Ownership Update: Time To Buy a New (To Me) Car
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:
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:
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:
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:
“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.”
So, no Corvette for me.
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):
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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