 1960: nice near luxury for middle/upper middle class but not very special. “Somebodies” don’t drive Cadillac at this point.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        I had a “luxury” reservation with Hertz (I think) a couple of years ago. They let me pick from several vehicles–an MKX, a C70 convertible, an older Prius, and a base model 2WD Escalade with nav. I picked the Escalade and felt like a complete tool for the first couple of days. It was easy to drive for such a big vehicle, though. Had I arrived at the rental counter fifteen minutes earlier, I could have gotten a G37, which would have been my first choice.

  • avatar
    aristurtle

    “Sports Car That Is Both Mid-Engined And German-Designed Has Hilariously Onerous, Frequent Maintenance Requirements.”

    Well, damn, I could have told you that. But then I wear that aforementioned ten-dollar Casio F-91W and drive the automotive equivalent (a Toyota pickup).

    (Also, I would probably lump the entire mechanical watch fad under your ‘Hublot’ side of the scale, but I’m not trying to pick a fight.)

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t get expensive watches at all. Then again, I don’t get watches period. I usually know what time it is to within 5 minutes anyway, and I always have a cell phone on me. And a $5 Timex keeps better time than the best mechanical watch ever made, so what is the point?

    As to the difficulties of maintaining a mid-engined car. Well, uh, duh. The engine is in the middle, which is why it handles so delightfully, but is thus very difficult to get at. TANSTAAFL always applies though. I am sure part of why they melt PS bits is all the heat trapped in there – no Hyundai ever had that issue. Sure Porsche could build it better, but then the price would be even MORE insane and you would bitch about that.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Yeah I don’t get the watch thing either. I appreciate craftsmanship not doubt but my computer tells time, my machine shop plus office both have wall clocks, there is a hallway clock outside my door and my car has a clock. I don’t carry a cellphone either. I have one watch, a pocket watch given to me at graduation from college. Couldn’t begin to guess the brand. Only carry it occasionally and I much prefer a pocket watch over a wrist watch.

  • avatar
    david42

    Jack’s article is giving me a hankering for a Mercedes w116. (Just a regular 450SEL, no 6.9 for me.) A shame that so many came with automatic climate control.

  • avatar

    “with every Chinese-sewn-junk branded polo shirt left on the hotel bed.”

    Hey, nothing wrong with logo apparel, folks pay me good money to put their logos on shirts. That polo shirt, btw, was more likely to come from the Caribbean or Central America than China. I just checked a couple of boxes of blank shirts. The Gildan tees are either from Honduras, Haiti or El Salvador (though Gildan still makes tshirts in Canada too). The baseball caps were from China.

  • avatar

    As long as I’ve known much about cars, the Porsche of my world was the Porsche of your Boxster.

    …which is to say, things have been this way for a long time now. To me, modern German manufacture is synonymous with 4 year expiration and un-serviceable design.

    The Concrete Sam comparison is apt, as while I know a GM product won’t necessarily be as good or perfectly durable, I’d much rather own a 5-30 year old CTS-V or Vette than its German contemporaries.

    Do you believe any automaker left who currently makes the equivalent of your 993?

  • avatar
    typ901

    Sorry Jack but this is one where the comments are better than the Editorial. Awesome pool we have here.

  • avatar
    LuciferV8

    Well, Jack, that’s they way it has always been. The Eloi amuse themselves with the shiny new toys they just dumped a boatload of cash on, and us Morlocks pick up the prettier examples for a fraction of that amount a few years down the road. The cars that aren’t built to last but which still retain good styling and performance potential will be rebuilt and re-engineered by the likes of us. Think about the cottage industry of re-powering kits for old Jags and Porsches using modern, cheap, and reliable GM/Ford/Chrysler V8′s. That’s where your Boxster/Cayman is eventually heading.

    If not you, if not me, if not Concrete Sam, then some other Morlock who isn’t afraid (or unable) to turn a wrench will retrofit that sucker with the right parts at some point in time – or the car gets turned to scrap. Either way, the circle of life will continue, and I am perfectly content to let it do so. If anything, I want the posers to purchase as many of the nicer vehicles as possible. They keep taking the depreciation hit, we keep taking valuable bits.

