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I Bought the Cheapest Porsche 911 in the USA: 1-Year Ownership Report

A little over a year has passed since I wrote about my first blind purchase decision for all the world to see — and discuss how big of an idiot I am. As most regular Oversteer readers know, to call this car the beginning of a slippery slope is a gross understatement. Buying my 1999 Porsche 911 with 243,000 miles for only $9,500 a year ago was the starting point for me diving head-first off a cliff into my new life of pseudo-automotive journalism meets compulsive buying disorder — and amazingly, nobody has tried an intervention yet. See the 1999 Porsche 911 models for sale near you

My initial goal for purchasing this Porsche was to prove the infamous IMS-bearing-related engine failure was blown way out of proportion — and I still maintain this opinion. The old 3.4-liter flat six in my Porsche had the IMS bearing changed twice in 243,000 miles as a preventive measure with each clutch job, which was probably a little overboard. Fastidious maintenance was the big draw to this car, as it had only one owner and was meticulously maintained by the same shop for over 15 years. The rare lobster-colored interior with sports seats, along with a very low price that made it the cheapest running 911 in the USA, helped seal the deal for me as well.

For 6 months, my car was a beacon of hope for 996-chassis 911 owners, who were tired of hearing the letters IMS from a naysayer every 5 seconds. I slowly racked up the miles, providing great anecdotal evidence that these engines can last a very long time. It survived a dyno test with good numbers, faired well on a compression test and put out respectable times at the drag strip. Shortly after a successful cross-country drive, I decided the next test would be a track day — which turned out to be a fatal mistake.

The 996 is known for having issues with engine oil temperature on the track, and many recommend installing an aftermarket oil cooler before any sustained high-performance driving. I was unaware of this and dismissed my lower oil-pressure readings — until the big bang happened. After 248,000 glorious miles, it wasn’t the dreaded IMS bearing that failed, it was another design defect — along with some serious pilot error — that led to the demise of this exceptional engine. Perhaps an even greater mistake was the decision that followed, which proved to be really expensive.

Totaling up the entire year with the LS swap project, I have a little over $30,000 invested in this 911. The same money would have purchased me a high-mileage 996 Turbo or a newer 997-chassis Carrera 4S. I also could have bought a C6 Z06 Corvette, or both an early base 996 and an early LS2-equipped C6 Corvette — BOTH. Financially, this swap project makes me look exceptionally stupid — but thankfully, a recent online auction on bringatrailer.com gives me some hope of redemption.

It’s an amazing coincidence that someone auctioned off this LS2-swapped high-mileage 1999 Carrera shortly after I finished my project. Cosmetically, this car was left largely stock, and the interior and exterior look to be in nicer condition than mine — but the seller skipped on installing air conditioning, which would scare off many southern-state buyers. Despite the negatives, this car brought $26,000 at auction, proving I didn’t throw my money away LS-swapping my car. Either that, or there’s only one other person with $26,000 that’s as crazy as me.

Of course, I have no plans to sell the Porsche, as I’m just starting to enjoy the fruits of my crippling debt. I recently finished a 500-mile road trip with the car, and it averaged a lower-than-expected 18 miles per gallon. This didn’t disappoint me much, as I was pleased about the 911 feeling just as civilized as it did before the engine failure.

I gained plenty of hindsight from this past year — but if you gave me the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t stop myself from making the same mistakes. I’ve called myself an automotive masochist a few times, and an idiot a thousand times — but really, I think the reason for my strange behavior is the adventure. Buying these sketchy cars brings me the same rush as jumping out of an airplane or climbing a mountain. While I’m only risking my ego and financial future, at least I have something to show for it when I’m finished. Find a 1999 Porsche 911 for sale

Tyler Hoover went broke after 10 years in the car business and now sells hamburgers to support his fleet of needy cars. He lives in Wichita, Kansas.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. I really wish I had courage to go for the unknown, just like you. I really admire your courage, despite being in an uneasy financial position.

  2. So, which is it?

    “The old 3.4-liter flat six in my Porsche had the IMS bearing changed twice in 243,000 miles as a preventive measure with each clutch job, which was probably a little overboard. Fastidious maintenance was the big draw to this car, as it had only one owner and was meticulously maintained by the same shop for over 15 years.” – Taken from this article.
    Or…
    “It came with zero service records or any kind of professional mechanical inspection. I trusted the word of a used-car dealer and flew across the country from Kansas to California to make the purchase. Despite the reckless buying strategy, the car turned out to be fantastic.” – Taken from https://www.autotrader.com/car-video/i-took-my-porsche-911-with-243000-miles-to-the-drag-strip-259508
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan who is just curious. 
    • I didn’t get any paper service records. I was going off the used car dealer’s word that the IMS had been changed twice by this independent shop and was maintained fastidiously. Shortly after purchasing the car, I called the shop that had done the work and verified what I was told. Also buried in the owners manual was two stickers to place in the engine bay for IMS retrofits. 

      So I really did buy it on eBay totally sight unseen with no records– and took a used car dealer’s word about it being well maintained. Turns out he was honest, though he only paid $6500 for the car at auction and only did minor repairs.
  3. This series has been one of my favorites on YouTube. And it helped me ultimately purchase my own 996. Thanks, Tyler for the great videos and hours of entertainment. 

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