A New Beginning

October 2011

I decided to sell the 240Z in late Summer, with the intent of replacing it with a 911. Any of you who may have followed my time with the Z may recall that when I selected the Datsun as a project, I had ruled out the Porsches due to high entry cost. So what changed? A couple of things, both in my perception and my needs.

When I decided that a 911 was too expensive back in 2005, it was with two conditions - I was looking for a restoration project, and I really didn't want to spend a lot on the car up front. So with these criteria in mind, a 911 was not viable. Porsches that need the type of restoration job that I had in mind are almost always of the pre-74 variety, which have assumed quasi-collectible status with prices to match. While I spent $1500 for the first yellow Z, a similar '70-73 911T (typically the most affordable early 911's) would cost at least four to six times that. And that kind of entry price was simply well beyond what I was willing to pay.

Now, things are different. First difference is that my fun car needs to be drivable out of the gate. Since our son moved out and took the Jetta with him, my "hobby" car needs to be reliable and ready to drive now, not after one to two years of restoration. The second difference is that when looking at 911's, I realized there is little reason to limit oneself to only the pre-74 models. Porsche did a much better job in adapting the required impact bumpers into the 911 than did most manufacturers. Many people actually prefer the bigger bumper cars.

Those two factors together make a 911 a valid option now. When shopping, I found several '74-88 cars in the Pacific Northwest that appeared to be ready-to-drive, and priced in the general neighborhood of what I was hoping to get for the sale of the 240Z.

By early October, I had about decided that it was getting a bit late in the year to sell the 240Z. I had posted it on eBay and then various other websites, got a little interest but no solid bites. I figured I'd let the remaining few ads expire and then try again next Spring or Summer. And just as I was going to pull it off the market, I was contacted by a person in Norway who wanted to buy it. The deal came together fairly quickly, and put me to car shopping in a hurry. It was my hope to get a replacement for the Datsun before the weather turned.

Shopping for a Porsche is a bit different than for some other cars. For one thing, here on the West Coast rust is almost a non-issue if you stick with '80 and newer cars, as they are fully galvanized. But engine rebuilds for a 911 can be expensive, so engine condition and service/repair/rebuild history are very important. My goal was a clean looking car with solid mechanicals, good history, definitely not black (too high maintenance), and ideally not silver, white or red. (I thought it would be nice to get a color that is not too common on Porsches.)

While there were several likely candidates to consider, none were truly local. The Portland area had 2 or 3 to offer, so Deanna and I made plans to go look at them on a Saturday. All 3 that we lined up were priced within $500 of each other, just a bit more than I had got for the Z. Despite the color preferences I noted above, the three cars that seemed to be likely candidates were a red '83, a red '87 and an off-white '84.

First up was the red '83. Seemed to be a fairly solid car mechanically, although the clutch seemed heavier than I expected. But since this was the first 911 I had driven in many years, I reserved judgement on that. Other than the heavy clutch, it drove quite nicely. It was not as nice cosmetically as I had hoped, though. Nothing terrible, but it showed more wear than I had hoped. Overall, I could have lived with it, but not at his asking price.

Next was the red '87. It was at a dealer who specialized in European makes. Drove across town, but when we got there we were told that the car had sold to someone out of state earlier that morning. But it was sitting in the lot, so I did a quick walk-around just to get another data point. It was nicer cosmetically than the first one, but still had significant paint issues on the front hood. No service history at all, and several other flaws as well. Again, I felt that I would have found it difficult to pay the asking price.

The final stop was the off-white '84. I had talked to the owner on the phone, and received many pictures and details in advance. So I had high hopes for this one at the start of the day, but after seeing the prior two cars I feared that this one might not measure up as well in person.

Pre-purchase exterior

Those fears were unfounded. At first walk-around I could see that this car - with 154,000 miles - showed some wear, but it was much nicer than either of the prior two cars. It had very complete history, a binder containing service receipts going all the way back to when it was new, as well as the original window sticker. The engine had been rebuilt by a known Porsche specialist about 40,000 miles back, which to me was about perfect. The rebuild had enough miles to be proven, but still fresh enough to be good for many years more. No oil leaks at all (a common 911 problem), new clutch and transmission synchros about 5000 miles back.

The paint had some typical rock chips and a few minor door dings, but overall was presentable and considerably better than the other two cars. The interior upholstery had been replaced with new leather some years back, it showed minimal wear and was soft and supple.

The test drive was also positive. The clutch on this car felt more like I had expected. While the engagement point seemed a bit high to me, the action was smooth and the feel was much lighter than the red '83. In addition to the binder full of records, the car came with a good service manual and a tub full of miscellaneous spares.

Deanna and I discussed it on the way home. On plus side, this was by far the best car we looked at, good overall condition, the right history and apparently ready to go. The minuses were few - the off-white color (Porsche calls it Chiffon White) is a bit unimaginative, but it's better than plain white, and different than the typical silver or red. A larger issue was the ivory leather - a previous owner (once or twice removed) replaced the original brown with the current ivory when the original had become worn. He noted (in the binder) that he thought it looked "elegant" that way. Both Deanna and I would prefer brown. But upholstery can be replaced or even re-dyed, so we didn't consider that to be a deal breaker either.

Pre-purchase interior

So it boiled down to the fact that the asking price was a bit more than we had hoped to pay, but overall the car was probably worth it. So I made an offer that was close to the asking price, and he accepted it. We completed the deal on Oct. 28th and brought it home. The Datsun was picked up by the transporter on Monday, Halloween. So they only shared the garage for one weekend.

Datsun and Porsche

Which brings us to November...