1985 Porsche 911 Long-Term Road Test - Miscellaneous

1985 Porsche 911 Long-Term Road Test - Miscellaneous

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1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: True Cost To Own

June 21, 2012

Alec's 2006 Porsche 911S.JPG

An interesting question piqued our curiosity as the year-long adventure with the 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera M491 -- affectionately known as the “Black Plague” -- comes to an end. Does it cost more or less to keep a classic car on the road than a modern equivalent? Fortunately, we know someone who commutes in a late-model Porsche 911 and shares the same OCD-esque fervor for recordkeeping as we do. So let's compare maintenance, repair and depreciation costs between old and new. Naturally we'll omit other operational costs such as fuel and insurance since mpg varies according to the lead content of one's right foot, while insurance premiums differ whether Clearasil or Polident is on your shopping list. We've also added another component with the Edmund's True Cost to Own (TCO) calculator.

Here's what we've discovered.

Below is the list of maintenance and repairs performed on our 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera M491 during its 13-month stay. Bear in mind that it's a 27-year-old sports car from Stuttgart with approximately 115,000 miles on its odometer when it arrived. In its defense, mickey-mouse modifications from past ownerships necessitated several of our more expensive electrical repairs. Mechanically, the old Porsche proved as reliable as a wood-burning stove.

The single most expensive repair item is for tires -- a normal wear-and-tear expense to be expected on any vehicle. In total, the classic 911 required $4,306 in maintenance and repairs for the 12.5K miles we drove, a cost of 34 cents per mile. However, we sold the Black Plague for $1,001 more than our purchase price. If you factor in appreciation (a rarity in car ownership), the cost drops to 26 cents per mile. Below is the table of our costs:

1985 Porsche 911 Maintenance/Repairs Performed


Replace steering wheel and horn ring


Repair/replace wiring to ventilation controls and blowers


Replace transmission drive to speedometer (Aase Motors)


Remove aftermarket audio amp, replace missing wiring


Add rear wheel spacers (Wheel Enhancement, Inc.)


Replace H5 headlight lens


Repair/rewire turn signals


Replace clutch cable


Repair R door; repair central door-locking system


Replace trunk struts


Replace main engine oil line to sump


Repair clutch spring action


Replace R seatbelt hardware


Replace 20 worn, corroded fuses


Replace shift linkage shift ball, adjust linkage


Repair/rewire oil pressure/oil level gauges


Replace driver-side seat adjuster


Replace oil/filter (x2)


Additional oil added


Replace tires


Perform alignment


Replace clutch pedal bushing


Repair rearview mirror


Repair wheel cap


Replace H5 bulb




Months of ownership


Miles driven (during ownership)


Appreciation of vehicle value at sale


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/o appreciation


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/appreciation


So how does a late-model Porsche 911 fair when you do the same math?

Meet Alec Barinholtz and the pre-owned 2006 Porsche 911S he purchased three years ago and drives daily. Below are his maintenance and repair costs thus far. While maintenance for the newer Porsche is more costly than for the older car, the modern successor required fewer repairs, thus explaining the lower running costs of 19 cents per mile. Once you figure in the depreciation of his car, however, the cost balloons to 43 cents per mile. Below is the table of his costs:

2006 Porsche 911S Maintenance/Repairs Performed


20K service


Replace anti-freeze


Replace bulb


Replace oil/filter @ 30k


Replace front tires


Repair faulty door handle (partially covered by CPO warranty)


Replace door check


50K service


Repair/replace throttle body & transmission pan gasket


Repair flat tire


60K service


Replace air filter housing


Replace tires


70K service


Repair/replace faulty wiring harness (labor only)


Transmission reprogramming




Months of ownership


Miles driven (during ownership)


Estimated depreciation of vehicle during ownership


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/o depreciation


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/depreciation


Meanwhile, we have another resource in the ownership calculus thanks to the Edmunds True Cost to Own (TCO) calculator, a tool carried on our site that enables anyone to project ownership costs based on real-world information gathered in our proprietary proves for a 2007 Porsche 911S comparable to Barinholtz's 2006 model. The calculator provides estimates for maintenance and repair costs among other operating costs. In general, the TCO figures seem to be akin to Barinholz's, as his lower repair costs can be attributed to his CPO warranty, which partially covered repair costs that would otherwise have come out of his pocket. The table of costs is below:

2007 Porsche 911S True Cost to Own (TCO)*

Maintenance year 1 (as pre-owned vehicle)


Repairs year 1 (as pre-owned vehicle)


Maintenance year 2


Repairs year 2


Maintenance year 3


Repairs year 3


*Based on a 3-year estimate with 15,000 miles driven per year.



Months of ownership


Miles driven (during ownership)


Estimated depreciation of vehicle during ownership


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/o depreciation


Cost per mile for maintenance and repairs w/depreciation


What does it all mean? Newer cars require fewer repairs than older cars but are more susceptible to depreciation when it's time to sell. Our 1985 Porsche 911 needed more repairs than its newer counterparts. However, it's the only car in this trio to have increased in value, and this factor results in the lowest cost per mile in this group.

While new cars become more used and cheap, classic cars become more collectible and expensive. With anything old, be it a car or a house (or even a person), it will require extra TLC but it can actually increase in value because of the rarity it offers. You wouldn't tear down a 100-year old Victorian for leaky windows or put grandpa out to pasture because he gets a hangnail. Old Victorians are worth a lot of dough, while grandpa has been stashing cash in shoeboxes for decades.

Makes you want to go and give grandpa a hug, doesn't it? Makes us want to go and give the Black Plague a hug, too.

Stephen Lee, Editor, Vehicle Data, Edmunds.com @ 127,425 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Bon Voyage

June 20, 2012

Bye Porsche 1.jpg After loading up our long-term Porsche 911 with all the extra parts, I was ready to drop off the car at the transporter in Rancho Dominguez, Calif. -- about 25 miles from the Edmunds offices. One shipping requirement was that the car be delivered with no more than a quarter tank of gas. This is probably to keep the weight down in shipping. I had just over a quarter when I left the office, so I was in good shape.

Stephane Moreau had made the shipping arrangements with Direct Express, Inc. I had never been to a shipping warehouse and in my mind's eye, I pictured the huge government warehouse at the end of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" -- and as it turns out, I wasn't far off.

From the outside, Direct Express had the layout of a typical industrial park. I went up a small flight of stairs to the office. There was a large window in the rear that had an impressive view of the warehouse below.

Warehouse.jpg It was a sight to behold. There were dozens of classic cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats, all waiting to be put into a shipping container and sent to a new owner.

Chris Ortiz, the president of the company, helped make the arrangements for the Porsche 911. It was a straightforward process. All we needed was the car's title, a bill of sale (you can download a template at the DMV Web site), and a signature on the dotted line. Chris then went over the ship's itinerary with us. The cargo ship will head south and pass through the Panama Canal. It will make a few stops to pick up other containers along the East Coast before heading off to the final destination, Le Havre, France. The entire journey will take about six weeks. Le Havre is roughly 122 miles from Paris, where Stephane lives. It should make for a nice getting-to-know-you road trip.

If you're curious, shipping a car from Los Angeles to France will set you back about $1,175 for a shared container with another vehicle. Insurance is extra and once the car reaches France, Stephane says he'll have to pay an extra 9 percent of the car's sale price in customs fees.


I asked if we could take a closer look at the warehouse and Chris was happy to oblige. I drove the Porsche into the warehouse, where one of the representatives did a preliminary inspection. He filled out a condition report on the car and took a basic inventory of the items inside. We said our goodbyes to the Porsche 911 and went back to work.

A week later we heard back from Chris. The 911 was packed and on its way to France. Direct Express sent us a few photos of the 911 being loaded into the shipping container.

Porsche Transport Photo (1).jpgPorsche Transport Photo (2).jpg Our 911 was sharing its bunk bed with an old Chevrolet Truck. The Chevy was on the bottom and a wooden support structure was set up around it. Then ramps were set up so that the Porsche could be set on top with a forklift.

Porsche Transport Photo.jpgPorsche Transport Photo (8).jpg As you can see, the 911 easily fits, though there wasn't much room remaining.

Porsche Transport Photo (4).jpgPorsche Transport Photo (6).jpgPorsche Transport Photo (7).jpgPorsche Transport Photo (5).jpg
It takes careful planning to set up a shipping container. One loose wooden board and the top car could fall on top of the lower one. Take a look at this time-lapse video from Direct Express. In it, company workers load a red Porsche 911 Turbo into the container in a setup that's similar to our 911's berth.

When the car is delivered to Stephane and he looks in the glove box, he'll find a note we left on behalf of the Edmunds and IL editors: "We hope you enjoy this car as much as we have -- maybe even more!".

Au revoir 911. Bon voyage!

Final Odometer: 137,425 miles

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Preparing for Transport

June 19, 2012

Transport P911.jpg There were a few things to take care of before sending our long-term 1985 Porsche 911 rear wing. This would save room in the car for the extra parts that came with our Porsche 911. We've had these in storage and wanted to include them with the car, figuring that the new owner could decide what he wanted to do with them. But 911s aren't exactly known for their cargo capacity, so I wasn't sure if all the parts would fit.

Spare Parts 911.jpg

From left to right in the above photo are: the extra engine cover, an assortment of A/C parts (in the box), a stack of black interior trim pieces (the prior owner wanted a two-tone interior and changed a number of panels to red), the steering wheel that came with the car (it was torn and we eventually bought a new one) and finally, on the far right, is the A/C compressor.

Parts in Front 911.jpg

I put the most of the interior pieces in the front storage area.

Parts on Inside 911.jpg

The engine cover and the big interior panel with the speakers went in the rear passenger foot well. The box with the A/C parts and whatever was left over went on the back seats.

Performance Parts911.jpg

The boxes in the front passenger foot well are performance parts that Mr. Moreau wanted to sail along with the car. Like a true enthusiast, he isn't wasting any time in buying parts to soup up his new car. Having them shipped to the Edmunds office was cheaper than paying international shipping.

Taped Sunroof 911.jpg

The sunroof was the last item that needed attention. It has a slight leak and we wanted to make sure no water would get inside. I had some painter's tape at home, which did the trick nicely.

The whole process took about 20 minutes to complete. I was now ready to drive off to the transporter (Direct Express, Inc.) in Rancho Dominguez, Calif.

To be concluded.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor, @ 127,400 miles

1985 Porsche 911: The Future of Collector Cars

June 18, 2012


We were sad to bid goodbye to the Black Plague as it was packed into its container for the trip to France. (More about that tomorrow.) If we could have been more patient, we might have been able to spend more time finding a buyer here in the U.S. who might have been able to pay our price and offer us occasional visiting rights, but it might have taken all summer and we just couldn't wait.

Fortunately Stephane Moreau seems to be the right kind of owner. Plus the Black Plague's outlook for the future is bright. From now on, it will always get better as its owners alternately improve it and reap the rewards of its escalating value.

Just ask Keith Martin, who is pretty much the smartest guy I know in the old car hobby.

Martin is the editor and publisher of Sports Car Market, the U.S. magazine devoted to the buying and selling of the kind of old cars in which you and I are interested. The magazine has reached its twelfth birthday (by a miracle), and Martin has learned a little something in the interval. Like us, he falls in love with cars that he shouldn't, and his passion for driving frequently overwhelms his good sense when it comes to buying them and selling them. Nevertheless, Martin has a feel for the big picture that gives his opinions some importance.

In his most recent editorial column, Martin notes: "I suspect that nearly every collector car getting sold today is moving up the food chain from owners of less means to owners of more resources. As the price of the underlying car increases, so does the willingness of a new owner to spend what it takes to make the car right.

"Any old sports car that is not a rusted heap by now will probably never be a rusted heap. As each car is refreshed and brought back into collector car service, it can look forward to a happy life of rallies, tours and car shows rather than the daily grind of commuting it knew with its first owners. The cars will have attention lavished on them, better lubricants used and better technology in the parts that are installed. They will never again be beaters.

"So I can say that there will always be collector cars around, that their supply is not diminishing and that once they are set right again, they will be kept in better condition than they have ever known. Buying your next old sports car will be much more expensive -- but, in the end, much easier -- proposition than it was 20 years ago. Find a good restored car, pay top dollar, spend more, and enjoy yourself. Don't look back, and above all, never add up the receipts."

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 127,425 miles

1985 Porsche 911: The Black Plague Goes to France

June 15, 2012

porsche 018.jpg

So Stephane Moreau writes us, "I am normally quite pragmatic but I now really want this car. If few hundreds $ more to reach your target price can help you decide that the Black Plague will go back to Europe rather than stay in the U.S., I would be more than happy to arrange. After spending so much time with her, I am sure there is also room for your heart in this deal."

That's it, we decided, this thing is going to France.

We cast our net pretty wide in an effort to find a new home for our 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look, but it turns out that we should have stuck to hard-core Porsche guys like Stephane Moreau all along. After dealing with the halt, the lame and the witless, it was pleasure to connect with a guy who gets what the Black Plague is about.

bugatti 2010 1.jpg

When we started the process of selling the Black Plague, we did what anyone would and went straight to eBay. Sadly, our net pulled in mostly trash fish, the sort of thing that you throw back without a second thought. We tried to be nice, but it can be difficult. Even the kind of people stirred up by AutoTrader Classics also proved to be largely time-wasters, and we were often on the verge of handing out souvenir RTFM coffee mugs.

We were about to post the car in the classified listings for PCA Panorama, Porsche Excellence and Rennlist.com, but we found ourselves thinking that these outlets represent an audience that might be a little too particular, one accustomed to conventional cars with conventional stories. So instead we first tried Pelican Parts.

Pelican Parts is the creation of Wayne Dempsey, an MIT-educated aerospace engineer who fixed up a Porsche 911SC and discovered that lots of people wanted to learn how he did it and where he got parts. So he wrote a book about fixing up the Porsche 911, Pelican Parts , a great place to buy parts for your BMW or Porsche.

