"Fortune favors the bold" should never apply to used-car purchases. There’s no reason not to thoroughly research a car, find the nicest example you can afford and have a pre-purchase inspection performed before parting with your hard-earned money.
Despite knowing better, I did none of these things with an old Porsche. Instead, I bought the cheapest 911 available. Since then, I’ve been running a series of challenges with my reckless purchase, the most recent one of which took me to the drag strip.
For those who haven’t been following my adventures, about a month ago, I debuted my car purchase to the world. It was the cheapest Porsche 911 for sale in the country. Only $9,500 bought me a slightly scruffy-looking 1999 911 Carrera Coupe with a manual transmission and an unbelievable 243,000 miles. Since it’s been driven further than the distance to the moon, I named it Apollo 911. See the 1999 Porsche 911 models for sale near you
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.
I was so proud when I announced my purchase to the enthusiast community and described how amazing this car is. The problem was that everyone thought I was the dumbest car enthusiast in the world. Yes, even dumber than the people who paid $5,000 over sticker price for a new PT Cruiser back in 2001.
This particular generation of 911 isn’t known for its reliability, mostly due to a part called the IMS bearing. This part likes to eat itself and send metal shards into the engine, causing it to fail catastrophically. For that reason (and a few others), Porsche enthusiasts love to bash 911 models of this era. If you want to play a car-themed drinking game, post in a Porsche fan page that you’re thinking of buying a 996-chassis 911, and then take a drink every time someone mentions the IMS bearing. You’ll get spectacularly drunk.
This same group was happy to scream about how stupid I was for buying a car from the dark ages of Porsche — and how doubly stupid I was for purchasing one that was so cheap and had interstellar mileage. They believed my car had to be like an old horse ready for the glue factory.
Since I was a used-car dealer for several years, I’m used to taking plenty of insults from strangers. That didn’t bother me. What I couldn’t stand for was any abuse directed at my beloved new Apollo 911. I had to prove all the naysayers wrong.
My first challenge for Apollo 911 was a dyno test, which showed that — even at 243,000 miles — my car was putting out roughly the same horsepower as new. My video spread across the enthusiast community, and with a collective gulp, they accepted that my car might not be so bad. After my trip out west, I shipped the car home to Kansas.
I knew I had to do more, which brings me to my newest challenge: How close could Apollo 911 get to its original quarter-mile time?
According to the January 1998 issue of Car and Driver, the 1999 Porsche 911 could reach the quarter mile in a respectable 13.2 seconds at 107 miles per hour, in the hands of a professional driver. I wasn’t sure how I’d fare, largely because the human factor is a big issue with drag-strip tests. Just like with everything else, two people doing the same thing can produce a very different result. Putting a professional racing driver in Apollo 911 will yield a much better time than a clueless amateur. But this clueless amateur was determined.
After paying the entry fee, I made my way over to the inspection station. They checked for excessive tire wear, examined the car major fluid leaks and ensured my seat belts worked. I signed a release and made my way over to the staging area.
With only a few exceptions — including a Volvo V70 T5 and a Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG — I was surrounded by loud muscle cars with drag-slick tires. The seasoned drivers were all doing things like checking their timing and their tire pressures or revving their engines over and over again for no apparent reason. I felt like I should be doing something, but I just gargled engine noises while waiting my turn.
When the time finally came, I unceremoniously pulled up to the start line. My competitor in the other lane did a traditional burnout to warm his tires and then joined me. I was busy fiddling with the cameras when the lights went green, and I completely missed the launch. While my competitor sped away, I froze.
The lane operator was kind enough to reset the lights for me and probably assumed I was an idiot. Even with my full attention, I was still caught by surprise with the lights, but the rest of the run was completely flawless. I crossed the finish line in third gear, with Apollo 911 screaming near the 7,000-rpm redline.
My first run proved to be dumb luck. For the second run, I bogged the launch trying to do a more traditional clutch drop. For my third run, I forgot to shift into third gear, bouncing my 243,000-mile engine off the rev limiter a few times before shifting.
After three runs that gave Apollo 911 the flogging of its life, I decided to call it a day. My nerves were shot, and I was only getting worse — my solid first run was never going to be beaten. Despite a terrible 0.999-second reaction time, I managed a surprising 14.0 seconds at 101 mph.
Within a second of the original Car and Driver test time is a very good result. No doubt, a driver who isn’t totally clueless could probably shave off half a second. In other words, Apollo 911 clearly still has a lot of life left.
Being a lifelong California car, Apollo 911 is in for another challenge it has never faced: enduring a harsh winter on the Great Plains. Stay tuned. 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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