The Truth About Cars » 911 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 31 Aug 2015 13:00:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » 911 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Trackday Diaries: Eyes Up, Mr. Outlaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/trackday-diaries-eyes-mr-outlaw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/trackday-diaries-eyes-mr-outlaw/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 17:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1155017 You really can’t ask for a more pleasant, harmless example of schadenfreude than the recent, and well-publicized, decision by “outlaw” Porsche painter/sticker-applier/Vimeo-movie-star/used-clothing-retailer Magnus Walker to crash into his own car hauler. Nobody was hurt beyond his own sore back and no one besides Mr. Walker himself had any monetary loss from the incident. Heck, with […]

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walker

You really can’t ask for a more pleasant, harmless example of schadenfreude than the recent, and well-publicized, decision by “outlaw” Porsche painter/sticker-applier/Vimeo-movie-star/used-clothing-retailer Magnus Walker to crash into his own car hauler. Nobody was hurt beyond his own sore back and no one besides Mr. Walker himself had any monetary loss from the incident. Heck, with the extra publicity it might be a net gain for the dreadlocked whiteboy from the United Kingdom.

Which leaves us, the viewers, absolutely free to laugh and/or gloat about the whole thing. But if we want to take a minute to be thoughtful about it, there’s a more important lesson to be learned, and it’s not “OMG THE 911 IS DANGEROUS EVEN FOR THE MOST TRAINED RACING SUPERSTAR”.


There’s nothing I love more than Monday-morning-quarterbacking crashes, whether they are mine or someone else’s. If you disagree, and you’d like to watch a video where I nearly get my check cashed to feel better about it, here you go. You’re welcome. Yes, I was in pain for weeks afterwards.

I’ve watched this urban-out-of-control video a few times now. In the aftermath of the incident, when there were just photographs and no video available, there were a few theories coming from the momma’s-basement crowd, all of which can be disproven now:

  • SOME JERK PARKED A TRAILER WHERE IT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN, THUS ENDANGERING THE URBAN OUTLAW! Well, no: he knew the trailer was there. It was his trailer, reportedly.
  • HE WAS SWERVING TO AVOID SOME JERK IN A PAGODA SL! WHAT A HERO! Well, this is technically true, except for the minor detail of the Mercedes being in its own lane. In fact, had the Pagoda driver not had his eyes up, he would have been hit. It was his quick reaction to brake and move over that saved things from being worse than they were.
  • THE TEMPERATURE SUDDENLY DROPPED MAKING HIS SLICK TIRES DEADLY! Doesn’t appear to be the case. He knew the weather, the road, and the conditions.
  • THE 911 CAN KILL THE MOST EXPERIENCED DRIVERS! As we’ll discuss, this could have happened in a rental Mustang.

So that’s what didn’t happen. What did happen? Well, the video shows Magnus taking the most classic early-apex mistake approach possible to the corner. Were he a novice trackday student, this would be excusable. But he represents himself as being an experienced instructor and racer, albeit with the Porsche Owners Club which isn’t exactly real racing as actual racers understand it. So I’m thinking that he made a deliberate choice to enter the corner early. The only problem with this theory is that his entrance to the previous corner, which is also in the video, is total garbage and if one of my Green-group driving students did that we’d have a chat about it at lunch. But let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say he knew what he was doing.

I believe that the reason he entered the corner early was so he could unbalance the car and slide it on exit. This is the usual technique favored by drifters and everyone who has ever been asked to “slide for the camera”. He probably touched the brakes a bit then applied throttle to slide out. And that’s what happened.

So far, all was going well and good. But there was traffic in the oncoming lane. How he didn’t know that would be the case utterly escapes me. Maybe he told a friend to hold traffic — but that’s not the kind of thing on which you can rely. Most importantly, he should have been able to see what was happening before he got around the corner. It was completely flat.

To me, it looks like he came off the throttle too early when he saw the Pagoda and promptly started an oscillation that, after he panicked and stepped on the brake, resulted in a neat half-gainer into his own car hauler, which thankfully wasn’t lowering the ramp at the level of his neck. This has very little to do with it being an OMG AIRCOOLED OUTLAW 911 ON SLICKS YO. I see novice students make the same mistake in everything from Miatas to Mustangs. If anything, the rear engine probably saved his bacon a bit by getting the car rotating a bit faster away from the lady in the passenger seat, whose legal claim for pain and suffering would then be even stronger than it is now had they struck on his side.

So, dear readers, how could we fix this, given a time machine? Any of the following would do it:

  • Not driving like a total moron on public roads in the first place. This advice is easy to give but hard to take. If you love cars and you love driving fast, it’s hard to be too sanctimonious about this. Your humble author made a very similar mistake to Mr. Walker when he was sixteen, hitting a parked car with my “powersliding” 200SX.
  • Controlling the scene better. You’re filming for television, so block the road with another car and be certain you have open space. Chris Harris, Matt Farah, and the other video superstars understand this.
  • Plan your stunt. In order for Mr. Walker to be successful in doing his stunt for the camera, he’d have needed to be assured of a clear left lane ahead. I don’t know why he thought he would be able to slide the car and stop it in that space. No person with any experience would use that short of a run for a car-motion shot.
  • Take a practice run, without the reporter. That would have shown him how foolish the idea was and he’d just be fixing his own equipment now instead of talking to his insurance company’s liability guy.

But this next one is the most important, and it’s something that we all need to do, all the time:

LOOK UP. At all times. In every situation. Keep your eyes up to infinity focus and look ahead on the road. If you do that, you will almost never be surprised. Even if there is a car in your lane that you did not expect, looking ahead will let you save your own bacon like Mr. Pagoda SL instead of running into the other car at full military power and going to the hospital.

Had Magnus been looking up like a race driver, instead of looking at the apex like a fashion-clothing expert, he would have seen that the oncoming lane was full. He could have gone full-stop on the brakes, skipped the turn, and probably done nothing other than rip off his custom outlaw airdam. And he would have had to make some sheepish explanations to everyone. But he’d have had the satisfaction of looking ahead, seeing the incident, and avoiding it.

Very few of us have fuck-you-Los-Angeles money and an endless supply of aircooled cars to wreck. So when we’re on the street, we need to be even more careful than Mr. Walker. And remember what Gil Scott-Heron said:

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone
You can always turn around
.

Believe me, I know that lesson better than Mr. Walker, or almost anyone else, does.

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Ownership Update: Time To Buy a New (To Me) Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ownership-update-time-buy-new-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ownership-update-time-buy-new-car/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 12:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116777 Rather than begin in media res, let’s recap: I sold my first Porsche 911 (a “993” as they call it, which means it was built sometime from 1995 to 1998 and was the last version of the 911 to feature air-cooling; mine was a 1996) to a nice guy in Minnesota. The very next day, […]

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Marta

Rather than begin in media res, let’s recap:

I sold my first Porsche 911 (a “993” as they call it, which means it was built sometime from 1995 to 1998 and was the last version of the 911 to feature air-cooling; mine was a 1996) to a nice guy in Minnesota.

The very next day, my second Porsche 911 (a “997,” which means it was built between 2005 and 2012 and was intended to fix the ugly looks and perceived dubious build quality of its immediate forebear — the “996” 911, which was the all-new car that succeeded the above-mentioned 993; my 997 was a 2007 example of the hardcore GT3 variant) met its end after a teenaged driver failed to yield immediately in front of me, resulting in a collision.

With no means of transportation beyond the shared mobility lifestyle or MARTA, it was time to start shopping for another car. I didn’t really have a defined budget, so I considered cars across a fairly wide price range.

I consulted friends, acquaintances, enemies, frenemies, etc.; I even got input from Classic Car Club Manhattan and several “professional” journalists — whose acquaintance I credit to Mr. Kreindler — who’d driven many of the cars I was considering. Of course, I apologize for the stock photography below.

Alfa Romeo 4C:

Alfa 4C

I’ve long had a keen interest in Alfa Romeo’s 4C, but I hadn’t seen one in the flesh until this year’s Atlanta International Auto Show; if Atlanta’s Auto Show isn’t on your radar, it’s for good reason. Alfa Romeo didn’t have a booth or any scantily clad “babes” to populate said booth. Instead they had a middle-aged guy who would fervently and doggedly defend the 4C against any other vehicle, a handful of brochures with coffee stains on them, and … that was it. I asked him how I might go about test driving one — he’d take down my email and get back to me. I asked him about sitting in the car, or at least viewing the interior. Impossible, as he didn’t have the keys. Apparently Alfa has zero organization or support for the vehicle; I still haven’t seen one on the road yet. Not the best omen, although the new Giulia looks fantastic to my eyes.

So, no 4C for me.

Audi R8 V10:

Audi R8 V10

As I began to survey the landscape in front of me, the soon-to-be-replaced Audi R8 looked like a good value proposition, especially the V10 version equipped with a manual transmission, as the forthcoming generation of the R8 will not feature an optional manual. There was an attractively priced car (under $100k) at one of the questionable used car dealers that string along an industrial highway in Northwest Atlanta, just outside the Perimeter, so I called them and asked about the R8.

The salesman fit the typical stereotype one would associate with a “high-end used car sales professional;” he made an immediate attempt to ingratiate himself with me on the flimsiest shared commonality, he was extremely aggressive and pushy with respect to the potential sale, and he became enraged when I declined to pursue a purchase of the vehicle. Here are a few choice quotes:

“Hey bro, I know you got this cash; why don’t you go ahead and put 50% down before we do a test drive?”

“Bro this is what we call a ‘Justin Bieber’ car; when you’re driving it, most people think you’re probably Justin Bieber!”

“Bro this car drives so well, don’t it? Man, when you buy it, why don’t we go out to the strip club together to show it off?”

Despite the illuminating repartee I enjoyed with my chaperone, I was primarily concerned with how the car drove. It was quick, of course, and produced much more torque than I was accustomed to. The exhaust was quite loud outside the car, but fairly quiet inside the cabin. As for the vaunted manual transmission, I was unimpressed; the clutch was too soft, although the gated shifter was easier to manipulate than the similar setup in a Ferrari. Meanwhile, the steering was very heavy, but by no means feelsome. In short, the control efforts were very poorly matched. I only drove for a few miles on flat surface streets so I couldn’t provide any assessment beyond that.

Once back at the dealer I expressed my concerns: The car had no clear bra on the front and had dozens of small paint chips, there was a sizable chip on the rear wing, the tires were cheap non-OEM tires that were dangerously worn, and the “OEM Carbon Fiber Side Blades” were in fact cheap “Carbon Fiber” 3M wrap.

But there was another issue: A car dealer friend of mine ran an Autocheck on the car for me and discovered that it had been stolen and salvaged in the past. When confronted about this “minor” issue the salesman assured me it was just a paperwork screwup, not to worry!

I had all but forgotten about the R8 and my lamentable experience test driving one until the next weekend. After having departed a wrap party for a charity event, I went to a nearby bar to meet some friends of mine. Once inside, I turned around to encounter the (very) drunken countenance of the erstwhile R8 salesman, who immediately began berating me about the established etiquette in the high-end car sales industry; apparently test driving a vehicle binds you to purchasing the vehicle, regardless of whether or not you enjoyed the test drive or whether or not the car was represented accurately beforehand.

So, no R8 V10 for me.

Chevrolet Corvette ZO6:

Corvette ZO6

The Bowtie has made an obvious and concerted effort to capture customers from Porsche and other high-end, traditionally European marques with the latest generation of the Corvette, the “C7″. This is particularly the case with the new ZO6, which promises to outperform pretty much any other car on the road, save for the hybrid hypercar trio of LaFerrari, McLaren P1, and Porsche 918 Spyder. Chevy knows that the type of customer who will gravitate towards Porsche is concerned with things beyond performance value for money; they’re concerned with detailing, ergonomics, paint quality, panel gaps, fuel economy, the sound quality of the optional four-figure stereo system, and so on. Accordingly, the Corvette engineers have worked to make the car more refined and luxurious, while still representing a comparative value proposition that should make the typical 911 or M3 intender swing by the Chevy dealer for a test drive.

And that’s where the problem started. I called a few dealers and politely expressed my interest in sampling a new ZO6, preferably with the aggressive ZO7 package fitted; I behaved in the same fashion when scheduling test drives of high performance offerings from other, more “exclusive” brands. Apparently, however, Chevy dealers in metro Atlanta don’t want my business. I contacted several and, invariably, the salesman treated me with a level of contempt similar to that which a State Trooper might display toward a rapscallion perpetrator:

“*LAUGHTER*”

“Do you realize that the ZEE-OHH-SIXXX has SIXXX-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY HORSE POWAH?!?!? We don’t let ANYONE test drive these cars!”

“Son ain’t no bank gonna finance a kid on a Corvette.”

Etc.

So, no Corvette for me.

Ferrari, Generally:

Ferrari 550 Maranello

This one is not so simple.

The early Sunday morning performances each fortnight of the Scarlet Stallions at the hands of Michael Schumacher and his hand-picked lackey were a formative part of my childhood and adolescence. At one point in the past, I probably knew more about Ferraris than I do about Porsches at present, and while I’ve made pilgrimage to the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, I haven’t even bothered to go the new Porsche HQ just a few miles away from me in Atlanta. As I grew older, I realized that Enzo was all too right when he clarified that he was in the business of selling dreams, not cars; sadly, Noel Gallagher’s observations on the dreamscape are equally true: while we’re living, the dreams we have as children fade away.

I never had a moment’s pause about buying either of my former Porsches, but I haven’t yet been able to justify Ferrari ownership. The 911’s evergreen aesthetic and the age of my cars allowed me to laugh off comments about their expense (at least to the uninitiated; the initiated were usually more sympathetic to my consumption choices), but nearly any Ferrari would elicit uncomfortable conversations at every turn. Despite finally being able to afford several well-used Ferraris that intrigue me — 355, 430, 550 Maranello, to name a few — I could not use any of them as I’d like to and not get fired.

So, no Ferrari for me (this time around).

Porsche 911 GT3 (991 Vintage):

Porsche GT3 (991)

After all the strikeouts above, one of the local organizers who had arranged the GT3 Smoky Mountains trip that I narrowly missed in May offered me the opportunity to have a go in his car, which was a 991 GT3 (the “991” is the latest, greatest version of the Porsche 911, introduced roundabout 2012; it is widely anticipated that the facelift version — “991.2,” logically — will be seen at the Frankfurt Motor Show).

The car was very impressive, despite my skepticism regarding departures from the established GT3 recipe and incorporation of new-fangled technology. Although I wasn’t interested in purchasing his car — which he knew, as I was interested in some very specific options — I started shopping right away for a 2015 GT3. Shortly thereafter, I bought one in Maryland and had it shipped to me.

In the future, I’ll provide some more detailed ownership thoughts, following the format of my (surprisingly) well-received review of my last GT3 in order to convey what’s it’s like to own and use it as a sole vehicle/daily driver. And stay tuned for some news about my first track day in the car, along with the enigmatic, mercurial Bark M.

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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Bro, Do You Even Lift? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bro-even-lift/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/bro-even-lift/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1133017 Last week, our own Doug DeMuro asked the B&B for their opinion on the stupidest automotive feature. He then gave his personal opinion as to what that feature might be. I’m here to tell you why he’s completely wrong, and why he’s probably also completely right. Let’s review Doug’s suggestion for “stupidest automotive feature” right […]

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johnmido2

Last week, our own Doug DeMuro asked the B&B for their opinion on the stupidest automotive feature. He then gave his personal opinion as to what that feature might be. I’m here to tell you why he’s completely wrong, and why he’s probably also completely right.


