The Search for the Perfect Family Car (for me)

Too fat.                                  Too geriatric.                                           Too perfect.

A lot has happened since my last writeup. To summarize: I broke some stuff on the Lotus. I fixed that stuff on the Lotus. The Ultima’s been going through a very long and much needed restoration, and should be in like-new shape in a couple of months…and that got me thinking…when the Ultima’s back in action, why would I keep the Lotus? I mean it’s a fantastic car. Excellent dual use track / street car, but the reality is it’s nowhere near the Ultima on the track, and it’s not the greatest street car. It’s just a very good compromise between the two. So if the Ultima’s on track…why keep the Lotus?

And so, I started thinking about the ideal street car for me. It would need four seats, so I could take my kids and wife with me in a car I actually enjoyed driving. I mean, my Excursion is great for what it is, but I certainly couldn’t describe it as fun. This ideal street car would need to be not too big, not too heavy, and capable of filling in for the Ultima on track when inevitably something breaks. Oh yeah, it should probably be fast too. That might be a good thing. And so I started thinking…Porsche…a 911 could fulfill those requirements. Unfortunately, 997s are inconveniently expensive, and I hate buying new cars. I’d much rather let someone else cover that depreciation, particularly on a $150k car. The beauty of the 996 is that it’s the unloved generation of the 911. As the first incarnation of the water-cooled 911 it’s an affront to the 993 loving purists and the headlights look too like the Boxter’s, so your dentist doesn’t want to be seen in it. Perfect. As a result, the market for the 996 is extremely soft, and a four-year-old example with say 40k miles can be bought for 1/3 what it cost new. How can you not love that (unless you bought one new, in which case my condolences)?

It would need to be a turbo, as they’re oh so much fun. Hmmm…the 996 GT2 would be an excellent choice. It’s a lightened, rear-wheel-drive version of the standard 996 Turbo, basically the ultimate incarnation of the turbo Porsche for the street. They delete the rear seats found in other 996s, but that could easily be remedied. And something about the efficiency of those tiny, designed for legless children rear seats just called to me. My kids are 2 and 4, and the seats in the 911 are just the right size for them. It was settled. So naturally I turned to greatest repository of low-noise-threshold information in the world, Corner Carvers. I started a thread asking about the buying 996 GT2. Are they reliable? Are there issues that don’t exist with the 996 Turbo they’re based upon? The answers were all good: no real issues, and the 996 turbo is apparently an excellent, bulletproof car. And as the steam was building towards a GT2 purchase, Morgan, a quiet, demure CCer if ever there was one, piped in with an innocent question: “Why would you spend $100k for a GT2 when you could just buy a turbo, convert it to RWD, and essentially have a pseudo-GT2 for $50k?” Shit you can do that? It was an intriguing question. I’d learned the value of Morgan’s suggestions previously in what I refer to as the Arby’s Insight, so I did a little research. It seems the RWD conversion is done all the time for tracked Turbos, and the conversion is not only inexpensive, the cars have no tranny issues after the conversion. Thank you, Morgan. That’s 2 for 2. I’d offer you a job in CA, but you’d probably miss the hurricanes…and humidity…and bugs…and oldsters.

So the search began. Being in Socal, there are a TON of 996 turbos for sale, and of course they all sound great in the Ads. The problem I found with these cars is the good ones, fairly priced, sell instantly. I found two cars I thought I’d want to buy, and the day I’d found them they’d already sold. The abused cars, on the other hand, just linger for weeks, filling your Ebay, Craigslist, and Autotrader search results like detritus after a storm. I found a great-sounding example in Huntington Beach. Black on Black, 33k miles. PSS9 suspension, nice forged wheels, ECU flash; $51k. So I excitedly jump in the Lotus and drive over to see the car. My God, was that car beat to shit. This guy had put some great looking $4.5k wheels on this car, then proceed to curb rash all four of them around their entire circumference, and hit one curb hard enough to flatten 4" of one wheel rim. He’d hit something with the driver’s side mirror, something had hit him in the passenger side door, and he’d burned all around the cigarette lighter plug in an apparent epileptic fit. I asked him how long he’d owned the car, and he said for the last 18k miles. Had he had the 30k service done? Nope. He had taken absolutely no care of that car. I wouldn’t be surprised if the oil had actually not been changed since he’d owned it. There are a lot of turbos out there like this. I think a lot of people want the “911 Turbo!” and they’re absolutely not car guys. They don’t give a shit about the cars at all, they want something to pimp around Newport Beach in and pick up bimbos. That’s all fine, but that’s not the guy I want to buy a car from.

Needless to say, I began to despair. I knew I was hitting a bottom when I was looking through the Porsche Dealer’s CPO inventory, murmuring to myself “It’s probably worth it to pay $7k over fmv for these cars…the dealer has checked them out, after all.” Dark days, indeed. And then it happened.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

It started innocently enough. Yet another Tuesday night looking at the new listings on Craigslist, Ebay, AutoTrader. Yet another batch of “wrong” or questionable cars. Then there it was. Seal Grey. Black interior. GT3 suspension. Kinesis Wheels. 15k miles. 2002. Immaculate paint. Basically a new car, for less than half what it cost when new. And to top it all off, it was in Washington, DC…and you know what that means: road trip.

Leave a Reply

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