words and images by derek mccallister
The recent market price of exotics are causing the cars to leave the grasp of many of us who dreamed of them, pushing them into the hands of those who have a lot of money to throw around; concurrently, the entry level exotics are also approaching the higher inventory prices. I have recently been watching Jalpas, Urracos, 308s, and 348s increasing in cost. To be more specific, I recently watched a Jalpa sell for over $110,000, which you could have easily bought a Diablo for years ago when the market was tame. Years prior, the Jalpa was selling in the $40-50k range.
Another trend I've seen recently is the lack of rising values in the naturally aspirated 924/944 cars. I highly suspect this is because there are simply too many examples floating around. But this leaves us with a timeless issue in the world of the front-engine, water-cooled Porsche cars, which is that it drives them further into oblivion. I'm writing this because a particularly large peeve of mine is misguided advice that is to encourage the sacrifice of financial well-being over passion.
I recall a time in my life when I worked some boring minimum wage jobs; working in body shops sweeping floors, trying to get someone to show me how to do body work, shoot primer and how to do basic body things on cars. To me, the experience was worth sweeping floors to have some skilled people show me how to do that stuff, and I'm glad I did it.
"...a new trend I'm seeing is that buying these cars is within the reach of younger kids;"
That was big money to me then. I did the math and if I got a better job and saved and saved, it seemed somewhat feasible. Then I learned about maintenance, and what turbos cost, and before I knew it, after crunching some numbers, I finally had to admit that it was just out of my grasp to own and maintain one the way I wanted it. Of course, what kid who is getting into cars isn't intrigued by something rare, beautiful, fast, and fun guaranteed to put a smirk on your face when you start it up?
This drops me into to the Porsche world. You can buy a 944 Turbo for LESS than what you can buy a cherry 3rd generation RX7. What's worse, you can buy one that needs work for about the same cost as a cherry N/A 944. For those of us that don't mind restoring them, and have money to toss at them, that's actually great! We know what lies beneath the hood, we understand the potential and we know what a beautiful car they are.
This is all fine and dandy when they get their hopes up, and then down the road they neglect something like the timing belt because it costs a few hundred bucks to do it properly such as replacing the rollers, doing the water pump, etc., so they skip it. It breaks, the head decides to host a boxing match between the pistons and the valves, and then they call up a place to find out what it'll cost to replace it leaving the car it become one of two things: a project in which now they want to swap an LS1 into it that never happens which eventually turns into parting it out, or they sell it to someone else as a parts car and go buy something else anyway. Then they forever tell everyone that the 944 is an unreliable piece of crap and a horrible car and when people ask what it was like to own one the answer is usually, “They're stupid cars and unreliable and I'll never own another one as long as I live.”
When people buy a Porsche, they want it to be a fun experience, a beautiful experience. I waited for years till I was established enough in my finances to buy my first Porsche. I would not buy one unless I could afford the car, the maintenance, parts, and unexpected pieces in case the worst happened and the engine or transmission grenaded on me. My Porsche cars have always been daily drivers, and I enjoy them that way. However, I also realize that it's not cheap if I break them; but I know what to potentially expect.
"a cool cheap Porsche to own becomes a more enticing proposition."
If I can offer the young people who want one badly any advice it would be this:
You're young. You've got your entire life ahead of you. You're likely at an age where you're exiting school, getting ready for college, working a part time (or many part time) jobs, you're piling on classes and credits, getting ready to pay for school loans, you're trying to get all of that to stretch out so you can afford to live check to check till you've got that all done. I get it, I've been there, many of us have. There is no shame in living within your means, and for fuck's sake, the last thing you need is for your engine to grenade, a belt to snap, an axle to break, a clutch to go out, your differential to blow up, a head gasket failure, or a turbo failure on a Porsche.
Imagine for a moment you've just paid rent, you've got a hundred bucks to get you by for the rest of the month and then out of nowhere you start hearing a weird CLUNK from the front of your Porsche, and it's suddenly engaging strangely. Unfortunately, when you bought that early 944, the previous owner didn't tell you that the clutch was near end of life, or they didn't know, and the rubber centered disc has now split. It's on the “get it home tabs.” Then the realization hits, and hits hard— you're going to need a clutch. You call up a shop and ask how much it'll cost and to your astonishment, they quote you over $1000 in parts and 16 hours of labor. The total bill could potentially hover around $2,000.
Unfortunately, this is a scenario I've seen time and time again. Worse scenarios are timing belt failures, roller failures that eat the belt alive, or oil cooler seals going out, head gasket failures, bearing failures and things that all cost much more than all of the above. It suddenly sinks in that this car is going to cost them a LOT of money to fix, and it's just not in the budget right now. The dream car they bought needs repairs and they have no choice but to either take out a loan and fix it, or take on another job to fix it, or sell it for cheap and go get something else with whatever they have leftover.
I have seen so many scenarios for these unfortunate owners who encounter these situations and it sincerely makes me sad to see people have such experiences. Any of us who have been in the game long enough can quite easily tell them it's no big deal, or how easy it is, especially when we've done it time and again ready to deal with it when the time comes. I think a lot of us forget how it is to be young and full of desire for these things, but having these things barely within affordable grasp to buy the car, and not be truly prepared to maintain it or deal with potential failures.
bla, bla, bla, you may groan but while Derek may sound like an old chap whose just pissed in your Cheerios, he's an under thirty Porschephile wise beyond his years who knows the game all too well. he warns enthusiasts half my age, but I'll go so far as to say enthusiasts in my bracket, "middle age," need the same bit of sobering news.
to paraphrase Derek, be realistic. sure, you've waited well into your forties, you're at the top of your career making good pocket change and figure now's a perfect time to indulge, you've waited long enough. that twenty, thirty, or even forty thousand dollar Porsche you're ready to park next to the Caravan will land you in the same world of shit as the USD$1000 924 or 928. just because you paid a so-called premium doesn't mean you can drive the Porker care free, it'll still have the same sorts of issues as the ones Derek has outlined, only it'll hurt that much more because you've just gutted your piggy bank to buy the thing.
be prepared, do your homework, and most importantly, budget the asking price of that dream Porsche in up-front deferred maintenance and repairs, the figures will climb higher than you think even if you provide the labor. have a look at our "owner's report" page to get a sample of the sorts of things you'll run into when the honeymoon is over. the positive side of all this banter lies in the experience you'll gain when you dive right in and address the issues leaving you a used vintage Porsche that's far better than a new anything else.