    I know you are concerned with the repairability of fancy, bespoke systems, and so am I, but there are several natural constraints on that issue, including the cost savings of a parts bin shared with mass market models (i.e. Toyota I4 and V6 powered Lotus models), the ability to do engine swaps (For example- the aforementioned repower kits), and the fact that if a car is built flimsily enough, even the Eloi will notice (and they hate, hate, hate coming in to the shop for just for service, let alone repairs).

    The bottom line is this:
    Since you are already using the allusion, can you remember what the precise nature of the relationship between Eloi and Morlock was?
    The next time you see a douche or debutante (who will never touch a wrench in their pampered existence) roll past in a finely styled piece of machinery that daddy bought for well over MSRP, sit back, relax, and remember that meal time is just around the corner.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Very dark comparison, just what I would expect from the Prince of Darkness.

      However will the Porsche/Jags/Benzes of today even lend themselves to accept plebeian power-trains given the computer controlled, plastic fantastic, all-the-way-to-the-year-2000 nature of these automobiles… not even to mention ManBearPig controls?

      • 0 avatar
        LuciferV8

        Can you root an iPhone? Back in the day, people freaked out that that the advent of EFI would mean the end of hot rodding.

        Where there is a will, there is a way.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        Yeah, there will be a way. I wouldn’t worry about that.

        Don’t get scared for all the BS acronyms employed nowadays. I found recently that some of the basic stuff hasn’t changed.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Personally I’m eying up a late C4 or C5 Corvette, I think its pretty much the best value for the money in its segment, with no need for a replacement drive-train.

  • avatar
    racer-esq.

    “I want to believe that the tide will turn, that we may value vehicles once again for their integrity, their construction, their durability, their real-world performance. The day may come when the Panamera’s successor meets the same icy disdain among the upper-middle-class as the downsized Fleetwood did in 1985.”

    Some people DO buy Miatas, MR2 Spyders and Corvettes. Nobody has to buy a Porsche. I know, it’s sad, Porsche used to make cars that were reliable and easy to repair, at least by German standards. It no longer does. Guess what, Porsche is not the entire automotive industry. Hurry up and trade that Boxster for a C6 before the IMS fails.

    The Boxster should be built well, even though it is not, since it is a second car that a person may want to keep a lifetime. But there is no reason for a daily driver like the Panamera to be built to last. The 1980s Mercedes and Volvos that do last forever are death traps compared to, for example, a 2013 Sonata. No upper middle class or wealthy people want their families riding in a death trap when the dirt bag street racer in a GTO loses control.

    • 0 avatar
      vaujot

      “Porsche used to make cars that were reliable and easy to repair”

      I am not sure that’s true, especially the easy to repair bit. Perhaps if you compare them to English or Italian competitors. There are quite a few people using Porsches as their daily drivers especially here in Germany. In my neighborhood in Frankfurt are several Porsches parked on the street and obviously used for daily driving. That includes a few 993s. But you rarely if ever see Ferraris or Maseratis used in this way.

      Still, try changing the sparkplugs on a 964 or 993 and you’ll see that easy to repair is not the right term. I think more accurate would be saying that the earlier cars were made sufficiently well that it was worthwhile to keep them running. Looking at how the 986 and 996 interiors age and considering the risk of a motor blow-up that’s part of the design, that may no longer be true and used car prices for these models bear that out.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Let me just say: “Seconded on all points.”

    This is one of the reasons that I am planning my trip from NM to OH this summer to pick up the 1967 Mustang that sleeps in my parents garage. 40+ years of ownership by various testosterone fueled males in the family couldn’t kill it and it now certainly deserves a “refurbishment.”

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      May I humbly suggest a pair of bunk beds, a beer fridge and a TV for your garage. Wife knows you’re in the garage and your friends won’t have one-truck accidents.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    I’ve worn a watch religiously since I was in junior high; I feel naked if I leave the house without it.As a twentysomething, that makes me a bit of a minority today.