The kind of people that frequent Pelican Parts are used to putting a little sweat equity into the cars they own, so it wasn't a surprise that the Black Plague immediately got a strong response once we listed it, and this even after we referred to it as the "Black Plague."


One of the best of these inquiries came from Bob Carlson, a graphic designer from Minneapolis. He had recently owned a 993 version of the Porsche 911, still owned a Porsche 944, and candidly admitted that he was looking for a project to turn over to his two college-age boys. He studied up, asked the right questions, and found a friend on the West Coast to inspect our car for him. In the end, though, we agreed with Carlson that he probably would prefer a less unique 911 with a nicer cosmetic presentation than our car offered.

At the almost the same time, Stephane Moreau came into the picture. He got our attention when he said he'd be at the Le Mans Classic, the race for classic sports cars that precedes the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Then he told us that he would look up a friend of ours who was running the classic and we were even more impressed. It turned out that he had a 1978 Porsche 911SC converted into a clone of the 1974 Porsche 911 RS 3.0 and took it regularly to the track (it's seen here at the Bugatti circuit in Le Mans), plus he had recently sold a 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera (also pictured here at the top).


Moreau also impressed us because he took the time to read our entire blog about the car, nearly 270 posts at the time. He recognized that it's not necessarily smart to make such a purchase from half a world away, but he understood the car, understood its issues, and already had a support network of expert craftsmen in France. As he said, "After spending (too much?) time reading the blog, I do see the Black Plague's main issues (straight frame and engine?) but also its potential."

We found ourselves believing that he would be the right person to get the car. Also there was a kind of charming back story, as he wrote us in another note: "I just wanted to comfort you with the idea I was serious about it. I lived 3 years in L.A. back in the early 1990s, so getting an L.A.-style Porsche would be quite special. This is love at first sight or I know nothing about it! Last time I did that was when I met Sue in L.A and married her 3 months later; it has been working great since 1994! Two boys into go-karts, Miller (10) and Luke (7)."

At the end there were a couple people interested, including a Porsche engine builder and even the car's previous owner, but Moreau won out. We had a heaping handful of other inquiries from the single Pelican Parts posting for another ten days -- including one guy from Holland and another who owns a 1984 M491 coupe with sunroof delete and a 1986 M491 cabriolet.

But Stephane Moreau is our guy, and we'll tell you more about the process of shipping the car over the water to him. Will the Black Plague become "Peste Noire?"

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Day Spa at Aase Motors

June 11, 2012


We're getting the Black Plague ready for its turn in the spotlight with a new owner, so we took it a Porsche shop to install its original M491 Turbo-style wing plus get a light-duty oil change.

We took it to Aase Motors in Fullerton, a Southern California specialist in race-prepared Porsche 911s. It's a place where you see all the best cars of the Porsche Owner's Club, which is pretty much the most racing-oriented group of club-level Porsche drivers in the country.

Aase Motors had no less than a dozen cars at the big spring POC event at Auto Club Speedway. All those cars and rich guys, it's kind of like the Scuderia Ferrari of Porsches, only without the old weird guy sitting in a dark room near the test track.


Of course, there are those who say that Jeff Erikson can be a scary guy in his own right, but perhaps this is because he not only knows Porsche 911s but also can drive them very, very fast, as an office full of assorted trophies proves. Erikson bought the shop from Randall Aase, one of the three Aase brothers who were legends in Porsche tuning during the 1970s. (Dennis Aase ultimately became a driver for Dan Gurney's All-American Racers when it was racing the factory-supported Toyota Celica in IMSA GTU and GTO competition.)

Steve Thiel is doing the work for us. You can picture him as a factory-certified Toyota/Lexus technician with enough skill and imagination to have built a Nissan 240SX S14 with a turbocharged Skyline GT-R inline-6 engine, but he seems too young to be working in a Porsche shop. He reports that being a dealership mechanic is lucrative but boring and he prefers working on real cars. After growing up surrounded by assorted Chevy V8s built by his father and grandfather, he just couldn't help it.

Thiel makes short work of removing the Plague's flat tail and we're thinking that we're wimps for not just making the switch ourselves like we did the first time. But after seeing the amount of effort it takes Thiel and Aase engine specialist Allan Faragallah to position the winged engine cover so the body gaps are just right, we're glad we asked the pros to do it, especially since the Plague's new owner will be looking pretty carefully at the result.


It was also interesting to see Thiel hold his breath when he went to open the lid once he'd positioning the locating latch. Apparently he's had plenty of experience with jammed latch pins just like us, and he says clean living seems to be the only indicator of successful adjustment.


Finally, the Plague received a new sump of oil, and Aase Motors prefers Brad Penn mineral oil for older 911s, just like so many tuners these days. I remember the days when the Brad Penn refinery in Pennsylvania produced Kendall Oil, which was the choice in the Northeast when I was first learning to race. Superior film strength was the key attribute of Kendall, just like Brad Penn, and this is something that you can see being important in an air-cooled engine with its varying clearance tolerances and sensitivity to heat.

Even more important in my view is the zinc-phosphorus content (ZDDP) of Brad Penn, a compound that determines much of an oil's anti-wear properties. Most conventional motor oils reduced zinc content a handful of years ago because it was compromising the life span of catalytic convertors, but this isn't necessarily a good thing for flat-tappet engines like this Porsche.

Fortunately zinc is once again present in specialty blends intended for high performance engines, diesel and truck engines and high-mileage engines. The engine guys I know suggest that 1200 ppm is a good number for zinc content, and you can generally find the rating of your oil if you look deep enough into the specifications. Of course Porsche guys are fanatics about engine oil, perhaps because their engines use so much of it.

We were away within a short time. It was great as always just to see the cars lined up in the Aase Motors service bays, which this time included not only the usual POC racing cars, but also a 993-series Porsche Cup racer and a perfectly maintained 1973 911E complete with leather luggage on the factory roof rack and a window sticker from the 1973 PCA Porsche Parade in Monterey. And up on a lift was a clone of the Black Plague, a black 1979 Porsche 911 Turbo with just 8,700 miles on the odometer that had recently been rescued from a garage after 15 years and was being sold as part of a $200,000 deal than included a Porsche 356 Speedster.

Who knew that getting an oil change could be such an adventure?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 127,315

1985 Porsche 911: What To Do With an Old 911

June 09, 2012


Long ago and far, far way, guys used to take the chassis of a Volkswagen Beetle and put a plastic body of a Porsche on top.

It was called a kit car, and such things were all the rage in the 1960s and early 1970s, when everyone wanted to build his own cool car and there were a million dead Beetles to work with. After all, a Porsche 356 was just a re-bodied Beetle to begin with, wasn't it?

Oddly enough, guys are still buying Porsche kit cars, only now they start with Porsche 911 components. And I can't help looking at the Black Plague and thinking about disassembling it and bringing it back to life Frankenstein style as an Intermeccanica Speedster-6 as seen here.


Back in the 1970s, people laughed at Intermeccanica's replica business, since there were plenty of old, used Porsche 356s around. But now that there aren't a lot of them around, replica-style outlaw Porsche 356s are getting more interest.

since 1959, when it was based in Turin, Italy and building the Apollo GT. All these years later, Frank Reisner, a Canadian of Hungarian extraction, is still building cars, only in Vancouver, British Columbia, instead of Turin or Los Angeles. His son Henry Reisner does all the heavy lifting, of course. And now the cars are really, really nice.

Just how nice I learned from my friend the Ford design exec who is also a crazed Porsche enthusiast, and he was telling me that he has been thinking real hard about commissioning an Intermeccanica Speedster-6, a combination of the engine and suspension of a Porsche 911, an Intermeccanica-engineered perimeter-frame steel chassis, and an Intermeccanica-built fiberglass replica of the bodywork from a 1955 Porsche 356 Speedster. He actually prefers the stock. non-flared bodywork rather than the outlaw-style body seen here.


It seems like a wacky idea until you think about the number of unwanted, California-registered, pre-1975 Porsche 911s that are around (the bad years of air emissions technology and pre-rust proofing). The basic Intermeccanica coach-built package is $38,350 (U.S.), although naturally you can go nuts with assorted options (just like a new Porsche these days, eh?).

A plastic replicar seems stupid because it eventually depreciates like a used car instead of appreciating like a collectible. But this point of view is about money, not driving. Do you really want to drive Porsche Speedster-style car? Or are you satisfied with moaning and groaning that you're not rich enough to afford a real one and just walking instead?



It's an interesting subject, and it looks like more and more serious Porsche guys are deciding that a replica might make some sense, especially since there aren't enough genuine Porsche 356s to go around, no matter how thick your wallet might be.

Wonder if the Black Plague is feeling nervous about its future?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 127,150 miles

1985 Porsche 911: 911 versus 911

May 10, 2012

So am just back from driving a new Type 991 version of the Porsche 911 from one end of Mulholland Drive to the other and Mark Takahashi, Edmunds.com Automotive Editor, is next to me and we're looking at the new car next to our 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera M491.

“They look different,” he allows.

The next thing I know Takahashi is rattling through his camera bag and he has that crazed look he always gets when he's planning to put his Art Center-trained Photoshop skills to some evil purpose.

The newest Porsche 911 is just as magic as promised, a car that's practical in daily life even as it expresses the unique 911 personality. You can beat your chest about its speed and dial up the chassis setting to the pure manic level and then toss away the safety net of stability control, but the truth is that the car is still perfectly adept in every way even when you're driving a PDK-equipped car like this one in full comfort mode.

The chassis is supple over the bumps yet has that little bit of race-bred steadiness that maintains your confidence in blind corners. You can feel the cornering grip at the front, although it's fair to say that the electric-assist power steering doesn't communicate quite as crisply as the former hydraulic-assist setup even though the effort level is perfect.

The engine is happy to work for a living when the traffic is thick and you're burbling along at low speed. The stop/start mechanism saves gas in commute traffic and during the long waits at traffic lights on PCH through the Pacific Palisades. And yet the engine will bark if you let it, and the quickness of the transmission shifts from the PDK reminds me of that first Formula 1 race at Phoenix long ago when Nigel Mansell's Ferrari 641 accelerated past on the pit straightaway and we heard those impossibly quick shifts from that electro-hydraulic shift action and all of us turned toward each other with eyes opened wide as if to say, “We're going to have to get one of these.”

And I'm probably one of the few that believes that the longer wheelbase and wider front track for the 911 is a good thing, as the car has needed more front grip since 1965 and the ALMS sports car racers have been asking for the same thing for quite a while and can't wait for a racing version of the 991.

At the same time, the 991 is clearly a big car, as Takahashi's graphic magic makes clear. It's a 300 km/hr car, not a 200 km/hr car, so you have to accept its size and weight if such extreme speed is really what you want.

Even so, the new Porsche 911 only feels comfortably to me on those portions of Mulholland that are wide enough to have a dotted yellow line down the middle of the road. If the road ahead is a narrow bit of black, then the old M491 makes me feel like I have the right kind of Porsche 911.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 126,850 miles


1985 Porsche 911: Selling Update

May 08, 2012

911 F34mt.jpg A number of readers have requested an update on the sale of our long term Porsche 911. After not meeting its reserve in two eBay auctions, we took out an ad on Autotrader and Autotrader Classics. We also advertised the car on Rennlist.com and PelicanParts.com.

There were a few tire kickers early on, but none made a serious offer on the car. After that, things fell silent for a while. There is currently a serious buyer interested in the car, but we can't go into specifics about this until a deal is or isn't made.

Since this blog is available to the public, it isn't wise to list the details of every transaction. A seller needs to keep his cards to himself until the vehicle has been sold.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Butzi, Tony and the Pure 911

May 04, 2012


With the death of Butzi Porsche and Tony Lapine in April, two great names in the design of the Porsche 911 have passed from the scene. When you see the newest 991, you are seeing the shape they created.

Oddly enough, no one thought Butzi Porsche would every amount to much as a designer and he freely admitted that he could never draw very well. Fortunately he found his way to an innovative new design school in the late 1950s, Hochschule fur Gestaltung (HfG).

As Randy Leffingwell tells the story in Porsche 911: Perfection by Design, HfG had been founded by Max Brill, a former member of the famous Bauhaus design group in Germany during the 1920s. Brill believed design should become more rational, and the design objective should be to “reduce ornament to a fundamental and pure geometry of form.”

Butzi was actually dismissed by the HfG in short order because the professors doubted his talent, but he was put to work in the Porsche design department in 1957 to learn the business from Erwin Komenda, a body engineer who had led the development of the Porsche 356. Butzi arrived to find the company typically dithering as it searched for a car to replace the 356. Erwin Komenda had developed a four-passenger car at Ferry Porsche's request and it looked like a great big Porsche 356. Ferry Porsche also commissioned Count Albrecht Goertz -- designer of the BMW 507 – to create something bold and it looked like a rear-engine Buick.

Butzi combined the dimensions of Komenda's car with the design elements of Goetz's concept, then added the flat roof that he thought best suited the larger interior space his father wanted, only one built with the thin pillars and large glass area then coming into fashion. Further tinkering saw the dimensions of the car scaled down. Most important, the aerodynamic fastback returned, only integrated with Butzi's idea of an inset rear window that would open to reveal a cargo hatch. Throughout, Butzi Porsche's belief in pure form and his own talent as a sculptor guided the evolution.

By 1961 the shape of the car seems to have been established once Butzi formally took control of the design department after his success with shaping the Porsche Formula 1 car and the Porsche 904. Details evolved as packaging for the 2.0-liter flat-6 engine and MacPherson strut front suspension were worked out, and the car was ultimately revealed on September 12, 1963, at the Frankfurt auto show.