Let’s review Doug’s suggestion for “stupidest automotive feature” right quick:

I’ve never really understood the purpose of this retractable spoiler. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you see it sticking out on a Porsche 911, the driver is just cruising down the interstate. That’s because the spoiler is designed to deploy based on speed, not driving style, apparently in some bizarre effort to keep your car on the road should you begin to experience the effects of a massive windstorm.

The funny thing is these spoilers are never adequately sized to actually do anything. They’re just there to be spoilers, so you can tell your friends you have a cool spoiler that extends out at speed as if you’re in a race car, when in reality the spoiler is the size of a license plate and it wouldn’t have any effect on any vehicle larger than a Hot Wheels.

Obviously Doug’s aiming for humor here, but as TTAC’s resident owner of a Porsche with a retractable spoiler, I feel compelled to defend the indefensible for a moment and to explain just why the retractable spoiler was such a brilliant idea at one time. And then I’ll have to admit why it’s not such a great idea now.

Let’s start with why you would want a spoiler at all. Consider, if you will, the airplane wing. You all remember how that works, right?

bernoulli

The air moving over the top of the wing has a longer path to travel. It therefore moves faster and creates a zone of low pressure above the wing. Since the pressure beneath the wing, on the flat surface, stays the same, the net effect is to lift the wing.

Having looked at the side profile of a wing, let’s look at the side profile of a proper 911.

911wing

You can clearly see how a 911, or any vehicle that approximates the shape of a wing, generates aerodynamic lift at speed. This aerodynamic lift reduces the pressure on the tires and reduces their ability to grip the road. Moreover, for reasons that it would take more than a paragraph to explain, the lift tends to be strongest at the back of the “wing”. For that reason, the original 911 tended to be difficult to control as high speed, because not only was it suffering a grip problem as speeds increased, it was also experiencing a change in the ratio of grip between the front and rear wheels. Today’s 911 GT3 has 245-width tires in front and 305-width tires in back, but the original 911 had 165-width tires both front and rear, leading to some genuinely troubling behavior once you got much above 80mph or so.

Porsche addressed this with the fastest early 911, the Carrera RS 2.7, by adding a “ducktail”.

1973-Porsche-Carrera-2_7-RS-sm

The ducktail disrupted, or “spoiled”, the wing-like airflow and caused an area of high pressure over the back wheels that helped reduce the overall wing effect. Note that a ducktail or any similar spoiler can’t really create measurable downforce. Its purpose is just to remove some of the lift. The first-generation Audi TT, for example, had a 911-style tapering rear. That shape reportedly generated about 140 pounds of lift over the rear wheels at 125 mph. After five people died in accidents that might have been related to high-speed handling issues, Audi installed a small lip spoiler to reduce that rear lift by about two-thirds.

Now let’s look at a 911 with a wing, as opposed to a spoiler:

1974-Porsche-RSR-Turbo-Carrera-Side-600x377

That’s a wing, you see. It creates measurable aerodynamic downforce on the rear of the car, increasing grip as your speed increases. Very few street cars have wings that increase downforce, although the Viper ACR sure as hell does; most street cars have spoilers that reduce lift somewhat. The difference between a spoiler and a wing is that cars with wings grip better at 150 mph than 50, whereas cars with spoilers do not grip as well at higher speeds. They’re just less troublesome.

Porsche’s justification for restricting the use of spoilers to the Carrera RS and, a few years later, the Turbo Carrera was simple: Spoilers are aesthetically impure and unpleasant, so they should be limited to very fast road cars. A 1970 911T was many things, but with only 125 or so horses it wasn’t fast.

The arrival of the 964-generation 911, with its 250-horsepower 3.6-liter engine, put the company in a bit of a pickle. It was pretty much as fast as a ’77 Turbo Carrera, if not a bit faster, so shouldn’t it have a spoiler out back? The obvious answer from an engineering and safety perspective was “yes”, but the aesthetic and marketing issue wasn’t as clear cut. While American buyers were big fans of “whale tails” and the like, making cars like the paper-tiger Carrera 3.2 “Turbo-Look” big sellers, Europeans supposedly preferred the clean look of a slick-tail 911. The largely mythical high-powered German businessman, using his 911 or S-Class or BMW as an alternative to high-speed rail across West Germany, was still a powerful enough archetype to swing product-planning decisions in the pre-tech-boom, pre-Russian-capitalism market.

So Porsche came up with a solution. The 964 looked like a standard 911 at rest, but at freeway speeds it would deploy just enough spoiler to bring rear-end lift within safe parameters. It’s really a brilliant idea. Doug’s note that the spoilers deploy at odd speeds is, I believe, an effort on the part of Porsche to prevent the deployment of a spoiler from being evidence that the driver was speeding. You really only need the spoiler at 80 mph or above, but in a country with a 65 mph speed limit, that’s problematic to have it deploy at illegal velocities.

Having driven a variety of Porsches at relatively high speeds, I can personally attest to the effectiveness of the retractable spoiler. The photo at the top of this article shows me and my son doing about 100 mph on the back straight of Mid-Ohio. He was only three years old at the time so I was anxious not to kill him. The rear spoiler makes the handling of the 993 very predictable and safe — from a perspective of rear-engined sports cars, anyway.

Why doesn’t every car have a retractable spoiler? Well, most cars are designed in a wind tunnel to minimize lift nowadays, something that didn’t happen as much in 1963 when the original 911 bodyshell made its debut. And most cars are far more wedge-shaped than a 911. Still, it’s worth noting that non-Porsche cars with the same sort of boat-tail rear, like the current AMG GT-S, often feature an active rear spoiler. The VW Corrado, another car that pioneered this feature in the late Eighties, almost certainly didn’t need it, being wedge-shaped and already featuring a small lip at the end of the tailgate — but what the hell, it was fun. It’s not uncommon to see NASA Time Trial Corvettes with a “Gurney flap” bolted on to the rear deck. The Gurney flap is a more aggressive kind of spoiler. The current Corvette, when ordered in Z51 form, comes standard with a Gurney flap.

Like Doug DeMuro, I have little patience for people who use the button to keep the spoiler deployed. But I’ve found a justification for having the button around: When there’s a cute girl working the drive-through at Wendy’s, you can deploy the spoiler while talking to her as a conversation device. If you think this has never gotten a Porsche driver laid, you’d be wrong, although it makes enemies more often than it makes friends.

As to why current Porsches, which are wind-tunneled to a fare-thee-well, feature the retractable spoiler, I think I covered the reasons for that a few weeks ago. The “base” 911 is now associated with a retractable spoiler, so that’s why the Panamera has one and why the Cayman has a tiny one. But we’ve long since abandoned the idea that the 911 is purchased by steely-eyed German company directors who like to do 250 km/h in a rainstorm. It’s safe to say that pretty much everybody who buys a 911 today would like to have actual racing wings on the thing. The only reason they don’t all have wings is because that’s how they get you to pay more money for the car. There’s no way the fixed wings on the GT3 cost more to make than the retractable arrangement on a base Carrera 2, but we’re talking about a company that charges you more to not have a convertible top on your Boxster.

So the retractable spoiler is technically sound, but it’s socially stupid — which makes Doug wrong, and right. But as for me and my 911, we will continue to prefer it. Perhaps the best comment I ever heard about the feature, however, came from a female friend of mine, a former stripper and escort, who was driving behind me on the freeway years ago and said to me afterwards, “Well, that car’s just like a girl: when you want to hustle, you got to stick your ass up.” Now that’s smart, right?

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Money Isn’t Everything: What an $8,500 Porsche 996 Really Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/money-isnt-everything-what-an-8500-porsche-996-really-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/money-isnt-everything-what-an-8500-porsche-996-really-costs/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129177 About two months ago, I purchased my fourth new-to-me car in as many years — and I still had two of the previous three. Of those three, one was purchased for adventure (a 1977 Porsche 911S that I drove cross-country and back nine days after purchasing it), one because of nostalgia (a Honda S2000, I […]

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Porsche996d

About two months ago, I purchased my fourth new-to-me car in as many years — and I still had two of the previous three. Of those three, one was purchased for adventure (a 1977 Porsche 911S that I drove cross-country and back nine days after purchasing it), one because of nostalgia (a Honda S2000, I bought one new and missed it), and the third due to reputation (an Acura NSX, I had never even driven one before buying this one online). Those reasons must be the foundation for some sort of automotive cardinal sins list.

However, I bought the fourth one because it represented such a good value. It was a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera with about 146,000 miles. It hadn’t had the IMS bearing replaced, but I figured that with such high mileage it probably wouldn’t have an issue. Is this foreshadowing? The seller was a friend who had owned it for about two years but had purchased a mid-eighties 911 Targa recently and didn’t want the ’99 as a daily driver any longer.

Painted a pretty medium blue, the 996 was equipped with a beige interior and GT3 wheels. It drove well and — except for mediocre clearcoat and worn leather, a ‘check engine’ light that appeared intermittently, and a blown speaker — it was a solid performer. I certainly didn’t need the Porsche (nor did I have the space), but at $8,500, how could I go wrong?

Also, I’ve always been of the opinion that anyone who buys a new [insert shitbox automotive appliance here] is an idiot. I read “You Gotta Be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” and agreed with the article.

“Baruth,” I thought to myself, “you nailed it.” But he missed something important, too. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Porsche996c

My friend and I went for a test drive and then we met up on a Sunday morning for coffee at Deus Ex Machina, in Venice, CA. He signed the title and I signed a check. $8,500 for a Porsche 911. Boom. What’s a Toyota Corolla? I just bought Zuffenhausen’s finest.

On Monday, I called my insurance agent to add the Porsche. “Hmmm. It comes up in my system as a Porsche Boxster.” I frowned. “No, it’s a 911,” I replied.

“Maybe the DMV just has it wrong. But it is a convertible, right?” she asked.

“No, it’s a coupe.”

“Could you go outside and compare the windshield VIN with your title, please?”

Now I was nervous. This was cutting into my valuable automotive journalist cereal-eating time. I walked outside under a bright, blue Los Angeles sky and almost dropped my cereal. The VIN on the title and on the car didn’t match. On closer inspection the title also had the wrong license plate number.

“Let me call you back…”

I called my friend immediately and told him what was going on. He told me that he used to have a 1999 Porsche Boxster that was totaled and that he had probably given the shop that bought it the wrong title.

“Let me call you back…”

After a quick phone call to them, he confirmed this was the case. We met again a few days later to switch titles. The Porsche was now insured, but still not registered.

That was a whole other headache because when my friend gave the shop that bought the wrecked Boxster their half of the title, he mailed his half in that stated that this shop now owned it. Except they didn’t. They owned the 911 because he had mixed them up. Now he’d have to write a letter to the DMV explaining the mix-up. He wrote it promptly and sent it over. In the meantime, I drove the Porsche around enjoying its torquey flat-six, thinking, “Yeah, it’s been a bit aggravating, but it’ll work out. And after all, I got an eighty-five hundred dollar 911!”

Porsche996i

A couple of days later, I went out to run some mundane errand. I jumped in the car, fired it up and lowered the windows. Except the driver-side window didn’t drop smoothly. Then, when attempting to roll it back up, it jammed and stopped — crooked, half-way up. I opened the door and tried guiding it.

“I’ll just use the air conditioning.”

(Don’t forget: This is Los Angeles. We don’t have real seasons.)

Air-con is on, let’s go! Oh. What’s this? A warning light. The check engine light came on again. I was used to that one by now, but now the airbag light was on too.

“At least the car was cheap,” I nervously muttered as I released the clutch.

Following all the registration issues, my threshold for nonsense was much decreased. I had now owned the car over three weeks, but had only driven it about a hundred miles. I called my friend again. It’s at this point that I began to suspect that he had realized that he’d sold me the car for far less than he could get from some joker in Cleveland. He offered to buy the car back for what I had paid.

I told him that I’d like to have it checked out, see what the airbag issue was, and that I’d let him know how I wanted to proceed. He graciously offered to pay for the repairs as he didn’t want me to be pissed. I took it to the shop and they called back the following morning.

“There’s an issue with the airbag wiring harness and also, ummm, the car needs a new window regulator.”

“OK… how much will that cost?”

“Well, we also put it on the rack and there are a few other issues… the clutch will need to be replaced within the next 5000 miles and the water pump is leaking pretty badly. Also, the tie-rods are damaged and there are a few cosmetic issues inside the cabin. Oh and…”

“Let me call you back…”

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My friend and I met up the following Sunday. I handed him the title and he signed a check. In total, I “owned” the 911 for twenty-six days. The IMS bearing didn’t fail during my ownership stint. There were no hard feelings on either side. He’s happy that he can make more money off of it and I’m happy to be rid of the registration issues and mechanical faults.

Which brings me to what Baruth missed. Being rich or privileged isn’t enough to own a cheap car. All those trust-fund enthusiasts — who can’t believe the masses drive around in $10-15K Camrys, Civics, and Altimas — would do well to realize how fortunate they themselves are. Not simply because they can purchase “cheap” performance cars and feel superior to the poor Versa-driving shmucks (“Man, you don’t know what you’re missing! Just get a cheap sports car…”); but because more than the pure financial cost is the amount of time you have to be able to waste attending to issues that invariably pop up.

How much time did I squander between trying to register the Porsche, buying and selling it back, and taking it to the shop? Please don’t tell me. I’m fine spending some money on cars because you can always earn more, sell something, etc… But my time? That is a limited, decreasing asset and, as a car guy, I’d rather spend mine driving.

POSTSCRIPT: You may have noticed that the accompanying photos are not of a medium blue Porsche 996. No, they’re of a GT Silver 40th anniversary 996. That’s because my friend worried that this article might affect his ability to sell the car and hence didn’t allow me to photograph his car (and I didn’t shoot it while I still owned it). But I didn’t want the story to run with one crappy instagram shot so I turned to the forums where a good Samaritan stepped in.

You’ve got to have eye candy, right?

Yoav Gilad is the Principal and Co-Founder of Screen Cartel, a content and production agency. He also has a personal automotive site dedicated to bringing the thrill and romance of cars and travel to the enthusiast, KeepItWideOpen, which has at least two fans: his mom and his wife. His dad doesn’t care for it. He is a car designer by training and was Petrolicious’s managing editor before branching out on his own.

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Steve McQueen’s Air-cooled Porsche Turbo Up at Auction http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/steve-mcqueens-air-cooled-porsche-turbo-auction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/steve-mcqueens-air-cooled-porsche-turbo-auction/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 18:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1121249 The last car the King of Cool custom-ordered will be up for sale next month in Monterey, California. Mecum Auctions (via Autoblog) details the 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera (sold here with the internal type number — 930 — in its name) that McQueen ordered shortly before he died. The 3.0-liter, air-cooled turbo 911 will be […]

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The last car the King of Cool custom-ordered will be up for sale next month in Monterey, California.

Mecum Auctions (via Autoblog) details the 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera (sold here with the internal type number — 930 — in its name) that McQueen ordered shortly before he died. The 3.0-liter, air-cooled turbo 911 will be sold for charity, with proceeds going to Boys Republic, a nonprofit school for at-risk teenagers in Chino Hills, California.

According to Mecum, the car was fitted with a switch to kill the rear lights if McQueen was being chased down Mulholland. That’s so cool.

The Porsche came from the factory with a few other goodies that would make the car intensely desirable, even if it wasn’t, you know, Steve McQueen’s old car.

The slate gray Porsche sports dual mirrors, a sunroof, limited-slip differential and black sport seats. When McQueen took possession of the car, he fitted it with wider rubber, but left most of the car in true-to-factory spec. The original tag with McQueen’s custom-ordered slate gray color is still riveted to the door jamb.

