Jan 24, 2011

My 993 Carrera. The deal of the century comes along every 2 weeks.

My Carrera S 


Without a doubt, to me the 993 Porsche Carrera S is one of the greatest cars available at any price. It is clearly the car I dreamt of when thinking of replacing my Cobra. This is evidenced by my previous blog "Dare to dream"  The '98 Carrera S is the final,  perfect iteration of the air-cooled Carrera.  It spares the complications of a turbo, but not the sexy turbo body shell.   It's dramatic with wide fenders, but not overstated because it has no wing. Its 993 motor was clearly a product from more directly racing, not so with the water cooled 996.  At the time, Porsche was simply trying to move out inventory and prepare for the new model.  They ended up making something special to a lot of people.

selling the Cobra was hard,but not as hard as choosing a replacement

Carrera S production, while not quite a collectible (arguable), was quite low.  My calculations put about 1732 Carrera S models into the USA. 993 of which were imported in 1998.  I have no idea how many of those were tiptronic and sold to 1-legged men. So if you consider the automatics undesireable, clearly the number of desired final year C2S's is pretty low. Lastly the 1998 Carrera was the last mostly hand assembled car Porsche produced, marking the end of something very special. After 1999 Porsche retooled for more automation after a consult with Toyota about production efficiency, profit etc.  I'm not saying quality is lower, after all machines build more perfectly than man, but to me it was the end of something special.  Albeit, the beginning of something special too.

The way I look at it for '98.  1998 Carrera S w/manual transmission must number much less than 700 imported.  After all  some had automatics right?  So I'm hoping that my car is fairly limited in availability,  naturally I didn't wait around for one in  black or silver, I found one with a good history and then pounced. 
The desirability of the 993 is further highlighted to me by the failures of the particular 996 models that were not developed as directly from competition.  The 996's were "plagued" with IMS bearing blowouts, bad rear-main-seals and less popular Boxster headlights.  Many purists were slow to warm to those diffences. Oh and plastic gauge clusters (I prefer those old-school VDOs).  Now these failures are not quite as bad as the blogs and forums make them out to be,  also those plastic guage clusters are probably more accurate than my earlier VDO guages.  Regardless of those truths, they did drive up old school Porsche loyalist interest to the past models and the awesome 993 for sure.  Just look at the resale values. 

addendum: With IMS retrofit kits now on the market this could mean that a '99 996 could be a hell of a bargain.  A problem, which is  now fixed like earlier 911's with exploding air boxes or even timing chain tensioner issues.  Only time will tell, but that's a blog for another time.

The Carrera S is part of a short list of cars that would have done adequate tribute to the sale of my Cobra. That said, I still had realistic expectations of what I would likely end up with.  After all, it is a recession so selling my Cobra wasn't going to make me rich.  

It seemed, after selling the Cobra  that I did not have enough to get any desirable, low mileage example of an "S"  model.  Many people are saving them, so available cars often had very very low miles and very very high prices.  Those higher mile cars that were priced well still required $2200 shipping and a $400 PPI from a dealer.  Not to mention the hassles of the long distance purchase including storage sometimes.  Frankly sellers of these cars just don't need to bother with me, a local buyer would come along quickly enough.  Trust me, I've learned this the hard way.

I did the math many times and couldn't do much better than a  +100K mile C4S with rock chips  and blue leather interior from Portland.  I quickly gravitated to the also collectible and hopefully more affordable RS America. My search was on for the RSA.  But frankly my experience searching for one that was priced right and not used up on the racetrack proved another difficult task.  Still love the looks of thos RS Americas though.  But since I'm no longer a "track dog"  a  more streetable car was my desire.