Tony Lapine came to Porsche in 1969 and became the company's design director in 1972, when the Porsche family members resolved their endless wrangling by withdrawing from the day-to-day operation of the company. The Latvian-born designer had served an apprenticeship at Mercedes-Benz in the years after World War II, worked in GM's advanced concept studio during the early 1960s (where he collaborated on the final version of the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray) and became the head of Opel's advanced studio in 1965.

Like Butzi Porsche, Lapine was a tastemaker, not a pencil guy, and he brought GM's sophisticated way of working to Style Porsche. He's best remembered now for bringing to fruition Wolfgang Mobius' shape for the front-engine Porsche 928 and Harm Lagaay's shape for the Porsche 924 and Porsche 944.

Because the 911 was never Lapine's kind of car, his leadership in adapting the 911 to the era of the large bumpers mandated by the U.S. government in 1974 is often overlooked. The result not only produced a great-looking car but also proved that the fundamental form of the 911 could be adapted to changing priorities – a compelling proposition when Porsche found itself short of investment money in the 1970s.

In an interesting way, an older, well-used 911 like the Black Plague tells us more about the newest Porsche 911 Type 991 than any amount of design analysis. There's an element of time in an old 911, as if it has been not just worn down to its core but also refined to its essence.

Maybe this is why the longer you own a new 911, the more you want to own an old 911. It takes you to a place where with the right kind of eyes you can see the 911 in the same way that Tony Lapine did.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 126,789 miles

1985 Porsche 911: The Porsche 911 Hour

April 27, 2012

It's 7 p.m. before I hit the San Diego Freeway, and I'm feeling sorry for myself because I'm leaving the office so late, though (as always) there are people staying even later than me.

So I'm whistling down a relatively free-flowing freeway and thinking that I don't generally see Porsche 911s commuting back and forth from my part of the L.A. basin and it makes me wonder if people really drive 911s in L.A on a daily basis.

And that's right when a Porsche 911 GT3 3.8 RS starts pacing me.

When I burble through the morning traffic about 6:30 a.m., I'm used to seeing Boxsters and the occasional 911 Cabrio. After all, L.A. is the place on the planet where most Porsches have always been sold dating clear back to the 1950s, so you get used to people showing off. And then when summer hits and you see people driving home on a Friday afternoon in their hobby cars, I occasionally see a 911 of the Black Plague's vintage, a 911SC or a Carrera 3.2.

But there don't seem to be many serious 911s on the road when I'm traveling around. So it's kind of a shock to see this GT3 RS, which seems to be a little more serious than the run of winged GT3s that you see in L.A., which are usually sporting the full decal package and blacked out windows, like boogie vans with the engine in the back. This car is a nice ivory with the outside mirrors and wing endplates finished in red. We're kind of running in traffic at the same pace.

And then not five minutes later, a dark-blue 996 with some miles on it comes by and peels off for the Interstate 105, heading east. And after the RS and I stagger through the traffic accordion around the South Bay Curve and he takes off, another white 997 comes along to do a close inspection of the Black Plague.

This seems to be a pretty high count of cooking 911s, even for L.A., and it occurs to me that maybe I've been traveling at the wrong hour to see the kind of Porsche 911s that are daily drivers. It's easy to forget that while a Porsche 911 is a stunning value compared to any super sports car you can name, it's still hellaciously expensive and you have to work hard and well to be able to afford one.

It might be that the kind of people who have earned a Porsche 911 are more likely to be going home late rather than early.

And in that moment I felt like that guy in the “Porsche Everyday” television spot. Old, worn out and used up, but then refreshed as the Porsche 911 comes to life. It's the kind of moment that makes you feel lucky.

And I have to say that every time I drive the Black Plague, whether I'm going into work too early or coming home too late or by a miracle am actually headed somewhere good on a Saturday just as the sun comes up, I feel totally lucky to be in a Porsche 911.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 126,736

1985 Porsche 911: In Memoriam, Butzi Porsche

April 16, 2012


"On most Sundays, the local Rossmoor boyz gather for coffee and chatter at Danbuck's. The talk usually is a joyful occasion to relive and laugh at each other's adventures from the previous week. It is also the glue that holds us together. Dan Lelchuk and Bob Kann are gracious by opening their hobby shop to us and providing the coffee.

"This week we talked about the passing of Butzi Porsche.


It is a sad day as we have all been touched by his artistry throughout our lives, first with the 904, the 911, and then through his Porsche Design Studio. As an impromptu tribute to Butzi, we draped black ribbon over a Porsche logo on the hoods of our cars."

Roy Lock and 1962 Porsche 356 S90 in Long Beach, California

1985 Porsche 911: Auction Ended

April 06, 2012

ebay pic.JPG The eBay auction on our long term Porsche 911 has ended. There were a total of ten bids, with the highest being $17,100, but it wasn't enough to meet our reserve. We are confident this car will fetch more. We will re-list the car on eBay and also on Auto Trader Classics.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Editor @ 126,315 miles

1985 Porsche 911: The Fuel Door Conundrum

April 05, 2012

While I was researching the elusive Porsche cup holder, another tidbit of Porsche lore caught my attention. When did the fuel door migrate from our 1985 Porsche 911's driver's-side location to its current passenger-side one? Again, it was the 996 that not only horrified the Porsche faithful with its blasphemous liquid-cooled engine, hanging pedals (instead of floor-mounted), and (gasp) integrated cup holders, but the migrated fuel filler too.

How many more changes can you remember between the 993 and 996?

Chief Road Test Editor, Chris Walton @ 126,250 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Fine Wine

March 30, 2012

Takahashi likely has a suitable aged cheese analogy, but I'm out of my depth when it comes to the curdled stuff. But this little vision I witnessed in the garage recently made me sympathize with how rich winos must feel when gazing upon some old Rothschilds.

It also reminded me that working here doesn't suck.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: On the Auction Block

March 29, 2012

911 eBay Image.jpg As Mark mentioned yesterday, our Porsche 911's tour of duty is nearly over. This car pre-dates TMV so we aren't able to determine market value by traditional means. Instead, we've come up with a figure that strikes a balance between what we paid, what we've invested and how much we are willing to sell it for.

Since the 911 is a niche vehicle, we decided to list it on eBayMotors and see how it does in a seven-day auction. The auction ends next Thursday, so get your bid in quickly.

The listing has only been up for a couple of hours, and though there aren't any bids so far, we've answered a couple of questions including one about the scarcity of the tires.

Here's a link to the auction page.

Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate @ 126,000 miles

1985 Porsche 911: We'll Meet Again

March 28, 2012


I was busily tapping away at my keyboard yesterday when Ron Montoya asked me to take some pictures of the Porsche. He followed it up by telling me we need the shots to put it up for sale. My heart sank.

Has it been a year already? All of a sudden, it felt like senior year. We promised we'd keep in touch. We'd be friends for life. Then *poof*, they're gone.

Magrath accuses me of being a sentimental old lady when I write about cars in this manner. Whatever, Mike, I refuse to be judged by someone who considers a 1990s-era Buick Roadmaster wagon a good car. Where was I? Oh, right, weeping over the Porsche and my osteoporosis.

This Porsche was brilliant for me. I managed to see past its faults to find the gem underneath. I look back now and realize that all of the polishing I gave it was an attempt to make the 911 shine on the outside as much as it shone behind the wheel. When it still had its old and mis-mounted tires in back, I found a delicate balance. It would gracefully rotate when I stabbed the pedal and I could hold it at whatever angle I desired. Doing so in a modern 911 would require considerably more speed and daring. One regret I have is never autocrossing it. In my head I can have it dancing past orange cones, tying each slide into the next.

Then there was the old-car smell. That intoxicating (perhaps, literally) mix of unburned fuel, old oil, leather and decades of enjoyment. And the flutter of that air-cooled engine and how it roared above 5,000 rpm. This Porsche gave us such a rich experience for so little.

We managed to pack a lifetime of memories into a short year. There was the countless miles I spent sawing away at the wheel on those roads.

And there were the experiences that my colleagues shared, too. one post with a line that was so good, it actually upset me: "Once I got back, it was kind of like that moment when you run the football into the end zone. I almost spiked the car keys on the pavement."

A good part of me wants to hold onto it. I fear the next owner won't appreciate its many strengths. In some dark recess of my brain I'd also want to make it into some sort of art piece, like the Cadillac couch we have here at Edmunds. But that would mean the 911 would no longer run, and that would be a crime.

Then again, would I really buy this car if I had the money? As much as I love this car, I'm leaning towards no. I think I'd opt for a real 911 Turbo, still in black, and with some dried-out low-grip tires. In any case, thanks for the memories, Porsche, we'll meet again.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 125,995 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Soviet Cars Sucked

March 22, 2012

911_door jamb plate.jpg

That's what really brought down the Berlin Wall.

Our 911 bears a reminder of a Colder time in world relations. Porsche built our car almost five years before people took hammers to the Wall. Less than a year later, Germany officially reunified.

Another element of this car's infinite mojo.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Page Count

February 27, 2012


When you're trying to keep track of everything on wheels, the car magazines stack up next to your chair.

So I'm looking at the stack and I notice that the Porsche magazine is pretty thick with information – 160 pages in fact. And right next to it is one of the big-time mainstream car magazines that is surprisingly slim – 106 pages.

Maybe this is the difference between people who want to drive cars and people who just want to own cars. There are those who want to know how it works, how to make it better, and how to drive it better. And there are those who just like to repeat all the usual brand-imagery blather.

The Porsche magazine has a circulation of about 5 percent of the big magazine, of course. Which tells you that there are a lot fewer of us than there are of them.

There are a lot of ways to measure car enthusiasm. There's the number of cars that you see on the road. The kind of cars that people like to talk about. The site bookmarks on your pc. The print magazines stacked up next to your chair.

Everyone finds a level of car enthusiasm with which they're comfortable. But if page count means anything, Porsche guys are way out there.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: How Many, How Reliable, How Much

February 24, 2012


There's always some guy in the corner muttering about over-priced German cars.

It makes you wonder, is a Porsche 911 an overpriced Ford Mustang? Or is it a bargain-price Ferrari?

Here are some relevant numbers.

How Many? (2011 total U.S. sales)

Porsche 911, 6,016 (up 5 percent from 2010)
Porsche Boxster, 1,773 (down 19 percent from 2010)
Porsche Cayman, 1,377 (up 4 percent from 2010)
Porsche Panamera, 6,879 (down 11 percent from 2010)
Porsche Cayenne, 12,978 (up 56 percent from 2010)

How Reliable?
According to the 2012 Vehicle Dependability Survey by J.D. Power and Associates, Porsche has the car industry's second lowest rate of things gone wrong per 100 vehicles, making it one of the three top nameplates in the survey along with Cadillac and Lexus. The study is based on a poll of 31,000 American drivers who have owned 2009 vehicles for three years.

How Much?
2012 Porsche 911, $79,000
Aston Martin V8 Vantage, $118,650
Audi R8, $114,200
BMW M3, $60,100
Chevrolet Corvette, $49,600
Ferrari 458 Italia, $225,325
Ford Mustang Boss 302, $42,200
Nissan GT-R, $96,820

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Note To Self

February 21, 2012


Hey Self,

The next time you bring the 911 home, be sure to relocate the drip pan from the front-engined location to the rear-engined location.

Yours Truly,


Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 121,442 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Doesn't Sound The Way It Looks

February 15, 2012


I like the way our Porsche looks. What I do not like about our 911 is the way it sounds. In stark contrast with the tougher, bergrennen-esque exterior, the sounds it makes are just too subdued. I vote we spice it up a little bit. Maybe another 20 decibels or so?

Now, my requirements for how a car should sound are wholly incompatible somewhat different than those of my coworkers. So while I might simply bypass our 911's mufflers, which is usually the easiest/quickest/best way to uncover the true, sweet sound of this motor, the other four people who actually enjoy driving our 911 might disagree with me.

For them, and a lot of other people, there are quite a few options for aural enhancement on older 911's. Companies like M&K and others build any number of exhaust related parts. Just be sure to bring money. These are Porsche parts after all.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 121,251 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Ride Height Versus Windshield Washers

January 31, 2012


Open the gas door on our 1985 Porsche 911 and you'll see two fillers: one for gasoline and another for windshield washer fluid.

As far as I can tell, the windshield washers have never worked since we bought the car, though few staffers I asked could remember if they ever tried to use them or not. Whatever the case, a recent inspection on our Rotary Lift revealed the reason why. Turns out you can see a lot more with the wheels off at eye level, even if you're not looking for it.


As you can see, the fill hose is worn clean through before it ever gets to the tank. It looks like the previous owner's autocross wheel alignment and its low ride height setting brought tire and hose into close proximity. And the tires he fitted were 215 mm wide instead of 205 mm wide.

Also, it appears this car's front end crash damage (yes, that's what those wrinkles are) wasn't quite pulled out all the way in this area, so the fill hose might be running a bit farther outboard than it did when everything was new and straight.

At least the suspension pickup points appear to have escaped crash damage.

I should be able to fix this now that our car's front tire size is back at the OE spec and its ride height (24.5 inches at the fender lip) is much closer to the 25.0-inch factory setting than it was before we brought it to our alignment wizard.

Of course that's just the hose. I still need to check and see if the pump still works.

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing

1985 Porsche 911: The Doors

January 30, 2012


Alright, fair warning, this is perhaps the most boring video ever uploaded to YouTube. But I just wanted to illustrate how our long-term Porsche 911's doors differ from a more modern one.

Our Porsche's doors have a pleasant click. It sort of reminds me of the spring-loaded latches on a fine attache case. It's a definitive snap that feels substantial. I once had a Porsche 356 in my driveway and it was a lot like this.

Closing the door requires a minimum of effort. There's no need to wind-up and swing it shut, you only have to follow it gently into position with a thumb. Cars today have a lot more weatherstripping that produce a more muted "whomp," and that's nice, too; especially because it makes for a quieter cabin.

