Trackday Diaries: Cash Or Prizes?

trackday diaries cash or prizes

$99,180. For a four-cylinder, two-seat car. This isn’t unprecedented; Lotus charged eighty-one grand for its Esprit S4S way back in 1995, a pricetag that would be equivalent to $129,000 today. But the Esprit was a sleek supercar that could run with Ferraris on the road and beat them in SCCA races. The 718 Cayman S, by contrast, is a squat toad of a car, suspiciously similar in appearance and performance to the decade-old Cayman S that your down-the-street neighbor has had listed on eBay for $17,995 since June, with no takers.

And yet I’ve voted for this car with my wallet, so to speak, having purchased a couple of entries in the Porsche Club of America’s Fall Raffle. I did this because I didn’t read the rules very carefully, as you’ll see below. But there’s still a chance for me to make lemonade out of a lemon — assuming I win said lemon.

The question is: take the car as they’ve built it, or take the money and run?

Many of the previous PCA raffles have been for a Porsche and x amount of options, x usually being $10,000. If you know the Porsche order book, you know that it’s hard to tell the difference between a Porsche with $10,000 worth of options and a Porsche with no options whatsoever. And I’ve heard some back chatter from folks who are vaguely “in the know” that the post-victory configuration phase of the PCA raffle is a genuine hassle for everyone involved. Most of the time, the new owners either don’t really want the car, or they want to load the car up with extra options at their own expense, which causes everybody involved no small amount of bookkeeping hassle.

Still, if there’s one fellow out there who will take a low-options Porsche, it’s your humble author. Sure, my Boxster was the ultra-loaded “550 Spyder” edition, cocoa leather and all, but my 911 has just five or six option codes on the under-frunk sticker, and I’ve never complained. So when I bought my raffle tickets, I figured I’d get a car to match my 911. Grand Prix white exterior, grey interior, a couple of performance options. We’d use it as a set of track day training wheels for Mrs. Baruth. Slightly after the close date of the raffle, however, she bought something that will blow a 718 S into the weeds, backwards. So maybe it would be my bad-weather commuter car.

The response to the PCA raffle was very good; it almost always is. Typically, they start off by raffling-off one car then they up the ante as more entries come in. This time, the PCA bumped the prize all the way to three brand-new Caymans, all in “S” trim, plus $25,000 cash per car. They also upped the spec of the cars.

A plain-Jane 718-S is $67,350, but the raffle cars are nearly half again as expensive. You can see the complete options list here. They will all be Miami Blue, a $2,580 option that has gained a lot of cachet lately from having been rare, meaning unwanted at the time, on 993-era Porsches. They will have the $2,520 vinyl-cloth seating. Most of the other options are take-it-or-leave it stuff — $575 for “tinted taillights”? — but there’s one that grinds my gears, literally, and that’s the PDK transmission.

I don’t care if you don’t have enough starch in your stalk to operate a clutch pedal, but I object strenuously to being denied a manual transmission in what is supposed to be a sports car. You can babble all you want to about how a PDK is faster around a racetrack than a stick-shift, but that’s besides the point and quite deconstructive besides: a Corvette is faster for the same money and a Nissan GT-R, which could surely be had from a dealer for the near-as-dammit six-figure price of this Cayman, would be faster still. Those of us who buy Porsches are never really looking for the fastest way around the track, unless we are buying a 962 for vintage racing. We want purity and character of experience, immediate feedback, a feeling of connection with the road or track that exceeds the rapid but slightly disconnected interaction available from a Corvette or even a BMW M3. Or at least that’s what we’d like to think.

So while the Miami Blue Cayman with the automatic transmission might be just the ticket for the average PCA member, it’s not quite right for me. I cooked this up instead:

It’s $19,000 cheaper, but it’s still very well-equipped:

  • Plain white with grey interior
  • Manual transmission
  • LED headlights
  • Keyless entry (yes, it’s standard on Fiestas but it’s an option here)
  • 18-way heated and cooled seats
  • Bi-zone climate (yes, it’s standard on the Accord LX but it’s an option here)
  • Black door handles, for the hell of it
  • 718 badging, because I hate the “Cayman” name and always have
  • Fire extinguisher, to meet some trackday requirements
  • Smaller steering wheel
  • Burmester sound system. This is the big, unforgivable, $5,000 option. But I’ve driven a few Caymans with the option and it’s worth the money, insofar as anything on a Porsche could be.