The listing doesn’t specify how many miles are on the clock, but does say the car has changed owners several times since McQueen sold it back to the dealer, including singer Dean Martin’s son, Paul. The car was refreshed in the 1990s and has complete service history.

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Audi Confirms Turbos in Future Editions of R8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-turbos-future-editions-r8/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-turbos-future-editions-r8/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 20:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116665 Future engines in entry-level Audi R8s will be inevitably turbocharged, Audi executives told Motoring (via Car and Driver). Instead of replacing the 5.2-liter V10s found in the 2017 R8 standard and Plus models, the boosted V6 from the upcoming RS4 (or maybe a turbo five cylinder?) would slot below the naturally aspirated models. “It is inevitable that […]

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Future engines in entry-level Audi R8s will be inevitably turbocharged, Audi executives told Motoring (via Car and Driver).

Instead of replacing the 5.2-liter V10s found in the 2017 R8 standard and Plus models, the boosted V6 from the upcoming RS4 (or maybe a turbo five cylinder?) would slot below the naturally aspirated models.

“It is inevitable that we will go to a turbocharged motor for it at some point. It would be in this model cycle, to give us a fuller range,” Ulrich Hackenberg, who sits on Audi’s Board of Management as a technical director, told Motoring last month.

The standard V10 in the 2017 R8 already churns out 540 horsepower and the Plus edition creates 610 horsepower. Instead of any power gains, the turbochargers will likely be present to boost torque and deliver more of it at a lower end of the RPM range, Motoring speculates.

Already automakers such as Mercedes-AMG, Porsche and Nissan offer turbocharged versions of their cars with more twist than the 413 pound-feet offered in the R8’s V10. The 911 Turbo (486 lb.-ft. or 523 lb.-ft.), AMG GT S (479 lb.-ft.) and GT-R (463 lb.-ft.) all have force-fed engines.

According to the report, the current-generation R8 that will go on sale in the United States next spring will get the turbocharged engine, but officials didn’t say exactly when it would make an appearance.

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Ownership Update: The End of a Porsche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ownership-update-end-porsche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ownership-update-end-porsche/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 14:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1088793 Much has changed since I last had the opportunity to humblebrag on TTAC. My good friend Derek has monetized the skills he developed and honed here into an actual, real-life job in the automotive industry, and I’ve gone from owning two Porsche 911s to owning zero cars — at least temporarily. Keen readers will recall that I […]

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GT3 Damage

Much has changed since I last had the opportunity to humblebrag on TTAC. My good friend Derek has monetized the skills he developed and honed here into an actual, real-life job in the automotive industry, and I’ve gone from owning two Porsche 911s to owning zero cars — at least temporarily.

Keen readers will recall that I bought a Porsche 911 from the halcyon days of the mid-1990s just over 3 years ago. September will mark my 993’s 20th birthday, and when it was originally delivered on Halloween in 1995, I was trick-or-treating at the local bank with the rest of my first grade class. During my stewardship the car never failed to generate acute, intense emotional responses; I’ve loved, adored, and cursed the car at various times. For all those nostalgic reasons — as well as the pricing dynamics of the air-cooled Porsche market — I decided to hang on to my old car when I bought my 997.1 GT3 last year.

Recently, I wrote an advertisement for the car. I paid a high school kid to take some exceptional pictures. And then I listed it for sale. As I’d anticipated, the car generated plenty of interest including that of a very gracious, patient gentleman from Minnesota who ultimately bought the car. I won’t be so crass or callous as to tout my outsized returns on the “investment,” but suffice to say I bought the car for well under $30,000 and sold it for well north of $40,000, after three years and 23,000 miles. On the other side of the ledger there were some admittedly hefty maintenance bills, but the car proved a much better allocation of funds than the #normcore CamCordImas that the Best & Brightest typically espouse for #millenials purchasing their first car.

Meanwhile, I had a fun road trip planned for the GT3. Two, rather selfless, owners of the latest generation GT3 — the 991 GT3 in Porsche parlance — devoted countless hours of their time to plan a three-day drive through my native North Georgia, as well as the Smoky Mountains, that attracted nearly 40 new GT3s from across the eastern seaboard (and further afield). I left work a bit early on a Thursday to change out of a suit before heading to a kickoff BBQ cookout with other attendees.

Unfortunately, I didn’t make it.

I was driving on Peachtree Road, a major surface street with a 45 mph speed limit in my neighborhood, as I headed home. A teenaged driver traveling the opposite direction failed to yield and made a left turn immediately in front of me. Panic stop, ABS, fiendishly expensive Porsche Ceramic Composite Braking system, etc., did little to retard my progress. When the collision occurred I was probably going about 40 mph and airbags in both vehicles deployed. Mercifully, everyone involved was unharmed and the adverse party’s insurer accepted all liability.

Of course, I wanted the GT3 totaled rather than extensively repaired, but the insurance company saw things differently — for a time. The car had some frame damage and the entire interior would have to be replaced, courtesy of an unhappy marriage between 20 ounces of Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato and acres of Alcantara. Add that to new panels on the front end, new clear bra, new air bag, among other things and the decision became easier. Although I’d love to regale the readership with the sordid details of my negotiations with the adverse party’s carrier, I’ll refrain. The insurance company eventually totaled my GT3 and I received a healthy payout, reflective of the market appreciation that has transpired since I purchased mine last April.

So, with an intense distaste for Atlanta’s public transportation options and a reluctance to embrace fully the shared mobility lifestyle, I started shopping for another car.

To be continued …

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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QOTD: Why Do People Shame You For Having More Car Than You “Need”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095665 As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after […]

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Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after all, overkill.

Right?

Well, I don’t really think so. When people assail me for having “too big” of a vehicle, they’re often referring to its length. So I ran the numbers, and I discovered that my Range Rover – at 194.9 inches in length – stands merely 3.5 inches longer than the current Honda Accord, which is 191.4 inches long. Think about that for a second: the big ol’, heavy, baby-killing, jungle-tackling Range Rover is actually only a USB stick longer than a Honda Accord. In other words, these people have been fooled by marketing that has them convinced the Range Rover is this gargantuan off-road beast, when actually it’s a normal ol’ suburban family hauler.

So then the discussion turns to power – but my Range Rover has only 300 horses, which is just 30 more than a Honda Accord V6. And then I get the inevitable question: well why do you NEED an SUV?

I used to get this question when I had a sports car, too. Certain people – and I’m not going to name names here, but it was my pretentious friends in college and graduate school – would see me in a sports car and ask me why I needed such an impractical, inefficient vehicle. “You could’ve spent way less money and gotten something more efficient,” they would tell me.

The worst example came when I had a Porsche 911 as a company car. Anyone who knows anything about cars knows the 911 is pretty efficient, as sports cars go. It has a small six-cylinder, and not a huge V8. It’s fairly light in weight. And it doesn’t have all that much power. At the time I had mine, the Porsche 911 fuel economy rating was 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

So I posted a photo of this car somewhere on Facebook, and one of my friends replied with a comment along the lines of: Ewww, why would you get such a gas guzzler?

Now, we know the 911 isn’t a gas guzzler, so the very idea of the comment made me laugh. But what was even more disturbing was the fact that the person who posted it drove a Jeep Liberty. Not a Liberty Diesel. Not one of those fuel-efficient Jeep Compasses with a 4-cylinder and a Dodge Caliber chassis and the loudest CVT known to man. No, no. Dude drove a V6-powered Jeep Liberty that probably got 11 miles per gallon in the city on the rare days when it wasn’t having transmission problems.

And yet he was attacking me for having an inefficient gas guzzler.

I suspect the reason people do this is because they’re jealous. You can’t overtly walk up to someone and say to them: I hate you because you drive a Range Rover. So what they do is, they come up with some other reason to hate you, like your vehicle’s size, or its fuel economy, or its horsepower, or whatever. “Oh,” these people say. “I didn’t know you wanted to kill endangered species.” And then they stare at you and wait for your response, so they can see just how much their comment hurt your ego.

The funny thing is, these people have nothing to be jealous about. My Range Rover cost as much as a well-equipped Honda Civic, and it breaks down all the time. This is not an especially special vehicle. But they see the badge, and they become all offended, and then they break into the “Why do you need so much car?” routine.

So today I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon – and if so, what you think the person’s motivations were. I’m also curious how you handle it. Do you defend the car? Apologize for it? Correct the person? Punch them in the face? I need ideas, because nobody seems to believe the whole “only three inches longer than an Accord” thing. Maybe what I need is a tape measure.

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Müller: Porsche 911 PHEV Under Negotiation For Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/muller-porsche-911-phev-under-negotiation-for-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/muller-porsche-911-phev-under-negotiation-for-production/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 15:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067306 Could there be a Porsche 911 PHEV on the showroom floor in the future? The decision to build and market one could be made sometime this year. Porsche CEO Matthias Müller said a plug-in variant of the iconic vehicle could happen, alongside PHEVs of every other model in the automaker’s lineup, Automotive News reports: That […]

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911 50th Anniversary Edition _6_

Could there be a Porsche 911 PHEV on the showroom floor in the future? The decision to build and market one could be made sometime this year.

Porsche CEO Matthias Müller said a plug-in variant of the iconic vehicle could happen, alongside PHEVs of every other model in the automaker’s lineup, Automotive News reports:

That is a technique which we at Porsche are very familiar with, so we can suppose that we could have plug-ins all over the model range, not only to save fuel but also to boost the performance of these cars.

Mueller adds the decision to press ahead with a Porsche 911 PHEV is under negotiation, stating the technology “is the solution for the nearer future.”

Porsche sells three PHEVs thus far: the 918 Spyder, Cayenne and Panamera. Of the latter two, the Cayenne is projected to make up between 10 and 12 percent of overall U.S. sales of the crossover in 2015, while 15 percent of overall U.S. Panamera sales are of the PHEV variant. The 918, meanwhile, sold out its 918-unit limited edition run last December.

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2015 Porsche 911 GT3: The Capsule Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-porsche-911-gt3-capsule-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-porsche-911-gt3-capsule-track-test/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032033 19 months ago, the illustrious Jack Baruth wrote a brilliant op-ed painting the Porsche faithful akin to a battered spouse in a Lifetime film about empowerment. No, the other film about empowerment. No, the one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. No, I mean the other one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. Nevermind, it doesn’t matter When it […]

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19 months ago, the illustrious Jack Baruth wrote a brilliant op-ed painting the Porsche faithful akin to a battered spouse in a Lifetime film about empowerment. No, the other film about empowerment. No, the one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. No, I mean the other one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. Nevermind, it doesn’t matter

When it comes to Porsche, I am pre-empowerment Tiffani Amber Thiessen.

I am exactly what Jack described. I sit happily behind a pair of oversized sunglasses to hide my black eye after I “walked into the door again.” The boys from Stuttgart can do little wrong in my world. Part of that is my childhood obsession with all Porsches. Mom had a 914. Risky Business and Weird Science both hit during my developmental years. Somewhere in my attic in a VHS copy of No Man’s Land and I have not suffered the infamous intermediate shaft failure in either of my 996s. I also willingly owned two 924s when I was stationed in Germany.

So when I was given the chance to drive the GT3 coaching for a “supercar on a real racetrack“ event, I was pointed west to Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma before you could say “lift throttle over steer.”

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D.M. Armstrong, a noted Scientific Realist, held a theory of universals that states relations can be treated just like non-relational concepts. He further asserts that relations, where the number of terms in the relation, varies across instance.

That’s right, I just went from “Fastlane” to Philosophical discussion in three paragraphs.

The notion of varied relations is key to this discussion. The slowest car available this weekend was the Corvette. The Vette is a proper grand touring coupe and unquestionably fast car. But it was an Army Ranger in a room of mostly Navy Seals. Sitting in the corner of that room is a US Air Force Pararescueman. He possesses many of the same traits of the Seals, but has a very different mission and a unique method to complete it. That is the Porsche 911 GT3.

A Barrett .50 cal in a container of HK MP5s – it is superlatively stunning in a realm of supreme machines. One of only two 6-cylinder cars in an arsenal of V8s, V10s and V12s. It was the only normally aspirated six, and at 475 ponies, one of only two cars with less than 500 horses. (The other was the Corvette at 460.) It is unique in its class and in a collection of class leaders.

Now I do love 911s, but I was and I still am miffed about the lack of “proper” gearbox for the GT3. My first interaction with a PDK was behind the wheel of an Audi TT in 2005 at the now-defunct Panoz race school at Road Atlanta. I approached this gearbox with the same suspicion and distrust. My verdict was the same as it was in 2005.

I was wrong.

Even when compared back-to-back with the 458 Italia’s magnificent transmission, the GT3’s PDK has crossed the line into precognition.

“Hey GT3, we are coming out of turn 9 and I was thinking we need…oh, that gear then? Well I guess…Holy crap GT3! You were right! Much better than my idea!

Don’t get me wrong. I would still love a human-rowed selector. But the GT3 in this configuration is matchless. By Saturday I was wondering if I was being blinded by my love for the infamous AENSC like a hung-over freshman after his first college hook-up. So I started talking with my fellow instructors.

Porsche 911 GT3

My close friend Chris Mills has helped me with stories at TTAC and is a Hallett’s lead HPDE instructor. He also hates 911s and spends his free time texting me pictures of old VW Beetles. But after a morning session, even he had to agree, it was a surgical scalpel of a track car in the midst of X-Acto knives.

PCA Champion, IMSA Driver and frequent client crush du jour Kristin Treager however is a Porschephile like me. Even with her vast experience in racing 911s, she confirmed the GT3 was as good as I believed. In fact, despite its numerical disadvantage, all of the instructors agreed, it was simply the fastest car on the track. Words fail to convey the difference in capabilities of this car from its supercar stable mates. It takes action. The 911 spoke volumes on the track. Running down more powerful hyper cars from Italy was child’s play.

In another seldom made observation, the GT3 works. Not just in a reliability sense, having never missed a beat all weekend, but in usability. Often clients of stature (politically correct for “big ole Okie farm boys”) were steered away from the Gallardo or Maca because they simply couldn’t fit. The Porsche fit them all. In fact, it was big enough for folks who had issues getting in the Nissan GT-R.

Now that I have completed my lascivious description of the GT3, allow me to relax in the post coital bliss and point out some of the flaws. Yes, the brakes are the terrestrial equivalent to a black hole in a straight line. But in mid-corner they will upset the GT3 in a manner unlike the 458, Huracán or even F-Type.

What’s that over there? A dead horse? Let me grab my beating stick! It still needs an option for the manual transmission. However, after driving this car for the better part of three days, I am not sure I would take that option.

Porsche 911 GT3

My fanboi-battering masters in Stuttgart can go on all they want about calming the unique lift throttle turn characteristics of the 911, and while they have addressed it, this is still a 911. One client discovered this mid-turn when an overly aggressive throttle application was answered with a total lift, reducing us both to passenger status. It stayed on the track, but the GT3 is that barely broken wild horse on the farm. Every now and again it bucks a rider to remind you.

Finally, for its capabilities, it’s a bit plain. It’s a t-shirt and jeans in a realm of Brioni suits. Both inside and out, there is no “Look at me! I am a world beating supercar!” In fairness, that’s always been the 911’s style. Mila Kunis is still a traffic stopper without makeup and the 911 will always command some level of attention.

So, should you get one? No.

What? Mental! You led me down a Tiffani Amber Thiessen fueled, 1,364-word black hole about how great this car is to tell me no?

Yes. Like most supercars, it’s useless in the real world. Granted, you can drive this one everyday and it would probably work really well. But DD a GT3? No. At least the other exotics can impress the 20-somethings; the ones that can tell a GT3 from a standard 911 will probably conclude you have no idea how to drive it.