But every now and then, something like this stirs up a fondness for something old.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya

January 03, 2012


Late last night this happened. I couldn't resist taking a pic. The silver car is a 911SC of similar vintage to our black beast and appears to be stone stock.

No doubt this is what a Beverly Hills parking structure looked like back in the mid-'80s. All that's missing are a few dozen Mercedes 560SLs and a 308 Ferrari.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: A Look Underneath

January 02, 2012


That's our old 911 on our new 2-post Rotary Lift. Two of my favorite things. Hit the jump and check out the photos of the Black Plague's underbelly. Pretty nice under there. And wait until you see the Porsche's crazy exhaust.







Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Because I'm Awesome.

December 12, 2011


There. This should distract you from all the vitriol being spewed over at the 100 Worst Cars story.

The 911 was upgraded from airport taxi to delivery vehicle this weekend. It brought both a Christmas tree and a pizza home.


I'm still not in love.

Josh Jacquot, Senior editor

1985 Porsche 911: Romance and Reality

December 07, 2011


I want to love this 911. I do. I swear. I'm in love with the romance of its styling and everything it stands for and its legacy and its size, weight and packaging. I even love its worthless stance.

But I hate driving it.

Here's the part where I spew a bile-filled rant about how it's absolutely not worth tolerating any of this car's fundamentals in exchange for the already discussed worthwhile qualities. So if you're not interested or you're going to call me an apostate or you're a member of the POC or PCA, you might as well jump this train before it even gets rolling, because I'm about to pour the coals to it.

You jump yet? What are you waiting for?

Yes, I drove it for the first time last night. There's a reason for this. As Frio mentioned last week, I have a long commute which is less like driving and more like having my nether regions pounded flat with a wooden mallet. It's not fun or rewarding or engaging. And that's if I drive some nether-region-coddling turd like the Sienna or the Camry. So I've avoided the 911 knowing full well that I'd have to write this blog. Then, last night, I drove it.

And reality set in.

What don't I like? Well, here's one thing: How about the shifter that flounders around below the dash like a wounded seal. Then, if you're lucky, it gropes its way into gear with a clunk or a chank. Third gear is a contest between 1st and 5th -- both of which manage to be in a different place every time. Its throws are so long and so obtuse that finding gears would be funny if it weren't so infuriating. Forget about doing it quickly.

Here's another thing. It's slow. And by "slow" I mean get-beat-by-the-Pontiac Trans Sport-in-the-next-lane slow. It sucks. In L.A.,to be even mildly practical, your car needs to have some reasonable speed. The Porsche might have had this once, but those days are over. Its combination of awkward, imprecise controls and manual steering make establishing a position in traffic wildly difficult. My mom once drove a Pontiac Trans Sport. It's not fun getting owned by my mom.

And the steering. Oh, the steering. In a world of perfectly flat, perfectly smooth roads it might be OK. If you are willing to tolerate high effort at low speeds, that is. I'm willing, if there's some good reason for it. Here, there is not. There's enough information coming through the 911's wheel to hold a line and guide the thing prudently -- at speed, even. But hit a midcorner expansion joint and the wheel tries to shanghai your thumbs as if you attempted to conquer Baja's Ojos Negros. This I expect in sand rail, but it's plain stupid in a road car.

Ah, and let's not forget the ride. A lane change on any of California's bots-dots-endowed freeways feels like you're navigating Supercross whoops.

It's also loud, poorly illuminated inside and out and has the worst HVAC system this side of hell itself. My parents' 1984 Audi 4000 makes this car seem downright ancient by comparison.

Go ahead, call me a wuss. But before you get too carried away with your Jacquot-hating angst, know this: I'm not alone.

Nosiree. Sure, there are a few weirdos on staff who will tolerate this car because they feel some unjustified obligation to the sports car gods. There are even a few who will pay lip service to enjoying the way it drives. But, by and large, our staff votes with the car board. And when the car board comes around to the last guy on the list, it's almost always the Porsche that's left over. Which is exactly why it's getting used as an airport taxi this week.

And still, because there's a soft spot in my heart for a Porsche 911, I find myself made noxious by the idea that someone might give it a door ding. So even I, hater of the Black Plague, found it necessary to park it carefully for a few days:


1985 Porsche 911: Faszination

December 06, 2011


As much as the Porsche marque is a legend unto itself, there are many smaller legends that exist within the larger one that add to its mystique and power. One of them is this car, the RUF CTR. Google exists if you need to know the specifics. I won't drag you through them here.

Suffice it to say, the following video of this very CTR had a huge effect on me while I was growing up. I never thought I would ever own a Porsche, let alone drive one, but ever since I saw this as a teenager, I lusted after the kind of car control and commitment you're about to see.

And after spending a good deal of time behind the wheel of our '85 911, all the while trying to learn and master its eccentricities, I lust after that car control even more.

Some things to note:

Stefan Roser is the driver and he's faster than all us. Yes, even you.

No, he's not wearing a helmet. Deal with it.

If you listen closely, you can hear the turbo spool up like an old camera flash recycling to full power. Augh, I love that.

You should watch the entire video, it's complete madness. But along the way, try and note these times for doses of extra-special amounts of madness. 1:48, 3:00, 3:17, 5:17, 6:25 and 7:06.

Enjoy the video, in all its Hi Fi glory.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 123,314 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Cheap Eye Candy

December 05, 2011

pec_1.jpg pec_2.jpg

I had the Porsche down at the static lab late morning. The spill of light coming in caught some of my favorite details on our 911. I had to take a quick series of pictures before it was too late.

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

1985 Porsche 911: Readers and Burgers

November 28, 2011


A few weekends back, we met up with some of our local readers at a local In-N-Out Burger joint. I've only met a handful of readers/commenters in person, but every time I do, I think we should do this type of meet-up more often. For those who couldn't make it out, here are a few images and observations from the gathering.

With our 1985 911 next to the 2012, the differences in size were pretty significant. The tails of each 911 were about even in the parking stalls, but up front, the new Porsche took up an extra foot. I overheard someone call it a baby Panamera.


The all-new Porsche 911 (991) was the real star of the evening.


That's James Riswick and Kurt Niebuhr enjoying their shakes in front of an Audi R8.


I love dirty sports cars. To me, it shows that someone was really driving it.


With the rear wing deployed, the 911 made for a great little picnic table. The engine also kept my burger warm and got my shake up to a drinkable consistency.


My favorite things: Sports cars and an In-N-Out four-by-four animal style.


There's Magrath talking to a very tall reader, who, somewhat surprisingly, fit in the 911 just fine.



James couldn't stand having the rear wing of the 911 deployed when it's parked. He lowered it, depriving me of a picnic table.


This is what happens when I give my camera to Magrath. He didn't quite grasp the idea of long exposures. Still, I think it's a cool shot.


Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Is A Salvage-Title Car Worth the Risk?

November 23, 2011

911 Title.jpg For those of you who might not know, our 1985 Porsche 911 is a salvage-title vehicle. A car with a salvage title is one that was either in an accident or went through another situation in which the estimated cost of repair would have exceeded most of the car's value. I wrote an article about this if you'd like to learn more about so-called "junk" titles.

For many people, a salvage title is an automatic red flag that would send them running in the opposite direction. But for those who ask the right questions and are willing to take some risk, salvage-title vehicles can be a smart, inexpensive option.

We bought our long term 911 knowing that it had a salvage title. Edmunds.com is a big company, but we have budgets too. The price of this 911 was in our range, and we learned that although it had been in a collision, the repairs were done by a reputable body shop. A 911 of the same vintage with a clean title could have easily cost us $10,000 more.

Although our 911 is known as The Black Plague, the issues we've experienced aren't because the vehicle was salvaged. It's just an old car with aging parts. The problems could have happened to a clean-title 911 too.

I bought a salvage-title 1992 Honda Prelude when I was 19. I didn't know much about cars then, but the Prelude was something I could afford. In my eyes, whatever damage had been done was already fixed. I owned it for 12 years and put more than 150,000 miles on it. Aside from normal wear-and-tear issues, it never gave me any major problems.

Not every salvage-title car will be a problem-free experience. But a car with such a title isn't something you should strike off your list, either.

Are you willing to take the risk on a salvage-title car for the right price?

-Ron Montoya, Consumer Advice Associate

1985 Porsche 911: Mauer Likes It

November 11, 2011


I'll make this one quick. The other night I was having dinner with Michael Mauer, the Chief Designer at Porsche. After discussing the new 991 for a while, I steered the conversation to our Black Plaque.

"Do you have a photo?" he asked.

So I whipped out my phone and started showing him pics of our 911. He freaked. Big smile. Real enthusiasm in his voice.

"Do you like the black wheels?" I asked.

"I love them," he says. "I love the all black look. I just ordered myself a new Panamera with black wheels and the black chrome option."

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Bye Bye Wing

November 10, 2011


Basically I had had enough of the wing. So this morning Kurt Niebuhr and I spend 15 minutes swapping hoods on our 911.


It's not that I don't like the big spoiler. I just don't like it as much as I thought I would. And I don't like it as much as the low, wide look.

By the way, I think I hear a wheel bearing starting to bark.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Shiny Tires?

November 08, 2011


I really like the matte black wheels on our 911. But I don't think the tires should be shiny. I gave my beloved Porsche a bath this morning, and, in a departure from past washes, decided to give it some tire dressing.

Once I did one tire, though, I decided it was a mistake. The matte black wheels don't look good with shiny tires. In fact, I think they look stupid. It's like putting a big pink bow on a Rottweiler. But the damage was done, now I had to do it to all the tires. I'm hoping it'll wear off soon.

But I do like shiny black tires when the wheels are shiny. Wow, that was five "shinys" in one post, I'll stop now. What do you think, matte or shiny?

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Cooler By Association

November 07, 2011


I'm filling up at the gas station. The guy in the 5 Series looks over. He checks out the situation a little, then gives me a nod of approval. I nod back.

Of course, it's not really my car. Would I ever own a used 911? I don't know. Maybe. But at least with our long-termer, I get to pretend that I own it. And I have to say, when I'm in it, I look (and feel) cooler than I really am. Instead of the suburban dad who, in reality, spent a fair part of his weekend fixing his daughter's bicycle and cleaning hair out of sink drains, I'm a dashing, vaguely continental type (dressing nicely helps) who owns a classic Porsche and spent his weekend driving up the coast. It's like putting on a superhero costume.

It's critical that it be an old 911, though. If it were a new 911, people would probably just think I'm a dentist.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 122,532 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Photo Shoot

November 04, 2011


A friend of mine has been working on his car photography skills. He suggested we take some of the long-term 911. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

It turned out that taking pictures of the Black Plague is harder than we thought. Even so, we got a few cool shots.



Photos one and two courtesy of Victor Gonzalez

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Hand Washing Suits It

October 28, 2011

porsche_911_wash2.JPG With the weekend almost here, it seemed right to clean up our 911. I did it at home, though, rather than at an automated wash. I didn't like the idea of taking our 911 and paying to have it subjected to mechanical sprayers or unloving hands. It just deserves some personal attention to make sure everything's right. Our 1984 Ferrari 308 was like that, the 2002 Corvette Z06 less so. Plus, the 911's so small that it washes up in no time.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: My Dad Would Have Loved It

October 27, 2011


I've started a two-week rotation with our 911. It began a couple days ago with a long highway drive. I found myself having a lot of opportunity to think during the drive as, well, there's just not much else to do. The 911 is too loud at speed to easily talk on a cell phone. The radio is outmatched. There's no nav or fancy-pants display. So, in a very un-modern way, it's just you, the car, and your thoughts. For me, this meant it wasn't long before I was thinking of my dad.

Back in the late 1980s, my dad was seriously considering buying a used 911. He was looking at a 1978 or '79 SC, meaning the same basic car as ours, just not quite as powerful (and without the Turbo look). Alas, my dad wasn't impulsive when it came to buying cars, and the 911 search was even worse. He researched. He bought stacks of 911 books. We went to car shows. Car buying was drawn out to, at times, excruciating duration.

In the end, the 911 search was never more than that. He never got one. To be honest, I don't really remember the exact reasons why. I suspect that my dad just saw the 911 as too much of an extravagance. We lived in Denver, and he didn't want the 911 to be beat up in the winters as a daily driver. There were bills to pay as my sister as I were approaching college. Also, with a two-car garage, he didn't have the room to store it as a third car.

Ironically, he could have justified getting one a decade later. We were done with school and he was retired. But by then he couldn't really drive one. He had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the early 1980s. By the late 90s, the physical degradation had taken its toll. It was to a point where he couldn't really drive a manual transmission car anymore.

My dad passed away in 2004. Yet I think he would have dug our 911. I'd like to think that, were it not for Parkinson's, he'd probably still own one. No doubt it'd be in nicer shape than ours. I can picture myself calling him up and talking 911s.

I've lived life enough to know that our 911 is, at the end of the day, just a car. There are more important things to cherish (or worry about). But at the same time, you're only on the planet once. Sometimes, you have to allow yourself to live your dreams a little. Every time I twist the key of our 911, a part of me is doing it for my dad.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya #4

October 25, 2011


Sick of these yet?

Also, if you're going to do black wheels, they need to be flat black and not high-gloss black like this guy's. Audi drivers.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 121,902 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Ghost in the Machine

October 19, 2011


(Yes, I prefer the whale-tail-less look on our wide-hipped longterm 1985 Porsche 911. Makes the hips more hippy.)

This is a car with a ton of charm, both good and bad, and it's definitely not for everyone. Nearly all of its secondary controls like mirror adjustments, cruise control, sunroof were apparently installed via the barrel of a shotgun, the gearchange is a low-and-forward deal (the gearchange quality you know all about by now), the heater controls are inscrutable and produce more noise than heated air.

But the closely-situated front seats fit fantastically well and the view out the upright windshield is unmatched by any modern car. And I just cannot get enough of that flat-six bark.

