Aircooled Cars, Hot Prices, The Mild Breeze Of Censorship

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
aircooled cars hot prices the mild breeze of censorship

It seems like yesterday

But it was long ago

RS America in the dealership’s lights

Covered with dust and it had nowhere to go

And it sat there for a year

Till they sold it at a loss

Slow like a Boxster headlights just like a frog

And all the service had been skipped and no one gave a toss

And I remember how cheap they used to be

And I thought that it never would end

I remember how they bought and sold for pennies

Wish I’d had a crystal ball and bought one then

In the past decade, Porsche buyers have voted with their wallets on the merits of post-1999 water-cooled 911s — and the vote has been “guilty”, and the sentence has been “death”. The result has been a dramatic re-valuation of every air-cooled 911 ever built, from short-wheelbase early cars to the most despicable 964 Carrera 4 Cabriolet. I’ve written before about the insane price curve of the 993 Turbo, and I’ve allowed myself a quiet smile of satisfaction at having had the good sense to buy a 993 thirteen years ago when they were cheap while simultaneously self-flagellating over having not bought two of them.

Had I been really smart, however, I’d have bought the other car I was considering back then — the 964 “RS America”. Introduced as a cut-price $54,900 model for the American market, the RS America was nothing more than a plain Carrera 2 with a half-ass aero kit and a list of standard equipment that, were it placed on the Monroney of a Yugo, would have caused Malcolm Bricklin to send that particular vehicle back to Yugoslavia for an upgrade. They were showroom poison, often sitting in dealer inventory long after the arrival of the 1995 993 Carrera which utterly humiliated the RS America in every measure from quarter-mile time to the presence of air conditioning.

At some point in the past five years, however, the desire of every 55-year-old middle manager in North America to own an “RS Porsh” sent the values of these sleds skyrocketing. Cars with stories and more than 50,000 miles on them are selling for close to a hundred grand. This, I hasten to remind you, is an automobile that cannot keep up with a Scion FR-S down most fast roads and might cash your check just for trying. For some time now I’ve watched the prices go up and have wondered where the top of the bubble might be.

Well, if the aircooled Porsche market is, in fact, a bubble, here’s your subprime McMansion. The nice people at Bring A Trailer featured this “scruffy” 215,000-mile example today. Let’s run over the highlights:

* 215,000 miles

* optional A/C that “does not blow super cold”.

* “Some” invoices, none for motor work. You’ll just have to take the seller’s word for it

* 40% tread remaining on the rear tires

* $80,000, no tire-kickers

Imagine driving a car for twenty-one years, ten thousand miles a year, and selling it for more than you paid. Well, in 964-land that still means monthly maintenance outlays that would probably lease you a new Miata every three years. But still. Do you really want to live in a world where this car fetches this kind of money?

For fifty grand you can get a very solid 993, probably in better shape than my son’s track rat. You’d be a fool to buy this car.

Unless, of course, it’s worth more money next year. And it might be.

As if the pricing and condition of the car didn’t raise enough eyebrows, there are multiple allegations on the discussion forum on “BaT” that the site administration is editing comments on the $80k pricetag, particularly unfavorable ones. As a few posters have noted:

Wow, what a lucky guy…drive the crap out of a Porsche for many years, use the whole thing up, then win the lottery at the end?? I hate the BAT is helping drive up the market like this…

My main problem with BAT now is it used to feel like they were on “our” side with surfacing interesting cars and great buys, but now with the auction format and little attention paid to non-auction listings, they are clearly on “their” side…

BAT wiped out a ton of comments on this one…are we in China, is this autoblog Tiananmen??!!

BaT, just a suggestion – if you don’t want comments about price, don’t present a vehicle where price is going to be an obvious talking point.

Clearly, this rising tide of Porsche prices is lifting a lot of boats, not all of them obvious. Now’s a good time to sell, and maybe even a good time to buy — but it appears that the best time of all is had by the people who can earn money on the transaction, or discussion thereof.

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2 of 83 comments
  • Johnny Canada Johnny Canada on Mar 17, 2015

    I honestly believe that Bring A Trailer was quietly purchased by the gang at Barrett Jackson about 24 months ago. If not, then obviously their mindset has changed to market manipulation. Their editorial stance went from "fun" to "at this price it won't last long". The super informed and entertaining reader comments have also dropped off. I can't blame the BaT guys for cashing in, but for me, the old car hobby litter box has an excessive amount of clumping occurring.

  • Stef Schrader Stef Schrader on Mar 18, 2015

    As the old saying goes, "crack pipe." I love aircooled 911s and need one more than anything in this world, but that's just not worth that much, especially with a sketchy history.

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