The search to me became more stressful than pleasurable.  Sellers advertising online were often just testing the market and not really committed to selling, or worse, they are running an auction that you aren't aware of. (meaning they take your offer and use it to drive up others who are also in contact with them).  If you aren't aware of how annoying searching online can be, read this for a laugh.  All of this proved quite tiring.  I found myself wishing I lived in NY or CA where these cars can be bought more easily in person rather than on the phone or via the Internet.  Perhaps then I could swoop in an buy a car that I wanted before all the BS of long distance buying interfered with my fun.

After the recent collapse of the deal with the above flawless 964 C2 (previous blog) I was pretty down.  My wife delved into craigslist  to remind me of my mantra: "The deal of the century comes along every 2 weeks".  Much to my surprise whe found a local seller of a C2S that was in my price range.  I called immediately, expecting to be told of whatever tragic flaw it possessed.

This image is from NWAUTOSALON.  They are amazing,. 
Speaking with Kelly on the phone only furthered my interest. Yes! A guy on craigslist who not only listed his phone number, but actually did want to sell his car. It had around 70K miles, and was priced appropriately. Condition was incredible but he wasn't trying to get rich.  This only furthered my fears of loosing the car, like all the others. I'd learned early on that email was useless, but figured perhaps phone conversations were not much better either since the 964 fell through too. So even though Kelly politely assured me that he preferred to trade up to a 997 with another person, I drove 2 hours to Seattle as soon as possible to meet him. A car this cool is worth the gamble, my wife reluctantly agreed. She was reluctant because she feared I'd be devastated if we didn't close a deal and she'd have to deal with my despair.

Once there I tried to remain calm, after all, I'm a grown man. It wasn't easy. When we arrived, I glanced over the car quickly and nearly fainted with excitement. Frankly, I was not the savvy, knowledgeable guy you'd expect from all my extremely intelligent, informative blogs (modestly is my greatest asset). It didn't matter, it just felt right. Frankly, if a door was missing I still would have bought the car, so the standard inspection protocol didn't apply. My read on Kelly's character was clear and he seemed like a straight shooter. Although I don't recommend it, I've bought with success this way on a few occasions. Let's call it pharmacist's intuition. It comes from spotting Vicodin and heroin addicts every day for 15 years.

After a bottle of wine and a tour of Kelly's condo we had an agreement that the car would be mine if Kelly's 997 "trade-up" deal didn't come together.  That was a start, but during the next bottle I tried my best to convince Kelly that other deal was spawned by Satan himself.  I don't think he bought that approach, but I was a desperate man an my passion had his attention. One thing was clear, we were both car guys and that did make it fun. Once assured I wasn't planning on reselling his car he agreed so sell it to me on the spot.

2 years later

In hind sight, i don't think an amazing 993 comes along quite as often as every 2 weeks, but at the time I was open to other amazing cars so the title's statement is true.  Still, i'm really glad I ended up with the last air cooled car Porsche made though...

after purchase, the Seattle ferry home.

Related blogs: 
After a week of ownership of the Carrera S:


1998 Porsche Carrera S - $XXXXX (Seattle)

Date: 2011-01-22, 2:10AM PST
I am not a dealer. This is my personal car. I'm the fourth owner and basically a Porsche junkie and this car has been meticulously cared for and garaged in the short time since I've owned it (which is since Feb 2010).

Want to see how I cared for this car? Have a look at this report :)
The major 60,000 mile service was completed since I've owned the car and mechanically it needs nothing.
I have the clear title, clean CarFax and Porsche Certificate of Authenticity in hand.
The exterior of the car is as close to flawless as you can get. The paint is original, looks brand new and has virtually no marks. The car has never been in an accident. The car has not had any paintwork. It is a bit hard to describe just how pristine the car looks so I'm sharing as many photos as I can to give an idea. As you can see from the photos I also spent $1,000 to have all the primary recommended surfaces of the car covered with clear VentureShield.
Option codes include:
220 Locking differential
224 Active Brake Differential
408 18" Technology Design Wheels
437 Comfort seat left
446 Colored wheel crests
454 Automatic speed control
490 Hi-Fi sound
650 Sunroof
688 Radio CD CDR210
6 speed manual transmission
Motor sound exhaust
Gauges with grey bevel rings (factory).
Would consider trade for 2006-2007 Porsche Carrera S or some such thing.

