By on August 5, 2013
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Having detailed previously both the ultimate and proximate causes of how I ended up – by choice – with a nearly 20 year old Porsche 911 as my sole vehicle, the next logical step is to chronicle the highlights (and lowlights) of the ownership experience.  If you suspect that the high-maintenance, although not particularly high-performance car would begin to fade into the background of modern life through daily use, you’d be mistaken.

I often tell my friends that it’s the only material thing I’ve ever owned that hasn’t let me down, and they often respond with incredulity.  It has let me down – quite frequently and typically in expensive and embarrassing fashion – in terms of overall reliability, but I didn’t purchase it with the expectation of trouble free, appliance-like motoring.  I bought it to be entertained, to be involved, to be interested, to be thrilled.  I bought it to have fun, just like this Singer employee and his son.

Evidently the highs of ownership are winning, as I still have the car.

The Highs:

Porsche has long trod the line between exotic and pedestrian, especially in urban centers.  With the expansion of the model line to include cheaper, non-911 vehicles in the past 15 years, the shield of Stuttgart is now commonplace in most areas where you can buy Starbucks.  Indeed, Porsche themselves have marketed their cars as “Engineered for Magic Everyday,” selling the image that the cars are domesticated just enough so that corpulent dentists and balding accountants can drive theirs to work during the week and not be too exhausted to don pleather costumery and terrorize their gated communities on their Harley-Davidsons come the weekend.  If the modern, anodyne cars are magical in the mundane, then the old ones, with more immediacy and less refinement, are only more so.  After nearly 20,000 miles together, it’s still difficult to walk away from the 993 without more than a few second glances, even after my routine, 0.8 mile daily commute.

Screen shot 2013-07-24 at 1.34.02 AM

Atlanta-area car enthusiasts like to head north out of the city and go on “mountain runs” in the snaking foothills of Appalachia, and as a native son of them thar hills, I’m familiar with the roads and the police, so I’m usually game for a trip.  I generally prefer to go solo on early weekend mornings when traveling between my hometown and the ATL, but I occasionally do the group thing.  I have a friend who is also named David and also who also has a 993, and I invited him to accompany me on a large, 993-centric run that takes place annually on New Year’s Eve.  I’m glad I had a companion, as 993 owners tend toward AARP demographics rather than Gen X or Y, like the two of us, and it would have been awkward for me otherwise when the rest of our party reminisced about when their prostates used to work during our frequent pit stops.  When we weren’t stopped, the old guys were deceptively spry behind the wheel, hammering up, down, and around what became our private rollercoaster for the day.  It ended up being one of my best days of 2012, with nearly 300 miles covered on deserted, two-lane roads, a polychrome passel of Porsches ripping through North Georgia, leaving only a variety of flat-6 music and hot oil in our collective wake (save for a few water-cooled interlopers).  I’ll happily rearrange my schedule to make this year’s event.

 691682d1356982005-2012-north-georgia-mountains-new-years-eve-run-nye2012r92

 

691679d1356982005-2012-north-georgia-mountains-new-years-eve-run-nye2012r8

 

While the 993-specific camaraderie is great, another annual highlight and sacred calendar fixture is the Porsche Club of America’s Peachstate Club Race at Road Atlanta in late March.  The combination of unparalleled access to the facilities and the uniquely Porsche-themed entertainment result in most attendees being quite relaxed and approachable.  This dynamic might also be attributable to the gender distribution I’ve observed – the Club Race is about as close as you’ll get to the grown-up version of the He-Man Woman Haters Club without donning a green jacket.

 993 Off Track Excursion

 

There’s also some motorsports action taking place, too.  Although there’s little to be won apart from bragging rights, you don’t ascend to the rarefied socioeconomic class in which racing – and potentially crashing – a Porsche in exotic locales across the US wouldn’t place undue burden on personal finances or familial relationships without being a bit competitive.  Apparently some of the entrants had been psyching themselves up too enthusiastically beforehand, as more than one heat began under a surfeit of red mist, with embarrassing crashes on the pit straight.

