Engineered For Magic Everyday? – Part 2

David Walton
by David Walton

A few days ago I breathlessly described the highlights of old Porsche ownership – the immersive driving experience, the camaraderie among like-minded enthusiasts, and the opportunity to meet people through sharing the fun with others. In a cliffhanger, I also hinted that there were some downsides to driving that type of car everyday… of course it’s not always halcyon days of empty roads and spirited drives. I made that intimation for two reasons: Sometimes the car can grate on the nerves of even its biggest apologist, whereas the remainder of the time it’s broken, with that same apologist’s wallet in peril.

Aficionados of schadenfreude, tune in now for The Lows:

On any trip of more than an hour or so, I begin to reconsider some of the performance-related modifications I’ve enacted with the intention of enhancing the driving experience. The ridiculously loud exhaust makes it difficult to hear the primitive stereo or conduct phone calls, especially in concert with the drilled airbox and deletion of the engine sound-deadening pad. In addition to the amplified noise, the nearly solid engine mounts transmit more vibration and harshness back to the controls, as do the short shifter and shift rod that mimic the hardware in the RennSport version of the 993, a car which was not offered for American consumption. The suspension manages to transmit every surface imperfection to the passengers, prompting concern from companions when passing over something as innocuous as a cat’s eye. Emerging from the car with hearing damage and pummeled kidneys isn’t necessarily desirable, I’ll assure you. Fortunately I’ve been able to amortize the $2,000 or so outlay for these mods over many miles of grimaces.

I had an independent, air-cooled specialist wrench perform a pre-purchase inspection before I bought the car in February 2012, and he uncovered the typical niggles that are to be expected on nearly 20-year old Porsches. Having already made up my mind to buy the car unless the PPI uncovered something severe, I bought it and assumed that the previous owner’s deferred maintenance, as well as the inevitable exciting surprises to come, would be manageable.

One of the car’s “charming” traits stems from the operation of its three oil gauges, which require constant observational vigilance. As a consequence of the dry sump system, the oil level gauge only provides meaningful information when the car is fully warmed-up and idling for a period of time on level ground. The first weekend I had the car I noticed that the oil gauge wasn’t responding even after performing the necessary séance, so I added a quart of Mobil 1 after overcoming heart palpitations. Unbeknownst to me, sometime in the car’s prior life the original oil filler cap had been replaced with one that didn’t fit very well, so I failed to secure it after adding the lubricating elixir. After a few miles it was obvious that I was going straight to the mechanic – do not pass GO, but do give up $500 to clean oil out of the intake.

Shortly thereafter I was driving to the IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in early April with my dad, when we realized that the cabin had gotten pretty stifling. It wasn’t just our hot air – the air conditioning had given up the ghost, and it wasn’t even summer yet. I had the unit “recharged” for a bargain $300, and I was once more able to arrive at work without my suit superglued to my back by perspiration.

Less than six months later the original clutch was on its last legs at around 94,000 miles, a trivial fact that apparently didn’t warrant a mention during the PPI. The drivetrain layout of the car necessitates invasive surgery to perform otherwise routine maintenance, so out came the engine and the transmission to install the new clutch, pressure plate, and flywheel, as well as to remedy some “while you’re in there” items. I chose to splurge for the lightweight assembly from the forbidden fruit basket of the RS, which facilitates easier rev-matching at the expense of even more noise, vibration, and harshness at idle and low revs. Only two weeks and $3,500 later I was back on the road. And it was a good thing I was back on the road, since I needed to go straight to the tire shop. The previous owner had favored cheap tires that howled and rode like hell, but I insisted on some of the finest Michelins money could buy. For only $1,500 I had four new Pilot Super Sports and an “aggressive” alignment.

Not long after that I noticed that the air conditioning had once again shirked its duties, and I had the pleasure of paying about $600 dollars to replace the mixing flaps that control the primitive HVAC system’s operation. I could deal with the absence of cool air during autumn and winter, but the mixing flaps had failed in a position that forced hotter than ambient air from the engine into the cabin, even with all vents closed off, so that had to be rectified posthaste.

