Porsche 911 at 50 years. And why it is still THE car to have

The current 991 version of the Porsche 911 was an all new car from the ground up and the first real change to the model since 1999 when the first water cooled 911 arrived. The top dog of the regular 911 to date is the 911 50th anniversary car, which is the same spec as the current 2015 911 GTS. I just had to drive it and get to know it better. 

 The basic specs say rear wheel drive and 430 horsepower, 7 speed manual gearbox. 0-60 in 4 seconds, and 190 mph. But what specs excite me are just over 3000 pounds and the magic carpet ride PDDC system is in place. In fact, this car was co-ordered by myself and my best car-friend-partner Jason Smith to be the ultimate 911 50th anniversary build. Okay, it is his car for certain so he got his way with the sunroof, but I talked him into the Burmester sounds system so no one is complaining. This car is #405 of the limited production run sits in Graphite Grey with black and white retro houndstooth cloth and leather trimmed seats. It today just rolled over 4000 miles and seems perfectly broken in and beautiful.

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In short, I didn’t know anyone made a car this good. I love the prior 997 911 and this car is just better at everything. The 997 is a car that will almost force you to drive it correctly. This car asks you to get to know it and then somehow wills you to drive it correctly for a ride you won’t soon forget. Fast yes, grip for sure, handling fantastic, but the 911 like no other car you will ever drive demands respect at the same time it is rewarding. Like all 911’s braking and traction off the corner is unmatched. The 7 speed manual is so sweet it still makes me wonder why anyone would want anything else. Oh and that sport exhaust sound, like your favorite guitar Riff. The sport plus button has the car matching revs for you on the downshifts. I consider myself quite slick with a shifter as some as you know but this electronic-aid makes me sound like a 15 year old girl learning her first car. I study it and then shut it off and get back to business. One thing that does not get switched off is the PDDC. This car has the usual electronic shocks and some complicated alignment altering bushings that make the car turn in like it is on rails but the PDDC is active roll control. That is infinitely adjustable sway bars my friends. Oh, yeah! Those of us that study suspension and try to hit that sweet spot of great handling and good ride know that sway bars are a tough nut to crack. Anything stiff enough to do any real good at the limits will just beat your brains in on the street. In fact I still tune most street going cars with springs and shocks because there is so little to be gained on a dual purpose car with aftermarket sway bars. But these can become instantly super stiff at just the right moment and then relax for the transition back to straight or the other direction.  Yeah, think about those possibilities? Just amazing and a system that is a must have option on this car. Not that the limits on this car is anything you’ll be reaching on the street. Remember when you drove you first great handling car and tried to double that 20mph limit of the upcoming corner. This car is just that entire next level of competent. 60 feels like 40, 120 feels like 80. But what makes this car THE car to own? It does all this at a reasonable size and reasonable weight. Most all the other “Performance Cars” are too big, too heavy, under tired, under braked, just over powered. This car feels 100% capable and yet never over the limit on power or weight. The car goes, stops, corners, and is within complete control at all times even if you are a bit behind.

Yes, this is the car most likely owned by your hero pro-driver, and for good reason. Add to that a car that holds its value extremely well and it’s easy to see why it’s the undisputed king of the sports cars. The real question is? Why isn’t someone else building a car like this? And that Burmester sound system. It is easily the best sounding car system I have ever heard. I just keep forgetting to use it. :-)

 

The Lost Years, have arrived again.

The “Lost Years” of automotive production is a period generally recognized to be between about 1974 and 1985. That is when the music died in high performance automobiles worldwide. I was unfortunate to be very present for this, and in a place that it was most painfully felt, I grew up in SE Michigan (much closer to Eminem’s home than Henry Ford’s) where I started driving legally in 1971. 

The fall of high performance cars was a sad thing to watch. There were some exceptions of course but for the most part cars were just plain and simply engineered quickly/badly/and extremely expensively in hopes only just to make them function. High performance was nearly nonexistent. Not that everyone didn’t try to do better, but it was a monster job getting that era of technology to meet the numbers. The Domestic automakers were crippled with stiff, albeit long overdue EPA regulation and safety standard requirements. The European and Japanese makers simply just withheld many models that they felt wouldn’t sell enough in the US to warrant the extensive separate for the US engineering and development work. But let’s be clear here, everyone from all parts of the globe had big problems making cars run correctly to those specs. In fact several companies quit Exporting cars here all together and haven’t yet returned.

The Lost Years cars have arrived here again, though. I’m of course referring to the fact that many of the cars from that era are starting to become seriously collectable. I suppose it is only natural that as people age into their 40’s that they start looking for cars of their youth and this starts to drive the market a bit. In addition we see cars that were the later low horsepower low performance versions of their predecessors like Mustangs, Firebirds, Corvettes, etc. that are seeing some interest. My god, even the horrible Bricklin and DeLorean have followers now. In the European car market, of which we follow closely has seen a strong market of that era in, Ferrari, Porsche, and even Mercedes. But the interesting trend I see that is strange to me is how things have changed a bit in what we will accept as authentic.