    I’ve slowly worked my way up to the ~$150 Seiko that I’ve been wearing for the last few years. It’s nothing special, but I see no reason to have something fancier. It’s not a Rolex or Tag Hauer or whatever, but where I come from, a Seiko was always a very nice watch. My watch does everything I need it do and to anyone who isn’t a watch snob, it gives the impression of being more expensive and prestigious than it really is.

    My Volkswagen GLI accomplishes a similar feat. It’s an excellent car for my needs, I’ve been repeatedly told by others that “It looks like a BMW or something,” and has decent badge appeal of its own (nevermind the reliability).

    The fanboys hate to hear this but, Porsche and every other purveyor of sports/luxury/prestige cars panders almost exclusively to the nouveau riche, and I don’t blame them. And why not? Fickle, taste-challenged people with money to burn are what keep the lights on, not the internet trolls who diatribes about how real Porsches are air cooled (no offense, Jack). The laughable out-of warranty quality of German cars is acceptable because 90% of the people who buy (or, really, lease) them will dump them for the latest and greatest long before then.

    I’m not rich and I doubt I’ll ever come close. I’d love to own a Porsche someday, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. Even the maintenance on an old 993 or 944 just isn’t worth it to me.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    I drive the antithesis of the Boxster (Jeep Wrangler) in that it it supremely serviceable and parts are cheap and readily available. It’s important to me to be able to perform maintenance and repairs myself and not be held hostage by the automotive service industry.

    I also have an Omega Speedmaster Professional (moon watch) and it’s one of my most prized posessions. It needs an overhaul at this point and I’m considering sending it to the mothership in Bienne since opinions about the US service center are all over the map.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      My experience with Omega service in Switzerland was outstanding. My Broad Arrow looked like it had been dropped down the side of a mountain when I sent it to them and it came back looking new. They even straightened the dings from where I hit the bezel against a rollcage during a pretty bad crash.

  • avatar
    Mark_Miata

    Having just spent some time researching the possibility of buying an older 911, it seems to me that Porsche almost never built cars that were designed to last. The early ones rust, the 1970s ones have engine and fuel system problems (exploding air box, anyone?), and the 1990s ones have complex drivetrains that fail in interesting ways. Let’s not forget engine issues – bad timing chain tensioners, leaking head gaskets (or leaking heads with no gaskets at all), head studs that pull out, bad valve guides – or bad clutches and weird shifter feel. From what I can tell, the 911s made between 1984 and 1989 seem to be pretty nice, but even those have AC systems that couldn’t keep ice cool in Alaska without a expensive retrofit with modern parts.

    At least you get high performance and a driving experience with a 911 that makes up for the negatives, as long as you don’t lift the throttle in a corner. In contrast, expensive mechanical watches seem exceptionally stupid – not only are they inferior in terms of function to quartz digital watches, they cost far more. To me, they are nothing but fashion statements, and pretty dumb fashion statements at that.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I think thats’s why Singer gets so much journalistic hero-worship. It takes the Porsche fanboys love, and then builds it properly. It also costs a fortune, which heavily limits the number of willing customers (creating massive additional snob appeal).

      If someone built a Miata or a Mustang to Singer-levels of obsession then we’d be really on to something, but I doubt there’s a customer base out there for a $50-60k Miata/Mustang that takes that approach.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    Wonderful. That is all.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “I want to believe that the tide will turn, that we may value vehicles once again for their integrity, their construction, their durability, their real-world performance.”

    When you were a kid, odometers usually had only five digits. If there was a sixth digit, it was for measuring tenths of a mile.

    There was a reason why they didn’t bother adding the hundred thousand indicator. You are nostalgic for a past that didn’t happen. Cars today are more reliable than ever, and they usually last quite a bit longer. By today’s standards, even of the most reliable cars of yesteryear were pretty crap in comparison.

    You do point out the problem with the Boxster, though — it has all of the flaws of a Porsche, but without any of the virtues that make it collectible and worth keeping. The 911 may not be any better mechanically, but if you fix it, you’ll probably get most of your money back when it comes to sell it. At the end of its life, you’ll be as inclined to restore a Boxster as you would be to restore a Nissan Sentra.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Just when I’m ready to give up on Baruth, he nails it. Ole!