For a car that is so unapologetically mechanical, it's not cold. It's quite the opposite -- there is joy lurking in the facets of its operation, all the way down to the clack of the door latch. It requires you pay attention when you drive it. The steering demands both hands, the gearchange wants finesse. I'm not totally won over by its suspension in its current state of "tune," but nor is it offensive.

The potential's there, and every time I drive this car the mental gears start turning. Probably wouldn't put a brace of paired megaphones on a 911 of my own like the little guy pictured above, but would sample selectively from the Singer playbook. I guess I'm more R-Gruppe than concours. You?

--Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Rainy Day

October 05, 2011


I woke up to the sound of falling rain this morning; an uncommon occurrence in Los Angeles, but welcome nonetheless. As I lay awake in bed, I pondered what my drive into work would entail. Heavy traffic is a given, but since I had our long-term Porsche in my driveway, I also knew it would include a soggy shoulder. As I made the seven-mile trek into Edmunds HQ, I discovered a few more notable rain traits.

911Rain_RearDefros.JPG As you can see from the picture above, the rear window fogs up. This was shot only 2 miles into my commute. I'm guessing the lack of ventilation and engine heat are the culprits. The previous morning, Photo Editor Kurt Niebuhr and I carpooled to Magrath's place to head up to our annual track day/driving school and he was fiddling with the rear defrost knob. Kurt discovered that if you turn it clockwise, it lights up. We turned it back off then pulled the knob but it didn't light up. Weird.

This morning, when I really needed some rear defrost, I pulled and turned the knob (insert puerile comment and snickering here), but nothing happened. Oh well, one more thing to fix.

The rear defrost is not as big a deal as the amount of water intrusion, of course. This thing leaks like an incontinent racehorse. The worst is the sunroof, which trickles down my neck and shoulder under acceleration. But I also noticed some trickling in near the passenger A-pillar and under the glovebox. That can't be good.

911Rain_CenterDefrost.JPG At least the windshield defroster works like a champ. Once the engine was good and hot, I pulled on the defrost levers between the seats and turned the dial to 3. Hot air quickly dispatched the fogging. Then it got too hot and stifling, so I turned it off and switched to the unheated defroster on the conventional climate control panel. That all worked well until I pulled into our parking garage. Once inside, the windscreen went to full fog in an instant. I think it was the quick temperature difference. It made it so bad that I was just barely crawling along, so as not to take out any pedestrians.

Outside of the visibility and water issues, the 911 is a hoot to drive on slick roads. But I'd caution my fellow editors to be mindful of the brakes. Once they're coated with water, they're pretty much useless for the first 20 feet or so of braking.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Porsche Night at World Class Motoring

October 04, 2011


Do you know about World Class Motoring? If you don't, you should. If you do, then you know how great it is.

World Class Motoring is a store in Agoura Hills, CA, that is just for guys like us. Guys that love car stuff we don't need. Stuff like books, pictures, movies, t-shirts and bright orange driving shoes.

But World Class is more than place to burn down the credit card, it's also a destination. The last Wednesday of every month is Big Wednesday at World Class Motoring. Bring your car and hang out with other car crazies, including WCM owners, Eddie Kosakowski, Fred LoBianco and Doug Schnetlage.

And you guessed it, last Wednesday was Big Wednesday. It was also Porsche Night. So I fired up the Black Plague and made the scene. Agoura is only about 25 miles from our Santa Monica office and Pacific Coast Highway is the preferred route, so nobody had to twist my arm.

Obviously there were more than just Porsche's there, but whatever, all are always welcome. Great time.

911-at-World-Class-4.jpg 911-at-World-Class-2.jpg










Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya #3

September 30, 2011


Black Fuchs are catching on.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Commentary from the City

September 22, 2011


Last night I wanted to find a way to justify driving our 1985 Porsche 911, even though I had errands to run, all of which would involve street parking, and a tight schedule. "Well... it's small," I told myself, "so finding open spots will be a cinch! And, and it's a nice cool night in West Los Angeles, so I'll enjoy the engine sounds and cool breeze through the open windows."

Sure enough, finding spots that would fit the 911 was a cinch. But there is a time and a place for power steering, and that time is when an Escape Hybrid has left but a foot of clearance in front of your car and you need to wiggle out of your space. Fortunately, the Geo Metro behind me had left a slightly bigger cushion.

Also, accounting for the super wide Turbo-look rear fenders requires a spatial recalibration every time I drive the 911. Yeah, I tilt the passenger-side mirror down to get a better view of the fender-curb relationship, but my excessive level of caution usually puts me too far from the curb on the first attempt (from Annie Hall: "We can walk to the curb from here."). If there were sensors mounted discreetly on the passenger-side fender, I would not complain. But I am soft, so I would say that.

Later in the evening, I was seated in the parked 911 on the street, engine off, parking brake on, key out of ignition, finishing a phone call, and I noticed a man standing by a rental Sebring staring hard in the direction of the Porsche and me. He looked away, then looked back.

"Something wrong?"

"Oh... I used to own a 911, and I was jealous," he said.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 120,214 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Spoiled

September 13, 2011


I liked our old 911 when it didn't have the tea tray spoiler. I think I like it more with it on.

I was torn as to whether or not we should reinstall it. It's not a real turbo, and the wide body doesn't seem as prominent with the spoiler on. But I really like the look now. Plus, there's another benefit. It gives me a good indication of how far the tail extends when backing it into a spot. It's like tailfins on a 50s-era car -- you know exactly where those corners are.

There are, however, some faded spots on the louvers. You can see it in the picture above. I'm trying to figure out how to black them out again. It's a semi-gloss finish, and the surrounding areas are full gloss. I'm thinking it'd have to be masked off and repainted. I just don't know if I have the skills to do this right.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: We've Driven it 5,000 Miles

September 09, 2011


Yesterday our very black 1985 Porsche 911 covered its 119,000th mile. Why is this significant? Well, when we bought it the 911's odometer read 113,897, so we've driven the now-winged wonder about 5,000 miles. Probably more considering the speedometer didn't work the first few months we had the car.

So far we've spent about $3,000 on repairs, some of which were no doubt voluntary.

For reference we drove our Click here for the Ferrari's wrap-up.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief @ 119,032 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Tea Tray Spoiler is On

September 08, 2011


Yesterday Ed Hellwig and I installed the huge Tea Tray spoiler on our long-term 1985 Porsche 911. First we bolted the spoiler to the car's original hood, then we swapped hoods. Took about an hour. It was an easy operation, but...





...now the hood won't open. Yes, Ed and I are questionable mechanics, we even screwed this up. Hopefully our 911 guru can fix it in the morning.

Aside from the not opening problem I think it looks pretty good. What do you think?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Accounting Update

September 06, 2011


It's time for an accounting update of the money we've spent so far on the 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera M491.

How you feel about it probably depends on your thinking about used cars versus real estate.

When you buy a used car, you're generally hoping to duck the initial cost of depreciation, squeeze as much useful life out of the machinery before the inevitable maintenance costs begin to mount up, then dump it and move on to something else. It's a kind of slash-and-burn strategy from the pioneer days, where you'd clear the forest, raise a bunch of corn until the land became exhausted, then move on to somewhere else.

When you're looking at a really old car, the real estate idea applies. When you're buying a used house, you look for the most undervalued property in a good neighborhood, improve it with sweat equity and strategic upgrades, then sell out at a profit and begin again in an even better neighborhood. Those of us who have grown up in California, which has been a kind of ongoing land swindle since 1888, are used to this way of thinking.

So around here we tend to think of genuinely old cars as real estate. There is usually a bunch of deferred maintenance to address and the costs can be discouraging. But the value of collectible-style cars on the auction circuit is alluring (if not always a realistic goal), and the market for a semi-collectible car is always stronger than that for a tired old used car.

In any case, our initial cost amounted to $16,000. As of June 16, 2011, we had spent $2,546 for assorted repairs and improvements as described in this post.

Since that time, we have spent $399.44 for:

1) Rearview mirror repair, $4
2) Wheel cap repair, $5
3) Turtle Wax Black Box self-detail, $21.99 (not including $25 for Montecristo #4 - Habano)
4) H5 headlight bulb replacement, $54.36
5) Bushing replacement for clutch pedal, $314

The value of a 1985 Porsche 911 Turbo Look ranges between a low of $21,800 and a high of $29,000 (down $2,200 overall since 2008), according to Porsche guru Bruce Anderson in Excellence. The 2011 pricing guide of Keith Martin's Sports Car Market reports that recent sales indicate the M491's price ranges between a low of $21,000 and a high of $23,000.

Meanwhile, we only have seen two M491s advertised for sale in PCA's Porsche Panorama (which attracts only cars that have been well cared for by PCA members) over the course of the summer, one priced at $36,900 and another at $32,600. We've also seen a nice white one on the Pelican Parts forum for $22,500. And every time we venture into public with the Black Plague, someone pulls out a fistful of cash and offers us money for it.

Did we do the right thing? You make the call. (Remember, our car has a fresh engine and fresh transmission.)

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya #2

September 02, 2011


A couple of weeks ago I drove our 1985 Porsche 911 up the California coast to Laguna Seca for the Monterey Motorsports Reunion. And there, in the paddock, I found these. Black wheels rule.


911-racecar-at-Monterey-3.jpg Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Flash Plug-in Missing

August 26, 2011


I communicate with some of L.A.'s "talented" drivers in a variety of ways. The horn, a tirade laced with obscenities, a friendly wave and sometimes a thumbs up. Flashing the headlights is another, and I seem to use this as if to say, "pardon me." The horn, on the other hand, is more akin to shouting, "hey, are you blind?"

But my (our) Porsche won't flash.

It hasn't had this capability since we acquired it. It might have something to do with the spaghetti of wires I found when I replaced the headlight bulbs. But I'm not about to figure that one out. Electricity and I do not play well together. I once tried to replace the horn on my 1982 Corolla and ended up causing $300 worth of damage. True story.

Instead, I've taken to actually turning the headlights on and off by pulling and pushing on the switch. It's not very graceful or convenient, but it works. Maybe one of my colleagues who have some level of electrical acumen will be able to fix this.

Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911: To Pebble Beach and Back Part 4

August 26, 2011


The drive home Monday was just as sweet. The 911 ran wonderfully and put a smile on my face through the twistier bits of Highway 1.

But the best part of driving home from the big Monterey weekend is the scenery, both natural and man made.


We came up on this Lamborghini Miura S just south of Big Sur and followed it down PCH for more than an hour. My wife was complaining about the fumes. I was loving the sounds.


One of the most beautiful things to see along the way are the historic bridges that pepper Highway 1 between San Louis Obispo and Big Sur.

911-goin-home-4.jpg San Simeon, CA. We're just south of Hearst Castle. PCH is heavenly through this stretch.


We also ran with this Turbo BMW 2002 for while around Santa Barbara, but the guy was on it and left us in the dust. Other cars we spotted on the drive home are a Jag E-Type Roadster, a Porsche 930 Turbo, a new Ferrari California and a Maserati Ghibli.


This place is right on the coast in Cayucos, CA. It doesn't seem like it's being used. It would make an epic hot rod shop.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: To Pebble Beach and Back Part 3

August 25, 2011


Eeny, meeny, miny moe.

After eight hours or so on the road we pulled up to our hotel to find this. And yes, the one on the end is a Zagato Aston. Welcome to Pebble Beach. Personally, I think our 911 held its own.

More pics after the jump.



Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: To Pebble Beach and Back Part 2

August 24, 2011


First we packed the car. Then we hit the road. And by the road I mean THE ROAD. Pacific Coast Highway. PCH. Route 1.

And we weren't alone. We decided to convoy with a friend in his 1966 Mercedes-Benz 250 SE Coupe Cabriolet. By the way, he had air conditioning (an original underdash unit wonderfully called the Kuhlmeister), we did not. Which is one of the reasons we decided to stick to the coastline. That, and it's one of the most beautiful drives in the world.


911-and-Benz-3.jpg So we picked up PCH at the Santa Monica Pier, which also happens to be the finish line of old Route 66. And we stuck to it through Malibu, home of Tom Hanks and David Hasselhoff.

In Camarillo we merged on to California's 101 freeway and we would be on it until San Louis Obispo well north of Santa Barbara. Now, a freeway is a freeway, but the 101 does hug the coast more than occationally and it does pass through some beautiful country.

And the 911 was happy. We cruised at an indicated 80 mph, which is more like 72 mph, just the right cruising for the two older machines. At that speed the Posche's tach was reading 3,250 rpm and the car just felt right. This is also where I discovered that the 911's cruise control is on the "doesn't work" list, along with its a/c and the clock.

Outside temps were about 70 degrees, so the 911's lack of air conditioning was not a problem. In fact, my wife asked for the windows to go up because she was chilly.

After a few hours we stopped in Cayucos for gas and food. And a few compliments. We got a handful of "nice car" calls from the locals, which is always fun. Cayucos was also where we would pick up PCH again and the scenery would really get good.

The 911 was relishing in the road trip, as was Ben's Benz. My wife and I were comfortable and the Porsche was humming down the road like a new car. No, it doesn't exactly ride like a new 911 (large bumps are truly felt) and it certainly isn't as quiet inside as a new 911 (there's quite a bit of road roar from the tires) although my wife was still able to fall asleep. And the seats were very comfortable even after three or four hours. The only problem was music. Or lack of. We planned poorly. No radio reception. No iPod hookup. No CDs.

Despite the lack of tunes, we arrived at our hotel in Pacific Grove feeling great. After 350 miles we were still smiling. Another couple of hours would not have been considered hardship. Bottom line, it was great day on the road and we were glad we took the old girl.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: PCA - GPX

August 24, 2011


The trouble with driving a Porsche is you're always meeting someone else who has one too and wants to talk about it.

