Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Porsche 993 owner interview

Thanks, Augie, for sharing. I owe you lunch at a Filipino-Russian joint.

1. Of all the 911 iterations, why the 993?

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago during the '80s, so my bedroom walls were covered in posters of Michael Jordan, Walter Payton, the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Testarossa.  So I wasn't a Porsche nut growing up, but over the years I've really come to like and admire all of the 911s, even the unloved 996 (is there better value today than a 996 tt?).  But if the 996 is the unwanted stepchild of the 911 family, to me the 993 is the Goldilocks of the range.  It's a great blend of old Porsche tradition (the air-cooled flat six engine) combined with modern technology (improved handling/suspension and overall reliability) all wrapped up in a beautiful sheet metal package.  Beauty is subjective, of course, so that's the view of just one humble enthusiast.

2. What are the specs of your 993? Year, model, options, mods?

My 993 is a 1995 Carrera (C2) Coupe in Midnight Blue Metallic with Classic Gray interior and 6MT.  Although 1995 was the first year of the 993, Porsche did introduce a slight refresh during this maiden run.  The cars built in early 1995 had a "basket handle" above the standard retracting rear spoiler (see photo example in Guards Red), which was eventually deleted thereafter.  My car doesn't have the basket handle, which suits me fine.  My car is very modestly optioned.  According to the build sticker, the only notable options are the 17" cup wheels and sunroof.  Prior to my ownership, a couple of mods were put on the car: an aftermarket Alpine stereo and a short-shift kit.

3. How did you find it? How long was your search? Where did you look?

I bought my car from a small dealer in Holland, Michigan and had it shipped to northern California.  I first started looking at the 993s about 3 years ago and frustratingly watched prices steadily increase.  I had pretty much given up my search in favor of a 997.2 C2S, but this Midnight Blue example came along unexpectedly on a saved autotrader search.  Like a lot of enthusiasts, I'm generally pretty addicted to craigslist, autotrader, bringatrailer, rennlist... you get the picture.

4. Are there any specific 993 issues to watch out for?

To be honest, the 993s are a pretty reliable machines.  The only gremlin that comes to mind is related to the Secondary Air Injection ("SAI"), which is a small air pump designed to reduce emissions during startup.  In some cars, the SAI's air passages have been known to get clogged or leaky.  If this happens in a 993 equipped with ODBII, it is likely to trigger a Check Engine Light, which in California would be an automatic smog test failure.  The 1996+ 993s come equipped with ODBII, but they also come with Porsche's nifty VarioRam system.  VarioRam changes the length of the intake pipes at higher/lower RPMs, resulting in an additional 10 hp.  [If you enjoy Wheeler Dealers like I do, the 993 Targa they fix up on that show has a faulty VarioRam system.]  So you sometimes have to take the good with the potentially bad.

5. What does the price curve of 993s look like over the last few years?

As I remember it, back in 2013 one could buy a low mileage 993 C2 in the mid $20k range and C2S's were selling in the high $40k range.  Today C2's are selling in the $55-$65k range and C2S's are at or above $100k.  The 993 Turbos were really bonkers for a while in the $200k range, but in general it feels like the air-cooled 911 market is taking a bit of a breather these days.

6. You have had it for five months now. Is owning one everything you’d imagined?

When I bought the car, I told myself that I didn't care about resale value and I that was going to drove it like I stole it.  Now that I actually own it, I'll admit I find that I drive it more sparingly than I had originally planned.  Part of that is related to the "garage musical chairs" my wife and I need to play in the mornings if I want to get the 993 out of our 1-car garage.  But at the same time, every time a small rock hits my windshield while commuting on I-101, I wince in pain -- and blurt out a string of obscenities about how our extraordinary tax dollars can't seem to make the roads any more bearable.  I do love driving it, though, so I should really just get over it.

7. What do you like about it?

When you get into the 993, it feels like you're stepping into a time capsule.  You sit down and you're greeted by 5 analog gauges, with the large tachometer front-and-center.  The visibility on all sides is astonishing.  Your foot presses down at a curious angle on the floor-mounted clutch pedal, you turn the key on the left hand side of the steering column and the flat six springs to life behind you.  It's hard not to smile each time you do it.  But the real magic happens on the road when you push the car past 4,000 RPMs.  At that point, Porsche's Variable Cam system kicks in, which changes the geometry of the lobes on the camshaft.  The sound from the engine markedly changes and the resulting noise coming from behind you is simply sublime.  [Note: VarioRam and VarioCam can be a little confusing.  VarioRam deals with the intake (think Ram Air) and is only installed in the 1996+ cars; VarioCam deals with the camshaft and is installed in all 993s.]

8. What don’t you like about it?

There are little nits that can be annoying.  The 993 has an immobilizer system that is linked to the keyless entry system.  If the car is unlocked for too long (say overnight in your garage), you can get in and turn the key but the engine won't budge.  You have to lock and unlock the doors to disable the immobilizer.  The one other thing I've noticed on my car is that third gear is just a little right of center on the gear lever.  So when shifting from second to third, you have to be a little deliberate to get into the gate.

9. What do you want to do with the car? Upgrades? Track day?

I won't do many upgrades, but I am slowly fixing small things that need to be addressed to bring it back to stock.  The car is missing two of the under-car shields: one for the transaxle and one for the engine.  Many owners ditch the engine cover as it was purely for sound dampening purposes.  I have no idea what happened to this car's transaxle cover, but hopefully I can procure a used one.  At one point the car's Cup Wheels were refurbished, but with a slightly wrong paint color.  So I'll probably fix that the next time I have the tires changed.  The A/C needs to be recharged, but thankfully summers in Northern California aren't too hot and I like driving with the windows down anyways.  I'll probably forego the track days (my daily driver has served that purpose in the past), but maybe an autocross.  I recently met a guy who does group drives with the local PCA chapter, so I may join one of those, too.

10. Why do you love cars?

The hardest one for last!  At a human level, I'm continually amazed and fascinated at the universal appeal of cars.  You can walk into a preschool class in the U.S., South Korea, India or Chile, and I'll bet some subset of the kids will be playing with cars and making the similar car noises.  As adults, we may all have a different take on why we love cars.  Some folks like to wrench on them.  Others love to race them.  Some can recite car stats and facts to the detriment of remembering birthdays and anniversaries.  Still others collect them for their beauty and rarity.  But no one type of car lover's passion is "more valid" than that of another.  No one is "less of a car guy" because he can't turn a wrench or a lap at Laguna Seca.  We all love cars for our own reasons, but we are bound a singular passion nonetheless.  To me, that makes every car lover a potential friend.

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