At age 23 I thought I’d outgrown Christmas surprises, but I walked outside my parents’ house one morning during that hazy gloaming between Christmas and New Year’s to discover a flat rear tire, courtesy of some roadside debris. I had to get two new rear tires right away in order to participate in the NYE 993 mountain run. It must have been a Christmas miracle, as they only cost me $750. The mountain run itself was not without calamity, as we passed over a few relatively high altitude “gaps” (Appalachian-speak for “pass”) that Georgia’s helpful DOT had littered with gravel to alleviate freezing, and nearly all of our Porsches managed to pick up paint and windshield chips. Apparently they call that “patina.”

The next month I was headed back to Atlanta after completing a solo loop of some mountain roads. I returned to my car after pumping some gas, but when I turned the key … nothing. I had a broken drive belt, but felt fortunate to be less than a mile away from one of the two Atlanta-area Porsche dealers, so I called the service department. It was just before noon on a Saturday, but they couldn’t get around to helping me until sometime the next week. I had the car transported to their competitor, whose service department was far more accommodating. Only $350 later, I was once more behind the wheel of my car.

One afternoon this April I was out for a drive around Atlanta when I noticed the car’s rear end squirming quite a bit. I stopped to check the tire pressures and noticed that I had a flat rear tire. I called my unemployed writer friend Doug DeMuro to see about hitching a lift; he helpfully replied, “I thought I saw your car in Midtown, yeah your rear tire looked low. Good luck!” Cue four more Michelins and another $1,500 vaporized, as the front tires were pretty bald by that point. That’s not the end of the tire saga – I was leaving work recently and drove through a massive pothole in my office’s entryway, which damaged a rim and forced me to purchase a new rear tire, a snip at only $950.

To bring this tale of financial woe up to date, my car recently received new front brakes, which cost me about $1,100. These aren’t the only expenses incurred during my ownership, as the car costs a fortune to insure, and the gas mileage is abysmal.

While my Porsche slumbered at the dealership a few miles away, I was driving a Dodge Avenger from the Enterprise fleet. Although 993 maintenance has been somewhat, uh, spendy I swear that I will never again complain about the staggering expenses outlined above as long as I’m assured that I won’t have to sit inside a Dodge Avenger again.

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.

David Walton
David Walton

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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  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Aug 09, 2013