 Club Race Cup Cars

Unfortunately the world isn’t primarily populated with car people, much less Porsche people.  Nevertheless, I make an effort to engage with anyone – automotive snob or noob – who expresses an interest in my hobby and passion.  This open-minded attitude has been the genesis of several friendships founded on mutual appreciation for car culture, and it has also provided fortuitous introductions to a few guys who know a little bit about driving Porsches, although I haven’t met Jerry.  Yet.  I took a collegiate friend for a ride recently, and he provided a succinct assessment of the car – “it certainly makes a statement about you, about what’s important to you.”  I’ll assume he means that it lets people know that I’m one of those car people, that I enjoy going to work, to Whole Foods, and to Barnes & Noble in something a little more engaging than a Honda Accord, that I enjoy driving for the sake of driving, that I’m willing to crawl out of bed before dawn to go for a spirited drive, that I’m willing to make non-trivial sacrifices elsewhere in life to enjoy the only material thing I’ve found that hasn’t let me down.

Readers who surmise that I’m a Porsche fanboi 4 lyfe should look forward to Part 2 – The Lows…

David Walton grew up in the North Georgia mountains before moving to Virginia to study Economics, Classics, and Natural Light at Washington and Lee University.  Post-graduation, he returned to his home state to work in the financial services industry in Atlanta.  A lifelong automotive enthusiast, particular interests include (old) Porsches and sports car racing.

 

 

 

 

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24 Comments on “Engineered for Magic Everyday? – Part 1...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Capturing “993” in the odometer…very nice.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    “I didn’t purchase it with the expectation of trouble free, appliance-like motoring. I bought it to be entertained, to be involved, to be interested, to be thrilled. I bought it to have fun, just like this Singer employee and his son.”

    You articulated the reasons I like fun German cars very eloquently (and own a 3-series with a 6-speed manual). Thank you.

    If I needed a commuting appliance that doesn’t suck, I’d get an Accord. Fortunately mass transit works for me for the daily commute to work and I mainly drive my BMW on weekends.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Stay tuned for Part 2…

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @ Sam P and David Walton – Indeed. I also own a 3 series with the 6 speed and while I constantly question what the car costs me to operate, when I drive it, it all seems worth it, especially if anything resembling an open road is involved. Your closing thought summed it up well for me since I’m in your age range, I blow a bunch of my $ at Whole Paycheck, I did cross shop Honda Accords, and I’m ended up with a more than a decade old German Car:

        “I’ll assume he means that it lets people know that I’m one of those car people, that I enjoy going to work, to Whole Foods, and to Barnes & Noble in something a little more engaging than a Honda Accord, that I enjoy driving for the sake of driving, that I’m willing to crawl out of bed before dawn to go for a spirited drive, that I’m willing to make non-trivial sacrifices elsewhere in life to enjoy the only material thing I’ve found that hasn’t let me down.”

        When people question me about how it’s worth the $ the car costs me, I tell them it’s hard to put a price on the fact that no matter where I’m going or coming from, and whether those places were good or bad, I know the drive in between will always put a smile on my face.

        The main area of difference is that there’s a lot of poseur drivers of old BMW, so I can’t say I get instant respect. That being said, my car is a 4 door zhp, and it can be a bit of a secret handshake among those in the know. It’s fun to have random people come up and ask “is that a real zhp?”

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    I’m so torn. I evenutally want a Porsche, but the maintenance scares me, and so does the high cost of entry, even for a Cayman. While I love 911s, the Cayman S is what I really want. The non-S Cayman is somewhat reasonable on price, but for some reason, the S still commands a large premium.

    Sigh…First world problems.

    • 0 avatar
      lowsodium

      You also have to realize that when you search the forums you typically only hear about problems. So it always makes a car seem much more unreliable than they actually are.