You can visit my configuration here. If I win the raffle, I’m going to humbly request that the Porsche Club of America save itself $19,000 and give me the car I want.

There is another option. Per the contest rules, I can forego the $100,000 car and the $25,000 cash to just take $80,000 in a lump sum. I know that the average TTAC reader would invest half of it in low-risk mutual funds and then take the other half over to his friend Asadullah who works in securities, but think of what a functioning male human being with a species-normative T level could do!

  • Mustang GT350R and Ducati 1298 Panigale
  • Base Corvette Grand Sport and Kawasaki ZX-10R
  • A used Radical SR3
  • A NASA NP-01 prototype
  • Some raggy-ass Cessna 152 and a complete skydive rig for the day it just quits on you in mid-air
  • A whole month in Vegas with all the cocaine you can snort, all the women you want, on the top floor of the Vdara
  • Four good solid seasons of Ignite Spec Karting
  • Any number of Class III full-auto weapons
  • …and the list goes on

Hell, you could just sack up and buy a 993 like mine; I don’t think they’re worth what the market wants for them but I also think you’ll get your money back when you go to sell it. Since I already have a 993, and a race car, and a track car, a fast car, and a fast motorcycle, I think I might be tempted to consider another sort of mid-engined street car. The Lotus Evora 400 costs about what the PCA Cayman S does, but you get a pair of seats for your children, a more charming engine, better handling, more exotic looks, and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve chosen the driver’s car instead of the four-cylinder puffer-fish.

Seasoned TTAC readers know that I’m unlucky by default; rarely is there a possibility for failure, disaster, or mayhem in my life that doesn’t go ahead and manifest itself with all the depressing predictability of a roulette wheel landing on the color I didn’t choose, so I don’t think I’ll have to choose between the car and the cash in this instance. Shame, really. We’ll see what the actual winners pick. If one of the eventual winners is reading this, however — could I interest you in a nice used Boxster?

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3 of 81 comments
  • DirtRoads DirtRoads on Dec 13, 2016

    I think you can get a pretty decent 152 for less than that money, Jack. I'd take the cash, get the Vette and call it a damned good day. My wife, however, would want to pay down the house loan, which is a far more practical, smarter move. *sigh* She can be so persuasive.

    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Dec 13, 2016

      I'm not sure I agree that's smarter unless your mortgage is underwater, or it has high interest AND you have bad credit. If your house loan has a competitive rate, then you're not losing much by not prepaying. If your house loan has an excessively high rate, and your credit has a pulse, refinance NOW before rates go up even further.

  • Drzhivago138 Drzhivago138 on Dec 13, 2016

    Take the cash and sink it into some new piece of farm equipment, because "the government's gonna take it all anyway." Okay, Dad.

  • Teddyc73 The Bronco just doesn't have enough editions and models.
  • ToolGuy @Matt, let me throw this at you:Let's say I drive a typical ICE vehicle 15,000 miles/year at a typical 18 mpg (observed). Let's say fuel is $4.50/gallon and electricity cost for my EV will be one-third of my gasoline cost - so replacing the ICE with an EV would save me $2,500 per year. Let's say I keep my vehicles 8 years. That's $20,000 in fuel savings over the life of the vehicle.If the vehicles have equal capabilities and are otherwise comparable, a rational typical consumer should be willing to pay up to a $20,000 premium for the EV over the ICE. (More if they drive more.)TL;DR: Why do they cost more? Because they are worth it (potentially).
  • Inside Looking Out Why EBFlex dominates this EV discussion? Just because he is a Ford expert?
  • Marky S. Very nice article and photos. I am a HUGE Edsel fan. I have always been fascinated with the "Charlie Brown of Cars." Allow me to make a minor correction to add here: the Pacer line was the second-from-bottom rung Edsel, not the entry-level trim. That would be the Edsel Ranger for 1958. It had the widest array of body styles. The Ranger 2-door sedan (with a "B-pillar", not a pillarless hardtop), was priced at $2,484. So, the Ranger and Pacer both used the smaller Ford body. The next two upscale Edsel's were based on the Mercury body, are were: Corsair, and, top-line Citation. Although the 1959 style is my fav. I would love a '58 Edsel Pacer 4-door hardtop sedan!
  • Lou_BC Stupid to kill the 6ft box in the crewcab. That's the most common Canyon/Colorado trim I see. That kills the utility of a small truck. The extended cab was a poor seller so that makes sense. GM should have kept the diesel. It's a decent engine that mates well with the 6 speed. Fuel economy is impressive.