18 Mar 2014

How To Buy And Run A Classic Porsche On The Cheap

So you fancy a Porsche but your budget only stretches to a few grand, and you don't want to spend a fortune keeping it running.  Here's how to buy and run a classic Porsche on the cheap.

Porsche 924S

Porsche make the ultimate sports cars.  To the general, non-car enthusiast public a Porsche is cool.  To most petrolheads a Porsche is the apex predator of the sports car world.

But if you've got £5k or less to spend what do you buy?  Your first thought might be a Boxster.  For that sort of money you can afford a mid to late 90s example with some service history.

The problem with Boxsters is twofold.  The first is that the engine is hidden away so you cannot check anything.  You can't look under the oil cap for tell-tale mayonnaise that would signify water in the oil, you can't check all the fluids, you can't check for oil leaks and you can't check the condition of the belts (although the cam belt is actually a chain hidden away inside the engine).

The second problem is that Boxsters come with a few inherent problems that generally remain undiscovered until it's too late.  Cracked bore liners are one such.  It won't show up on an inspection.  The others are the rear main bearing oil seal and intermediate shaft bearings - both pricey to fix and almost impossible to diagnose. Check out Honest John for more info.  Incidentally I bumped into the chap behind HJ recently and he told me the least troublesome Boxster is the original 2.5 as it puts less stress on the latter two components.

The other obvious choice is a 944.  Choose a good one and you'll have a cheap classic that looks great.  Avoid Guards Red as original examples have faded to salmon pink and those that are still red have been resprayed.  The only problem with 944s is that they are the obvious choice when looking at cheap Porsches.  People will know you've bought a cheap Porsche and you will know that people know you've bought one for that reason.

So finally we come to the cheap Porsche that still retains an element of kudos, of cool, of rarity and that won't cost a bomb to buy and run.  The Porsche 924S.
Porsche 924S

It is important that you don't forget that S.  When the 924 was first introduced it came with a 2-litre, 4-pot engine from a VW LT van.  That was rubbish and slow.  In 1986, after the 944 was introduced, Porsche stuck the 2.5 litre, 4-pot engine from the 944 into the 924 and called it the 924S.

I learned all of the above before I bought my own 924S in December 2012 for £1,200.  It is now worth £3,000.

After I'd decided on a 924S I spent hours and hours scouring the classifieds for a decent example.  It is super-important to buy a well-looked after example with no mods (beyond what I describe below). If a 924S, or any classic Porsche, needs work it will cost a lot because Porsche parts are expensive.

It was part research, part intuition (that the seller was a good, honest chap) and part luck that my 924S turned out to be a peach.  It had only 5 owners in its life, had a full Porsche specialist history, new tyres, a new stainless steel exhaust system and new fluids and filters.

In the past year or so I've serviced it myself, which is super-easy, got a friend to replace the diff oil, swapped out the awful headlamp bulbs for xenon units (cost - £22.99), and replaced the windscreen wipers.

The only thing wrong with it when I bought it was that the high speed handling was a tiny bit wayward so I got the tracking done at a cost of £40 which fixed the problem completely.

I also installed a modern digital radio.  In winter the sunroof leaks a tiny bit so condensation builds up and needs to be cleared from the windscreen of a morning. I could fix this with a new sunroof seal but haven't got round to it yet.

And that's it. It returns 30-ish mpg and runs like clockwork.  I drive it every day.

It's a brilliant car to drive, with 50:50 weight distribution, 1200kg and 150bhp through the rear wheels.  The brakes are strong and the steering razor sharp.  It drives as you might imagine a Porsche would, but without the wayward rear end of a classic 911.

It's also got tiny rear seats which are too small for humans but perfect for storing bags and other bits and pieces.  The hatchback boot is massive too, bigger than in any comparable sportscar.

People stop and stare at the 924S.  On the motorway other drivers hang around in my blind sport trying to work out what it is.  Fathers see it and whisper to their sons about it.  My own son loves being dropped off at school in it because he and his friends think it's a cool car.  The sunroof lifts out completely and can be stored in a bespoke bag in the boot.

There is one more area to consider.  Its rarity.

According to www.howmanyleft.co.uk there are tens of thousands of Boxsters in existence in the UK, over 3,000 944's, 704 standard 924s and only 165 924Ss.

It's cheap to buy for now but with so few examples around - and at least half of those 165 will be absolute dogs - its value will continue to rise.

If you want to get ahead get a Porsche 924S.  You won't regret it.

For a more complete look at the Porsche 924S check out my full review of it.
Porsche 924S

Porsche 924S

By Matt Hubbard