The car that changed me into a car guy


IMG_0901_49575735795d8-lightboxLease-and-dump was my mantra. I remember one car I didn’t even wash for 2 years. Obviously, I was never really a true car guy.

Even though I wasn’t a real motor head, exotic sports cars would always get my attention and Porsche was the brand that stood out. The little ‘affordable’ Porsche 911 stuck in my brain as the car-you-must-own-before-you-die. The rich history of the marque, the distinctive shape that blends in rather than flashes, all appealed to me. A driver’s car not a poser’s car, built for winding roads and a quick lesson in oversteer. I guess Porsche marketing works pretty well, doesn’t it?

I almost blindly bought a brown ’82 911 Coupe in 1990. I knew nothing about Porsches but after a short drive, I just had to buy it. “Screaming demons” forced me to back off at the last minute. It was fortuitous because I would have had to live in it six months later due to a personal financial breakdown.

Jump to 2003 and with the big Five O staring me in the face, my wife reluctantly agreed that a sports car was preferable to a succession of blonde bimbettes [I think I sold that one rather well]. I started thinking about a Miata until I realized that I could actually afford what I really wanted anyway, an ’80s 911 SC or Carrera. As long as I was willing to turn my own wrenches I figured I could swing it without too much monetary pain. Who cared if I hadn’t even changed the oil on a car in thirty years, I was getting a Porsche.

I joined web forums, bookmarked hundreds of sites, researched prices, bought books and subscribed to magazines to further my knowledge. My home office started to look like a waiting room at a tire store.

My initial attempts at buying a Porsche turned into crash and burn events. Twelve months of research resulted in three failed PPIs (Pre Purchase Inspections) and many, many tire-kicking sessions; though in the process I had narrowed down my criteria. No red or black or cassis (a metallic pink 80s finish). Targas were out – I just didn’t like the funky shape [no offense to Targa owners]. Though Coupes are unquestionably the best looking and the most rigid, what better outlet for middle-age crazies than a convertible?

A Porsche Cab it was. After eight months of negative experiences, I found it. I had stopped looking for a while when it kind of dropped in my lap. With a free morning in Fort Lauderdale I printed an Auto Trader ad for a local car, thinking I wouldn’t have time to see it. Surprisingly, it was still available. It had come to Florida from Connecticut where it had been a leased weekend toy for its original owner who was the seller’s amiable ex. He had bought out the lease along the way and when they split, she kept it as her winter condo car leaving the title in his name. She was selling it because “I’m too old. I can’t shift it anymore because of my hip”.

When I went to see it, she surprisingly tossed me the keys and disappeared to the local mall with her daughter and grandkids. She told me to put the keys in the glove box and call her when I brought it back. Very trusting soul. I loved the look, the smell and the sound. Somehow it just felt right. I drove it around for an hour in a warm light Florida rain and fell in love. I was ambivalent about the white exterior and the Carrera spoiler was a little over the top but I knew my search was over. A PPI was hastily arranged and two days later the wrench said it was a buyer.

Finally. An engine that was good. A transmission that was good. And no oil leaks. It was reasonably well maintained from the records, but nothing major had ever been done other than a new ‘brain’. At 62K miles, it needed tires, brake rotors, brake pads and some other general maintenance and there were some small paint blemishes and minor seat scrapes but overall it was in good shape. It urgently needed a front spoiler to aerodynamically balance the whale tail on the back. It was also 1300 miles away in a different country.

In August 2004, I owned a Porsche. A used and only slightly abused 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera 3.2 Cabriolet.

A one owner car with 62,000 miles. $18,000 USD translated into $29,500 CDN by the time it was shipped and subjected to the governmental wallet vacuum. Add on $4,000 or so in first year parts, which included tires, brakes, spoiler and the numerous little surprises I discovered as I got intimate with the underbelly of a 911. The labor was free as long as you don’t count bandages and laundry detergent. Yes, with a Bentley book by my side and the Internet forums at my beck and call, I’ve become a Porsche mechanic as well as an owner.




Ian McArthur