Piston Slap: Talk Me Off the Ledge!!!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap talk me off the ledge

TTAC Commentator PartsUnknown writes:


Long story short, a family friend has an ’86 944 non-turbo sitting in her driveway in suburban Massachusetts. It belongs to her son who lives in Manhattan. Although he loves the car, it simply does not fit his current lifestyle. He wants to sell it, but is not actively pursuing it. His mother is constantly suggesting that I buy it (she knows my predilection for cars). Here’s the deal: it’s been sitting for a few years, driven sparingly. It appears to be in good cosmetic condition and it apparently runs. I know these cars are expensive to maintain.

I’m a busy man, with a wife and two young kids, a demanding career and a Saab 9-5 that I like to tinker with to satisfy my inner mechanic. I value time with my family above all, and while focusing on saving for retirement and college tuition, probably couldn’t afford to dump massive amounts of money into this car. The only reason I’m even considering it is that this guy’s mother has hinted that he just wants to get rid of it, and she said laughing, “he’d probably take $1,000 for it”. Question is, should I even entertain the idea? What, at minimum, would it cost to get this thing roadworthy as a weekend ride considering its relative lack of use (keeping in mind I’m a middling DIYer)? I’m leaning no, but $1,000 for a decent 944 seems like a no-brainer. Almost. I previously owned a 1986 911 Carrera Coupe, which was a fantastic car, but I sold it for precisely the reasons stated above – to prioritize time with my family over spending a Saturday replacing blower motors and ball joints.

Talk me off the ledge.

Sajeev answers,

So let me get this straight: you have demanding career and a happy family, that you presumably support with said demanding career. You give a crap about saving for your future, the future of your children, and you value your time with them. You also support a SAAB 9-5, which isn’t exactly the paragon of durability or simplicity for a shadetree mechanic…

…and you want a baseline Porsche 944 that’s a non-runner? For $1000?

Even with a super-duper clean interior, that car should sell for a little more than scrap. So maybe $500, and that’s being generous to all but the most hardcore 944 fanatics out there. That said, I would be stupid enough to recommend you buy this car if:

  1. You had no children, or if there’s some new strain of super self-sustained child.
  2. You went on and on about your love of the Porsche 944. And on, and on, and on…
  3. You didn’t already have a SAAB 9-5. Even a reliable, well maintained and cost effective 9-5 needs a less horrific project car partner than this.
  4. You didn’t previously own a 911, and had yet to learn your lesson about old cars. Especially old Porkers.
  5. You said LS1-FTW in your letter. Then I’d be all up in this, son!

Here’s the point: anything and everything will go wrong with a car in this state. $1000 is what you pay for one that actually fires up, drives, steers and brakes. And because it’s a Porsche 944, it will be far too expensive and fragile to ever make a lick of sense.

How’s that for a “No”?

***EDIT: I misread the initial letter, as the 944 probably runs. While it may be worth a $1000 offer, I still believe PartsUnknown has better things to do with his spare time.***

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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