Porsche 911 GT3

Unless you’re in the very narrow market for a factory-built supercar track special, you would be better off with the 911 Targa. But should you ever get the chance to slip behind the wheel of the GT3, especially on a track, do it. Ignore the anti-PDK hype and take it. Yes, you may come away a bit battered. But if you want to feel empowered, take this car for a heated lap around a race course. It’ll set you right far better than anything ever shown on Lifetime.

Top image courtesy Nicolas Seymour.

Of course, Porsche contributed absolutely nothing to this review. It was researched over three days in Oklahoma coaching with Xtreme Xperience, burning their gas, using up their tires while driving and riding in their collection of exotics. Christian was compensated by Xtreme Xperince, but they had no influence over the outcome of this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. This weekend he will be racing with the Three Pedal Mafia at LeMons Real Hoopties of New Jersey. You can follow that impending debacle on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Ownership Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (997 Vintage) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ownership-review-porsche-911-gt3-997-1-vintage/#comments Fri, 17 Oct 2014 16:18:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928346 The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, […]

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The last time my friend Derek allowed me to write for TTAC, I narrated a brief test drive of a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, a a car that provided an intense and immersive driving experience, but that presented a heinous proposition as a sole car / daily driver, even for a young, single owner with a short commute in a sunny clime.  Ostensibly, I had driven the car because I was considering replacing my old 911 with something more livable / less cantankerous / more rapid / etc.  While that particular edition of the GT3 proved a poor match for my needs, I still resolved to join the 21st century by upgrading to a more modern car.

Springtime of 2014 represented a good opportunity to start shopping for a new conveyance, with several enticing and new or recently updated offerings both on the horizon and within my price range.  I considered several options – even several non-Porsches! – including the Alfa Romeo 4C, the all-new F8X family of the BMW M3/4, the C7 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Z51, and the 981 Porsche Cayman GTS.  Those are all new cars, with full factory warranties.  I’d learned my lesson owning an old German sports car with no factory repair safety net.

As I window shopped for new cars I also perused the Autotrader website and came across an intriguing advertisement for a 997 GT3.  Since the car was introduced, I had intensely desired Porsche’s GT3 from the 997 family, and if Halicki’s Gone in 60 Seconds cult classic were improbably re-made to fit my biography, my “Eleanor” would be a 997 GT3.  Unfortunately, the GT3 that was introduced when I was in high school violated the one sacrosanct rule of this entire exercise – the car was old and out of warranty.  It also featured some frighteningly expensive components (new PCCB brake rotors would cost almost as much as I paid for the 993!).

However.  The car was local.  I knew the seller.  The price was below market.  The car was nicely optioned (blinged-out PCCB brakes, full leather, Xenon lights) and well-maintained, with a clean PPI, perfect DME over-rev report, and only 14,000 miles from new.

I called the owner and bought it over the phone for the full asking price, 100% sight unseen, in less than five minutes.  I broke all of the rules.  I did it for two reasons:  1 – I desired the GT3 moreso than any of the other options, and would have chosen a GT3 over any of them if finances were of no concern. 2 – The attractive entry price, coupled with the dynamics of the GT3 market mean that I’m unlikely to suffer any meaningful depreciation.  In fact, I’ve been using the car as my primary vehicle / daily driver now for six months and plan to continue doing so for another year or two before selling it for about what I paid, perhaps a bit more.

So what’s it like?

Driving Experience:

Engine:

The defining feature of every GT3 from the 996 and 997 generations – up to and including the 4.0 RS zenith of the series – is the race-derived engine that Porsche nerds refer to as the “Mezger” engine, so named for Porsche’s visionary engineer, Hans Mezger, who designed the very first 911 engine, and whose very last project for Porsche was the development of the turbocharged lump that powered the 911 GT1 prototype that triumphed at Le Mans in 1998.  That pedigreed block forms the basis for the production car engine, and in 997.1 GT3 guise it displaces 3.6 liters (100mm bore, 76.4mm stroke), producing 415 bhp and 300 lb-ft of torque.  Performance is produced courtesy of high revs (8,400 RPM redline) and high compression (12.0:1); peak power output comes at 7,600 RPM, with peak torque entering at a lofty 5,500 RPM.  While power delivery is, uh, peaky, the engine is sufficiently tractable and civilized at low RPMs.  I’ve enhanced the car with a bypass exhaust from NorCal Porsche tuner Sharkwerks (mine is serial number 639 – it’s rather popular among the small community of GT3 devotees) and forced the exhaust valves to remain open all the time in order to drop 20 pounds from the rear, create an exceedingly antisocial racket and, most importantly, paint a big grin on my face every time I drive the car.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I cannot overstate the engine’s central role in my enjoyment of the car; it is raw, emotive, immediately responsive, and a key driver of value:  With rare exception, all Porsches ever made with a Mezger engine are appreciating or holding value, whereas those without an engine connected to Hans are depreciating.  Furthermore, the factory still uses the admittedly outdated warhorse engine in its 911-based race cars.  I’ve gone so far as to reference the engine’s provenance with an obnoxious vanity plate:

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Drivetrain:

The marvelous engine mates to a close ratio 6-speed manual that features shockingly short throws and a stiff clutch.  When cold or just trundling around town it can be balky and reluctant to engage properly, but the heavy control efforts begin to make sense when driving spiritedly, the intended use for which the entire car is optimized.  Perfectly rev-matched downshifts are a satisfying delight, although the plastic components in the stock lever and linkage feel slightly insubstantial – one of the GT3’s few letdowns as a tool for Freude am Fahren, to borrow a phrase from Porsche’s countrymen in Bavaria.  A dual mass flywheel mates to the aforementioned weighty clutch, whereas the RennSport brethren of the “base” GT3 received the single mass lightweight flywheel.  I have a factory lightweight flywheel in my 993, and I’d love to have the same part in the GT3, but I’d rather have the circa $5,000 associated cost in my pocket.

Suspension and Ride:

The 997 GT3 represented an all-over softening of the preceding generation’s rough edges, coupled with nicer styling – both inside and out – and a bit more grunt. The biggest changes occurred in the car’s suspension, as evidenced in the 997 version’s ride and handling balance. As the first generation of the GT3 to receive PASM – Porsche Adaptive Suspension Management – the contemporary marketing materials and reviews harped on the new, allegedly comfort-oriented suspension setup. The GT3’s PASM setup has two modes, one intended for street usage and the other, harder setting intended for track work. In reality, the “softer” setting is still rather stiff and has a tendency to porpoise over surface imperfections at a variety of speeds while road driving. The stiffer setting has only one legitimate use: illustrating to complaining passengers that the softer setting should be appreciated. The stiffer PASM setting doesn’t bother me in terms of ride quality per se, but it does irk me that that the front tires spend less time in touch with the road than they ought to over anything but perfect pavement. For example, let’s say you perform a panic stop on slightly undulating tarmc – the front wheels will skip over the bumps in the pavement as ABS pulsates away; it’s rather disconcerting. I’ve ridden in and driven all generations of the GT3 sold in North America, and the progressive leap in compliance over time is the most impressive enhancement in my observation. The facelifted 997.2 GT3 brought along mild, evolutionary PASM revisions, whereas the all-new 991 GT3 rides like a Cadillac in comparison to its forebears.

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Handling and Steering:

Despite my niggling complaints regarding suboptimal PASM tuning, I am an avowed fan of the car’s handling and steering feel. Although other cars doubtless offer more outright grip or fractionally higher slalom average speeds, the GT3 dutifully produces the expected objective figures while providing a fulsome stream of involving feedback to the driver. Perhaps you’re driving on a familiar two-lane road when you encounter a mild sheen of rain on the road; you’ll feel it. Perhaps you’re approaching “the limit” around a sweeper and wonder whether you have a bit more grip in reserve; you’ll feel it through the steering wheel and your posterior, and you’ll know. After driving the car for awhile – I’ve put 3,500 miles on mine in 6 months – I’ve gotten used to the chassis’s talents, but time spent driving other cars, including my older 911, brings things into sharp relief once more.

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Brakes:

As mentioned, my car came equipped with the optional PCCB – Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes – setup. Whoever specced my car way back when elected to splurge $8,840 for this option; for that rather immodest sum, they received the following: Massive brake discs (15.0″ front, 13.8″ rear) replete with eye-catching yellow calipers, a circa 40 lb. reduction in unsprung weight, fade-free braking performance, and alleged dust-free operation (untrue). Now, on the other side of the ledger, a few reasons to reconsider PCCBs: Replacing the rotors with OEM parts will run you well over $20,000 (they’re a lifetime part in terms of wear, but, say, running into the gravel trap beyond Road Atlanta’s turn 10A could result in scratching the rotors, necessitating replacement); pads aren’t cheap either (I have a replacement coming soon, it’ll be four figures), and you have to replace them at about 50% life if you’d like to protect your ceramic rotors. Other mitigating factors: PCCBs offer absolutely no advantage versus the standard “Big Red” brakes in terms of stopping distance or pedal feel, and they sometimes squeal around town.

That said, the brakes work impressively, whether you’re executing a full panic stop as an impromptu Heimlich maneuver to help your choking neighbor or wiping off a quick 50 MPH on a back road cruise. Despite the considerable expense, I wouldn’t consider buying another GT3 without ceramics.

Summary Performance Specs:

For the benefit of internet bench racers, I’ve borrowed some performance numbers from the pros in Ann Arbor.

Acceleration:  0-60 in 4.0 seconds; quarter mile in 12.4 seconds at 116 MPH

Roadholding: 0.99g

Braking: 70-0 in 149 feet

Ownership Experience:

Now for the practical considerations and downsides of GT3 ownership.

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Ground Clearance:

The front ground clearance for the car is a scant 3.8 inches.  Not only is the car rather low, but the front overhang is substantial.  Imagine you’re driving around with Jay Leno’s chin skimming along the ground in front of you, under a Damoclean multi-thousand dollar penalty if you hit a speed bump at anything above walking pace!  Exciting.  At first this was the most intimidating aspect of driving the car, as pulling into any parking lot involved an exciting game of wondering “Will I or won’t I scrape the front of my new toy?!?”  I’m already on my second front splitter (mercifully a sacrificial plastic piece that only costs a few hundred dollars), but I’ve learned to proceed with caution and take wide approach and departure angles whenever possible.  My car does not have the nose lift feature that Porsche offered on later GT3s, but I can now live without it, successfully navigating parking decks and gas stations with relative ease.

Fuel Economy and Range:

Speaking of gas stations…  The car makes numerous sacrifices at the altar of motorsports chic, but the small capacity fuel tank – just over 10 gallons – and laughable economy conspire to send me to my local Chevron (premium fuel only, of course) every 130 miles or so.  I can occasionally eke out a bit more range on highway hauls, but my average plummets when I go on pleasure drives on back roads, where I’ve burned a tank in less than 100 miles on several occasions.

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Interior:

Despite an MSRP well above $120,000, the GT3’s interior is decidedly no-frills.   The important aspects are executed with aplomb: terrific driving position and ergonomics, touch points swathed in purposeful, tactile Alcantara (ie, synthetic suede) and excellent visibility despite the surfboard / ping pong table out back.  The remainder of the interior, however, leaves a bit to be desired, at least for sybarites seeking sumptuous solace; the seats adjust manually, there is no navigation system, and the puny stereo – featuring only a single disc CD changer, people who own smartphones or MP3 players are out of luck! – is comprehensively overpowered by tire, wind, and engine noise, as the GT3  eschews essentially all sound deadening to pare back mass.  Moreover, the entire car is screwed together so tightly and rides so stiffly that any foreign object in the interior, even a single penny in the console cubby, will induce a maddening vibration / rattle.  As if that weren’t enough, the car makes its own vibrations due to harmonics at about 90 MPH, and they’re sufficiently acute that the view out the rear view mirror is distorted.

Insurance:

Although the car is seven years old now, it’s still fairly valuable and fairly high performance.  I’m 25 and possess a clean driving record (thank you Michael Valentine!), but insurance is still somewhat expensive.  I pay just under $500 per month to insure both the GT3 and 993 through a quality carrier (read: not an insurer that advertises on television).

Summary:

My GT3 is gloriously excessive, embarrassingly wasteful, astonishingly impractical, and supremely indulgent, a pur sang racer diverted from the race track to a relatively quiet, domesticated life at the eleventh hour.

Yet I endure these first world hardships with a smile, because I adore its uncompromising singularity of ideal and purpose.

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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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Corvette Stingray Bests Viper, 911 In Sales Through First-Half Of 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/corvette-stingray-bests-viper-911-in-sales-through-first-half-of-2014/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867178 The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911. GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, […]

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The current Corvette is doing well for itself as of late, not only moving off the lot at a greater clip between January and June of this year than last, but also besting the SRT Viper and Porsche 911.

GM Authority reports 17,744 Corvette Stingrays made it to the highway during the aforementioned sales period, over three times what was sold during the first six months of 2013. Meanwhile, only 354 Vipers managed to do the same — thanks to its high price and the velvet rope surrounding the one or two models available in most showrooms — as well as 5,169 of Stuttgart’s finest during those months. Nissan’s 370Z, priced much lower than the Stingray, also fared poorly against the Kentucky-built thoroughbred, 4,114 sold this year thus far.

Within the Chevy dealership, 2,723 convertibles and coupes left the lot in June, down from 3,328 in May. National Automobile Dealers Association forecasts the Corvette Stingray is on pace to hit 35,000 sold by the end of 2014, aided by the improved 2015 model and the introduction of the Z06.

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Porsche Developing Ferrari-Hunter With 600HP Flat-Eight http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/porsche-developing-ferrari-hunter-with-600hp-flat-eight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/porsche-developing-ferrari-hunter-with-600hp-flat-eight/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 10:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862113 Feeling outgunned by the Ferrari V8 family, Porsche is working on a suitable hunter that will be armed not with its long-standing flat-six, but with a new flat-eight. Autocar reports the new vehicle — dubbed the 988 within Stuttgart — is part of a new quartet of Porsches in development, including a turbo-four version of […]

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Feeling outgunned by the Ferrari V8 family, Porsche is working on a suitable hunter that will be armed not with its long-standing flat-six, but with a new flat-eight.

Autocar reports the new vehicle — dubbed the 988 within Stuttgart — is part of a new quartet of Porsches in development, including a turbo-four version of the Boxster and Cayman, and an all-new 911. The 988 is expected to arrive in 2017, and may likely take after the 918 in looks with a long rear deck covering the mid-mounted flat-eight; all four new models will be in place by 2019.

Powering the quartet is a new family of boxers, ranging from the aforementioned 2-liter turbo-four — capable of 280 horsepower — to the 988’s 4-liter quad-turbo-eight, delivering 600 horses and ~400 lb-ft of 458 Italia-killing torque in testing.

Underpinning the quartets will be an all-new architecture that will use different backsides depending on the position of the boxer, shared front structures, and three front axles with optional hybrid/electric AWD such as the system powering the 918.

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BMW M235i Bests Corvette, 911 In Consumer Reports Road Testing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-m235i-bests-corvette-911-in-consumer-reports-road-testing/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=855833 BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online. Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the […]

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BMW’s M235i has earned the highest marks ever bestowed upon the German automaker’s lineup from Consumer Reports, while also besting the Porsche 911 and Chevrolet Corvette in road tests whose results were recently released online.

Bloomberg reports the coupe earned a 98 out of 100 in its road test, falling one point short of the all-time leaders, the Tesla Model S and Lexus LS460L. The 911 and Corvette, packing more firepower with less comfort than the M235i, earned 95 and 92 out of 100 in their respective road tests.