This is how Bruce Brown tricked me into attending a meeting of his PCA chapter in Long Beach, California.

It wasn't a total waste of time, since I learned that not all PCA guys are the same.


The Grand Prix Region of the PCA started up in the late 1970s during the first flush of excitement about the Long Beach Grand Prix, when the local swells decided that a city on the way up deserved its own Porsche club. Since then, the club seems to have found its own level with the usual South Bay characters — down-to-earth guys who started out with a Volkswagen Beetle, used to surf, and now have unpretentious but useful jobs that usually don't involve wearing a suit.

On the morning of the first Saturday of the month, they show up at Frisco's, a restaurant in Long Beach that caters to automotive clubs. It sounds like just an opportunity for more pointless chitchat, but here are the things that we learned over the course of two hours:

0 There are amazing bargains to be had in used 911s for about $15,000, as Bruce Brown confirmed with news of recently finding a good 1989 911 Targa with 120,000 miles.

0 If he can help it, no real enthusiast sells his old Porsche when he moves on to a new one. He collects them, as if he were acquiring a set of Mattel Hot Wheels.

0 There's a substantial price difference between getting car insurance for your old Porsche from a company like Hagerty or Grundy and a conventional car insurance carrier, and the mileage restrictions are very flexible.


0 Lots of old Porsche guys started out with cheap, used Porsche 356s. When Bruce Brown was a student in the early 1970s, he lived in a cheap apartment in Manhattan Beach and had two Porsche 356s that together weren't worth $1,800. These days, the same kind of guys are buying used Boxsters, which are amazingly cheap since some 300,000 of the things are in circulation around the world.

0 Apparently no one ever threw away a Porsche 356, because rusty old cars with crash damage continue to percolate into the used car market because their inflated value makes it possible to afford a useful restoration.

0 Porsche 356 guys are regarded as completely obsessive about detail, crazed enthusiasts barely able to function in ordinary society. Of course, Porsche 912 people are considered to be total aliens, perhaps because of the challenge they have endured while trying to get other Porsche enthusiasts to take their four-cylinder Porsche 911s seriously.

0 Every club meeting in America has a raffle. It must be some kind of law. This one was actually pretty extensive, and more than T-shirts were on offer. Someone at my table came away with a set razorblade-type plastic scrapers, perfect for cleaning away decal smudge on glass and bumpers.

0 Every club meeting is a display of the great circle of life in car enthusiasm. During the usual discussion of news and upcoming events, an elderly woman took the floor for a moment to announce in a voice choked with emotion that her late husband's Porsche 356 was now for sale, a car he drove over 100,000 kms in various adventures around the country. And then when the raffle got underway, a five-year-old boy was presented by his parents to pull the winning tickets out of the jar, no doubt scaring him for life with Porsche enthusiasm when he came away himself from the raffle with a Porsche diecast car.

So it wasn't a bad morning. We got to drive the Black Plague. We saw about 30 Porsches of all persuasions, and particularly liked Henry's all-original '59 356B coupe with its unique period accessories — wind wings and twin outside mirrors. The Grand Prix Region seems to be pretty different from what you might imagine Porsche guys to be about, measured perhaps by the fact that while it numbers only about 285 members, about 80 percent of them are active — an amazing percentage.


It's also nice to see that everyone really likes Dan Stern's Porsche 550 Spyder replica. About 1,000 of these replicas of Porsche's customer racing car of the 1950s have been made by various car-makers, but this one comes from Vintage Spyders in nearby Stanton, California, where Greg Leach has build about 500 of them since 1995.

The Vintage Spyder's fiberglass body is splash of the same 550 Spyder that everyone seems to use and there's a tubular spaceframe holding everything together, but the car is set apart both by a very high standard of engineering and presentation. Stern bought this 10-year-old car on the used market a couple years ago and paid about half the $50,000 cost of a new one, plus it had been fully sorted out by the time he got it. With a curb weight of perhaps 1,600 pounds and an air-cooled 2.1-liter Porsche 356/VW Beetle engine from CB Performance that delivers about 150 hp, the Vintage Spyder is usefully fast, too.


Rats, this whole car club thing is getting out of hand. Ah well, maybe at next month's meeting I'll see if I can trick Stern into letting me drive his car.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 117,400 miles.

1985 Porsche 911: Evolution of the 911 Driving Experience

August 23, 2011

Porsche 911 evolution.jpg

With the release of the all new 911 this morning, we're taking this opportunity to post a quick video Porsche made about driving three generations of Porsche 911. They round up an '86, a '94 and a 2009 to flog on the track. "With all the weight hanging over the back bumper, if we snap off the throttle the car will very quickly swap ends." the driver says of the 86.

Look like fun? Absolutely. Which is why Porsche made it. Beyond a simple video to show that they still care about classic Porsche guys, this is a nice little ad for the Porsche 911 Evolution Driving Experience. A 90-minute, 325 GBP (it's offered by Porsche UK) track activity with 30 minutes of driving time in all three (combined).

1985 Porsche 911: Monterey or Bust

August 17, 2011


In the interest of fun, excitement and my continued membership in the True Car Guy Club I've decided to forgo any semblance of performance, comfort, fuel economy and reliablity.

That's right, I decided to drive our 1985 Porsche 911 from Santa Monica to Monterey for the ultimate automotive weekend. Pebble Beach here I come. Hopefully the Porsche will make it.

We left early this morning. Follow along on Inside Line's facebook page all weekend and I'll post a full report here next week.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: The 700-hp Option

August 17, 2011


“If you really want to make your Porsche go, this is the engine you want to put in it.”

Anyway that's what Frank Honsowetz, the General Manager of Ed Pink Racing Engines, is telling me. His shop is prepping this twin-turbo 3.2-liter Porsche flat-six for a Porsche 935 that's going to be racing at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend. The engine is making more than 700 hp at 7,500 rpm, but you can still see the fundamental design it shares with the engine in our Porsche 911.


Ed Pink Racing Engines expanded its expertise from drag racing and Indy car engines to Porsche in the late 1970s, when ex-drag racer Jim Busby brought in his IMSA-spec Porsche 935 to his friend Ed Pink. This engine for Monterey has all the good stuff EPRE developed then, plus the best of lightweight modern connecting rods, pistons and valve gear. Also the engine has been set up with a taller compression ratio and less boost, so throttle response is better and the power doesn't arrive all at once.


You'll recognize the air-to-water intercooler, the cast-magnesium intake plenum, water-cooled Garrett turbochargers, and cooling fan, but Honsowetz notes that the really interesting thing about the engine is the core, which is essentially unchanged from the original 911 engine. The engine block itself is very rigid, with a ribbed crankcase and lots of bearings for the crankshaft. And the camshaft carrier is equally rigid. Meanwhile, the cylinder barrels and cylinder head are just clamped into place by these two structural elements and sort of float around in between. (No wonder the oil keeps trying to leak out.)


It's a really nice engine, Honsowetz says, but there sure are a lot of pieces. No wonder you can go through some money when you're working on one.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Misspent Youth

August 16, 2011


When this car was new, I was a junior in high school who was enjoying the new found freedom that came with a drivers license. The 1982 Corolla I was driving was a far cry from the vehicles I was coveting: an Alfa Romeo Spyder, a Porsche 914/6, a Honda 500 Interceptor and a 1957 Thunderbird. For some reason, though, the Porsche 911 never really made it onto my list.

Now, as I wind-out our long-termer in the canyons, I think of the 911 as that slightly homely girl in my English class that blossomed into a stunning beauty

Riswick texted me Friday night, asking me what I had planned to do with the Porsche that weekend. It's no secret that I usually head into the hills whenever I have the 911. I'm usually out on the road pretty early, though, which generally deters others from joining me. To my surprise, Jimbo and his BMW Z3 2.8 were in, and the 1980s vs. '90s Tour de Malibu was on.

I know these roads better than most, since I spent a LOT of time on them on both two and four wheels (three wheels, if I'm REALLY on it), so I took the lead. As I pondered what I might blog about, besides the headlight swap, it struck me. A-pillars. They're so thin and placed closer to my periphery. It makes it incredibly easy to look through the turns without bobbing my head back and forth. I hate thick A-pillars, and our long-term Camaro was one of the worst offenders.

The drive, at least for me, was wonderful. That air-cooled flutter that gives way to a roar has yet to get old. The grip and progressive nature at the limit will never get old. And through the 70-mile loop, James and his ZedThree were pretty close to matching my pace. I now hand the keyboard over to the Distinguished gentleman from Canada.


A truly spirited drive is dominated as much by the sounds as it is the communication you receive through your hands and the seat of your pants. This especially rings true when I have the top folded back, the tonneau cover in place and very little shielding me from that wonderful growl that emanates from a BMW straight-6 exhaust. And as much as I enjoyed that growl throughout the drive, it was frankly rather hard to hear the closer I was to the 911. That car is LOUD. As we ran side-by-side at full throttle on one particular four-lane road, all I could hear was the 911 blaring away. It's loud, but it sounds wonderful.

As we hit the curvier bits in the hills, the 911 started to grow quiet as it pulled away. Part of that is Mark knowing the roads better, the other is the result of the next noise that began filling my ears: squealing tires. The Z3 already likes to spin its tires freely, but with new pavement down and a thin spackle of moring dew, every turn sounded like I was being pursued by a band of angry Comanches. See, my Z3 wears Michelin Pilot Sports with plenty of tread remaining, but they were installed by the car's previous owner. As I bought the car in the fall of 2007, that makes them quite old and hard.

Porsche911_BMWZ3_02.jpg Things got better, grippier and quieter as the pavement switched to older asphalt and I was able to catch back up with Mark. Indeed, this was the first time I've REALLY stretched the Z3's legs since I bought it and it certainly didn't disappoint. Besides its tires, there is something to be said of its simplicity that is most definitely missing from the current crop of BMWs. Hydraulic steering, a real throttle cable, super-low belt line, no iDrive and no adjustable settings. Of course, its '80s-era suspension and Jell-O structural integrity make mid-corner bumps a rather interesting adventure (there's a reason the M Coupe is so much better), and its seats are surprisingly flat for a roadster, and a BMW one at that.

Yet, none of that sours my affection for a car that started when I was a teenager -- albeit a decade later than Mark. There was certainly no homely girl transformation for me. After Pierce Brosnan drove one in GoldenEye, I desperately wanted a BMW Z3 in Atlanta Blue. Well, I have one now and I couldn't be happier. Tell me Mark, when are we doing this again?

Mark Takahashi and James Riswick, Automotive Editors @ 117,780 and 42,142 miles, respectively.

1985 Porsche 911: Breakfast With the Zenmaster

August 12, 2011


Everyone who owns a Porsche has a Porsche guy that he takes it to. It's like a rule.

The Porsche guy is your mechanic, but he's also a guide to all things Porsche. It's about maintenance schedules and that sort of thing, but it's also about the proper way to do things (shift the transmission; order a part), a guide to other people in the hobby (famous guys; famously dumb guys), and the whole business of learning to be a Porsche guy yourself.

Lee Rice is our Porsche guy. He's like our own Zuffenhausen-style Yoda; that is, if Yoda had been transformed into a six-foot-two former aircraft maintenance superintendent in Garden Grove, California. And the best thing about taking the Black Plague 911 to Rice for some reason or other is the opportunity to trick him into having breakfast with us first.


The Porsche guy thing is just like the hot-rod guy thing, a leftover artifact of a time when people — not computerized databases — were the repositories of automotive knowledge. Rice is everything you want in a Porsche guy. He's worked on the cars for a long time (since 1968, really), knows them as only someone who has turned a wrench himself on literally every component can know them, and has met all the principals on the Porsche scene in L.A. over the past 30 years, from Andial's Alwin Springer to Ruf's Alois Ruf.

When Porsche first began to sell cars in the U.S., it trained mechanics in the formal European way and then dispatched them to central points all across America. They were missionaries sent to teach the Porsche Way. Lee Rice is like a second-generation version of these Porsche guys, someone who learned it from those who originally created it in the first place. Who would not want to have breakfast with such a guy?

Rice still remembers the time when he became a Porsche enthusiast. He had driven his fuel-injected '63 Corvette Stingray to Nepenthe, right there on California Highway 1 below Big Sur, so he could eat breakfast with his brother, who brought his '56 Porsche 356 Speedster with a racing-spec '61 S engine. They got to wrangling about cars, as only close-knit brothers (ex-Air Force brats) can, and Lee Rice challenged his brother to a race back up Highway 1 to Monterey.

“He made me give him a head start so he could at least get into second gear, and then we set off,” Rice remembers. At the first big corner, Rice got on the Corvette's racing-spec drum brakes with semi-metallic linings and downshifted its close-ratio four-speed gearbox, but then he noticed that his brother was actually shifting his Porsche up into a taller gear.

“That was the last I saw of him,” Rice says. “For a while I could hear his twin exhaust buzzing in the curves ahead of me, but pretty soon – nothing.” He actually thought his brother might have crashed off the road someplace until he finally came to the long straight near the Coast Guard station and found him parked next to the road, stretched out as if taking a nap during the wait for the Corvette to catch up. The next day they both watched the sports car races at Laguna Seca as Alan Johnson and Richie Ginther lapped all the small-block Corvettes with their Porsche 911s.


Soon after, Rice went out and bought a new 1968 Porsche 911T, a car that he still has today, except that the only original parts which remain are the body shell and the dashboard. He recalls, “I remember opening the lid and seeing the engine laid out there in front of you and thinking how easy it would be to work on, with everything right out in the open and only a couple bolts to loosen to drop the engine right out of the car.”

For all this, the thing that matters most to us about Rice is the way he works on our old 911 (which he seems to love even more than us, if that's possible). He came to the Porsche business after half a lifetime working on airplanes, first as an aircrewman on a Lockheed SP-2E Neptune in the U.S. Air Force, then as a maintenance superintendent for a fleet of DeHavilland DH6 Twin Otters, and finally as a light aircraft specialist at North American Rockwell.

