The $3,700 Turbo Tune-Up

My rule of thumb is that you can expect to spend about 10% of a car’s purchase price on it within the first few months of ownership.

Sometimes the expenditures are necessary, such as for repairs. Tuneups, tires, oil changes and the like fit into this category.

Other times they are just things you do to the car to “mark it” as yours, the way a dog lifts his leg on a tree. “Yes, I put in new carpets.” “The stereo needed to be upgraded.” “I hated the hubcaps.”

When SCM took delivery of the 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo on January 21 of this year, it had 29,448 miles. My daughter Alexandra immediately commandeered the car. She explained that she had recently broken up with her boyfriend, and only driving the Turbo could soothe her aching heart. What could a Daddy say to that?

When I got the car back a few months later, it had just over 31,000 miles on it. That meant it was time for its 30,000-mile service.

I decided to take it to the local Porsche dealer (Sunset Porsche), as I wanted to have someone familiar with Turbos look it over and do anything necessary to “zero out” the car. To me, that means bringing all the services up to date and getting the car on track with the factory maintenance schedule.

They estimated the bill would be around $2,200 and that the car would be ready in two days. A week later, I wrote a check for $3,715.36 and drove away. I wasn’t surprised by the amount, and coincidentally it equalled a neat 10% of the $37,500 I paid for the car.

My service advisor was Gabe Wiley, and he was impressively informative. He sent me pictures of each part he wanted to replace and asked my permission before moving forward. When there was a delay in getting parts, he texted me immediately. In all, it was a very positive experience.

There were several things that led to the cost increase. First, the window on the passenger’s side didn’t automatically go down when you opened the door. That required a new window regulator; $604 later it was fixed.

The leather on the dash was pulling away slightly near the windshield; that was $250.

I noticed a clunk from the rear suspension over uneven road surfaces. The rear sway bar end links needed to be replaced: $358.

Adjusting the hand brake was another $63.

The biggest add-on to the bill was replacing the spark plugs and the ignition coils. The coils are not a normal service item at 30,000 miles, but the Turbo is 14 years old. The coils were $424. If I were to replace them later, labor would be about $700. Installing them while the plugs were being changed meant there was no additional labor.

Being a member of the Porsche Club of America entitled me to some discounts, which brought the final price down from about $4,200 to $3,715.36. Given that the original MSRP of the car was $114,000 ($151,000 in today’s dollars, or about the price of a 2015 911 Turbo), the cost of the service was quite reasonable. Further, Sunset Porsche warrantees their work for 24 months.

Drive Time

Last weekend I drove the car 200 miles up the Columbia River Gorge. ACC Contributor Michael Pierce (who recently purchased a 1997 993 911 cabriolet) was my copilot.

We started out eastbound on Interstate 84, then crossed the Columbia River at the Bridge of the Gods. We picked up Washington State Route 14 at that point — a picturesque winding road snugged up against the basalt volcanic pillars that frame the Gorge.

On our agenda was sampling the wines at COR Cellars, Syncline Winery and Marchesi Vineyards. All of these wineries specialize in grapes grown in Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA. Their wines tend to be big reds, as contrasted with the more delicate (Californians would say “puny”) pinot noirs from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. (Oregonians call the Napa pinots “fruit bombs.”)

The Turbo was a delight. With the sway bar end links replaced, the annoying clunks from the rear were gone. It was nice not to have to manually push the passenger window down when closing the door. And having the leather dash fitting properly removed a visual distraction.

I can’t say the engine felt any different, as replacing the coils and spark plugs was just preventative maintenance. When you get to use your old cars so infrequently — and the Turbo is an old car, born in 2001 — you do everything you can to make sure your driving experience is as good as it can be.

Who wants to be on a road trip and have the engine develop an intermittent miss? Better to spend the money now and avoid hassles later.

The car’s only drawback is the amount of tire and road noise in the cockpit. It sits on 40-series tires in the front and 30-series in the back, which make for a harsh ride over uneven surfaces.

However, the combination of 415 horsepower and the 5-speed Mercedes-built Tiptronic makes the Turbo a perfect dual-purpose car. It can cruise all day long at 70 mph and then squirt to triple-digit speeds for two-lane passing.

According to Porsche, the next service interval is at 45,000 miles. For my ’50s and ’60s cars, that 15,000-mile interval would be an inconceivable distance between an oil change, valve adjust, cam-chain tensioning or brake-pad adjustment.

This July, I’ll take the Turbo on the Oregon Region Porsche Club of America‘s Northwest Passage, a thousand-mile four-day event. Last year I drove the 1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto, and its 98-cubic-inch powerplant wailed away at 5,500 rpm like the little engine that could. Having the heater valve stuck in the “on” position added some sauna-esque moments as we crossed the Central Oregon desert.

I anticipate that the drive will be different this year. I’ll put the car in “drive,” adjust the climate control to 72 degrees, find a radio station I like and simply motor along with all the rest of the late-model 911s.

Will the experience be any less satisfying because I’m not dripping sweat from the heater blast, or checking the oil at every fill-up, or worrying if the cooling system will keep up with 110-degree ambient temperatures?

I don’t think so. Each car brings its own sense of adventure to a road trip. With the Turbo, I’ll have a chance to enjoy the performance of the car and the passing scenery. However, I am going to tape a copy of the receipt for the recent service to the inside of the engine compartment, just to remind the 911 that it now owes me 15,000 miles of hassle-free pleasure. A deal is a deal.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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