    Oh as soon as I read the article I knew we were gonna see a ton of "I told you so" comments on the cost of owning a Porsche, how crazy you are for buying one, OMG they are as expensive as everyone says, buy a Honda, buy a Toyota, I never spent that much on my ______, etc, etc. You bought tires. Then you ran over something and bought more tires. then you ran over something else, and realized you were driving on almost bald tires and you bought more tires. And you go on a lot of high speed mountain drives with your car too. Any car that has the same size tires as your car will cost the same for tire replacement, has nothing to do with the fact that you drive a Porsche, except for maybe the alignment specs that are geared more towards ultimate performance than even tire wear. And then you got a performance alignment that probably made things worse. Here is a lesson you can learn from this: First, you chose really expensive tires... shop around a bit. Or buy a set of street tires for daily use, and a set of track tires and rims for when you go on your apparently common joyrides in the mountains. And when you find a good deal, buy a spare set for when they wear out or you hit something else in the road. Oh, and duh, avoid potholes when you have low profile tires on lightweight rims. And lets see... you needed front brakes. OMG, I had no idea Porsches required new brakes at nearly 100k miles!! I have never needed brakes for my ________. So clearly this is a maintenance item, you needed brakes and it sounds like you bent over and took one for the team from your chosen mechanic. I don't own a Porsche so I cannot comment on how much a brake job goes for, but my guess is you should have gotten a reach around with it at the price you paid. In 2 mins of Google searching I found performance pad kits for your car for under $200, and rotors are maybe $300 to replace. Pelican parts has a writeup on how to do the work, and they rate it at a difficultly level of 5. Lesson #2: Only old rich guys go to the stealership for work on a 20yo Porsche, you are 23 and trying to daily drive a 993, be more resourceful. Learn to do some work yourself, or find a good indie mechanic that doesn't charge so much. All of your expenses are essentially top dollar and every other old Porsche driver disagrees with you on how "reasonable" dealer service is. Whats next... the clutch. Holy cow, you mean you gotta replace those things??? Who knew.. a car (doesn't matter if its a Porsche) with 100k miles might need a new clutch. And a Porsche (this time it does matter) with the engine in the back takes more effort to replace it than a regular car. I would have never considered that! Oh wait, yes I would. My MR2 that cost about 1/3 of your Porsche needs a new clutch and you pretty much have to drop the engine to get it. Replacing the clutch, pressure plate, and flywheel will cost me at least $1000, more if I choose performance parts like you did. And like you, while the engine is out there is a ton of other things that should be done now rather than later, so you just hope that most of that stuff is ready to be done at the time you get the clutch done. For me that may include swapping in a 2ZZ, if I can limp it along until I find a suitable (cheap) engine. For you, I don't know what those things were so I don't know if $3500 was reasonable or not, but its something you most likely will not have to do for another 100k miles so while it added to your first year costs, it does not mean that you need to budget for that every year. Now, the AC problems are fair enough to claim. And by my count you overpaid for an A/C recharge, but got off easy for the duct assembly, so lets call it a wash, under a grand to fix AC on a 20yo car with 100k miles. Could cost that much on any car, and possibly more. The drive belt is legit too, and sounds like you got off easy on that too. Oil problem? You should be more careful tightening the oil cap. Atrocious gas mileage??? Its an old Porsche, what did you expect? Most performance cars do not get good gas mileage. A case could be made for hwy mpg on a Vette, sure, but around town that drops significantly. And you take your car on a lot of performance runs too, that will impact mpg too. Not sure about insurance, could be your age or where you live. From what I have heard from others with older Porsches, they are stupid cheap to insure, and if you had a second car you can probably get classic car insurance for it that makes it even stupider cheap. Lesson #3: If you can afford a $30k Porsche at 23yo, you can probably afford a $5k daily driver to offset the maintenance and insurance cost of using a Porsche every day for everything. So by my count, not counting wear items like clutch, brakes and tires, and not counting the tires you messed up yourself, you spent around $1300 on extra expenses for owning a Porsche. You cost yourself about $2k by running over things and not tightening the oil cap, and you probably overspent on maintenance by around $1500 or so too by going to the stealership. You do seam to wear out tires fast though, so lets say figure $1500/yr for a set of tires annually if you don't get some dedicated track rubber for your fun runs. Not nearly as bad as saying you spend $7k/yr on upkeep.

  • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Aug 09, 2013

    Don't forget the $2000 in mods that he opened this financial tale of woe with. I'm pretty sure mods shouldn't be held against a car either. I look forward to the follow up post about the additional expense and hassle of rolling those mods back once he can no longer stand the punishment.

    • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Aug 09, 2013

      haha I forgot about those but not sure they were included in the total tab. In David's defense, he clearly loves the car and doesn't mind spending the money on it, which is cool. But I couldn't help but think as I read it that it was misleading to the Euro-basher readers. One my friends just got a 2010 Porsche Turbo and doesn't even go to the dealer with it. I also wonder if the costs would be more reasonable on an older model 911... no dual spark, higher profile, smaller diameter tires, (possibly) less finicky AC, etc. And my original comment did turn on way too long, sorry!

  • Mike Lol. This is the king of suvs. And its made by GM.Why is everyone trashing it?Top of its its class for a quarter century.
  • Frank Drove past there last week, plant has a huge poster of a bronco on the outside. I was thinking "Is that where they build the new broncos?" I know they use to make the Edge and that other mundane SUV there but I believe both have been canned.
  • CanadaCraig Toyota saw this coming. So good for them for being courageous enough to say, "Wait a minute. Let's not rush into anything."
  • Rna65689660 As the previous owner of a Triumph, and current owner of a MINI, I say, LOL!
  • Yuda 1) EVs are garbage and a complete waste of time and money 2) Ford IS a business after all, cars and trucks ain't free, they take a lot of time and money to Actually make, manufacture, and build 3) SD trucks are actually useful and practical