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      SomeGuy,

      Make sure you read the sequel that should be up later this week. A used pre-facelift (“987.1″) Cayman S should be in the low thirties or so.

      If you find one with lower mileage, go for it. One day you’ll be dead, and you’ll be more likely to regret NOT buying the Porsche instead of the reverse.

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      My advice: run away. Quickly. My son bought a Boxster. Wow, they are cheap used! Because… MANY have IMS bearing problems… see the articles here on TTAC… same for the engine melt down problems of the ’74 to 78 Porsche with the 2.7 motors. Unfortunately, Porsche ignores owner complaints- very similar to my experience owning BMW vehicles. Yes, there are the “enthusiasts” who don’t mind spending $4,000 a year in maintenance. But, I have realized, I am NOT one of those folks who will ever be happy spending huge amounts of money, on what is, basically, still just a car… a fun car, to be sure… but still, just a car- and I can own an Acura Integra, and have JUST AS MUCH fun, for a lot less cash.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        My RX-8, which has been dead nuts reliable, handles like a Boxter, yet actually sold fewer units, will probably be the last “fun car” that I own.

        I make this statement as someone who is fortunate enough to be able to afford vehicles like Porsches, but as I get older, I’ve become increasingly dismayed (and aware) of the true cost of purchase, ownership, maintenance and other running costs of driving such vehicles, that are rapidly depreciating wealth sucking black holes, which is nothing short of astounding.

        My priorities have shifted.

        I can buy roomier, quieter, safer, smoother riding, more fuel efficient, more reliable and far less expensive and time consuming vehicles, saving myself a ton of stress, headaches & cash, and freeing time up to allocate to more rewarding life pursuits.

        For those who simply can’t love the less fast & furious lifestyle, and are willing to deal with the stress, headaches & massive expense, god speed; that’s what makes the world go ’round.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    “Everyday.” Common, unexceptional.

    “Every day.” Each day, recurring.

    Thank you.

  • avatar
    SimRacingDan

    Great article, though everything you’ve said seems equally true for Miatas… Aside from the recognition you get for driving a Porsche, what would you say the benefits of owning a 911 are over an MX-5?

    • 0 avatar
      David Walton

      SimRacingDan,

      I am actually somewhat qualified to comment on this, as my dad owned an NB for several years, and I drove it for awhile in high school.

      It is true that both cars are light on their feet, tactile, etc., and I’ve remarked more than once that both cars have great steering and good shifters. It’s also true that both have passionate enthusiast as well as non-enthusiast owners (status, runabout, whatever).

      The difference for me probably comes down to the intangibles of endurance racing history, specifically at Le Mans, and the iconic status of the 911 as the definitive, archetypal (but not necessarily “best”) sports car. Plus, the 911 is a bit roomier inside. I suppose it’s fair to say the 911 has gotten under my skin, just like a Miata (or M3, or Elise, or …) has for others.

      • 0 avatar
        ChrisCraft

        I am David’s old man. A wooden boat lover (see his earlier articles). There was a Miata NB (my third ragtop, #’s 1 & 2 being a ’59 Corvette and a ’69 Camaro) in my past, purchased so that David and his sister could learn to drive with a clutch. He mastered it; she didn’t. The Miata was sold and replaced with a Honda S2000. Huge difference, no regrets. Would I rather have a 911/993? At times, yes. But when I look at the upkeep costs, I’ll have fun with the S2K.
        In it’s previous life, the S2K was a garage queen: an ’06 with 17K on the clock. I plan to drive it for 10 years. It should still be relatively low mileage and unmolested, provided David doesn’t steal my keys.

        BTW, scion, your comments about the old guy prostate afflicted (which I am not) gentlemen reminded me of PL Newman’s comments years ago: “Old age and treachery will beat youth and determination every time”.
        Next time you go to Barnes & Noble, buy Norman Vincent Peale’s book “How to win friends and influence people”……………..