  • avatar
    PenguinBoy

    Excellent piece, thank you.

    “Its worth consists solely of its price. It is cheap to make and contains cheap parts.” To expand on that a bit, at one time luxury goods were distinguished by quality of construction, materials, and design. The difference in appearance between luxury goods and mainstream goods could be fairly subtle, and the luxury goods themselves could be somewhat understated in appearance. Nowadays one of the main points of differentiation is having an aspirational brand – so many “luxury” goods have a blingy appearance and cartoonish oversized logos, so they can easily be recognized at a glance by the great unwashed.

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    Sounds to me a bit like planned obsolescence. So how long do you think people will continue to think Porsche VW and other german makers are such great vehicles?

    I also see this as an opportunity for for other manufacturers, the only question being, will they take advantage of it.

    Imagine if Toyota or Honda came out with a mid engine sports pseudo luxury car that was easy to service, rock solid reliable and drove excellent. I wonder how that would do.

  • avatar
    robc123

    interesting take on the boxster- so is it your contention that those true delta stats are wrong? As well as that porsche messaging that came out a while ago about how porsche is urging porsche owners to drive more, as your primary vehicle.

    total BS about how porsche is any good?

    I agree about the crap luxury, but there is a small demographic that buys quality and associates that with luxury and the satisfaction derives from knowing and using quality stuff.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Jack, you been reading Gibson again? I loved how this read as if written from the middle out. I’m sorry you had a crappy car servicing experience, but it that’s what inspires pieces like this… At least brand P didn’t go completely V.A.G. and tell you that the fluid is now only available as a service bundle with a new pump and hoses. (yes VW, I’m still bitter about the flame-arrester valve becoming a glued on part of the intake)

  • avatar
    mkirk

    This is why my FZJ80 Land Cruiser is the newest 4×4 that will grace my driveway. I don’t think it took 32 steps to do the 60k rebuild on my front axles. It, like old Porsches is a machine that is built to last indefinitely and as such is built to be maintained. My friend rides an old BMW motorcycle and feels the same way. He rode a newer one for a while and complained that every now and then he would literally have to reboot the fuel injection. He’s back on an airhead of some sort. Some people still appreciate that sort of thing.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    This entire article and comment thread brings us round to Persig’s Metaphysics of Quality.

    The problem is that Quality or Value cannot be empirically defined. Quality is something perceived before it exists. And once thing or being does exist, Quality or Value only exists in the experience of it.

    In the end, Persig contends, Quality or Value evolves, gaining even greater levels of Quality.

    And in that, TTAC’s tame racing driver has hit upon the a major disconnect in our gilded age: Those things which we attach the meaning of Worth have ever decreasing levels of Quality in the experience of them.

    This is unsustainable in Persig’s view. For more on the subject, I refer you to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as well as Lila.

    Maybe someday, this subject will be taken up again in a book titled Zen and the Art of Boxster Maintenance: There is No Substitute for Quality, I Don’t Care What You Charge.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    I just finished reading this article and its comments and just wanted to say: I went to google in another tab more times reading all this than I ever remember doing, mainly to look up watches mentioned. Very interesting stuff.

    I have yet to find the watch that speaks to me and is fully functional so I continue to wear $20 digital from Walmart. My biggest complaint about luxury watches: too busy and not lighted for night visibility (and glow paint that fades after a few hours doesn’t count). I miss the simple Timex Indiglo I had, in the early 1990s when they were relatively new and simple. But the movement and the glow had separate batteries and one of them (IIRC, the glow one) was not replaceable.

  • avatar

    almost 300k on the e46. the new f30′s make me cry. not with desire, but unhappiness that the plastic is thin, the metal tinny, and the interior fittings clearly cheaper.

    The only issue the e46 has is a quart every thousand. Small price to pay.

    I know how the W123 folks feel now…

  • avatar
    Kaosaur

    My sensibilities must be fairly protestant…

    Here I am with the 25 year old car that is simple but expensive to maintain and a Rolex Air King that’s older than I am…

  • avatar
    cfclark

    I just stumbled across this story in the course of reading this morning’s (10/15) Baruth Porsche article– this is another Baruth classic. I too, have pondered the gradual acceptance of flashy, cheap junk as a stand-in for quality.