First of all complete 100% correct restorations are just fine as always. But in this era of cars it seems much more acceptable to update or backdate the power-trains to a level that offers better performance and reliability.  You see this most notably in 1974+ Porsche 911 as they had a particularly bad engines in terms of reliability in that era for the US. I personally think that is great, especially if the original parts are accounted for or in tact separately. The other phenomena I see is that the so called “black market” cars once totally forbidden as ever being collectable are becoming much more acceptable, if they meet other criteria like, being from this era, and they are also popular as collectables in the US versions. Lastly it seems okay to re-bumper some of these models to make them more attractive. Yes, in a sort of “this style sucks, so off with it’s bumpers”  re-creation style seems to allow some fairly major changes. And yes, for sure, buggy bumpers were/are a bummer man!

So, here are a few examples below that may be interesting for us to watch and a car for every price range.

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The first car is a 1975 911 Carrera 2.7 This was a European only car at the time and the successor to the 1973 Carrera RS. These cars were not warm at all 5-8 years ago but now can bring to $100k+ for a super nice example in the US or Europe!

Next we have the American equivalent. The 1974 911 Carrera. This one has been nicely upgraded with the more modern engine and nearly period correct modifications. These cars were overlooked 5 years ago but are now on fire. The 1974-1980 911 is now the entry level 911 collectable.

 

Not all from this era have become popular. The BMW 6 series coupes from this era were great cars but they are yet to be appreciated nor have they appreciated in value. This may be your chance.

 

Last but not least. The W123 series Mercedes Benz 1977-1982 may well be the best car ever built in terms of durability and reliability. This, best I have seen in a while, low mileage 1982 300CD Coupe recently sold for just over $25k.

 

 

 

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So, who is buying all of these collector cars?

Surprising as it may seem, you and I are. That is, regular old Joe’s and Jill’s are for the most part buying all these collectable cars. And that is a great thing for the hobby too. You see, the last time we had a big boom in collector cars it was mainly due to loose money being borrowed by speculators. Two things then happened and happened rapidly. In 1990 Japan had a financial meltdown and bankers world wide called in the notes. Many of these notes were not backed by anything but promises and cars dropping in value several percentage points a week. Or in some cases the cars never existed at all, as money was being loaned on world of mouth and some VIN numbers. Sound familiar? It was ugly for sure.

Yes, there are a few speculators still in the car business, but they are for the most part knowledgable car experts buying for customers, building collections, and building bankrolls too. In fact I know at least half a dozen guy’s that started collecting for fun 20+ years ago that have put together great collections AND moved up the ladder to the top of the blue chip collector car arena to be able to buy and sell pretty much anything they want. In fact I talked with a fellow in Scottsdale that was selling his first million dollar car that week who in 1990 was buying and selling car parts. But better than that, he is a car fanatic. It is his love, it is his life. And way more often than not most all of these cars, from the woman that bought the 1966 VW bug she always wanted, to the guy that bought his first Ferrari are going to car people, car lovers, just who you hoped would buy them, right? And that is why this market is not really a boom at all. For the most part It’s us baby boomers and their children enjoying life. That is so cool!

So, what is your bank paying you on your money? How about that equity? Enjoying that are you? Have you seen how low interest rates are? The market is solid so if you can afford to enjoy, so go enjoy!

 

They don't make them like they used to!

Thank God! 

The domestic produced automobiles we drive today, just comparing reliability and potential longevity are just plain and simply light years ahead of 30-50 years ago. And as far as equipment and comfort? Seriously, most people wouldn’t put up with what we considered the best cars in the world 40 years ago. Air conditioning was an option on all cars and many cars didn’t have it. Creature comforts and technology were years away. Cold weather starting was hit and miss at best. I made many weeks of pay adjusting automatic chokes on domestic cars one right after another for literally day’s at a time. And longevity? In the Midwest it was a race to see whether the car would rust away or quit running as early as just 20 years ago.

Cars became more reliable, and also became more appliance like. For most of us that was a good thing but for many of us it was a heartbreak. Pressure from Europe and Japan forced the domestic makers to rethink their business model. Technology also made it easier to be a car maker. The growing pains for America's domestic auto companies were not pretty. The industry has completely changed and although it appears similar on the surface I can assure you it is not. We have a very quickly growing world population yet we are selling less cars. Generally buyers are keeping cars longer and replacing them when they need to be, instead of when they want to. Desire is very much less a part of the equation that it was decades ago. 

It’s a good news bad news story and I think we are at a jumping off point right now. I look for domestic auto companies having to take sides very soon. The day’s of one company trying to do it all, are over. It will be interesting to see how it all works out and even more interesting to see who survives and who does not.

I want to restore a car

I have heard that more this past year than anytime I can remember.

That is great news as I love to see interest in cars and the hobby. However, it’s time to set the record straight. What you are seeing on television is entertainment, and not restoration.

Two english guy’s that buy cars that should be used to slow down soil erosion (aka ditch fill), get them running and looking good at 50 feet. That is not restoration, that is postponing the inevitable a few months. Grease monkeys in TX putting too much money into cars that really should be restored and turning them into street rods is not restoration either. 