    • 0 avatar
      Atomicblue

      SimRacingDan,
      I can add a little insight into the Miata vs. Porsche comparison. My daily driver from 2006-2012 was a 1993 Miata, black and tan C package. I loved the car and it always put a smile on my face. It was not fast, but you just didn’t have to slow down in it. I ran a few autocross events with it over the years and had a great time.

      My biggest issues with the Miata were the interior size, lack of power, and the wife didn’t like it on the interstate (too small). I bought the car for $3200 and sold it 6 years and 60,000 miles later for $2500. Maintenance was not extremely expensive but it was fairly continual… clutch, clutch master and slave, brakes, tires, radiator, thermostat, water pump, timing belt, battery, new top (installed my self), all the usual stuff.

      I sold the Miata in April 2012 before I went overseas. When I got back this May, after a long decision process, I bought a 2001 Porsche Boxster S. The car had 89,000 mile on it. I flew from Florida to Georgia to buy it and drove it home. I’ve had it two months and LOVE it.

      I knew going in that used water-cooled Porsches are cheap to buy (I paid $11,000) but they are not cheap to maintain. I’ve done an oil change, air filter and front brakes on it myself. I also had the axles replaced by my indie mechanic (I knew the CV boots were shot when I bought the car). I also know about the IMS bearing issue, the rear main seal issue, the air oil separator issue and many of the other issues that can afflict the M96 motored Porsches. But I bought it any way.

      Too answer your original question from the Boxster (vs. 911) perspective, there are several practical reasons. It’s just enough bigger on the inside than the Miata to make a difference as a daily driver and big enough to make the wife feel comfortable on the highway. Then there’s the power. The Miata was 116 hp vs. the Boxster S at 250 hp. When I get on the gas, the sound is like nothing that’s ever came from any Miata. This thing just feels different than any other car I’ve driven, and makes me, as the driver, feel different.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniperBug

        I never actually got so far as to drive the Porsche. When I got an insurance check for a wrecked VFR, the goal was to buy something fun with four wheels. An early Boxster could’ve been purchased for about what my insurance check was worth, but I went for the Miata. Aside from a slightly – though, surprisingly, not that much – lower cost of entry, I knew the P-Car would be on a whole other level in operating costs. Tires alone are a significant factor, and that’s the least of it. Also, as Jack Baruth has pointed out, the Boxster isn’t a maintenance-friendly machine, while the Miata is as simple as a modern car gets, and most maintenance items are dirt cheap. I just got a set of V-rated ultimate high performance tires for about $450 installed. The joys of 15″ wheels are not to be underestimated, and I suspect that I couldn’t have afforded to do springs/shocks/sways on the Porsche, either.

        That said, I haven’t driven a Porsche. Maybe that’s sort of like not having taken a hit of crack, and I’m better off not knowing any better. I can’t say that I don’t understand the allure, especially of the rear-engined cars.

        • 0 avatar
          Zarf

          Last month we were getting the oil changed in our 2004 Miata. While there we test drove a 2013 as we are thinking of getting something new.

          We both REALLY want a new Boxster though.
          So, we left the Mazda dealer and went to the Porsche dealer to drive the two cars back to back in an effort to decide it the Boxster was twice the car ($32K, vs $59K).

          As nice as the new MX-5 is, we are going to wait until we can spend the money on the Porsche.

          My advice, if you like your Miata, DON’T test drive a Porsche. They are that different.

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    I have been a car enthusiast my entire life, my first car in 1967 (at 17 years old) was a 62 Alfa Guilietta spyder. I’ve owned almost everything used,Jags,MGs,TR6s,Citreons,Lancias,Lotus Europa,even a 356C with a factory sunroof, and a 914 but no 911 or modern era Porsche. I too would love to buy a new 981 Cayman (either base or S) but have been terrified by all the issues this car has in it’s short time on the market. The price is certainly not cheap(optioned up the way I like it) and what happens when the factory warranty is long gone? I tend to keep my cars very long (currently own a G35 Coupe for 10 years). I too am really torn because I love the looks as well as the driving experience, but am spoiled with the Asian experience of reliability (Infiniti and Lexus). What am I to do?

