The 911 Makes a $2,500 Visit to the Mechanic


A few issues cropped up on SCM’s 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo after the 1,000-mile Northwest Passage tour this summer. The airbag warning light came on, and a few days later the PSM/ABS light joined it. Then I began to hear a low whirring sound from the engine.

And now the car is back from its visit to Sunset Porsche. Once again, Service Advisor Gabe Wiley took it under his wing and shepherded it through the “find, evaluate and fix” process.

One of the things I appreciate about Gabe is that he keeps me fully informed throughout the diagnosis, including sending photos. He makes sure that I give him a “go/no go” decision for each procedure.

This is far more satisfying than when shops simply barge in, fix whatever they want and present me with a bill. It’s important to feel like I am a participant in the process, especially as, in the end, it is my wallet that is feeling the pain.

$2,510.06 later, the Turbo’s problems were solved. This amount included about a $500 discount for my membership with the Porsche Club of America. I told Gabe I was satisfied with the bill, as the repair order was four pages long. My rule of thumb is you should consider yourself lucky any time you pay less than $1,000 a page for repairs.

The airbag light required an updated seatbelt harness ($562.90), and the PSM/ABS light was due to a faulty brake-pedal switch ($147.52).

The whirring noise, which I suspected was just my imagination, turned out to be a worn-out idler pulley — at just 33,000 miles. The technician recommended replacing the other idler pulley and deflection pulley “while he was in there,” as there was no additional labor required. That was $1,557.38.

Gabe said that these problems were really more “age-related” than mileage-related. After all, this is nearly a 15-year-old car. Earlier, I had to replace the rear swaybar rubber bushings, as they had deteriorated (from age, not from use).

In the 3,500 miles SCM has driven the Porsche, I’ve spent about $6,200 on required maintenance and repairs, including the 30,000-mile service and this most recent work, plus another $500 to have the paint detailed.

Our total investment in the car, given its purchase price of $37,800, is $44,540.

Has this been a good buy?

Yes, for a variety of reasons. First, I’ve been recovering from rotator-cuff surgery for the past five weeks (my sling comes off this week, and therapy begins), so the Turbo, with its Tiptronic automatic, has allowed me to drive a sports car with one good arm. That’s therapeutic in itself.

Second, we’ve gotten 3,500 miles of pleasure out of the car. It continues to delight with its effortless power. It also handles stop-and-go traffic with aplomb, removing some of the drudgery from rush hour commutes. After all, being behind the wheel of a 911 makes anything a little better.

It’s no longer a modern supercar, as spending a week in a McLaren 650S reminded me. The Turbo has neither the crisp shifting of that car’s modern gearbox, nor the enormous, instant push from its 650-hp engine. But that crisp shifting and big push would set me back well over $300,000.

A water-cooled Porsche Turbo with an automatic transmission is unlikely to become a first-tier collectible. But if we maintain this car properly as we use it, I think chances are we’ll get our original purchase price back when the time comes to sell. Which, for a late-model sports car makes it a pretty good deal — even at the current $2 per mile cost of ownership.

All things considered, I’m glad we bought the Porsche, and I look forward to many miles ahead in it. It is SCM’s modern cruiser.

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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