All this has given Lee Rice a very particular aircraft-style way of doing things, which is what you want when your mechanic leans in the window as you roll up and asks what's up. Rice deals only with the air-cooled, pre-993 Porsche 911s, and since his overhead is low, he works on only one car at a time. He's a professional, but works on a friendly hobbyist scale. If he needs the equipment in a big shop, he knows the right guy to visit. More important, he uses proper procedures and fills out a repair report with the same care that he would an FAA airworthiness certificate, so there are no short-cuts allowed.

There will always be someone to tell us that we're overthinking and overspending the whole process of maintaining our 911, but experience has shown that such criticism usually comes from a guy who thinks the whole car maintenance thing is a game in which the object is to spend the least amount of money possible, which he attempts to prove by driving what is usually a dusty old Datsun B210 with a back bumper plastered in assorted wacky political slogans.

For us, the car maintenance game is about performance. You do your best, both with the way you drive and the way you spend money on your car. Be smart, not dumb. Don't spend foolishly, but don't be cheap foolishly. For us, Lee Rice isn't just making the car run better; he's making us care that the car runs better. Maybe that's what this whole Porsche guy thing is about.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 117,500 miles

1985 Porsche 911: How Far We've Come...Or Not

August 10, 2011


Yes, the new car is faster, safer, more comfortable, more fuel efficient and of course it pollutes less. But all of that comes with a price. Well, three. Cost, weight and complexity.

Please read the chart on the next page and tell me which Porsche 911 you'd rather have; our long-term 1985 Turbo Look or that very red, very fast, very comfortable, 2011 Carrera GTS.

1985 Porsche 911 N491

2011 Porsche 911 GTS

Price New



Engine Displacement

3.2 Liters/air cooled

3.8 Liters/water cooled


202 hp @ 5,900 rpm

408 @ 7,300 rpm


185 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm

310 lb-ft @ 4,200 rpm

Compression Ratio

9.5 to 1

12.5 to 1


SOHC, 2-valves per cyliner

DOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable intake-valve timing and lift


6,250 rpm

7,500 rpm


5-speed manual

7-speed auto-double-clutch manual with console shifter and steering-mounted paddles with sport/competition modes


2,780 lbs.

3,416 lbs.

0-60 mph

6.7 sec.

4.0 sec.

Wheel Diameter



Rear Tire Size



Front Suspension

MacPherson struts, lower control arms, stabilizer bar

MacPherson struts, conical coil springs, driver-adjustable 2-mode variable dampers, lower control arms, stabilizer bar


Rack-and-pinion, manual

Hydraulic-assist, speed-proportional, variable-ratio, rack-and-pinion power steering

Front Brakes

11-inch one-piece ventilated cross-drilled cast-iron discs with 4-piston floating calipers

13-inch one-piece ventilated cross-drilled cast-iron discs with 6-piston fixed calipers, ABS













Satellite Navigation




Not even a little


Heated Seats

Only after Mexican food






Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Old Cars, Younger Guys

August 07, 2011

Cayman and Carrera.jpg

Last weekend Edmunds' Executive Editor Michael Jordan suggested Automotive Editor Dan Frio and I head to Dana Point to check out a concours held by the 356 Club of Southern California. The plan was for Frio to drive the long-term Porsche 911, while I would take the short-term Cayman R. I think Jordan wanted to get us more involved in the whole Porsche ownership experience. And who knows, maybe some of these old-Porsche-loving guys would get a kick out of seeing a new and special Cayman.

So early Sunday morning The Trophy Wife (you gotta bring a Trophy Wife to these things, right? Isn't that what Ferrari and Lamborghini guys do at car shows?) and I climbed into the 2012 Cayman R and hit the road toward Dana Point. Full Test coming on the Cayman R, by the way, as soon as a slightly overworked, extremely dimwitted editor can get words onto computer.

And then it started raining. Mother Nature doesn't care that you just washed your Porsche the day before. And apparently Mother Nature doesn't understand that it NEVER rains in southern California during the summer. Yet that's what it was doing. Needless to say, the Cayman R is a lot of fun in the wet.

356 overall event.jpg

Anyway, we met Frio for some coffee and then headed to the concours on the lawn of Lantern Bay Park, overlooking Dana Point Harbor. All those Porsches, the ocean, the beautiful green grass. It was a stunning view. Here's the deal: The event is a concours for 356s, but anyone with a Porsche (any Porsche, we even saw some Cayennes) and $20 bucks can park their ride on the lawn, a little ways away from the 356s.

The rain had stopped, so Frio and I took a scan of the 911s and 912s parked near us, then made our way to the 356s while The Trophy Wife sat in the Cayman and read a book. I don't know about you, but I've never given much thought to 356s. I mean, they look kinda cool, but they're old, slow and sound like Volkswagen Beetles. But dang, there were some nice ones at this event. Many were so restored that they were almost too nice, in my opinion. When the car looks better than it did when it rolled off the factory floor, maybe you've gone too far...

I think I've eaten off dirtier surfaces than the engine in this race car. Which either says something about the owner's attention to detail. Or my eating habits. If I had thought to take a photo of the engine, you'd see what I was talking about.

356 race car.jpg

Still, these were gorgeous pieces. And the owners were nice, happy to talk 356 to anyone who came along. All different ages, women too, not just a bunch of old dudes with old cars they've spent ungodly sums on to make perfect.

You think you know cars, until you go to an event like this. Frio and I were gazing at a reddish/orange 356 when a guy walked by the car's owner and said "That's an interesting color." The owner responded with the exact factory color number from Porsche, almost to justify that, yes, this is a correct color. Who the heck knows the color number of their car? These guys do. They know more about Porsche 356s then most people do about...anything.

Frios photo.jpg

I still wasn't quite "getting it," though, until I saw a few 356s with trunks strapped to their luggage racks. Suddenly, I had a vision of me and The Trophy Wife packed up and hitting the road for a long weekend driving trip. We'd still take "the good roads," but we'd obviously be going at a slower pace than usual. It wouldn't be about how quickly we could get there, or how much we slid the car around, but simply the act of driving somewhere specific in a cool, old car. Maybe we'd notice the scenery for once. Maybe we'd break down. That would make it even more of an adventure.

Snap out of the daydream. Everyone was sure the rain was finished for the day, so the 356 owners started frantically drying/cleaning their cars before the judging. The hilarious part was that many of the 911 owners were doing the same thing, despite the fact their cars weren't being judged. Trust me, there was no way Frio and I were about to dry off our cars. Heck, Frio gets annoyed if he has to shag more than a couple cones while I'm doing slalom testing.

The sun was peeking out so I went back and collected The Trophy Wife to give her a tour of my favorite 356s. We were about halfway through the cars when it started raining again. Actually, pouring. Luckily Trophy Wives are smart and bring umbrellas. Because dimwitted, car-loving husbands don't.

trophy wife.jpg

So what did people think of our more modern Porsches? No one gave a rat's #%@ about the 911 Carrera. But a few people were intrigued by the Cayman R. More than anything because of the color.

Carrera and Cayman.jpg

If Jordan's plan was to open our eyes a little wider about some of the extra-curricular activities available to Porsche owners, I think Frio would agree with me, mission accomplished. Cool cars and cool folks, super laid-back event. I'm glad I got to see a different side of automotive culture.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya

August 03, 2011


On the way to work this morning I spotted this very black 911 Turbo parked on the street in Venice. Remind you of anything?

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Doing the Right Thing

August 03, 2011

Thumbnail image for Porsche N spec tires-.jpg

My husband drives a Porsche 911. It's his dream car, and it was the far-horizon prize that got him through some lousy days in law school and the agony of studying for the bar. And since he is a lawyer, it might be some sort of requirement that he have one.

After watching him struggle with the question of buying new tires for his car, it made me think of our own 1985 911. There's something about owning a Porsche that makes you worry all the time whether you're doing the right thing. The right gas, the right oil or the right tires -- it's all the same.

So here I present my lawyer husband's report on the process of choosing tires for his 911. For me, it was nice to read some of Alec's writing that wasn't filled with allegations, defenses and case citations. I'm referring, of course, to his valentines:

Because most parts on a Porsche are more or less unique to Porsche, it should come as little surprise that the same goes for commodity items such as tires. Your run-of-the-mill Michelin Pilot Sports PS2s or Pirelli P Zeros aren't good enough for Porsche. Nope. What you really need is the "N-specification" version of these tires to make sure you're kitted out correctly. Or do you? The tires on my 2006 Porsche 911S were shot. Beyond shot. Well-into-the-wear-bars shot. Part of the reason I let things go so long is that I couldn't decide what to do about tires. Should I replace the tires with the same highly rated Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 N-specification tires that I already had, or save $700-$800 and get a set of non N-specification tires?

I wasn't sure whether the whole "N" thing was some bogus marketing ploy or really made a difference.

According to Porsche, N-specification tires can be similar in tread design and have the same model names as non-N tires. The difference is in the inner construction, shoulder design and rubber compounds. Porsche works closely with tire manufacturers to match a particular tire design to their cars. So when you buy an N-specification tire, this means Porsche has run it through its paces and deemed it worthy of being an OEM tire.

Maybe the blessing of the factory doesn't mean much if we're talking about Mercury, but it does have a certain amount of seriousness when Porsche is involved.

Can you run a non-N tire on a Porsche? Yep. And many enthusiasts that I've been in touch with say that they track their cars with non-N tires and use them as daily all-around tires with no complaints (especially since they have more $$$ in their wallets).

So what did I do? I bought the Michelin N-Spec Pilot Sport PS2s. Why? To me, it seemed like buying an expensive suit, then cheaping out with plastic shoes from Payless. When I run, I want to run fast and know that my shoes can keep up with me.

Alec Barinholtz, 2006 Porsche 911S @63,600 miles

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Rainy Day...

August 02, 2011

Porsche 911-Rain_Cayman.jpg

Ain't no use in gettin' uptight. Sat out a few rain showers in the long-term 911 during this past weekend's 356 Dana Point Concours. That's Road Test Editor Mike Monti and his much better half sitting nice and dry in the Cayman R, probably trying to determine where the bike will fit. Me, I'm hunting leaks with an old red shop rag.

Nothing like a good pouring to find the weaknesses in your car's defenses. And our long-term 911 has a few breaches.

Most notable is a rivulet that flows down the frunk release handle into the door panel pocket. There's also some water coming in from somewhere at the top of the windshield, and likewise from a gap near the top of the rear window. The gaps around the sunroof are also not immune. A small standing pool surged in when I gave it some gas exiting the event parking lot, dripping on the front passenger seat.

Porsche 911_leaky.jpg

Well, if you're gonna have an old leaky Porsche, may as well have one in Southern California. New rubber in strategic places sounds expensive. We'll take our chances with the occasional summer storm blowing up from the Gulf.

Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Edumacatin'

August 01, 2011

porsche 911-library.jpg
In anticipation of this past weekend's 356 Concours lovefest in south Orange County (coverage of which soon come), I decided to crash course myself on the Stuttgart ways. Took the 911 to a local temple of government waste and excess and checked out a few thick encyclopedias about the brand.

To be fair, there are a lot of large, pretty photos in these books. But the authors, true to type, can WAX on the legendary shield.

But hey, what car guy or gal devoted to a specific brand doesn't? Especially when they've got a fence sitter in their grasp? If you thought you just kind of liked Porsches before, you'll either back away slowly from the conversation or leap feet first into the consumption.

I might be leaning toward the latter.

porsche 911-books.jpg
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Porsche Plays to Win

June 30, 2011

In the beginning, Porsche went racing because it had no money. This is because it's cheaper to race than to pay for advertising. Dr. Ferdinand Porsche knew this, though he seemed to be a racer at heart. And Ferry Porsche knew this, because he always wanted to race (though his father wouldn't let him).

And indeed, Porsche has made racing a key part of its identity. A little bit of the buzz you get from driving a Porsche comes from 60 years of performance proven on the race track.

That's why today's announcement that Porsche will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2014 is big news. And it will be with a car designed to win overall, not just to take a class victory. It last won the race in 1998 with the Porsche 911 GT1.

Porsche 917 Wins 1970 Le Mans by Porsche AG 1600.jpg

There's just something about those guys in Zuffenhausen. After winning class championships with assorted little cars at Le Mans for so many years in the 1950s, it's as if they decided that that they were done with the Index of Thermal Efficiency, which is kind of like getting the title of Miss Congeniality. In his own screwy sort of way, Ferdinand Piech became obsessed with winning overall at Le Mans when he came to the company in the 1960s and didn't rest until a Porsche 917 won the race in 1970 in the hands of Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood, nearly bankrupting the company in the process.

I'm not really a big fan of Porsche racing, maybe because I remember the 1970s too well when Porsche North America's Jo Hoppen set out to dominate every category in which the company competed. Yet there is a kind of charm in Porsche's willingness to undertake a challenge even when it's not sure of the final outcome, which is pretty much the opposite of the way that modern car companies go racing.

I remember Peter Schutz telling me the story of meeting with the Porsche race department soon after he arrived in Zuffenhausen as the company president in January 1981. He asked them about their plans and they explained that all they had money for was a team of Porsche 924 Carrera GTSs that would compete for a class win at the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Schutz's response: “What would be the point?” He asked them to come up with a better plan by the next day.

The Porsche race guys thought about it for ten minutes, went into the Porsche museum and pulled out the now-antiquated Porsche 936 that had won Le Mans in 1976 and 1977 in the days of pre-ground-effects aerodynamics, got a couple of the turbocharged engines from the still-born 1980 Indy car program out of the rafters of the race department, and then got driver Jacky Ickx on the phone. Then they told Schutz that they had a plan.

Porsche won the 1981 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

Thumbnail image for Porsche 911 GT1 Wins 1998 Le Mans by Porsche AG 1600.jpg

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Too Cool for Car Clubs?

