Perhaps you’ve decided you want an air-cooled Porsche because they were hot when you were growing up and you always wanted one. Or maybe it’s because you’ve got a buddy or 2 who owns one and you’ve decided you want to get out and roll with them.
The truth of the matter, though, is that unless you have some level of experience with buying these cars, it’s really, really easy to get hurt financially if you don’t do your due diligence before pulling the trigger on the purchase.
So, based on my experience, I thought I would put together 5 tips to help you as you pick up your first used Porsche 911.
Tip #1: Be realistic with yourself about what your ownership experience is going to look like.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’ve gotten your mind right for what vintage Porsche 911 ownership is going to look like. The ownership experience is massively rewarding and the good news about these cars is that they are actually pretty bulletproof once they’re sorted. The bad news is that it’s going to cost you money and time to get the car 100%. That’s just the way it is. Rare is the vintage Porsche that’s being actively offered for sale that needs nothing even if it’s being marketed as such.
If you’re the OCD type who really wants everything to be perfect on the car, then prepare to pay up significantly for a truly turnkey car that’s cosmetically perfect and has zero mechanical issues. After all, the “newest” air-cooled Porsche is now 22 years old and many of these cars see a lot of use. Garage queens do exist, but you’re going to have to pay a premium for one.
Tip #2: Find an independent air-cooled Porsche shop local to you before you buy the car.
Think ahead. Are you savvy enough to work on one of these cars yourself? If so, congrats. If not, I would recommend finding a local independent Porsche shop capable of working on whatever variant you’ve landed on owning, and do this before you buy the car. If you can’t work on the car yourself, you will DEFINITELY need a good, honest, competent shop.
You’re going to want technical competence and honesty around labor rates and billing. Trust me when I say that you want to feel really good about your mechanic when he basically has an open checkbook when he’s troubleshooting some pesky “gremlin” going on with your car.
Finally, notice I said “independent.” I have always avoided working with Porsche dealers (or any dealers for that matter) when it comes to vintage cars I own. I have found dealer techs who truly understand are few and far between and I have had a great deal more luck with independently owned and operated specialty shops,
Tip #3: Dig HARD into problems, issues, and the desired preventative maintenance required for the specific year/generation of the air-cooled Porsche you’re looking at.
As great as these cars are, each generation has its’ own issues and Google is your friend.
Whether you’re dealing with the need for upgraded Carrera chain tensioners in a 78 – 83 Porsche 911SC or the seal leak issues in the Porsche 993, you’ll want to know what you’re in for.
Any solid seller will have either gotten this work done themselves or will have ensured the work had been done when they bought the car. Or, in an ideal world, the seller will disclose any work that will be required in the near future. If the car needs the work, do your best to get that discount baked into the sale price or simply get comfortable that in order to experience the joy of owning the car, you’ll need to come out of pocket for the amount of the repairs.
There are many GREAT forums and Facebook groups focused on specific generations of air-cooled Porsches and any questions you have about the car you’re seeking have been asked before. Do yourself a favor and do your homework. It’ll save you cash and the agony of nasty surprises later.
Tip #4: Remember that you’re buying the seller as much as you’re buying the car.
This little truism can mean the difference between buying a car that brings you trouble-free joy for many miles following the purchase vs. buying a car that immediately drains your wallet thanks to surprises that may have been actively or passively hidden from you.
In my personal experience as well as based on what I’ve seen in the marketplace, most air-cooled Porsche 911 buyers and owners are true car enthusiasts and as such, have bought and sold many cars in their lifetimes. So, for the most part, I have seen that both buyers and sellers have a positive transaction when passing along an air-cooled Porsche from one to another. The seller has loved the car but is ready to move on and the buyer is savvy enough to ask the right questions and make a good deal for both.
However, there are flippers out there who buy low, repair only the most glaring issues, then try to sell the car for at or above retail. Getting to the bottom of what type of seller you’re dealing with is an article in and of itself so I’m not going to go there, but basically, use your instincts.
Tip #5: Never, never, never, never skip the PPI (Pre-Purchase Inspection)
So, after months of looking you’ve FINALLY found the car you’ve been looking for. The seller “seems like a nice guy” and he has “other buyers ready to make a deal today” if you don’t move ahead and buy it. If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is slow down the deal by asking for a PPI. You want to wire the money and freaking DRIVE your new toy ASAP!
And that’s the way first-time air-cooled Porsche buyers get hurt.
The reasons for overlooking this vital step are many:
You’ve been looking for a long, long time.
The color and spec you want are uncommon and they don’t come around often.
This car is special and you don’t want to lose it.
The seller “seems” honest.
But basically what you’re doing is talking yourself into a potentially painful situation based solely on emotion. And, once the initial joy of gain is over, the agony of rushing the process – and paying thousands, if not tens of thousands – of dollars for surprise repairs is with you for a long time.
If you’re in the financial position to withstand (potentially) thousands of dollars of surprises and skip the PPI, then just own that and move ahead. Frankly, I’ve done that before. It’s been rare and the stakes have been low, but I try to avoid it at all costs.
The concept of a PPI, what to look for, how to get one done at a distance, and how much you should pay for it deserves several articles/videos in and of itself. The key takeaway for you here is GET ONE DONE.
Ok, so there you are. 5 tips for first-time air-cooled Porsche buyers. If you’d like to get a better sense of what it’s like to own, love, and financially support air-cooled Porsches, please check out my channel at https://www.youtube.com/c/Rennthusiast/featured