Deputy editor Jon Linkov proclaimed the M235i a “dual-purpose car” that anyone “could drive to work every day of the week” without leaving the driver in pain, followed by a weekend at the track taking on the likes of the 911 and Corvette. He added that this particular BMW “has almost a direct lineage” to BMWs of the past that lived up to the marketing of “Ultimate Driving Machine.”

Neither of the trio were recommended by the publication, however, as the BMW and the Corvette were too new for reliability reports, while the 911 has below average reliability according to those surveyed.

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Capsule Review: Lone Star Region Porsche Club’s Every-Man’s Autocross With A 911 Carrera 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-lone-star-region-porsche-clubs-every-mans-autocross-with-a-911-carrera-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-lone-star-region-porsche-clubs-every-mans-autocross-with-a-911-carrera-2/#comments Mon, 26 May 2014 16:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=812682 Porsches and drugs are similar vices. They’re expensive, rather addictive and always fun to try — at least once. But there’s always a “gateway” drug, a low-risk and easily accessible drug to just get a sniff of what the air smells like outside of the box. To the Porsche Club of America, whose events mostly […]

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Porsches and drugs are similar vices. They’re expensive, rather addictive and always fun to try — at least once. But there’s always a “gateway” drug, a low-risk and easily accessible drug to just get a sniff of what the air smells like outside of the box. To the Porsche Club of America, whose events mostly comprise of High Performance Driving Events (HPDE) and track days, they needed a gateway race to warm Porsche owners up to the idea of exploring their car’s potential. What was needed was an autocross, a low-risk and affordable taste of motorsport.

Full Disclosure: Lone Star Region Porsche Club of America provided the 1990 911 Carrera 2 and entry fee for this event.

Enter the Lone Star Region Porsche Club of America’s (LSRPCA) refreshed autocross program. After a mild hiatus, the region restarted the autocross program to draw in new members; and partly to have another reason to autocross, these events can be as fun for the instructors as it can be for the entrants. The morning started at about 7:30 am, I arrived a bit early to talk to a few friends and meet the crew running the event. The staff was compromised of PCA members of all skill levels, from local autocrosses to seasoned factory Porsche racers.  As participants rolled in, the shape of the field began to take shape. There was a gaggle of Miatas, of course. I followed a white first-generation Boxster into the event. A pair of 1LE Camaros made an interesting appearance. A yellow 946 Turbo even made it in, and a venerable array of air-cooled and late model 911’s made up the last half of the field. As a truly open event; even one of the regular rallycross AE86 Carollas nearly made it to the event, but when the alternator quit alternating while driving to Houston, they had to give up on the trip.

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I met up with my friend, Seth, to meet the this 911 I’d be attempting to not ruin. A  beautiful red 1990 Carrera 2 sat in the middle of the lot, basking in the golden-hour light. The car is a clever compromise; the wife’s daily driver, and his weekend toy. With an agreed amount of mechanical sympathy, he shared the keys with me for a day. The ’90 911 Carrera 2 is a time machine. Not knocking on a modern Porsche, but the air cooled ones smell and feel like they’ve just rolled away from a craftman’s hands. Thoroughly brilliant driving dynamics wrapped up in a classic suit. Occasionally the mood is interrupted with a few gimmicks of the era, like a popup cassette tape holder, but you still can’t help wanting to don a smoking jacket and cigar after stepping away from the experience.

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Just look at it. Post-80’s bumper covers really did bring the styling of the then-new 964 up to spec of the modernized chassis. And that RS wing? A little gratuitous, but so perfect. The event is structured like an average SCCA Autocross. Registration and tech inspection are quick and painless, and there’s ample time for course walking at your own pace. Seth and I were walking the course, and talking about how to approach the course with the 911’s quirks in mind. We spotted a rookie pretty quick, a tall fellow in a salmon shirt and white Dockers, and went along to go introduce ourselves. Seth did a course walk around with him, one-on-one, to give a quick run through on course memorization and how to approach each section. We eventually caught up with the main group of instructors, who were leading a group course walk for all interested drivers.  While not a habit for SCCA Autocross, LSRPCA found it beneficial to set time aside to run the groups through and give an introductory lesson.

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The event is ran like a typical autocross. Entrants were given work assignments, a required job using the body count of entrants to help staff the event, mostly as corner workers. Autocrosssing regulars of the region make up the more critical elements the event; like handling lap timing, organizing drivers in grid, and timing the starting gap between drivers, as the course crosses itself in one section. Corner working is simple enough: keep an eye out for cars that have hit penalty cones, radio in the offenders, reset any dislodged cones, and generally be the eyes-and-ears of the event. My morning started running timing, experienced from helping run our local rallycross events. We started on time, and the run group was even keeping to schedule, something that can be difficult with new drivers figuring out the pace and rhythm of the time between runs. Things like drivers being unready when it’s time to queue up, slow driver changes with a shared car, little things.

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The diversity is refreshing. A healthy level of competitiveness is brought out of some drivers when a purple MX5 starts knocking down faster laps than a newly-bought 911. Most of the newer drivers were quick to adapt to the autocross format, and quickly found more and more time. Instructors were available two ways: They can drive you (in your own car, or one of their’s), or they can ride along and provide instruction. I wrangled Steve Bukowski, Performance Driving School Chair for LSRPCA, to help me adjust a bit quicker to the 911’s quirks. With in two laps, I had dropped around 3 seconds off my consistent, but slower early runs. My issue is a common one is a common one of mine. I regularly compete in rallycross. While it teaches a lot about weight transfer, corner entry is a different record in the juke box. My natural habit is to enter hot, upset the chassis, and rotate the car into corner with the nose facing the exit before I even reach the apex. This isn’t how you play autocross, and the Porsche would revolt with sobering understeer.

The 911 is a an interesting car to drive. They behave like nothing else, and if under-driven, will fight you in every direction. With poor weight transfer at lower speeds, it’ll understeer at turn in; and with poor throttle commitment will step out the rear like a rudder if you pull back. I knew that going in; never-lift was the contingency plan. If you trust it, and shift weight forward for just a second, the rear tires build a little slip angle, just enough so that you dial the steering wheel back to center. This is how the edge of a master chef’s knife feels — smooth, sharp. If exploited correctly, you can make a 911 truly dance wherever you want. But it takes work, it’s a state of mind. A break in concentration, or a lack of commitment, and it fights you.

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But it was easy to build confidence with the LSRPCA instructors, including Seth, my loaner 911’s owner. With an approachable, while still technical approach to instruction, his strength is in getting drivers past the mental barrier of entering performance driving. Raceday jitters can paralyze a person, and such was the case of a particular Boxster owner.

After my runs, my work assignment was to help operate the timing system. The system uses a two pairs of light sensors that start and end a unique timer for each car as they break through each pair of sensors. The times are automatically recorded by AX Aware, timing software ran on a tiny netbook. Raw times and raw penalties are separately recorded on paper, as backup.

If a run’s time exceeded 100 seconds, the timing system would begin to miscount the number of cars on course. This should never happen — but it started to happen during my work stint. We quickly identified the driver, and Seth approached him. He was making a common autocross-rookie mistake: Getting lost. Though Houston Police Academy has a nearly figure eight shaped road course, it connects to an open parking lot. Taking that parking lot full of cones, and visualizing a course in it is one of the toughest aspects to autocross. It can be infuriating when, despite the best attempts, the cones never translate into sense.

With the problem now identified, Seth worked with the driver over the next few runs. First thing was course navigation, second was keeping his eyes up, looking forward to the next turn — instead of looking down at the turn he was currently navigating. While the first run with Seth still timed out the system, his next run had dropped his time down into the mid-70’s; a remarkable 30 second improvement. Slowly, the driver began to enjoy himself. His fastest run came down to a clean 68 second run.

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This is who the LSRPCA wants to capture. The Porsche owner who has yet to truly explore their car correctly. It was later mentioned by another racer that our problem Boxster driver had been blasting through traffic that morning, perhaps a bit recklessly, on the way to the autocross. No doubt the autocross was a humbling, though productive experience for him. As drivers become more comfortable with high performance driving, they can easily step up to LSRPCA’s more regular track day events to further hone their skill. The autocross program, from its catered lunch to the friendly instruction, provides an attractive start for Porsche owners. If you’re around the Houston area, and have a Stuttgart speed machine in the garage, look into the Lone Star Region PCA’s website, here, to find out about future events.

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Piston Slap: The Value of The Mid-Life Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-value-of-the-mid-life-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/piston-slap-the-value-of-the-mid-life-crisis/#comments Mon, 19 May 2014 11:59:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=826074 TTAC Commentator HEATHROI writes: A friend–definitely a friend as I would just buy a new mustang and be done with it–is looking at early 00s 911 (probably the 996) as he has entered mid-life crisis mode. He must have the porker. I know there can be some issues with the drive train. I’d like to […]

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TTAC Commentator HEATHROI writes:

A friend–definitely a friend as I would just buy a new mustang and be done with it–is looking at early 00s 911 (probably the 996) as he has entered mid-life crisis mode. He must have the porker. I know there can be some issues with the drive train. I’d like to see if anybody knows a little more about 996 problems what to look out for and how much he might be looking at. Handy, he is not.

Sajeev answers:

We’ve discussed Porsche IMS failure to no end around here. My brother had a rather choice 996 (of the RUF 550 variety) and it spent a fair bit of time in the shop for non-IMS issues, as it was a turbo. The headlight switch, for starters: apparently a common fail point and a good $150 for the part alone. It’s all kinda down hill from there, but this thread does a good job explaining many of the pitfalls to avoid. Or to know in which to price accordingly during negotiation.

Because when its time to sell, his losses will be in the thousands. Perhaps that’s part of the mid-life crisis game…

So I’m not gonna convince anyone to avoid the 996, as depreciation (most haven’t bottomed out yet) the parts replacement cost, insurance, premium fuel, etc is irrelevant.  But buying one without a PPI is pure stupidity of the highest order.  If there ever was a poster child for professional inspection before opening your wallet, the 996 has gotta be it!

Odds are he can find a good 996 with a post IMS-failure engine replacement, binders of repair history and a clean PPI report within his budget.  Of course, if you really want to mess with him, invite him to a local track day to pick on Vettes, a new Mustang GT, a Miata, etc. with that 996.  That’ll make his investment all the more worth it…well, at least for you. And that’s who we are really trying to help here, oh dear reader!

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Making the Call http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/making-the-call/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/making-the-call/#comments Fri, 25 Apr 2014 12:48:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=809538 As we hover around the fifty mile an hour mark in the right lane, the car ahead begins to wander again. First to the right, correcting sharply as they touch the rumble strip. Then to the left, as they overcorrect and wobble back across the center line. Suddenly, there’s a white flash to outside my […]

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Californiacallbox

As we hover around the fifty mile an hour mark in the right lane, the car ahead begins to wander again. First to the right, correcting sharply as they touch the rumble strip. Then to the left, as they overcorrect and wobble back across the center line. Suddenly, there’s a white flash to outside my driver’s door window. It’s some kind of late model Benz, burning up the passing lane Autobahn style. Not good.

The day started with plenty of optimism. Three weeks after the engorged disc in my lower back was finally cut down to size, I feel well enough to attempt the longest car ride I’ve taken in five months. It won’t be easy, but I have a friend along to help with the driving. We’ll be attending a conference about an hour and a half away from our homes, in a major Southeastern city. There will be a lot of sitting involved; my least favorite activity since my spine began to malfunction more than a year ago. However, the recent experiences of our dear EIC pro tempore give me strength. Surely I can handle a short drive if the man who pretty much broke everything a short time ago is already back to his jet-setting ways.

With my friend to distract me, the first drive is less onerous than I expected. The conference goes well, and I don’t regret the trip. All too soon it’s time to pack up and leave. After dosing up on ibuprofen, I slide into the driver’s seat for the return journey. We hit the freeway as darkness falls.

A little more than an hour in, we’re cruising at a little under seventy in the right lane. I’m pretty sore by now, but we’ll be home in a half hour or so.  The freeway is fairly empty. I try to avoid sliding into the hypnotic state that so often accompanies long stretches of straight road. At least I have my friend to keep me alert. As well as the pair of flashing taillights that I’m fast converging on, dead ahead of me.

Damn. I don’t have to slam the brakes, but the deceleration is rapid. I want to pass him, but he’s literally taking up the whole road. He splits the two lanes, blocking me on both sides. I fall back. We’re doing a little bit above fifty, and he has his four ways on. What the hell is going on? Is he looking for someone on the side of the highway? Or perhaps for a mile marker, or an exit sign? Cars start to stack up behind us. He drifts back to the right, opening up the left lane. The cars behind us hustle past, and he speeds up a little. I could pass, but I don’t. Something doesn’t feel right.

I drop back and watch. It’s not long before he begins to weave again: left and right, back and forth. Both of us observe him, or possibly her- it’s too dark to see inside. We watch them in silence for a few minutes, wondering if maybe they’ll pull over. But nothing happens- the four ways keep going, the weaving stays about the same, and cars continue to blow by us on the left.

What should we do? I don’t know the number for the Highway Patrol. I’ve never dialed 911 before in my life, as strange as that sounds. Is this the kind of thing that 911 should even be used for? Does a guy who can’t drive straight really count as an “emergency?” It’s dark, we’re both tired, and the sawed-off disc in my lower back is increasingly making its unhappiness known. We’re rapidly converging on our destination, and I have no desire to get involved in what could rapidly become a long or even dangerous confrontation.

It’s at that point that the Mercedes appears. It’s a miss, but too close for comfort. It sends our subject wheeling back to the right, against the rumble strip, and then back left again on the same crazy cycle. Drunk. I don’t recall which of us said it first, but there is no disagreement. Even if we’re wrong, we’ve passed a tipping point that shouldn’t be ignored. We decide to make the call.

I hand my friend my phone. He gets the local 911 operator, who immediately begins pumping us for information. Where are you headed? What’s his license plate number? The make/model of car? And so on and so forth.  Then the operator wants to know my phone number. My friend hands it back so I can tell her. At this point, we’re running out of her jurisdiction, so she abruptly transfers me to the Highway Patrol. A few buzzes, and I get their operator. He begins asking me the same set of questions- apparently nothing was communicated by the local operator.

After a few more minutes I finish up with the Highway Patrol operator. He tells me that there are no units in our area, but he’ll try to dispatch one to check out the situation. He advises me to turn around as soon as possible and go home. There’s only one problem: we have now missed all of our exits, and neither of us knows how much farther we must go before we can turn around. To make matters worse (or possibly better), I seem to have spooked our subject when I pulled in close to read his license plate. His four ways are still flashing, but the wandering has mostly stopped. His speed increases to tolerable level as he stays in the right lane. We drop back and follow at a distance as the minutes tick by. No sign of the cops.

Finally, an exit appears. It’s a rural area, but I see that I can turn around and go back in the opposite direction. I start to head for ramp, but then I see that our subject is doing the same thing. “No!” my passenger shouts. I dive back to the freeway at the last moment. My friend is right; I don’t want to be stopped on that ramp behind a driver who has undoubtedly realized we’ve been following him. I don’t need any bullet holes in my car, myself, or my friend. I watch our subject switch off his four ways as he heads up the ramp. For a moment, I panic and wonder if he might come down the opposite side and follow us. But we never see him again.

We drive a little farther before we come upon another exit, turn around, and head back home. We’ve tacked on an extra half-hour or so to our journey with little to show for it. I feel frustrated, but also relieved. Maybe the cops pinched him, or maybe he got away. It’s out of our hands now. Even so, I can’t help but feel that there was something else going on besides a garden-variety DUI; the endlessly flashing four ways are a bizarre coda on the entire story.  What about you, B&B? Have you ever made the call?

