Keith’s Blog: A 911 Joins the SCM Fleet

At 2 p.m. this past Saturday, a 2003 Porsche 911 joined the SCM fleet.

I wrote last week that the first-generation, water-cooled 911s, often called the 996, represented a good value in today’s market — and I wanted one.

They are out of favor with diehard Porsche fanatics because of their “pancake” headlights, low-horsepower (330 isn’t enough?) and troublesome intermediate bearing. Their prices are in the $15,000 – $30,000 range depending on condition and miles.

I appreciate all the links that readers sent me about cars for sale. One suggested I look at the Porsche Club of America classifieds online. I renewed my PCA membership and was on the hunt.

Within the first few minutes, I found exactly what I was looking for. Even better, the 911 was located in Portland — just a few minutes from my condo.

It was a 2003 911, in a very attractive seal gray over gray. It had 66,000 miles showing. The tires were new, and the paint flawless. The CARFAX showed that it had been in a sideswipe accident some years ago, but I couldn’t find any evidence of prior damage.

SCMer Matt Crandall of Avant Garde Collection had sold the car to the current owner two years ago. Since then, it had covered 5,000 miles. The owner, an aircraft mechanic for Alaska Airlines, had decided to not replace the IMS bearing. Following aircraft procedures, he had cut the oil filter open and found no evidence of deterioration, failure or metal in the filter.

Another feature of the 2003 model is that it has a real glovebox, something lacking in earlier 993 models.

With used cars, you often are “buying the owner” more than the car. If this car had been under a tarp in a trailer park, I would have been less comfortable than I was viewing it in an immaculate garage — and under the care of an aircraft mechanic.

The clutch and water pump had been replaced. He had just installed new, high-performance tires.

His asking price was $23,000, and we settled at $21,500, subject to a pre-purchase inspection.

The car drives beautifully, with only a very slight vibration from the front end apparent through the steering wheel. I will have that looked at.

The biggest challenge with any high-performance car that has a low market value is that any kind of major repair will put you quickly underwater. That’s why you have to be so careful in your initial selection.

Chances are I will put less than 3,000 miles a year on this car (after all, we have 10 other cars in the SCM garage). At that rate, I hope to get 10,000-15,000 miles out of this car before it’s time for it to move on.

This is my third 911 (1983 SC and 2001 Turbo), and I’ve had a Boxster S as well. There is something iconic about the shape of 911s that keeps me coming back to them. Plus the practicality of the back seat can’t be overstated.

During the test drive, Bradley was able to accompany me in the back seat. I couldn’t have done that with a Boxster or a Cayman.

Buying any used car is an adventure, and an aged supercar like a 911 is even more so. If everything works out, I’ll get the fun of driving a late-model car (15 years old is still late-model to me), for less than 25% of the initial purchase price.

I’ll have the car inspected, the oil changed and the internals of the filter inspected.  If all goes as expected, I should be able to pick the car up next Tuesday when I return from being Head Judge at the Atlanta Concours d’Elegance.

And another adventure begins.

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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3 comments

  1. Hi Keith,

    Love your blog… However, the 993’s did come with a glove box, at least mine had one. My research when I was shopping for a 996 Turbo told me that the 2001 MY 996’s did not come with a glove box. From 2002 forward they did.

    Keep up the great work and now drive that 911!

    Erik S. (aka. Aktifspeed)

  2. Optimistically whoever installed the new tires had a Hunter Road Force tire balancer. This machine allows the high spots in the tires to be mated with the low spots in the rim. Tires made on the Pacific rim are more likely to have these situations. Your lower control arm bushings should be checked. When you align the car, make sure it is not lifted off the alignment rack, or the suspension settings will change.
    In over 50 years of aligning cars the Hunter Hawk Eye Elite is superior to anything else we have used in our shop.

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