Keith’s Blog: Spend Your Time, Then Your Money
|Written by Keith Martin|
|Tuesday, 15 May 2012 00:00|
Porsche guru Jim Schrager has been my advance scout in the search for a 1984-89 911 Carrera. A lifelong Porsche man, he has a substantial collection himself, and has bought and sold literally hundreds of cars. This, of course, is in addition to his day job as Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business – and as the Founding Editor of the Institutional Investor’s “Journal of Private Equity.”
Schrager and I have been sharing horror stories (and good ones – but the scary ones are more fun) about 356s and 911s for more than two decades. In fact, when I was writing a weekly column for a wide-circulation car magazine, Jim helped me buy and sell a couple of 911s that became fodder for my column.
When I found a 1968 911 L, he took charge of my education, so that when the engine started making noises like a washing machine with a bucket of bolts loose in side of it, I knew the chain tensioners had collapsed. (Luck was with us – we had just completed the 1,000-mile NW Classic Rally and pulled into our driveway when the tensionsers let go.)
Schrager Takes the Lead
He prefers the 1978-83 SC to the later Carrera, as do most Porschephiles. They are more raw, more immediate, more direct. But I’ve already had a 1978 SC, which I liked very much (and which my daughter Alex liked even more).
I’m not good at revisiting places I’ve been, but I had the chance to drive a very nice Carrera owned by Keith Martin (yes, same name) of Martin's German Service in Virginia.
It was surprisingly smooth and powerful, yet still had the SC's characteristic directness that gradually dulled with each succeeding generation of 911.
Schrager is emphatic. “You can spend your time or you can spend your money.” There are always a dozen or so Carreras for sale between Craigslist and eBay, so there is no shortage of merchandise to examine.
But Schrager will only buy a car from a long-time owner. He wants to know who it is that is selling the car, how long they’ve had it, how they’ve kept it and what they’ve done to it. He maintains that too many Carreras have been owned by hot rodders, who get great joy out of festooning the car with wings, spoilers, cladding, slant noses and all sorts of tasteless gadgets.
In effect, he says to judge the seller first, and the car second. If the seller has lavished the proper kind of attention on his/her car, you, the new owner, become the beneficiary. What you don’t want to do is spend top dollar, say, $20,000, for a shiny example that has another $10,000 in needs lurking where you can’t see them.
I once wrote a column about buying a 1972 Datsun 240Z from long-time SCMer Haig Haleblian (another car I should never have sold). He told me he kept it in his hanger next to his plane. That was reassuring.
Far more reassuring than a Craigslist ad for a 1981 Ferrari 308, with an address at a trailer park outside of Portland, and a description that said, “Always kept in our carport, all maintenance done by me and only high-quality oil used, body modified slightly to accomodate upgraded wheels and tires.”
So when you go out looking for your next four-wheeled trophy, think about the seller. Do they inspire confidence, or do they make you keep your hand on your wallet? Do they know a lot about the car, or are they “selling it for a friend.”
Buying the right car from the right dealer can be as satisfying as buying one from an owner, as a straight-shooting dealer will know a great deal about a car, and allow you to learn as much as you need to know before pulling the trigger.
As Schrager’s says, "Spend your time before you spend your money." You’ll be happier in the end – and have a better car as well.