For once, it appears I’ve done really well for myself with my latest Porsche purchase. My 1985 911 Carrera showed up mostly as described, and has been very well-behaved since the initial sorting by my mechanic. I’ve been putting some serious test miles on it, as I’m mulling over driving it from Kansas to Monterey, California next month to help celebrate 70 years of Porsche sports cars. As I’ve gotten to know my first air-cooled Porsche, I’ve found plenty to love about this sports car icon — but there are a lot of things that bother me.
I covered plenty of things that I love in my previous post about this 911; very important things, like the interior smelling a place that sells expensive saddles — or those leather stores that had a huge increase in sales after those "50 Shades of Grey" movies. I also described how the car feels alive like "Herbie the Love Bug," but unlike Herbie, actually drives like a proper sports car. For me, this 1985 911 is the perfect intersection of old and new, as the basic design and mechanics of the car dates back to the birth of the 911, while it’s new enough to still have all the modern driving comforts you need.
Other than my own nostalgia from growing up with my father owning several of these, having a practical classic was the primary reason for me to seek this car out. I wanted an old car that would still turn heads, like my Ferrari F355, except I wanted a back seat so I could take the family along to car-related events. I also wanted something that was engaging to drive, as well as comfortable — and stood a decent chance of actually making it to its destination. As far as classic European sports cars go, the 911 is the only car I can think of that hits all of those boxes.
I’m also very happy with the overall condition of my car, as it’s perfect for what I intend to use it for. Since it’s already been repainted once, I won’t worry about damaging it and ruining the originality. Also, since it has just over 100,000 miles on the odometer, I’m not going to depreciate it by adding several thousand more — since it’s already considered high mileage. Despite its unoriginality and mileage, it’s still nice enough that I can show it with pride at just about any car-related event.
Unfortunately, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows with this car, as I also described in my previous post how I massively overpaid for this 911 at its current going rate. With shipping and repairs, I’m slightly over $40,000 into this car now, while just five years ago, I could have found one for half of that. I’ve also discovered how divided the Porsche community is with pricing, as many believe these big sales numbers are a fad — a bubble that will eventually burst — while another camp believes buying an air-cooled 911 is safer than investing in gold.
As far as specific gripes with the car, I’m finding the air conditioning is not equipped to keep up with these brutal Midwest summers. Even though I paid extra to source the old R12 style "freon" refrigerant when repairing the AC, these systems weren’t very strong when new, and the black interior certainly doesn’t help matters. Also, the clutch pedal position and feel is so different from any of my other manual-transmission equipped cars that I struggle for the first few minutes to smoothly launch it. Like many, I’m not a huge fan of the ancient-feeling 5-speed gearbox.
Still, if I wanted a great, modern-feeling manual transmission and driving experience, I could have bought myself a modern 911 for the same money — but I didn’t. Actually, I already did with my 1999 Porsche, except I kind of ruined it with the whole LS-swap thing.
I promise I won’t LS-swap this car — but service costs of this old Porsche do concern me. The air cooled motors aren’t known for being the most durable, and the minimum cost to rebuild is $10,000. The reason for this huge expense is mostly because of the ridiculous parts prices — which is a theme throughout the car. For example: I needed to replace the blower motor and recharge the AC to regain my marginal cabin cooling — and that part alone new is $900. I certainly wasn’t going to spend that much, so I sourced a used one out of a salvage yard for $200.
There are some serious concerns with air-cooled Porsche ownership, but these were all things that I knew going in — and they obviously didn’t stop me from buying one. For now, the loves outweigh the hates. I still sometimes think about how much modern performance I could have bought with $40,000, but instead spent on this 200-horsepower cousin of a Volkswagen Beetle. I’ll probably be thinking about it a lot more when this old thing inevitably leaves me stranded somewhere.
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