Restoration is a very expensive and time consuming process and there are very few cars that can financially justify a full restoration. Of the cars we play with here at EuroWerkz, early 911’s are really the only I know of. We just recently commissioned a 1973 911 for a complete high level mechanical and cosmetic restoration and the cost will be right at $100k. So the simple math is to add that to the price of the starting car, say 40k and that is what the car needs to be worth when you are done. Yes, that rules out a LOT of cars.

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Now, you can Do It Yourself and save quite a bit of money but to do it right the time involved and the expert assistance you will still need with things like finish body work and engine building still make this a completely losing financial proposition. Figure the cost of the car plus $40-60k to do it correctly. The solution? Buy the car already completed. It’s really is the right way to go if you can buy the car cheaper than you can restore it. Think of the nicely completed cars you can buy for under $50k. And believe me, perfecting and keeping that car running right will keep you just as busy as you want to be. The other option is to buy a nice driver grade car and just enjoy it. Either way…We can find you the right car, so let’s talk.

Wasting Away...your car

We have actually had very little snow and ice this winter and for that I am thankful. But from what I hear from customers to the East it has been one bad winter already.

The other day I was driving in Des Moines and they were spraying the roads with liquid deicer. I thought it seemed way too far ahead of any predicted snowfall. I have heard from several people that this liquid deicer known as "Brine" is particularly harmful to the environment as well as extremely corrosive. I decided to do some research.

The news is good, but mostly bad. Our state uses brine as a preventative de-icer. Our brine like most states is simply Salt Water, that is Sodium Chloride and Water. So at least it is not some super corrosive, right. That is true, but two things make it highly corrosive to automobiles and equipment. First of all it is in it's most corrosive state as a liquid, and of course all this liquid is sprayed up from the tires into every crack and crevice you can imagine where it immediately goes to work, and that is especially true of cars that go from road into a non freezing areas, like a parking garage. The other problem is timing. Because as the state and local road departments would like to apply this brine right before a snow or ice event, they don't have near the equipment or labor force for that. So, as you might imagine they get started well ahead of any precipitation, based on the weather forecast. Ha, as anyone in the upper midwest can tell you the weather forecast more that 12 hours out is like throwing darts blindfolded, so unfortunately we see many applications of Brine that are unneeded. I also think that they use this brine as a way to save labor as I see them spray it the day before a snow but not be back on the roads again until after they are more trecharis than they should be. 

So outside of moving out of snow country is there a better solution to melt ice? Many states have experimented with non-corrosive de-icers like Calcium Magnesium Acetate with good luck. But even though the break-even cost considering less damage is attractive the upfront cost of the product scares most state and city managers away. Which I think is too bad. You would sure think in 2014 we could come up with some alternatives. Especially since our roads are crumbling away at an alarming rate. I suppose it could be worse. One un-named city in Iowa uses Coal ash as they have a free supply. "Cinders" as they once were called. Not as corrosive as salt but coal dust in the air and ground water? Really not a good idea at all and there has been, as you might imagine huge push back from residents that are rightfully concerned. Rusty cars are much better than, say black lung, for sure!

Oh, one other thing to think about. Running your car through the carwash to keep it free from salt and brine is a great idea. But make sure you use a reputable car wash. There are corners that can be cut in that business with salt too. Not to mention some iffy standards and rules for recycled water.

I know, I know, moving is the only thing that really makes any sense. :-)

Future Collectables ?

As I watch the BMW E30 M3 become the only modern collectable BMW to date, I feel like I nailed it, as back in 2003 I wrote about and talked about how it looked like this could happen. Of course I have missed on a couple too. The E30 M3 is not stopping now and as it increases in value it is fun to watch the long time enthusiasts (Fellow SIG and S14.net members) just go crazy.

So, what is next? What cars do I think might have a chance to do the same? In other words, what German performance imports can you and I buy right now that we can enjoy and that actually might appreciate in value?

Here are my 3 top picks.

BMW: 1998-2002 M Coupe This was the last BMW M model that was just flat out fun to drive. It's semi trailing arm rear suspension updated from the E30 series along with the short wheelbase and very short polar moment makes it challenging at the limit but a blast to drive. Best examples are low mileage one owner cars with clean accident free history. The 2001-2002 S54 engine equipped models with just (690 sold in the US) have already started to generate interest. I'll take mine in Laguna Seca Blue.

2006 Mini Cooper S GP1: Yes, a MINI! The first new generation MINI really was a special car and this GP model was released at the end of that series production. Less than 2000 total cars all painted in Thunder Blue and assembled in Bertone Italy make this a really cool car and these are my choice for the local autocross too. If you can't find one of these, a 2006 Mini Cooper S Convertibles is my second MINI choice.

2004 Porsche 911 GT3: Oh yeah! This car is a track monster in the right hands and even though it is from the 911 996 series of cars that don't enjoy the 911 following of those before or since, this was the first GT3 and it's bullet-proof Mezger engine, raw ability, and perfect chassis feedback make it a real winner for the future. If you can find a lightly used GT3 "RS" you just may have real potential for a life changing financial event while owning one of the coolest cars ever made. Early Porsche 911's, as everyone knows, have gone crazy in value. For good reason in my opinion. BUY, BUY, BUY!