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Capsule Review: Porsche 911 GT3 (996 Vintage) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-porsche-911-gt3-996-vintage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-porsche-911-gt3-996-vintage/#comments Sun, 24 Nov 2013 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=506001 Over an uncharacteristically lazy Labor Day weekend, I found myself chatting with Derek Kreindler about subjects near and dear to the apex of TTAC’s masthead:  semiotics, the musical oeuvre of John Mayer, and – briefly – automobiles. Given my mild disappointment with Porsche’s newest mid-engined cars, he suggested a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, […]

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IMG_1167

Over an uncharacteristically lazy Labor Day weekend, I found myself chatting with Derek Kreindler about subjects near and dear to the apex of TTAC’s masthead:  semiotics, the musical oeuvre of John Mayer, and – briefly – automobiles. Given my mild disappointment with Porsche’s newest mid-engined cars, he suggested a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, pronouncing it “certified badass.”  I protested that they were quite rare, and I’d never had the opportunity to drive one, but I’d check local listings to pacify him.  Lo and behold, there was a Speed Yellow example on a used car lot less than 10 miles away from me.  I called and confirmed that the car was still available; I could test drive it provided I arrived at the dealer within 30 minutes.  I was out the door before the receiver went dead.

When I arrived at the dealer at the tail end of a slow Saturday afternoon, one of the few remaining employees offered “you probably know more about these cars than I do.”  I was assured that this was the case when he pulled the car around and encouraged me to go for an open-ended test drive alone, a 24 year old given the keys to a searingly Speed Yellow, barely domesticated $60,000 race car with a weighty clutch and 380bhp unbridled by any electronic nannies to save me from tears and expensive bodywork.  I had also watched  this marketing clip just a few hours before; alas, I was unable to make it to Road Atlanta that day, but it was quite easy to imagine doing so in the future:

Click here to view the embedded video.

The 996 model years are roundly criticized by detractors for a variety of reasons:  the abandonment of air-cooling, the arrival of thoroughly modern chassis and interior designs that killed the charming anachronisms unique to the 911 genus, and those unfortunate headlights.  Fortunately, the GT3 version of the car is the most handsome of its contemporaries, with a subtle yet purposeful aerodynamic bodykit and a stance that is unmistakably motorsport-derived.

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After taking in the car’s sheetmetal and brilliant paintwork, it was time to drive away lest the dealer representative change his mind.  A previous owner had chosen to retrofit the seats that many GT3s abroad enjoyed from birth; affectionately called “Dumbo seats,” they cost well over $5,000 including shipping, provided you can find a pair.  They are veritable hip-huggers and quite form-fitting for a Southerner who’s fond of fried chicken.  Nevermind, once ensconced within – you sit “in” them rather than “on” – they offered tremendous lateral support and transmitted every scintilla of feedback to my posterior.  Unfortunately the rest of the interior was a letdown, all amorphous plasticky curves, bereft of the never-obsolete quality that oozes from the earlier air-cooled cars.

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GT3s of all generations eschew the vestigial 911 rear seats in favor of a natty placard reminding you what type of car you’re driving, as well as an expanse of carpeting into which the finest of used car dealers will vacuum an attractive stripe pattern if you ask nicely.

IMG_1166

Left foot firmly on the non-floor-mounted clutch pedal, I inserted the key – still on the left – and cranked the engine.  After a whirr from the starter, the engine barked before settling into a clattering, lumpy idle, in the fashion of the air-cooled engine introduced in the 964, from which the Mezger engine inherits much of its base architecture.  Among the 996 attributes I cataloged above, an additional criticism leveled against the car relates to the fragility of the all-new engines fitted to the standard, “cooking” Carreras, which were somewhat prone to unexpected, catastrophic failure.  Fortunately, the Mezger engine is the descendant of decades of motorsport glory, so it avoids those issues, although it has some minor issues of its own (chiefly, the weeping rear main seal that plagues garage queen cars).  Gingerly testing the clutch pedal, I pulled into traffic.  The GT3, with its low ride height, heavy clutch, and recalcitrant shifter was not exactly at home in the bump-and-grind traffic found in the land of strip malls, fly-by-night buy-here-pay-here used car lots, and Compramos Oro enterprises, so I made way for a nice office park nearby.

The first chance to test the car’s abilities came on a downhill cloverleaf ramp.  Predictable 911 traits surfaced as the front end washed wide before the rear end hooked up, giving the first opportunity to test the powertrain as I merged into traffic.  The flat-six’s lungs engulfed oxygen as the revs soared, the gruff induction noise giving way to the mechanical rattle and hum of symphony in the key of P-flat as redline neared, before I slotted third gear, then fourth… at which juncture I confirmed the stopping power of the binders; sufficient to leave welts where the seatbelt met flesh.  As thrilling as the powerplant was, it was let down a bit by the gearbox; Porsche chose to fit the “base” GT3 with a dual mass flywheel, reserving the racier single mass, lightweight flywheel for the GT3 RS, a car not offered on our shores in 996 guise.  After fitting the more aggressive clutch and flywheel assembly to my car, I’d argue that the minor refinement compromises – audible gear lash at idle and low revs – would suit the nature and character of the high-revving GT3.  Furthermore, the 996 GT3’s shifter features somewhat long throws and imprecise engagement, demerits rectified in the later 997 generation of the GT3.

Once at speed on a section of I-75 that I know quite well, the compromises of the GT3’s chassis revealed themselves.  Although the longer wheelbase of the 996 reduced the tendency of the 911 to porpoise over bumps, and the superior dampers provided body and wheel control that embarrassed my 993, the ride was extraordinarily firm, inducing a wince at every surface imperfection and expansion joint.  Fortunately I only had to travel a few miles before I reached the office park I had in mind – a loop of nearly a mile that rises and falls as it winds around a leafy complex full of anonymous office buildings along the Chattahoochee river.

After a cautious exploratory lap of the deserted office park, I pushed a bit harder on subsequent circuits.  Once apace, the characteristics that were vices on the highway became virtues; the chassis provided supreme mechanical grip at reasonable public road speeds, the steering was sublimely tactile, weighting up and – crucially – unweighting with remarkable clarity and fluidity, the helm positively shouting its feedback where my 993 whispers and modern Porsches are absolutely mute.

The GT3 was a physical, intense drive, snaffling over bumps and cambers with the rear end poised to step wide at the slightest provocation, perhaps attributable to its Pirelli tires of unknown age or provenance.  Once used as intended, the entire car resonated with unmistakable, pur sang race car heritage.  After a few more loops I returned the GT3, reflecting on Porsche Motorsport’s ministrations on the 996 as I re-traced the earlier route in my familiar 993.  A lengthier sojourn would have provided more opportunity to assess the car’s range of abilities in situations both mundane and special, but I was able to form a sufficient opinion of the car in a brief period of time.  Although the car shone brightly in a spirited environment, its optimization for that narrow usage rendered it torturous as a daily driver candidate, my intended use for any car I might purchase.

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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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Porsche Reunion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/porsche-reunion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/porsche-reunion/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=622185 “All I need is a name.” He said. This road trip was a fiasco. A week ago we had left his home in North Carolina in my Porsche 911 on a starry-eyed quest worthy of “This American Life.” We were going to find my brother’s father. For most of my life, my brother had existed […]

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Headlights

“All I need is a name.” He said.

This road trip was a fiasco. A week ago we had left his home in North Carolina in my Porsche 911 on a starry-eyed quest worthy of “This American Life.

We were going to find my brother’s father.

For most of my life, my brother had existed only as a single distracted, almost-forgotten conversation. As a child, our now long-deceased mother had mentioned him at a most inopportune time. But to him, I existed in a different sense. I was a real figure from his past; biological proof he came from someplace; an answer to a question he had been asking for decades.

We met face to face the day after Christmas in 2007. 4 1/2 years later, I departed Oklahoma, picked up my brother and embarked on this adventure culminating in Columbia, South Carolina, the state capital. There, at the hall of records, I knew our heartwarming story of love, loss, reunion and redemption along our combined southern charm would open dusty vaults, rewarding us with answers.

Not a chance.

A woman from the records department met us in the lobby. She wanted to help; my brother sensed it and pressed.

“A first name…” He begged to no avail. She smiled sympathetically, but was handcuffed by regulations.

Indeed, a first name was all he needed. 19 years prior, he had come to the same building. The clerk at the window had held a file. She had told him ,”In here is everything you need to know.”

Then she added, “And I cannot give it to you.”

Instead, he had been given a sanitized copy, black marks lining through all the distinguishable details. Resembling an Area 51 document from the History Channel, the non-identifiable information included a generic description of an older brother.

Me.

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Over the years he combed through the blacked out file and unceasingly requested further information. He received the same copies over and over. He searched, he posted on message boards, and he kept at it.

Finally, he caught a break. One copy failed to black out our mother’s first name. A volunteer search agency was able to cross reference birth records in several counties, filter the results with the non-identifying information; this lead to a cousin, then to my step dad, and finally me. That is what landed him in the passenger seat of my black 911 in the sweltering southern heat.

Sunset
Now, defeated, we sat in the smoking area behind the hall of records.

Our last conversation with various faceless officials of our inscrutable government had ended with “Have you considered hiring a private investigator?”

Those words echoed as I looked at my brother, elbows on his knees, Marlboro Light in his fingers, staring at a patch of concrete waiting for the answers that had eluded him for his entire existence. The same gaze had come from behind titanium Oakleys in my passenger seat during the days leading up to this moment.

So I hired one. A specialist in adoption who sat on the state board. Realistic and professional, she warned me it could from six months to a year and that sometimes she could not make the connection.

In the end, it only took three weeks. When the report arrived, I was stunned by the detail; I had the grandparents, family locations, education and even employment. Most importantly, I had the answer my brother needed to know.

As written by Mike Rutherford; I had a name, and I had a number.

I refused to cause any family harm and I was not going to make this connection if it would bring my brother pain. I had to tread carefully.

I left a excruciatingly generic voicemail. Two days later my phone rang.

A few weeks later, my brother was waiting to meet his father. Sitting in his Charger SRT/8, he wondered what they would talk about. They had spoken on the phone, but it was still bound to be awkward. How would they break the ice?

Then his father arrived, driving his 911.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, and will never be half the man his brother is.

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Piston Slap: Porsche’s Kid Friendly Option. Yes, Option. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-porsches-kid-friendly-option-yes-option/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/piston-slap-porsches-kid-friendly-option-yes-option/#comments Thu, 03 Oct 2013 12:25:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=587409 Seth writes: Sajeev, I own two cars – a 2003 A4 3.0 quattro with 81k miles and a 2005 Boxster S with 50k miles. Both were bought used and both have been relatively inexpensive to maintain (so far). I went ahead and replaced the timing belt on the A4 earlier this year due to the […]

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Seth writes:

Sajeev,

I own two cars – a 2003 A4 3.0 quattro with 81k miles and a 2005 Boxster S with 50k miles. Both were bought used and both have been relatively inexpensive to maintain (so far). I went ahead and replaced the timing belt on the A4 earlier this year due to the car’s age, despite the fact the service manual doesn’t call for a new timing belt until 105k mi (which would occur at 13 years old based on my annual mileage).

That said, my wife is about to have our first baby and this has called my car choices into question. The A4 is pretty small – too small for a kiddo and all her associated stuff – and the Porsche, well, that’s a non-starter. Since I can’t turn the airbag off, my kid wouldn’t see the front seat of the Porsche until she’s a teenager.

The question is: do I trade in both cars and buy a family friendly SUV (say a VW Touareg) or keep the Boxster and trade the Audi in on something a lot less expensive, yet still family friendly? I am torn – I really enjoy the Porsche.

Sajeev answers:


Wait, WHUT? Kids aren’t allowed in a Porsche?

They’re sure as hell allowed in a C5-C6 Corvette…or a regular cab Ford Ranger for that matter.  Oh Porsche, how could you not let us share your pure driving experience with our cute little children?

Turns out that like many features/attributes of a Porsche, safely carrying your kiddo is an extra cost option.  Which sounds stupid, but it’s probably justified like other wallet-killing options: the Slim Thug approved wood grain wheel, fake aluminum trim, retro side decals, pointless body kits or leather-wrapped vent registers. This article explains the two options available to owners of older airbag’d Porkers and younger children. Part number 997-044-800-15 is probably what you need.

To what end?  Get the Boxster sorted for your future sprog and buy a normal vehicle to replace the A4.  I’d suggest avoiding Europe for that, getting a higher value Japanese or American alternative…and pocketing the cash savings from the next few years of ownership into a college fund for the kiddo. Or an impending IMS failure. Ain’t nothing wrong with owning a Boxster and a Camry! Probably.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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P-Cars And Perception http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/p-cars-and-perception/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/p-cars-and-perception/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 19:55:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502889 (Ryan sent this to me before the recent Adbusters piece, but perhaps it’s additionally relevant now — JB) The Truth About Cars is that sometimes they tell us the truth about ourselves. I rolled into Los Angeles one morning in a badly running 911. It was already hot, though the morning haze hadn’t yet burned […]

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desert

(Ryan sent this to me before the recent Adbusters piece, but perhaps it’s additionally relevant now — JB)

The Truth About Cars is that sometimes they tell us the truth about ourselves.

I rolled into Los Angeles one morning in a badly running 911. It was already hot, though the morning haze hadn’t yet burned off. The transition from the wide-open, high desert to the sudden congestion of the L.A. basin was disorienting. Still, I felt a tinge of excitement. I was on the West Coast, and I was there to pursue a girl.

Windows down, wing windows open (one of which sporting the de rigueur PCA sticker), I could clearly hear the misfire the flat six had developed somewhere in the desert. It still made sufficient power, but obviously something was wrong. The car was a ’74. Silver, euro headlights, Fuchs wheels, mismatched tires, badly split dashboard, short shift kit, high-bolstered cloth Recaros, a little rust, and to top it all off, a salvage title. It’s tough to buy a 911 with student loans.

A week earlier, I’d been thumbing through the Auto Trader magazine (that’s how we used to do it), hoping for a cheap 944 when I my glance fell to the little black and white thumbnail of this car. I was sure it was a misprint. I called on it immediately, then called my dad’s Porsche mechanic. “A 911 for $5000?” he inquired. “Yeah, will you take a look at it for me?” I asked. “Buy it” he said. “If it runs, the engine and tranny are worth that.” So I did.

Now, a week later, and eleven hundred miles away, the “it runs” part was dubious.

Los Angeles is a funny place. I don’t much care for it. Dave Duchovny’s character in the TV series Californication shares my sense of the city. I had recently moved from London, he from New York, and we both found the city much more confident in its appeal than we thought was warranted. (Interestingly, in the series, he too drives a Porsche, a beat-to-hell 964 cab, if I recall correctly.) To my mind, it is a city characterized by a culture without substance. A culture in fact so far removed from substance, people there often don’t recognize the difference between substance and non-substance.

Philosophers call the study of the relationship between signs and the things signified semiotics. Bear with me being arcane for a moment, as I think this is the way to describe my objection to Los Angeles. In L.A., the importance of the thing ‘signified’ has largely disappeared. The important value has dropped out of the equation. Now, people there traffic largely in an essentially meaningless jargon of ‘signs’ that don’t actually correlate to anything.