Call Kelly XXXX

Jan 22, 2011

The one that got away. Sort of.

 Shopping off Cragslist has it's ups and downs. 

Every receipt since bought at the dealer. 

My wife is busting my balls now because I didn't buy the RSA that I claimed I was going to hold out for. That was 2 days ago! (basically an eternity in car shopping days). Strange, since she hated the RSA and half the reason I bought this car below is for her to sit on those leather seats. I said she was supportive, I didn't say she wasn't a smart ass.

Perfect original paint but unoriginal Turbo-twist wheels.  Love em.

But seriously, when I found this car I had to buy it. The condition was just too good to pass up. And 48,000 miles is pretty low for a 21 year old car. My idea of a perfect car day is a long drive in the mountains, not the racetrack. So, I think this will do nicely. And hopefully attract less odd people than the Cobra did too.

Love non-metallic paint.  Easier to fix and Guards Red it a great Porsche color

Original craigslist ad in Santa Barbara:
1990 Porsche 964 for sale. 48,000 original miles. No accidents or paint work.. All documents since new.. Meticulously maintained.. Guards red with tan and black interior.. This car is absolutely perfect inside and out.. Showroom condition. Turbo twist wheels, good tires, cup pipe, cup chip, alpine stereo and includes all original equipment... No leaks, drives perfect... This is the cleanest 964 I've seen.. This car is seriously nice and is as close to perfect as it gets.. Must see to appreciate.. I am asking $31,500 or OBO.. I am open to offers... Please feel free to call with questions..

New suspension w/corner ballance

12 hours after coming to an agreement on the phone, I received an email from the seller asking me to delay buying my tickets to CA. No further explanation was given. Of course, my mind began to race... perhaps he was showing it to other people even after our agreement. Regardless of the circumstances, I was no longer comfortable with the situation. I wasn't going mail that check if I felt his integrity was in question.  You really do get all kinds on Craigslist.  I wrote a funny blog about these sellers a few weeks back:  Craigslist Sellers


I love those older VDO guages, made of glass and metal!

I gave him 12 hours to respond to my request for more elaboration as to the circumstances. He didn't respond. I retracted my agreement and tore up the check. After all you've got to practice what you preach. (see blog: enjoy the process or walk)

A few tasteful upgrades, including computer chip and intake.

Call, me old fashioned, but when you hang up the phone with an arrangment, the sale is done.  It sure felt like I was getting played, while he worked on some other deal.

Cup exhaust. 

I've never liked the saying "everything  happens for a reason".  I do however like the saying  "the deal of the centrury comes along about every 2 week"s.  I wasn't 72 hours later that my wife found my 993 below.

photo is link to my current C2S

Jan 12, 2011

In Search of the Elusive RS America

The deal of the century comes about once every two weeks.  Yes, I know it does. I just seem forget every 2 hours or so. 

Okay, so my Cobra has sold and left me with some cash and no brains. I have reread my blogs and determined that I need to put my Cobra money into a car that will be cool in an esoteric way, hold its value and be a Porsche! After budget evaluation and taking into consideration that more complicated cars are more complicated financially I've decided to keep it somewhat simple too. No OBD-2 diagnostic computers, no Varioram, no side curtain airbags, no navigation and no AWD. Oh, and no watercooling. Leaving me with a clear winner:

1993 964 Porsche 911 RS America. aka the RSA.

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Ebay car.  I bid my entire budget  but lost.  20K miles.

