We’ve got a new car in our condo slot. It’s a 1991 Porsche 928 S4. Yes, a “Stuttgart Corvette,” a.k.a. “piggyback” or “the German Pacer.”

I’ll have more to share once we have digested this acquisition, but as the car is still new to me, I am currently basking in the glow of the find and the buy.

It has caused me to wonder if I am more attracted to the process of adding a car to my collection than I am of actually owning the car.

The past few months I have been exploring the world of Gen-X cars, from 1990-2010. Previously of little interest to me, they have popped onto my radar as I began to look for automatics while recovery from my stroke continues.

What I have learned is that there is a 50% price discount for automatics vs. sticks, and the autos have generally lived easier lives.

I’ve also learned that the Gen-X cars are far superior to the cars of the ‘60s and ‘70s I have always owned.

By 1996, when ODB-II was mandated, the computer systems in cars were sophisticated. Error messages were easier to decode, and electrical issues fewer.

Lightly used cars in good condition with low miles are easier to find, as well. Some of my cars have 50,000 original miles. Given that I will probably only drive them 3,000 miles a year, that means I should have five to ten years of use before they need anything besides minor service.

That is most unlike my 50-year-old cars, which have frequently required complete suspension rebuilds just to go around the block.

Formerly completely unknown to me, there are tens of thousands of rabid BMW, Mercedes and Audi enthusiasts watching every relevant Bring A Trailer auction in the same fervent way that I watch for an Alfa Duetto.

The gurus include Dean Laumbach with M-Bs, Alec Cartio for BMWs and Adam Cramer with Audis. Adam is also the founder of the Avants, Drive Everything membership group. You can also toss in the Norcal 928 Facebook group.

They can tell you which are the best years for Mercedes SLs, BMW M-version and Audi S-models.

While I have no interest in the R-109 SLs (a retired doctor’s car) whenever one appears at auction the commenting trolls are glad to share their knowledge with you, whether it is ill-informed or not.

I’ve also enjoyed talking to shop owners who service these cars. One thing they have going for them is the installed base of these cars is huge compared to ‘60s Alfas. Plus they have seen so many that they have an idea about what causes certain types of systemic problems, and what possible solutions are.

There are also a large number of aftermarket parts suppliers that have manufactured failure-prone parts like the hydraulic cylinders on the SL folding hardtop – at a fraction of the cost of the OEM units.

That doesn’t mean that a BMW E36 M3 hustling down a two-lane road offers a better experience than an Alfa GTV or Lotus Elan. Those rides will always be more basic, direct and appealing.

But what the low-mile, well-kept Gen-X cars offer is the opportunity to take advantage of “the unused portion” of the car at a reasonable cost. You will own something with airbags, working a/c, anti-lock brakes and maybe even seat heaters. If luck is on your side and you have bought well, you will be able to avoid any major repair issues. (Although the god of old-car breakdowns is known to have a wicked and dark sense of humor.)

Right now our post-’60s cars include a 1971 Jaguar E-type V12 2+2 (no electronics or computers), the 1991 928 (early versions of computers and electronics that are the car’s most trouble-prone areas) and the 2004 Mercedes SL55 AMG, a fully modern and well-developed car.

I may have spent more time looking for these cars and learning about them that I actually have driving them. But now that they are here in my garage, with each being fettled through road use and trips to specialist shops, their time will come.

And the time I have spent teaching myself about them, meeting and talking with their tribes of supporters have offered me a great deal of pleasure, while feeding my intellectual curiosity about a subset of the automotive enthusiast world I simply knew nothing about.

10 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. I once owned a 1988 Black Porsche 928,
    Manual shift . It was the fastest Porsche and fastest car I ever owned . Downside was the very noticeable “heavy” doors
    that became very annoying !… so back to 911’s I went with that light closing door “cling”…for a touring car , the type 928 is superb. Congrats on your discovery !

  2. I started to suggest a 928 during your last blog when you were looking for something but did not include a 928 in the mix. I had a one owner low mileage 86.5 and loved it. I predict you will like this more than any of your autos.

    Best to you,

  3. Keith…As a 928 owner myself, I can tell you that you have entered a playground better than any amusement park. While looking at BaT, search for regular 928 commenters like vansters, HLee, and denwerks for a start. They comment on nearly every 928 that shows up on BaT, and they have a wealth of knowledge, which is shared freely on the site.Also, make it a point to join the 928 Owners Club. Another great source of info on these “sharks”

  4. Yeah. I tripped over a 1999 Alfa 916 GTV, with 44,000 miles on EBay. Seemed cheap, although probably double the going rate in Europe. Very rare here in the US.

    I’ve been driving Alfas since the very early 70’s, and long admired Alfa’s coupes as their most well rounded experience.

    But OMG this 916 is leaps ahead of what we got comfortable with in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

    Fabulous comfort for my long legged, 6’2” frame. I’ve got a seat adjustment rearward that’s too far back for me.
    Gorgeous and comfortable leather interior.
    A very quick, boosted steering that is spot on.
    An AC that is COLD. And always works.
    Super quiet interior.
    Massive doors for ingress and egress.
    A Super-short throw gearshift that just goes “click click” to whatever is selected.
    OBDII.
    The engine has “adaptive tuning”. Yep. It tunes itself.
    A 2.0, dual cam, dual plug 4-cyl with a 7,000 RPM redline and 155 HP. And around 30 MPG economy!

    Wait for it.

    Front wheel drive. It snowed here two days ago. First time I’ve been able to drive an Alfa on snow without the certainty I was about to die.

    It has become my DD.

    I think we missed a lot of fun with these millennial cars being denied to us. Not sure if they made an auto, but it would be worth looking.

  5. Keith,
    If you did not publish such a great magazine , I would tell you to open a used car lot. All the used car dealers I know ( me included ) love the hunt for low mileage quirky cars. Unfortunately the thrill wears off and we need the next fix. Good Luck with your next addition.

  6. Yes, even aging baby boomers can learn to love cars younger than our children. Like you, my most recent acquisitions have been a 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4, 1990 Mercedes-Benz 560SEC, 2003 Land Rover Discovery II and 1994 Cadillac Seville. All but the Mitsubishi are automatics too! I expect you were with me until I mentioned the Seville but the clean, elegant design and close to 300hp from the Northstar V8 make a great combination at bargain basement prices. Congratulations on the 928. It was on my list until I found a 1987 924S that I love.

  7. 928! only two shops in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area work on these cars. While we have re-manufactured parts for the 928 the demand is becoming reduced. It is one hell-of -a -highway cruiser ideal for that quick trip to Midland or El Paso . Bueno Suarte al zim

  8. Congratulations on the purchase. I’m also a ‘new’ Porsche owner having purchased a 1996 911 [type 993] Coupe. I went with the manual although I’ve heard good things about their Tiptronic; perhaps a future addition to your growing collection?
    Let’s hope the latest vaccine works and allows us to return to some sort of “[new] normalcy.” Hoping to see you again at future auctions.

  9. I’ve heard that adversity doesn’t test your personality, it reveals it. Because of your hard-won progress, I see many, many sunny days of driving and thriving in your future. To drive – to live – is what matters.

    Don’t stop for nothin’.