Are you an ‘actor’? Of course you are. Are you a ‘producer’? A model? Wealthy? 45 and not 25? Everyone has been pretending for so long, people have become desensitized. It’s perfectly natural to lie about what you do for a living, and how well you do it. (Spoiler alert: everyone actually works in a restaurant.) Fake it until you make it, right? Lease a new Range Rover, and park it in front of your dumpy shared apartment. It’s the appearance of wealth—denoting success!—which is important. Surely no one is smart enough to peek behind the curtain, to see through your little ruse.

In the midst of this din, this incessant and meaningless projection of symbols, one can scarcely communicate. After all, language, too, is a system of symbols. As Orwell wrote in his magnificent essay, “Politics and the English Language”, when you manipulate the correlation between language and states of affairs in the world, you lose the ability to communicate.

For many Angelenos, the idea that in other parts of the world, people derive goods not by passing legislation, but by actually working, is surprising. That people actually make things—objects, literature, non-online degrees, the yields of agriculture—all this is foreign. Why would you bother with that? Just pretend. It’s the sign, not the thing signified that matters.

What does this have to do with a badly-running 911? Well, as it happens, this is just the car to pry-open the dysfunction of the place. The car and I were the same age. The interior smelled not like a luxury car, but rather like an old Volkswagen (same vinyl, after all). The only leather in the car was on the steering wheel, and it was in rough shape. Yet people had been so conditioned to respond to symbols, that my 911 told people I was a producer (or something equally silly). “But you have a PORSCH! (sic)” “Uh, it’s as old as I am. The tires don’t even match.” That I was a marginally employed grad student simply did not compute.

People didn’t seem to realize how old it was. Now, I grant that Porsche has been very conservative in the styling of successive 911s, but surely even the untrained eye can spot a car from the early ‘70s. That someone would enjoy a 30 year old car—with no AC—for its own sake, was unheard of. The car, it seemed, was itself valueless. It carried great weight as a sign, however. People were so accustomed to responding to the sign, that they failed—sometimes entirely—to perceive the vehicle empirically presenting itself.

I found this perplexing.

The merits of the car—and in spite of its condition, it was a very cool little car—were completely occluded by the perceived significance of the car. Why would you have a Porsche if not to signal your wealth and success to those around you? What other possible purpose could there be?

Upon visiting a cousin in Orange County, his (physically enhanced) wife came bustling in: “Wow—whose Porsche is that?” Apparently, the social status of one of her husband’s friends (and so, by proxy, hers?) was about to go up. However, upon learning the answer, she was visibly disappointed. “Aren’t you some sort of theology student or something? Why would you have that car?”

The answer? Complex. Let’s summarize:

Dr. Porsche had a dream. (It was not nearly as profound as Dr. King’s, but it was not without merit.) In the early-mid twentieth century, sports cars were big. They had giant engines. Ferrari, Jaguar, and Mercedes vied for speed records in famous races along dangerous routes through the Alps. Dr. Porsche also wanted to win, but his philosophy was entirely different. He built a tiny, incredibly simple, lightweight sports car. Rather than a V12, or something equally monstrous taken from a post-war fighter plane, it featured an air-cooled four cylinder—configured horizontally. Its body was made of aluminum, and he avoided the extra weight of paint (which is why early P cars raced in silver—they were unpainted). The center of gravity was mere inches off the pavement. As a lad, I would often check out books from the local library. One was about Porsches. I recall studying the black and white photos of stern German men in lab coats beating aluminum panels by hand over wooden molds. The body was very simple, an inverted bathtub. Guess what? His cars could win.

Now, whether any of the above is actually accurate, it all sounds about right—doesn’t it? It’s more or less what I remember reading as an adolescent, and that’s the important point. It’s part of the Porsche mythos, and it’s why I would have a car like this.

My car—the ’74—was small, light, and silver. It made fantastic noises. Its 2.7 wasn’t especially powerful, but it was so light, it could walk a 3 Series. Or: the delicious banshee wail of the flat six at full chat convinced the other drivers it could. Same result. I got a lot of tickets in that car. This, roughly, is the response I’d have liked to have given to my busty friend. (Remember her? She’s three paragraphs above).

Where’s the disconnect? Let’s see if we can unpack it:

1. Small, iconoclast sports car = object of desire
2. Object of desire = expense
3. Expense = luxury
4. Luxury = wealth
5. Therefore, 911 = wealth
6. Desire to look wealthy? Get a 911!

If you miss the reason the car is desirable, and jump straight to the car as a signifier of something else, you really miss the point of the car. And look what else happens: generally speaking, you want wealth so that you can acquire neat things. Wealth is a sign that you as a person get to enjoy neat things. The neat things are the point. But if you miss the value of the things themselves, and see them only as signs of wealth, you’ve reversed the relationship between sign and thing signified, and you create for yourself a perpetual cycle of unfulfilling—because meaningless—acquisition. Get a major segment of the population of a large city participating in this confusion, and the term ‘Californicaiton’ begins to take on real meaning.

Now, obviously this sweeping characterization of Los Angeles is unfair. What I’ve written is by no means true of each of the city’s inhabitants; but if I were asked for an illustration of the point I’m making, this city would be definitely be exhibit A.

“Well”, I thought to myself, “so much for the socialite classes. But true automotive enthusiasts will understand”. With this consoling thought, I tracked down the local chapter of the PCA. I attended precisely one event. It consisted of a bunch of retired dentists talking about golf. They all but asked me to park my 911 in back, and out of their line of sight. It was only later that I learned of the POC, the group who actually liked to drive (even on tracks!) By then, however, I was over the girl I’d gone in pursuit of, and for that matter, L.A. in general. I sold the car for more than I paid for it, bought a high-mileage BMW E28 on Ebay, and left town in search of my own soul.

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There’s Nothing New Under The Sun – Test Drive Reviews of Porsche’s Entry-Level Sports Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-test-drive-reviews-of-porsches-entry-level-sports-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/theres-nothing-new-under-the-sun-test-drive-reviews-of-porsches-entry-level-sports-cars/#comments Sun, 18 Aug 2013 14:37:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498901 Depending on the type of mood in which I find myself after waking, as well as the type of mood in which I find my car after its waking, I vacillate between being buried in the masterpiece or selling the lemon in short order.  Recently my relationship with my Porsche 911 has been somewhat strained.  […]

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Fortune Cookie Depending on the type of mood in which I find myself after waking, as well as the type of mood in which I find my car after its waking, I vacillate between being buried in the masterpiece or selling the lemon in short order.  Recently my relationship with my Porsche 911 has been somewhat strained.  A relatively minor issue prompted my most recent trip to the dealer, yet I was set to depart with another four-figure bill.  In a moment of weakness I strolled over to the other side of the dealer and perused their new offerings, in particular the updated 981 Boxster and Cayman twins.  Perhaps relatively predictable depreciation losses would be preferable to the Russian roulette of ongoing high-dollar maintenance.

A particular brand of Porsche enthusiast, usually those who own either of the junior siblings, will claim that those are the “real” sports cars now, considering ownership of the elder 911 an indefensible signifier of a poseur as the icon ascends to the lofty grand touring segment.  I’ll concede that they might have a point, as the entry-level sports cars are smaller and lighter, more in keeping with the original ethos of the giant-killing momentum cars that made the badge famous in the first place.  Plus, they feature a mid-engined architecture that is dynamically optimal, at least on paper, whereas the 911 is a curious outlier with the bulk of its mass situated over the rear axle.The significant price differential in favor of the 981s is, of course, purely coincidental.

Despite being on the youthful side – I’m 24 and look younger – I had my own Porsche in tow, and I was wearing a suit, so booking a test drive of both a Boxster S and a Cayman S proved easy.  Plus, I had recently received a serendipitous fortune cookie, so I had to do some (window) shopping. Despite being an avid Porschephile, I have enjoyed minimal exposure to the more modern product offerings.  It is a common tenet among many serious Porsche owners to maintain without irony that whatever car they happen to own at the time is the absolute pinnacle of the company’s capabilities, with the ensuing model years representing a fundamental sea change in Porsche’s values, fueled by cynical profit pursuit and the triumph of marketing and accounting over engineering, culminating in inexorable decline.  Porsche themselves have even poked fun at this attitude.

Porsche Cynical Poster

NB: Had I been able to locate a digital copy of the above poster with sufficient resolution, you would be able to read the following in the text pane to the right – “255,000 people have an older one in their garage and could talk to you for hours about why theirs is the best year and although we are deeply proud of our heritage we maintain no loyalties to any particular vintage and recommend a brief yet thorough test drive of the newest model available. (Which, incidentally, now has a top speed of 168 miles per hour.)”

The now-deposed 997 owners express reservations over the electrically assisted steering on the latest and greatest 991, whereas the 993 owners bemoan the loss of the air-cooled engine and the ur-911’s original footprint and cabin layout, the 964 owners mourn the upright front fenders that allowed the driver to see how much the car understeered (which was worst just before the car snapped to oversteer!), the G-series owners insist that something was lost with the end of the torsion bar era … all the way back to the 356 owners who are still unconvinced by this whole “911” fad.  Meanwhile they were all sneering at those who were stuck pushing around a front-engined 924,944, 968, or 928, as well as all Boxster and Cayman variants.  When viewed objectively and dispassionately, it’s a facile contention, and it reminds me of similar remarks made at my college graduation; a relatively obscure and stubbornly conservative liberal arts school situated in rural Virginia, my alma mater invariably produces graduates who express a tinge of pity for anyone who attended the school after they did, confident that the experience is diluted evermore each year, and the essence of the place is endangered.

And what about the essence of Porsche?  Is it endangered?  Do they still build true sports cars, and is the 981 stable the rightful inheritor of the air-cooled cars’ legacy?  Most importantly, could it replace my 993?  Of course I had to see for myself, but I received plenty of unsolicited advice from family friends and coworkers. One family friend volunteered that the new Boxster was actually a surprisingly handsome car, representing an improvement over the 986 and 987 cars’ “bar of soap silhouette that [he] would be embarrassed to be seen in.”  A coworker who allegedly maintains a businesslike relationship with rapper Rick Ross, the “Hottest MC in the Game” and a confirmed 911 enthusiast, promised to leverage his professional network and urge the Teflon Don to talk me down from the precipitous proverbial ledge of trading my 911 for a “chick car.”  Concurrently, another colleague warned me that the primary determinant of vehicular desirability was the presence of “sick fuckin’ technology,” helpfully suggesting the purchase of an Acura ILX instead.  Ironically, the latter colleague also professes a meaningful personal connection with RO$$, so I’m anticipating a phone call from a blocked number any day now.  Failing that, I’ll look for Ricky Rozay at the next Porsche Club of America ice cream social.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Boxster S I drove was resplendent in white.  While the new car undoubtedly looks more muscular, a bit like the last decade’s Carrera GT supercar if you squint a little, I don’t think the refrigerator hue will do the soft top car many favors as it ages. Ellis Boxster 1 Sure it looks good now but so did the new pair of tennis shoes I received each school year as a kid, only to look tired and worn before the first snowfall.  Or perhaps the new Boxsters will age as gracefully as a bathtub 356, who knows? I do know that I prefer the external aesthetics of the new Cayman over the Boxster.  The Cayman S tester was also white, but the more aggressive front fascia treatment and “Platinum Satin” wheels manifest a remarkable improvement in the car’s overall look.  True, the cheaper to manufacture coupe will cost you a few grand more, and painting the wheels will tack on $845, but the krauts know how to extract the most from their patrons.  Seriously, in Guards Red the Cayman S could wear a Pininfarina badge. Ellis Cayman 1 The interior of both cars is also a marked improvement over the previous generation, featuring superior materials – but certainly not standard full leather – and a rising central console that salespeople will tell you invokes the aforesaid Carrera GT.  Personally, I think it more readily elicits comparisons with the Cayenne and Panamera breadwinners. The Boxster S was equipped with the good ol’ G50 6-speed manual… Ellis Boxster Interior … while the Cayman S featured the optional 7-speed PDK transmission and Sport Chrono Package, which total just over $5,000 combined. Ellis Cayman Interior I drove the Boxster S first.  After releasing the strange emergency brake – an oversized button mounted down and to the left of the steering wheel – the controls struck me as typical Porsche, although all inputs felt a bit less substantial, requiring less heft than my tractor of a car.  The sweet manual transmission featured a relatively light clutch with very gradual takeup – the polar opposite of my car – but it was familiar enough that I could heel-and-toe with ease after a few exploratory shifts.  The 3.4 liter engine in the S-variant Boxster produces 315 hp, before running out of steam at 7800 rpm, with peak torque coming in at 266 lb-ft.  Although the test drive was conducted two-up, the Boxster is considerably lighter than my 993, which left the factory with 282 hp and has doubtless sacrificed some of those stallions to the angels’ share – just like the finest Scottish exports – during the interim.  Consequently, the Boxster felt considerably more rapid than my immediate frame of reference.

The Cayman S came next.  I self-identify as a luddite who prefers the interaction of three pedals and a lever over the new-fangled dual clutch setup, but I did find the PDK quite beguiling.  Apart from the humdrum efficiency gains afforded by the extra ratio, the PDK transmission – when coupled with Sport Chrono –  makes a case for itself through enhanced straight line performance, far in excess of the 10 hp and 7 lb-ft incremental gains given to the Cayman S over the lump in the Boxster S.  The PDK + Sport Chrono equation allows the driver to indulge in Launch Control, in which the computer optimizes all parameters and slingshots you forward from a dead stop.  It’s great fun, and impossible not to inscribe a shit-eating-grin on the driver’s face, but it strikes me as a party trick you’d use to dazzle your friends.  It’s an expensive gimmick, that’s all.  As for a holistic assessment of PDK, it’s difficult for me to say whether it would still keep my attention on, say, my 247th day commuting to work without a clutch pedal.

Neither car I drove had the optional Porsche Sports Exhaust, but both provided a sufficient, if somewhat subdued soundtrack.  Even the base setup emits little flourishes of overrun on downshifts, but they come across as synthetic, like Porsche by Pro Tools. Neither car I drove had the optional Porsche Active Suspension Management either, instead riding on the standard, passive dampers.  That was fine, because the all-new chassis underpinning both 981s is a gem.  The combination of enhanced stiffness – heightened more so by a modest yet perceptible margin in the hard top car – and wider tracks versus the precedent 987 cars gives the new cars tremendous composure when pressing on, and the mid-engined orientation endows the car with remarkable agility, particularly through sudden transitions.  The Boxster and Cayman provided sufficient confidence to push the cars into gentle four-wheel drifts when space permitted, something I would not  (intentionally) do in my car.  In my 911 the script reads like this: pronounced, seemingly terminal understeer that rapidly gives way to exuberant oversteer, requiring four attentive limbs to control the car.  It’s akin to the sensation you experience while being towed behind a speed boat that has changed course ahead of you – a spell in the predictable, placid doldrums before being fired across the wake.  Conversely, the modern mid-engined cars slow everything down like Bullet Time in The Matrix, so even a ham-fisted hack feels like a virtuoso, selecting a slip angle from a continuous menu of options.  It is deeply impressive, but perhaps a little less thrilling overall.

Braking has historically been a strong suit for Porsche, and the junior twins performed as expected in this regard, with reassuring retardation bolstered by well-judged sensitivity to modulation.  Both cars had the standard steel brakes, identified by their red calipers, which more than sufficed in all situations encountered; the additional outlay for the bling yellow PCCB calipers is probably overkill, especially as both cars stickered well north of $70,000 already. So what about the steering?