Following the time honored tradition of paying more, getting less and going faster the RSA has no back seats, no door pockets, no power steering and has up-tuned suspension. I personally think the lack of leather is a bummer, but a true enthusiast will endure such shortcomings. Originally, these were actually the cheapest 911 available in 1993-4, but not anymore.  They are often almost double what any other 964 Carrera will fetch.  More detail about what an RSA actually is can be found at http://www.rsamerica.net/whatis.htm

They made limited numbers of these cars but the values are not so exploded that I can't afford one. I feel it's a safe place to sink the Cobra money into. The tough part is they are often turned into track cars, being designed for track days they often do find a life on the racetrack and hence get modified. Also they are a bit limited in creature comfort for street use, so owners often modify them for speakers and power seats. I'm looking for a car that can go back to stock with little trouble.
I'm searching Craigslist, PCA., RSAmerica.net, Panorama, Rennslist, Autotrader and Ebay currently. You'll find interesting differences in the sellers from each source. Sellers are more suspicious and less responsive if they are advertising on a free site for some example. An entire article needs to be written about how to shop on the web for a specialty car. The short version is:

Get off your but and call on the phone, you passive, lazy bastard.

If you're not excited enough to call on the phone, then you are shopping for the wrong car.  If they don't have a phone number listed, email and simply state you are serious and would like to call them. Perhaps also asking them to tell you if the car has sold might help. You can exchange emails later if you must. You really must call first to establish your credibility. Email isn't great for building a rapport with someone long distance. Prove you are for real. Trust me, I've emailed about 40 people so far and have only received replies from 4. Also, nobody pulls a free add when these cars sell, leading you on wild goose chases.

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Another car who's owner hasn't replied to an email
I won't go into too much about buying from a dealer, but don't. Unless, of course, you've got something really special and want to overpay.  Personally, I'm looking for cars owned by members of the PCA (http://www.pca.org/) whenever possible. Lots of people can afford a used Porsche, but I need to see evidence that they are passionate about it. The PCA is clearly the best place to verify that. Now that's not saying I'd pass on a car owned by a non-member. We all hope for that ignorant person who doesn't know what he/she has. Be honest, you've had that dream too…

I've got around $34,000 to spend, and could buy a car anywhere in the country. That looks at bit below what people are asking on the RSA website, but I've found that many have lowered the price, just not lowered the listing prices online. So I'm still optimistic.  After all they are not collectors items yet.  Naturally I'd love to see a stock RSA in Seattle, but a rare car like this will require shopping over a broader area.  Rare is a relative term,  many of these cars were bought as second cars, so there are more low mileage examples out there than one  might think.  If I had more patience I could wait for one to surface locally, Seattle's got a few around.

I just keep telling myself:  The deal of the century comes along about once every two weeks. 

After getting a good gut feeling I make sure I'm comfortable with the following:
  • Mileage, I'd like under 75K but service history is more relevant w/cars this durable.
  • Owner history, my resale is hurt by multiple owners. 1 owner would fetch my attention most.
  • Paint condition this is naturally important. Color is not  (but I will pay more for my favorite).
  • Carfax is clean. People read them so it affects my resale too.
  • Modifications. Holes for stereos and intake modifications are bummer, but okay I gue$$.
  • PPI is essential, but  I may pass if I know your mechanic. 
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No "improvements" here.  Most, however, can be reversed.

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Know of a homeless RSA?  drop me an email at pharmacistadam(at)gmail

Addendum:  Jan-19-11  

I almost lost my way after posting blog above.  

I'd found some cars that were total crap.  I'd also found some people that were total crap. Even sent Mom and Aunt Dee to inspect a couple in New Jersey. They've bought some nice cars at Barrett Jackson, so they are not to be "missunderestimated."   I had A couple close calls with nice cars.  Depression started to set in rapidly after giving up on Nick's very nice RSA in Bayonne. Perhaps I wore him out with emails, but hey....   Who doesn't have a smartphone these days anyway?  So his lack of responsiveness proved depressing.  I'm prone to auto-depression already.

I'm not good with my car money, I want to buy immediately!  Not a virtue I'm proud of.  But other than that one flaw, I'm basically perfect.