    My own watch is a 12-year-old Baume & Mercier my wife gave me as an anniversary present. It was somewhat expensive (though in the low four figures, not five or six), but it’s not grotesquely flashy or huge as men’s watches tend to be now (When did it become acceptable to wear a watch the diameter of a dinner plate?). It is my everyday watch, and it will remain so until it’s stolen or destroyed somehow, or until I hand it down, because it was a gift from someone I love.

  • avatar
    MA128

    Jack – excellent essay and beautifully written – until the “anyways” in paragraph seven.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Heh heh, the PS pump in the Borman 6, had a deathly sounding knock when it was unloaded. It was loud, but never leaked. All it needed was a tweak on the wheel to quiet it down. It was still doing it at 350 k miles. The Elves in the Black Forest knew how to build a car. And, Yah , I faxed a copy of the registration to the parts guy in a dealership. For 25 $ and a week’s wait, I had a brand new key with a light in it. Cut from the VIN in Germany. It was to celebrate the car’s 20th birthday.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    Last night after hours in my shop, I changed my engine oil and filter and also rotated my tires (non-TPMS) on the ’07 Focus, in under 30 minutes. I am curious as to how long this would take on the Boxster? How many fist punches in the sheetmetal would occur?

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    Re: one of the 1st postings on this thread…

    …” I knew the Ferrari wasn’t for me”… when I saw the previous owners repair bills… OK lets see… is this why we will NEVER win another war? My god! What are we turning into?

    Just because the owner of an overpriced car gets raked… doesn’t mean 1) the car was a POS…or that
    2) the repairs were actually needed or done at
    an honest price.
    Let me see… its a Ferrari… so that must mean that the starter is attatched to the engine using titanium bolts that need the oil pan to be removed to access them
    Let me see… its a Ferrari… so that must mean.; the alternator needs the front suspention to be disassembled to access the alternators mounting bolt (oh sorry: thats the 1988 Accord isn’t it?)
    Let me see…Its a Ferrari… so it has spark plugs made of solid gold and are used by no other engine ever made… its a Ferrari so it uses a fuel pump only made for that years Ferrari…and it has gasket material that can only be ordered thru NASA…GFC already!

    I mean really… a Ferrari is just a machine, it doesnt take a genius to work on it… and it isnt all that hard to work on… and if anyone with half a brain wants one… just buy the dang thing and fix what goes wrong… when it goes wrong… and be damned with the previous owners silver lined file detailing each and every repair where he got taken. Man up already.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Better late than never: I never gave this essay the true credit it deserves. It’s one of the best essays on TTAC or automotive-related essays I have ever read anywhere.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    It’s 4:36 am eastern standard time on a Saturday.

    I just read this essay again for what must be the 50th time.

    It’s that good.

    I also noticed some new and outstanding comments from the B&B have been added since my last foray here regarding cars, watches & other things that are relevant to the topic at hand.

    This essay should be required reading for students entering the 9th grade & individuals taking the U.S Citizenship Exam (it ranks in importance alongside the Bill of Rights, IMO).

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Just a VW is considered the “gateway” to the German car experience, Porsche, particularly with the 911 (and probably the Boxster/Cayman twins as well) is the gateway to automotive exotic toy experience.

    Compared to toys like a Ferrari, a Porsche is not that expensive, the maintenance costs are not that high. For such a vehicle, the car has pretty good storage space and could definitely be a daily driver. Not that any of that matters. Toys need only be objects of desire and that desire is rarely rational in terms of basic automotive function.

    The breakdown comes with the second (or third) owner. They got a bargain priced car, but an old Porsche is still a toy. Age does not change the basic character of a car. Unfortunately, expectations of a used Porsche differ from that of most other toys. No one expects an old Lambo to ever stop being a toy, but expectations are that an old Porsche will somehow be different. I’d offer that Porsche makes a well engineered toy, especially compared to an italian exotic, but that is faint praise. Toys will be toys, no matter what age the toy may be.


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