Let Us Now Praise Fabulous Porsches

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
let us now praise fabulous porsches

Those of you steeped in traditional Catholicism know that we have just one of Porsche’s Deadly Sins left to go before the end of the series. What better time, then, to take a moment to talk about just why people do choose to become Porsche owners. Time and time again in my “Porsche’s Deadly Sins” series, people have asked me basically the same question, to wit:

If Porsche is such a terrible company, and they make such terrible products, why do you have three of them?

It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple group of answers. Buckle up and let’s talk about it.

“Sometimes,” the man said, “a cigar is just a cigar.” But to a true auto enthusiast, a car is never just a car. It’s an object that exists in context. The Consumer Reports guy, the appliance buyer, looks at a Cutlass and a Malibu and sees that they are the same product. We look at them and see the history they represent, the context that transcends the metal.

My automotive sense, my car-loving child within, forever lives in Columbia, MD. I see myself standing with my father as he purchases a new MG, riding in the back seat of his LeSabre and seeing the big Oldsmobiles, the stately Cadillacs, the professorial Saabs, the careless old-money scions (small “S”) in their Nine Elevens and XJSes. I come from a time where the GM brands still meant something, where California was irrelevant in our lives, where the phenomenon of the omnipresent entry-level information technology manager douching it up in a G35 Koop had yet to spring, fully-formed, into existence from the forehead of the dot-com boom.

In that mindset, in that heritage, a Porsche is still special. I treasured seeing Porsches as a child. There was no Cayenne, no Panamera. Even a 924 was gorgeous to see, if not all that stirring to drive. When I sit behind the wheel of my 993, I remember sitting behind the wheel of a 1979 911SC in a Washington, DC dealership, my father distracting the salesperson long enough for me to enjoy myself looking around. It’s the same car, or it’s same enough for me. The existence of the loathsome Panamera cannot trouble my quiet joy in this. My 993 is my gift to my childhood.

I own a 944 because there is nothing that equals a 944 as a legal-speeds road tool. The visibility is superb, the driving position is comfortable. I feel that the car is light enough to maneuver and heavy enough to be substantial. The big four has enough torque to push me along, which addresses the main shortcoming of the original EA925. It is unfiltered, delightful, still special after twenty-six years.

I bought my Boxster S “550 Spyder Edition” for pragmatic reasons. It was 2006. I intended to contest the SCCA National Solo Championship. I didn’t want to wear out my 993, didn’t want to subject it to sixty clutch drops a season, didn’t want to spend the money required to keep an aircooled Porsche running at race spec. I also thought I might be able to drive the Boxster a bit better at speed, and I wanted something to thrash on open track days. The Porsche-hating SCCA refused to let the 2005 or 2006 Boxster in “A Stock” so I bought a 4,000-mile 2004-model garage queen and gave it a shot.

Over the course of the next 29,000 miles, I came to respect, then admire, then finally love the Boxster. The M96 may be a limited-life engine but it can be sweet and lovely at seven thousand revs as I clip a curb on the way out of Mid-Ohio’s Carousel. With Hoosier tires mounted, 245 width in front and 285 width in back, it is a match in the midcorner for everything short of a Formula Continental. It can be thrown sideways at triple-digit speeds then collected at my leisure. The control inputs are honest, forthright, trustworthy. Unlike the 993, there’s real ergonomic thought in the relationship of seat, pedals, shifter. I also happen to think it’s pretty, though it’s certainly not as pretty as any air-cooled 911. If I had to sell one of the three, this would be the one I sell, but nota bene that I sold my Audi S5, not my Boxster, when I wanted to make a change in my automotive lineup.

I often step into one of my Porsches while in the grip of some foul mood, but I rarely step out that way. These are good cars. Each is flawed, each is born from compromise, pragmatism, and connivance, but they are also each fundamentally good in a way I cannot easily explain to you. It has nothing to do with prestige or impressing people; there’s nothing impressive about an old 944 or a Boxster and the 993 is starting to look more vintage than upscale. These are my cars, and I am their owner.