The transition away from hydraulically-assisted steering toward electrically-assisted steering has incensed owners and fanbois alike.  The new steering setup – which included the optional Power Steering Plus in both cars I drove – still allows the driver to position the car with both precision and accuracy, and it becomes weightier once at speed, just like the preceding cars. It performs all of the essential functions that a sports car’s helm should, but part of that Porsche essence is gone; there’s no more tugging, or writhing, or superfluous tactility.  It’s all very efficient, and not in a good way. So what’s there to conclude?  Keen readers already know that the 981 is a very good car, that it shades the primitive, old, air-cooled 911s in every objective measure.

Is there a banal, hackneyed platitude about “soul” to tie these observations and experiences together?  No, the denouement is this:  If you believe that Porsche is evolving through Sisyphean endeavor, gradually pushing the boulder up the mountain a bit more with every passing model year – a bit more power, a bit more economy, a bit more space – then you’ll find no surprises with the newest junior sports cars.  Conversely, if you fear that Porsche is caught  in entropic freefall, you won’t be surprised either, for there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to Porsche, they stick to the script.

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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Review: 2014 Cayman S vs. 1998 911 Carrera S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-cayman-s-vs-1998-911-carrera-s/#comments Tue, 23 Jul 2013 19:10:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496771 My friend Rob Z. is the quintessential nice guy: even-tempered, affable, a firm handshake and a decent sense of humour. We meet up on a sunny Saturday morning in East Vancouver and he rolls open his garage door. Well. Clearly I’m going to have to murder him. Me too, but you can’t. Like Jerry Seinfeld […]

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My friend Rob Z. is the quintessential nice guy: even-tempered, affable, a firm handshake and a decent sense of humour. We meet up on a sunny Saturday morning in East Vancouver and he rolls open his garage door.

Well.

Clearly I’m going to have to murder him.

Captain Obvious
Me too, but you can’t. Like Jerry Seinfeld recently said of his ’73 911 2.7RS, Rob’s 1998 911 Carrera S is a “dead-guy car”. The next owner is upstairs eating cheerios and watching cartoons, but as far as anyone buying this last-of-breed, insanely low-mileage air-cooled 911, it’d have to be over Rob’s cold, dead body. WHICH CAN BE ARRANG- sorry, sorry.

(Entirely justifiable) homicide aside, finding and purchasing a car like this is much more difficult than simply popping your head ’round the door of your local Porsche dealership and plonking down the order for the car I’ve parked next to it, a second-generation Cayman S. The lithe two-seater can be leased, if you so desire, and can be painted any colour you’d like – Rob would slightly prefer if his 911 were white, but there’s no used-Porsche factory. Well, apart from Singer.

Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk recently about how the Cayman (along with the Boxster) is Porsche’s new proper sportscar. I posted a pretty good early-morning shot of the car’s sleek new lines set against the Vancouver city skyline on facebook and a TTAC contributor opined, “Cayman is the new 911.” That’s as may be, but is it the old 911?

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For starters, just look at it.

To my eye, this is an exceptionally good-looking car, balanced, well-proportioned, and frankly beautiful. In a world where manufacturers are continually telling us how “aggressive” the styling on their new minivan is, the Cayman manages to project purpose without looking like a Tapout t-shirt. It’s a miniature supercar.

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Park it next to the 993 and the Cayman’s modernity comes apart a little. Rob’s 993 came lowered on Bilsteins, properly done, but bound to cause consternation and condemnation amongst some purists – but it wouldn’t be a 911 if someone wasn’t turning up their nose at it. As such, the friendly-faced little 911 is lower in the nose and sleeker than the low-slung Cayman, despite a high greenhouse that makes it actually taller.

Even so, I parked the Cayman S across from an Aventador convertible at the local Cars and Coffee and it garnered only slightly less attention than the Lambo. Those wagon-sized 20” wheels are ridiculous on-paper, but strike me dead with dysentery if they don’t look fantastic. Everywhere I went, people were excited to see the car: “Is this the new one?” they’d ask with big smiles. That has never happened to me with a 991.

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The other thing I was asked, repeatedly, was, “How’s the steering?” Usually, this query was delivered with the concerned tone of voice of someone asking about the progress of your irritable bowel syndrome. My answer? Not bad. Not great, but not bad.

Driving the Cayman back-to back with the 993 does the newer car a great disservice, as you don’t really notice what you’re missing until you do so. The 993’s steering is extremely light, but fizzes and pops with every small road imperfection, sending frissons from your hands up your arms to the pleasure-centres of your brain. It’s phenomenal, a vinyl recording of a live concert.

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The Cayman’s steering is an MP3 of the same event. Compressed and filtered for modern consumption, the brain simply fills in the gaps and you get on with the business of enjoying the exceptional chassis, excellent transmission (auto or stick) and delightful engine. But after driving something like the 993, you can’t help but ask, “why have they done this? It’s slightly worse!”

However, you only need drive a Cayman S a few feet to know that this is going to be a wonderful little car. There’s a litheness to it that’s missing from the 911, a nimble athleticism that doesn’t give a good God-damn about chromed projections of affluence. Hit the button for “Sport+”, slot the PDK transmission into full manual and walk on it – this thing goes like Hell.

The 911, on the other hand, drives like Heaven. The seats are more comfortable than the Cayman’s, the brightly-lit cabin is less a jet-fighter cockpit than an aerobatic aircraft’s plexiglass canopy, and there’s all sorts of other interesting quirks like the slightly offset pedals and metallic delicacy of the door locks. When new, this 993 had 282hp, a full forty less than the 325hp Cayman S.

Even though the PDK-equipped Cayman is heavier, by about a hundred pounds or so, the 993 is no slouch. I wind it up through the gears respectfully and Rob says, “don’t be afraid to drive it.” All righty then.

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What a machine. The thrumming whirr from that big flat-six, the precision of the steering – it’s all just as good as everyone says. And, in a 993, there’s no real heavy lifting, no difficulty in driving it quickly with confidence. “I do sort of feel like I’m wrecking it by driving it,” Rob says, which given the just-over eleven thousand miles on the odometer, is not an entirely unreasonable thing to say. “Who cares?” I reply, “This is your car, then his.” Behind the passenger, there’s a booster seat – the boy that one day inherits this masterwork will doubtless have fond memories.

No one will really “inherit” the Cayman. It’s not that sort of car – it’s brilliant, and much, much faster than the 993, even moreso than paper-racing the two might show. It’s absolutely the best car Porsche currently builds, engaging, exhilarating… expendable. If you’d like to know why I think that, just read Jack’s piece on his Boxster.

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However, this Aqua Blue two-seater will make a decent three-year lease for somebody who will put five thousand miles a year on it, and then a great CPO deal for the second owner who will drive it into the ground, and by “ground” I mean Porsche service centre. Or possibly some joke about electrical grounding faults.

Call it a decade or so of useful service, a machine that never fails to grab you by the lapels – as long as you have the throttle mapping set correctly. It’s far too expensive, of course, and for the money you could easily have a new ‘Vette Stingray or a CPO 997 (and isn’t that the biggest argument against the Cayman?).

Yet it’s an excellent sportscar – when I drove the 991 Carrera S last July, I concluded with something like: “It is probably the best car I will drive all year. And I don’t want one.” Well, the Cayman is probably going to be the best new car I drive this year, and I do want one.

But.

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Especially if you’re considering a weekend toy, you could instead have a genuine air-cooled 911. It’s slower, it’s noisier, it’s not as safe, and it’s much less efficient. It’s also cheaper – this one is about two-thirds the cost of the Cayman plus-or-minus a medium-length jail term – and they don’t depreciate.

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A nice safe conclusion then: the usable classic is better than synthesized modernity. Not quite. If you had just one parking spot, no pair of diesel cargo-haulers to handle day-to-day duties – Rob has an ML and a Golf Wagon – you’d be far better off with the Cayman as a weekday warrior and not worrying about preserving a 993. It’s not a car for forever, but it is a car for right now, wherever and whenever right now might be.

Porsche Canada provided the Cayman reviewed and insurance
Rob Z. is just on a long vacation, I swear, don’t ask me any more questions.

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The End of the Forever Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/the-end-of-the-forever-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/the-end-of-the-forever-car/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 15:05:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493247 Central to the tone of Jack Baruth’s lovely father-and-son 911 vignette is the concept of the Forever Car. It’s a nice thought – the machine acting as fossilizing amber, perfectly capturing a fleeting memory such that it lasts an eternity. This idea is, to me, an entirely rational way to explain the presence of a […]

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Central to the tone of Jack Baruth’s lovely father-and-son 911 vignette is the concept of the Forever Car. It’s a nice thought – the machine acting as fossilizing amber, perfectly capturing a fleeting memory such that it lasts an eternity.

This idea is, to me, an entirely rational way to explain the presence of a theoretical soul in something that is composed of nothing more than steel, glass, rubber and leather. Cars don’t have souls, they develop them through experience – the transference of an emotion felt behind the wheel. It doesn’t have to be a 911 either, even the humblest old Volvo shoebox absorbs a personality as it slots into the background in slide after slide of family vacation pictures.

And then, you find yourself browsing craigslist and seeing a well-preserved you-name-it and thinking, “I could make that mine. I could share that with my children, and they would understand, and when I am dead and gone, they would explain it to their kids, and they would know.”

It’s a nice thought, the Forever Car. It perfectly encapsulates the human need for lasting possessions, of the art scrawled on the cave wall that says, “I was here.” One’s all-too-brief lifetime becomes a link in a chain that’ll stretch out over the years; less an ownership cycle than the work of a custodian/curator.

Well hurry up then. The last Forever Cars have already been built.
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Some years ago I was travelling in Australia, winding up a hairpin road to a resort smack-dab in the middle of a Queensland rain-forest. Stopping for lunch, I took in the grounds in all their parrot-infested splendour, never imagining I’d be bowled over by a herd of centenarians.

This was the Australian Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club, some of whom had travelled from as far away as Tasmania; a creaky herd of antediluvian behemoths, the youngest of which was built in 1923. One old gentleman donned a brown Rolls-Royce jumpsuit and set about rummaging in the gorgeous copper and steel innards of his classic motor-coach. I spoke to several of the owners and they were all experienced tourers, some younger, some older, all with a passion for these beautiful relics.

Of course, you’d have to be slightly deranged to think touring around in pre-war cars is either a safe or reliable way to see the country. Usually the folks that do so are more well-heeled than Disco Stu, capable of flying in experienced mechanics when needed.

However, the cars are simple and sturdy enough that a careful caretaker can keep them running without too much difficulty. They are certainly Forever Cars, in the sense that there’s almost nothing that could break which wouldn’t be worth putting right.
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For those of us that can’t afford a Roller – or who don’t care to – a legion of classic American iron constantly cycles through the auction block, supported by a healthy aftermarket of folks who know how to strip down and build up both Detroit’s best work and its follies. The same is true for less-trustworthy British steel, with stampings still readily available for those fighting cancerous lesions on the flanks of their electrically persnickety steeds.

And then of course, there’s the Porsche 911: a hardy air-cooled sporting car with some wonky vehicle dynamics, or a modern, highly-technical tarmac-ripper with a big, mortal electronic brain – the split occurs in ’98. I have to confess a certain fondness for the 996 GT3 on my part, simply because the 996 is everyone’s least-favourite engine-in-the-wrong-place P-car. There’s no question though, if you stick an air-cooled 911 in your driveway, it’s never going to be worth less than what you paid for it. Even if the mileage is huge, it’s a machine worth keeping around.

More importantly, it’s a machine that can be saved. My dad’s current BMW 550i six-speed is theoretically a last-of-breed too: one of the last proper driver’s 5ers with the very hard to find stick-shift. Once the extended warranty runs out, the thing’s going to start fritzing out like a Aston-Martin Lagonda in a salt bath. There’s no way that keeping it on the road will be worth anything like the money required to do so.

Modern cars are so much better than their ancestral equivalents in many ways. Today’s family sedans – the Mazda6, the Fusion, the Honda Accord – offer exceptional ride, handling, economy and safety. The Accord and the Mazda are also both decently fun-to-drive, and certainly equipped with some level of personality.

But even the traditionally well-built Honda won’t be kicking around in twenty-five year’s time, carefully polished up by some gaffer that kept the miles low, or ruined by some kid with whatever the Buck Rogers equivalent of Hellaflushing will be. It’ll simply be gone, replaced in its product cycle by the next consumer good, a cleaner, safer, better product which costs you money and takes you places.
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That’s the lie of the “modern classic” – such a vehicle simply doesn’t exist. Sure you could argue that the Shelby ‘Stang would be worth keeping around, and it’d be easier to do than anything Teutonic, but what about trying to fix one when it’s thirty years old? Where will you take the ECU for re-soldering? Who’ll still have the diagnostic equipment?

In twenty years time, the pool of heritage vehicles will have contracted somewhat, owing to the relentless erosion of time and chance. Some fossils will be damaged irreparably; still others will be cobbled together to form a more-perfect skeleton. More and more will show up in Murilee columns.

And, perhaps, the pool of people who actually care about this sort of thing will have shrunk as well. The Forever Car might be safely in the hands of a new owners, or it may sit, unloved, as part of an estate sale while a bemused lawyer tries to figure out who’d want this leaky, dusty, decrepit, out-dated old thing.
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But I don’t think so. I think any car that’s special in some way and can be resuscitated will still be found out on the highways while there’s gas to burn and places to go. Not locked up tight in some climate-controlled museum, but out on the road, subject to the risks of collision, weather and mechanical failure.

I think, forty years down the road, long after the internal combustion engine has become the equivalent of the cigarette, decades after Akira Nakai’s violent murder at the hands of a mysterious, shaggy assailant, we’ll find a white, basket handle 911 parked on the side of the road. As centipede-chains of whirring electro-pods pass, filled with people doing every damn thing but driving, a stranger will stop and do a double take. “I haven’t seen one of these forever!”

And then, one hopes, there’ll be the sort of exchange that always happens around an interesting old car: Is this yours? How long have you had it? Where’d you get it? What do you think it’s worth?

The last question may give pause because, of course, it has no real answer.

Note: The pictures accompanying this article were taken in Salt Lake City, which I passed through on the way to Aspen CO (where the beer flows like wine, etc.). I then ran into the group of touring Bentleys two blocks from my house in Vancouver a week later, which rates as co-incidence almost too absurd to be true.

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Hello, Yellow, Happy Birthday: BMW Faint Praises Porsche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/hello-yellow-happy-birthday-bmw-faint-praises-porsche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/hello-yellow-happy-birthday-bmw-faint-praises-porsche/#comments Thu, 06 Jun 2013 16:54:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491078 Usually, automakers never mention the competition, especially when you are BMW and the competition is Porsche. Soon, the Porsche 911, according to BMW “the flag-bearer of the German sports car fraternity,” will celebrate its 50th birthday, and BMW has a special birthday greeting. In an elaborate press drop, it compares the 911 not with equally […]

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Usually, automakers never mention the competition, especially when you are BMW and the competition is Porsche. Soon, the Porsche 911, according to BMW “the flag-bearer of the German sports car fraternity,” will celebrate its 50th birthday, and BMW has a special birthday greeting.

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In an elaborate press drop, it compares the 911 not with equally sporty BMWs, but with the MINI. For that, a yellow Ur-MINI (historically correct in RHD version)  and an equally yellow 2.4 L 911 Targa were put side-by-side, for a photo-shoot more elaborate than for many new car catalogs. Today, masses of pictures were sent out, along with a press release  that waxes long and poetic of how similar the Mini and the 911 are, both on the road and on the track.

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The press release, in the for BMW typical War&Peace-worthy  length, can be found here.  (BMW definitely does not seem to be worried about TL;NR).

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This subliminal message (the MINI  equals the mighty 911) is a gigantic put-down, dressed into polite praise. It’s a lost art, and I am glad BMW masters it.

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,

And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;

Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,

Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

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