I saved myself $63k this weekend.

As I continue to explore the world of vintage manumatics, Porsche 911 Sportomatics have been on my radar. I’m willing to give up the third pedal, but not the satisfaction of manually selecting gears.

Once unloved, Sportos now seem to be as ridiculously expensive as all other air-cooled Porsches. I find their pricing confounding, if not irrational.

I’ve chased three Sportos recently. They have all gotten away, either because the bidding got beyond my budget or the condition of the car took them off my list.

I was chatting about this with good friend Steve Hunker, who owns a Lotus Elise and race-prepped Mazda Miata. I mentioned the Sporto that was going to be sold on Sunday by Bonhams at Greenwich.

We were spending an afternoon with my Alfa Junior Zagato. I had a hand-operated vacuum clutch put into the car by race-car fabricator Fred Lux a while ago. I have yet to spend enough time becoming acclimated to the push-button clutch, so we scheduled a drive for last Friday.

The car, carefully taken care of by the previous owner, Gordy Hyde, has few needs and they are small. Gordy fitted a pro-built 1750-cc motor and included the original 1300 motor with the car.

As Junior Zs have a close-ratio transmission (with 0.86 instead of the standard 0.79 fifth gear reduction), I had a 4.1 rear axle from a later Spider installed to replace the standard 4.5. In addition, I ordered an Alfaholics Fast Road suspension kit. Local Alfa guru Nasko did all the work.

The car pulls strong, corners flat and cruises easily at 80 mph. What’s not to like?

I was not a fast learner. Even though as an ex-Juilliard dancer I should have exemplary footwork, the Zagato bucked and heaved like a Brahman bull as I circled a parking lot.

Once underway, the shifting is easy and intuitive. You push a button on the shift knob to engage the clutch. The clutch releases as you accelerate.

My first day of practice was promising. I will get the hang of this.

As I turned my attention back to the Sporto, I learned that this 1974 911T had an impressive stack of receipts and desirable sport seats.

However, after a close examination, there were some flaws apparent that caused me to pause. I appreciated the directness of Bonhams’ specialist, Eric Minoff, as he helped me in considering the car.

Oddly enough for me, I began to consider the financial equation.

I already own the Zagato, free and and clear. The clutch fabrication is paid for.

Further, to whatever the hammer price on the Sporto, I would have to add the 12% buyer’s commission and then another $3,000 or so to have it transported to Portland.

But I was still interested. The car devil was whispering in my ear.

On Sunday, bidding on the car went beyond my comfort zone given its condition. It went unsold on the block.

Monday, Bonhams reported it had sold at $60k. With transportation, I would have been into the Sporto for $63k.

The “free” Zagato in my garage looked better and better.

Gordy has entered the Junior Z in the upcoming SCM1000.  As a nod to his thoughtful stewardship, I have offered him his former car to drive. I’m sure that at some point on the tour he will let me slip behind the wheel and enjoy manually shifting its delightful gearbox.

I just hope the money I saved – stuffed in my back pockets in bundled $100 bills – doesn’t make the seat too uncomfortable.



  1. John Gillespie

    I used to love Porsches, always from a far though. I have driven several friends cars and a few when I was a grease monkey. They certainly possess that stoic charm that only Germanic cars do. Most were a blast to drive and I can see how one could become hooked. But I never felt that they could quite justify the monetary values placed on them, pre-owned and especially new. And then there is cost of parts, repairs and maintenance. Some of my P-car owning friends used to boast about their cars being bulletproof. But they all eventually had an armor piercing round sneak in on them and then “holy crap, that was expensive!”

    With the (dare I say) insane pricing of Porsches today I feel like they have lost some of their luster. When I go to car shows and see these amazing cars displayed they just feel like unobtainium to me and I find them much less interesting than something I might actually be able to afford. Still they are impressive and I can’t blame the cars for the crazy prices they fetch.

  2. Enough with the Alfas already…

  3. Here’s something to consider on BaT.


    I’ve owned a BJ8 Austin Healey 3000 for 36 years & find these Porsches appealing for some reason. Maybe it’s because I know I can row a Moss box transmission & spend most time on the interstate anyway. But the price of admission to the Porsche clan is steep, so I’ll keep looking.

  4. Larry Hernandez

    So, sounds like manual clutches don’t work for you. I noticed that you ended up with the nifty blue DS from Seattle with the Citromatic setup. How do you like that transmission?

  5. My 04 M3 SMG is a joy. Especially when caught on crowded freeways. Still fun on twisties. 0-60 under 6. Cinnamon/carbon black, reasonable running cost. Just can’t justify 911 cost over the M. Plus you get a back seat.

  6. anatoly arutunoff

    just for fun and to counterbalance mr. reed’s statement: i was waiting for a bit of a traffic jam to open up on my way to lunch long ago in bartlesville. i opened my latest ‘christophorus’ and had my first look at the new ‘901.’ i was surprised at how homely it was. the 904 was great, with the engine in the right place. i kinda liked the 928. but 911s? i don’t even give ’em a passing glance. i must say i compliment porsche in that they’ll sell you any option you can think up!

  7. Sorry Keith, just couldn’t wrap my mind around “Sporto” tranny’s. Now, if you could countenance a 997 with a PDK, I’m your man. Enjoy driving my ‘69 911S Coupe with a 5speed manual but glad to switch to our 997.2 Turbo S Cab with PDK whenever traveling in heavy traffic. Wish you well in your quest.

  8. I am also a fan of the Porsche PDK. My Boxster is a blast to drive in both Manual and Full-Auto mode.