I cannot bring myself to love Porsche, the company, any more. Most of their products are either bad or cynical. There’s too much attention to cost-cutting, too many fiscal manipulations, too much German inside-baseball financing going on. Even in the “good old days”, this was a company which often knowingly sent race drivers to their deaths. As a racing driver and team owner I find that difficult to swallow.

That does not mean I could ever bring myself to not love these three cars, my aging, humble fleet, my little stable of dreams fulfilled. I don’t see myself ever buying a new Porsche. When I think of the Porsches I want, they are all beetle-backed air-cooled throbbers. The branded merchandise, luxury retreats, and single-make “gentlemen racer” series without a single gentleman among their ranks are too much for me to swallow. These are my Porsches. Thank you for reading, and, perhaps, for understanding.

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  • Porschespeed Porschespeed on Sep 08, 2010

    If the engine is behind the rear axle. it is a Beetle-evo. It is NOT a Porsche. Rear-engine is not right, the old man knew it. he let his punk-f kid do it to "teach him a lesson" and sadly, he did not get it. 911 of any year is a fail.

  • Jimbob457 Jimbob457 on Jul 25, 2013

    A late addition to this Porsche rant. I have driven Porsches off and on for years, but I have no great love for Stuttgart. They may be better engineers than most car companies, but they really don't act much differently in other respects. Case in point. In 1998 they came up with the Porsche 996, their first water cooled version of the 911. After May 4, 2001 they downgraded the specification of its IMS bearing as a cost cutting measure. IMS bearing failures usually are sudden, and when the occur, they normally trash the engine. Turns out that pre-May 4, 2001 996's and Boxters have a lifetime IMS failure rate said to be about 1%, normal for any part. The post-May 4, 2001 996's and Boxters (until the 2005 model change) had an IMS bearing life time failure rate admitted to be 4 to 10% - if you believe the lower number I have a bridge to sell you. Stuttgart was FORCED to divulge this information in a recent deposition as part of a class action law suit in California. This happened in March or April of 2013. All I can say is: "Thanks guys, but I really could have used that info just a bit earlier."

  • Jeff S Some of us don't care either way we are not into this type of car. Most of these will be stored in garages waiting for their value to go up. As someone above noted this is an old body style which is retro 70s Challenger which after researching it came out in the 2008 MY which means a long run for a model that is in its 16th year. I have always liked these but if I bought one I would not spend this kind of money on one probably get the V-6 version and use it as a family car but then I am not into drag racing or muscle cars. For the type of car it is it has a decent rear seat and not too bad of a trunk. Most of us are not going to spend 100k for any vehicle at least currently so its not something most of us will buy and stick in a garage waiting for its value to increase. I am glad that these editions came out for those who can afford them and it keeps a little more color into what has become a very dull vehicle market but then with age I pick the dull appliance like reliable vehicle because that's what I need. Impressive car but not for me.
  • Jonathan The Germans. So organized they can appear disorganized. I agree with some others, classic names like Thunderbird, Imperial, Grand Prix, Ambassador etc. just have more appeal.
  • Bobbysirhan A friend had one when they first came out. He was CFO of some green California company and could charge the Volt at work. At home, the PHEV gave him an excuse to make his wife park her nicer car outdoors while the Volt get their condo's one-car garage. He liked the Volt, and he spent very little on energy during the 'first one's free!' era of EV ownership. Of course, the green company went bust soon after, and he wound up with a job that involved far more driving and ultimately the need for a more substantial car. I drove the Volt once after his wife had made a return trip to Los Angeles, depleting the battery. I don't know what a first gen Volt drives like with a charged battery, but it was really gutless with two adults, a yellow lab, and a dead battery. My other memory of it was that it had a really cramped back seat for a car that was about as large as a Civic. My friend who bought it liked it though, and that's not always been the case for GM vehicles.
  • MrIcky I think the Shakedown is more my speed of the last call editions- but this is impressive.
  • Dukeisduke I tried watching the live reveal last night, but after 15 minutes of jawing by MT+ personalities (and yes, I like Chris Jacobs and Alex Taylor), I turned it off.