    • 0 avatar
      tjh8402

      @ Bocatrip – I think a question you have to ask yourself when making this decision is whether a car is the sort you will want to be driving for 10-15 years. I’m like you in that I like to keep my cars a long time. When I was comparing used variants G35’s to 3 series, one of differences I noted was there was a great spread between the G35s that were in good shape vs those that weren’t, whereas pretty much all of the 3 series felt solid and not like they were falling apart. Not saying your G35 is (sounds like you’d be the sort who’s isnt) but I felt more comfortable that the BMW would hold together and feel new(er) over the long term and more likely be the sort of car that I would want to keep for many years, even though the cost would be much higher. When determining whether an old car is worth sinking $ into, you do have to do some cost vs value analysis, but a car that feels like it’s falling apart but just won’t die (ie suffer major costly mechanical malady) is also not likely to be driven forever. The Toyota Corolla, Jeep Cherokee, and GM full size sedans from the 80s and 90s strike me as being of this sort.

      Do not be the guy I remember calling in to Car Talk with the rickety Jeep Cherokee with over 200k miles, whose wife told him as soon as the vehicle died, he could get a new BMW, and who was asking Tom and Ray the best way to murder the car, but in such a way that the death would not be suspicious (the conclusion, if I remember, is that there really isn’t any way to kill a 4.0 liter Cherokee, much less in a way that won’t cause suspicion of foul play).

      • 0 avatar
        Bocatrip

        TJH8402- Yes, I appreciate the solid feel an older European car still has over time if well maintained. I guess it’s really a matter of sacrificing some reliability for exclusivity. Owning a Porsche I feel puts one into that “exclusivity club” and with the Cayman at a fraction of the cost of the “super cars” (Ferrari,Lambos,Audi R8, Astons) There is no question about it….There is a trade off. Now I just need to acclimate.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I once drove a BMW Z4 coupe. I thought it was going to be something special, something neat….. I was really that impressed, especially with the interior which seemed pretty dull and cheap. I’m pretty picky on my car interiors. The car didn’t do it for me, granted, it was just the base Inline-6, and a automatic, but at the end of the drive, I just didn’t feel it.

    Then a few years later, and this is really going to piss some people off I’m sure, but I’m telling the truth here, I test drove an absolute base model 2012 V6 Mustang, fell in love, and bought it. Could not tell you a $20,000 difference between the two cars. The BMW is a bit smaller, maybe a bit more sport feeling as such, but I didn’t like how I fit in it anyways, and I’m not a large person, up or across.

    Driven a few other German cars, but they’re too old to hold much relevance. I’d like to drive a Porsche, give one a spin, maybe one day, but I just don’t see the worth in them, and that Ford is something I can work on, and keep going for a long time.

  • avatar
    traveller09

    As someone who owns a very low mileage 95 993 that I have had for close to 10 years now I really connected with your article. It is exactly how I feel when I plan a special day just to take it for a drive over the mountains or the smile it puts on my face when I am at work and I know when I leave I get to drive her. When I discover a fun stretch of road I make a mental note so I can bring back the 911 to drive it on. All of the other cars mentioned here are great cars, I have driven many of them, but unless you have owned an air cooled Porsche you will never understand. It is not about the spreadsheet comparison of stats and cost, it is about the pure joy it brings you to drive one. I know it is a mechanical object but it is one of the few cars I have ever driven that has a soul to it. I don’t drive it to look cool, in fact I don’t like standing out, but it is pretty cool when you take it for a drive and you get thumbs ups from little boys and 40+ year old men because they get it.

    Great article, I will be curious to read your part II because mine has been trouble free.


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