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If a guy doesn't love it enough to take a good photo, ask yourself the obvious question.

So after incorrectly thinking my budget just can't get me into an acceptable RS America, I foolishly expanded my search.    There are so many air-cooled Porsches worth buying.  Then you have flaws associated with each model that must be watched for.  Throw in the fact that I really don't want this money to depreciate and you've got to find a special example as well.  Lastly, pay $400 for pre purchase inspections a few times and your funds dwindle.  So now I must negotiate price BEFORE the PPI, which is counter intuitive.  Anyway, I'm rambling intentionally so you can see how overwhelmed I've become.  A clearer picture of my confusion can be seen on my twitter or facebook for sure, I'll spare you the links, it's too shameful. 

I found that a low mileage 993 Varioram negotiated down to $32,000 left me with enough extra cash to brave the risks of possible expensive problems associated with 1996 cars.  So I was ready to buy it just yesterday.  Heck my mother was going to deliver the check for me Saturday.  I was excited too, which is always a good sign if your about to buy a car you don't need.

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The temptress.  -60K miles, Varioram C2.  Good price, little documentation.  I can afford a 993, that's clear.  But I do fear I cannot afford to "own" it.  4 oxygen sensors, air tubes, valve guides, stability control, polen filters etc.   I keep having to reastrain myself, because it's a damn nice car.  But if it's in the garage waiting for money, it will be a lot like that girlfriend I left behind in college. 

Then the automotive gods then sent me a sign.  Another RS America on AutoTrader.  This one was $34,000 and had less mileage than many I was unwilling to overpay for.   I emailed and called this morning.  Naturally, I'm getting the feeling it's gone, or the guy won't reply because I'm on the opposite coast. Big mistake dude,  this money is burning a hole in my pocket.  

If he doesn't call that's okay.  What it did for me was create clarity.  I couldn't sleep thinking about how to speak with him, arrange payment, shipment and inspection.  In my sleeplessness I realized that no other car other than a RSA could create that kind of insomnia (at least no other car under $40,000 anyway).  So I realized that gone or not, that car was a reminder that patience will find me my car.  I'm in the best possible position to get one, I have cash and time on my side.  I just need to use them both more wisely.

So, although the luxury of the RSA is non-existent and I'm may enjoy other Porsches very much, I'm going to hold out for the car that is the smartest place to put my money.  For me it's clearly a non OBD-II car, all that computer stuff, oxygen sensors, handling controll.  Sounds risky to me.  Jjust because I've got some money doesn't mean I have money.   I can't afford such complicated systems to maintain.

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FOR SALE: 1993 RS America Guards Red, 62,673 miles. CLEAN CARFAX, Excellent Condition...
Sunroof Limited Slip Differential A/ C Stereo Nice paint, No dings, Great Interior with new carpets, Adjustable Shocks, Cat Bypass, and Strut bar.
Car is solid, Runs and Sounds Great. Drives perfectly. New Tires, Original Wheels. Florida car, never driven in snow. Not Many in this condition left.
Car located in New Jersey. $34,000 OBO Call XXX-XXX-XXXX  Always garaged, Must see, Non-smoker, Well maintained, ......  This car is not perfect,
but the low miles and overall paint condition have my attention.  It could use a new interior door panel, the rear storage box needs carpeting and the
 front bumper's wearing a "frown" from bumping the curb.  That's all DIY kinda stuff and might even be fun.  Working on a 911 is better than working
 on a Camry because they are made so well.

After further investigation, I found the above ex-race car was another project I wasn't willing to undertake.   I'm looking for a car in the best overall condition I can get for my money.   I'm thinking a 964 in beyond impeccable condition may be an option too.  Stay tuned.

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Always supportive, but she does tease a lot.  My wife Catherine is as good as they can get.  This is a photo from one of our first dates.  She learned quickly what I was all about, but stayed anyway.