June 29, 2011


Well, you're too cool to be seen at some car club deal, right?

Everyone thinks so. That whole American thing — loners in the great wilderness. Probably it comes from seeing too many Steve McQueen movies.

Of course, this is totally stupid.

You'd expect this sort of posturing from the stereotype we all have of Porsche guys, and yet no car manufacturer is quite so club-oriented as Porsche. Nowhere is this better expressed than the Porsche Club of America (PCA), which is in fact officially sponsored by Porsche Cars North America.


For $46 you get to belong and they don't even care if you own or car or not. There's no decoder ring or secret handshake, but they will send you a 100-page magazine every month that's filled with cool stuff to buy for your car (hoping of course to seduce you into buying a new one). And every year the PCA guys meet someplace to take driving tours, compete in an autocross and a rally, outshine each other in concours and do all that family picnic stuff. It's not exactly a mountain man rendezvous, but neither is it a convention of insurance actuaries. This year the Porsche Parade goes down during the first week of August in Savannah, George.

Since we have always been too cool for car clubs, we thought that we should start small, especially since our 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera M491 presents itself as something that's a little out of the mainstream. So in May we went to the monthly breakfast meeting of the PCA's Los Angeles region, which takes place the last Saturday of the month at the Spitfire Grille, a little down-market eatery across the freeway from us at the Santa Monica airport. The deal was going to be a drive through the mountains above Malibu to Mike Malamut's private car collection near Thousand Oaks.


Usually the club gets about 20 cars at these monthly meets, but this day they got 40 cars. Dave Altemus, this year's president of the chapter, tells us that there are about 900 members overall, of which about 5 percent are active on a frequent basis.

Yes, there were Boxsters (all it ever did was save the company, thank you for asking), and we saw a guy or two in khaki pants. But we also saw a Porsche 928 with rust stains streaming behind its back window. We saw a perfectly done 911T. Even a gaggle of 356s driven by guys who were surprisingly way, way younger than their cars.

We also met a couple of guys who started out talking about Porsches in their high school on L.A.'s West Side and here they were decades later after each owning a double handful of the things and still talking about them. Most of the guys were old, but one younger guy was taking his ten-year-old kid from car to car so the kid could look and maybe sit in it, thereby creating a kid who maybe one day would be talking about Porsches with his pals in high school and then would be standing here one day himself decades from now after owning a handful of the things.


We'd be lying if we said we patiently trailed behind the caravan through the mountains to Thousand Oaks, but we did get there on time (well, a little early). Malamut brought everybody into his side-by-side warehouses where he has a stunning collection of early 1950s memorabilia and his own collection of maybe 200 offbeat cars from a lifetime of enthusiasm (he quit college to become a VW mechanic and then eventually found great success in business). There were many wacky small cars, especially Messerschmitt bubble cars. Wonderful stuff you'd never see elsewhere.


Malamut wasn't the only guy with a car story. David Altemus still has his 1977 Porsche Turbo, though he was driving his GT3 today. He started out talking about Porsches at Venice High School and just recently found a building to keep his stash of Porsches he's acquired since then. We met a guy with a gorgeous 1962 Porsche 356 Karmann notchback, one of those convertibles that Porsche couldn't sell that year so they welded the optional hardtop on it, creating a unique and oddly pretty car. He found it long ago the old fashioned way, by scanning newspaper ads. Turned out the owner lived not 10 miles away.

We also met a guy who told us that one day in the late 1990s he was returning from a business trip to his home in Seattle, driving through the middle of nowhere in eastern Oregon, and his new wife was with him and she got to talking about the Porsche that her old boyfriend used to drive and then the conversation turned to the recently introduced Porsche Boxster and soon he found himself turning off the freeway to the Porsche dealer in Bend, Oregon. Just to look, you understand. (When your girl tells you that her old boyfriend used to drive a Porsche, what else can you do?)

He breathed easier when the sales guy said there were no Boxsters in stock. But then the salesman explained that he had another car that they might like and he led them to the back of the lot and through a small stand of big trees to where a big shed stood among the woods. The sales guy opened the sliding doors, a couple of overhead spotlights split the darkness and there in the museum-style halo of light you saw a 993-type Carrera 4S, one of the last of the air-cooled breed made obsolete not long before by the water-cooled 996-type 911.

He heard his wife take a sharp breath of excitement and he knew in that moment that he would be leaving Bend, Oregon, with a brand-new Porsche. (He's still got it, too.)

Well, you can be too cool for car clubs if you like. Maybe you like driving your car just to work and to the grocery store. Maybe the PCA guys are too geeky for you (or maybe you might be too geeky for them). But we kind of like the idea of driving places and seeing things we've never seen before.

Maybe we can learn not to be too cool for car clubs.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Rut-row

June 28, 2011

porsche_ruttrow.jpg I ran a quick errand this afternoon in our Porsche 911. When I stepped out of the car at my destination I noticed something that made my heart skip a beat. Right there on the hood was the clear sign of rust underneath the paint.

When I got back to the office, I consulted Executive Editor and in-house classic Porsche guru Michael Jordan. What I thought might be a news flash was a known issue. He Scooby Doo'd a little history and found that before the '76 911, all Porsche's were noted for rusting away just like all other cars. The '76 was the first Porsche with galvanized steel and indeed before almost all other brands. According to Leffingwell's buyer's guide, the practice of dipping in a hot zinc bath began mid-'75 calendar year and added $100 to the manufacturing cost per car.

All well and good professor, but this spot of rust still sucks. Though it seems minor now, would you immediately get this remedied, or would you wait on this? Would you even concern yourself at all at this spot we have?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

1985 Porsche 911: All in the Detail(s)

June 28, 2011


This weekend, Mr. Riswick and I met up with Mr. Jordan at a local Porsche concours event. As our beloved 911 sat in the bright L.A. sunlight amongst its very polished brethren, I realized that it needs a really good detail. There are a lot of swirl marks on the body and some of the non-painted elements could use a little dressing. And that's going to be my weekend project. I'm breaking out my Turtle Wax Black Box kit, some high-quality carnauba wax, a roll of painter's tape, surgical gloves, an orbital polisher, countless microfiber towels and some good ol' fashioned elbow grease to get this baby to shine. I suppose a few beers and a fine cigar is in order, too. Look for the results next week.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Black Is Back

June 27, 2011


It looks like we're not the only ones possessed by the color black.

While walking around Cars and Coffee this weekend with a friend from Alpina who has been reinvented as the president of Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, we came across the ultimate black Porsche 911 as presented by a local Porsche dealership. Yes, this is real carbon fiber, not contact paper. Yes, it covers the whole car. We were afraid to ask what it costs.


And of course Porsche itself has recently introduced special editons of its cars in black.

So maybe we're not the only ones thinking that a Porsche looks pretty good in black.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Slamming

June 27, 2011

I've driven our Porsche a few times now. This time I wanted to enjoy the warm weather, so no better way than to drop the window and open the sunroof. But how do I open the sunroof?

I had to look around for a while until I found a very discrete switch on the lower part of the dash left of the steering wheel. I'm so used to the softly opening sunroofs of today with their multiple steps that seem to purr as they slide open. The 911's is not like that. I hit the switch and with a crude mechanic sound it unceremoniously opened quickly. It's as if the switch yells "Open. NOW!" to the sunroof.

Perspective of 26 years of engineering progress can be funny sometimes.

Scott Jacobs, Sr Mgr, Photography

1985 Porsche 911: Kumbaya

June 23, 2011


Driving our very black 1985 Porsche 911 home last night I stumbled on this almost equally black and vintage 911SC. I couldn't resist stopping to take a few shots.




two-911s-4.jpg ...on the way to work this morning I spotted this also black 911SC wearing 993 Turbo style wheels. Again, I busted out the camera.

Gotta love So Cal.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: What It's Worth

June 23, 2011


Once you buy a used car, you're always afraid to find out what it's worth. You think you know the market going in and you try to be smart about the money you pay, but you never really want to find out if you were smart or just really, really dumb.

Nevertheless, we've been looking into the sales of the Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look (there's even a registry for them on Facebook) and learned a few things.

Here are some comps culled from AutoTrader, various Internet sources and the Porsche Club of America's Porsche Panorama:

• 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: Platinum Metallic with tan interior; 116,000 miles, $32,834.

• 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: Grand Prix White with black interior; 73,725 miles, $26,500.

• 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: White Pearl Metallic with burgundy interior; 133,000 miles, $25,900.

• 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: Guards Red with black interior; 74,000 miles, $29,900.

• 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: Guards Red with black interior; 65,102 miles, $40,000.

• 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet Turbo Look: Black with black interior; 114,250 miles, $24,900.

• 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet Turbo Look: Grand Prix White with black interior; 63,400 miles, $31,800.

• 1987 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo Look: Venetian Blue metallic with tan interior; 44,001 miles, $36,990.

• 1988 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa Turbo Look: Guards Red with black interior; 229,000 miles, $18,500.

Of course maybe the most authoritative guide to M491 values comes from Bruce Anderson, the former Porsche racing mechanic who has become a kind of guru for people who care about the way Porsches work. Excellence regularly publishes Anderson's guides to Porsche values and a recent example includes the change in values for the 1984 – 1989 Turbo Look coupe since 2007:








'84 – ‘86













'87 – ‘89













Difficult to say what all this means, of course. Our car is mechanically sound but cosmetically troubled, which is just the opposite of the usual thing. Plus there's the salvage title thing. But on the whole, maybe these values tell us that there's a chance that the money we put into it might come back to us at the end.

Of course, that's what every owner of a used car says.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Cracking 115,000 Miles

June 22, 2011

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Milestone_graphic.jpg 911-at-115,000.jpg

We bought our very black 911 back in April with its odometer reading 113,897. Because the speedometer wasn't working (now fixed) for the majority of our time with the car, we're not really sure how far we've driven it. I'd guess about 3,500 miles. That's 3,500 expensive miles, as we've already spent $2,546 spiffing up the Porsche.

Regardless of the guessing game, I thought it was worth a milestone post as our throwback supercar has officially cracked the 115,000 mile mark. Which, any Porschephile will tell you, means it's just about broken in.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Against All Odds

June 17, 2011

Against All Odds.jpg

Back in 1984 director Taylor Hackford released a love triangle thriller starring a young, handsome Jeff Bridges, an ever-so-creepy James Woods, and the stunning Rachel Ward.

What distinguished "Against All Odds" to me, besides Ms. Ward of course, was the underrated car chase between Woods in a Ferrari 308 GTS and Bridges in a 1984 911 Cabriolet.

This was before CGI and the video-game car chases of today. These were two real cars racing down Sunset Boulevard at speed -- and no accelerating the film up, either.

I immediately thought of this movie when we picked up our new old 1985 911. I think it's one of the great car chases in movie history, and it was one of the factors that initiated my lust for the 911.

I haven't had the chance to try our 911 yet, but when I do, perhaps I'll take it on Sunset.
And find me a 308.

Hit the jump to watch the chase down Sunset Blvd. (Warning: profanity in the video.)

Albert Austria, Senior VE Engineer

1985 Porsche 911: Chris Banning and His Legendary RSR

June 15, 2011


In 1976 Chris Banning decided to be the fastest man on Mulholland Dr., the King of the Hill. To achieve this he built himself a very special car, a chopped-top, acid-dipped, stitch-welded, fully-caged 1973 Porsche Carrera RSR complete with lexan windows, genuine IROC wheels (9 X 15 in front and 11 x 15 in the rear), huge Goodyear Blue Dots, cross-drilled Carrera 6 brakes with four piston alloy calipers and adjustable Konis. Chris even went so far as to gusset the 911's control arms for strength.

Under the hood was a 2.8-liter normally aspirated flat-six with Carrera 6 camshafts and mechanical fuel injection. Chris says it made 300 hp at 7,500 rpm back in the day, which was not only serious power in 1976, but it's really serious power in a car weighing less than 2,500 lbs. The transmission was a 915-type, just like the one in our long-term 1985 911, only Chris' used a special gear set.

By 1978 Chris was the undisputed King of the Hill and his Porsche was a legend.




The rest as they say is history. Chris and his Porsche became the basis for an article by Dave Barry in New West Magazine back in 1978 called Thunder Road. Then that article became the basis for a movie released in 1981 called King of the Mountian. Yes, that's why Harry Hamlin drives a silver Porsche in that film.

The coolest part is that Chris still lives off Mulholland and he still owns his legendary RSR. And just a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend the afternoon with him. What an honor, and I of course I drove over in our black 1985 Porsche 911.

Chris, pictured above with the Porsches, has even written a book about his racing on Mulholland Dr. It's called The Mulholland Experience, and it's really fun to read. A second book is in the works and we'll be doing more with Chris and his stories of racing Mulholland in the future on Edmunds.

In the meantime, I got to meet a true legend and check out one of the coolest Porsches of all time. A car that has become a part of America's pop culture, just like James Dean's 550 and Steve McQueen's Mustang.

And when it was all over I said goodbye to Chris, pointed our long-term 911 east on Mulholland and I made a run through the old course, between Coldwater and Laurel Canyon. And for about 15 minutes it was 1978 and I was the King of the Hill. I swear, I heard the roar of the crowd as I flew through Grandstands and I nailed Deadmans, but I'll admit my line was a bit off through Carl's.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: A Video Tribute

June 14, 2011


It's no secret that I'm infatuated with our long-term Porsche. What you might not know about is my affinity for certain movie clips that have to do with cars going fast. On my short list of favorites is Bourne Identity.

So, armed with a couple of GoPro cameras, I decided to put together my own little video.

My limited editing skills and the constraints put on me by iMovie didn't quite allow me to fully express my vision, but I'm pretty happy with the simple results. I edited this with the intention of having TV Song by Blue Man Group playing over this, but of course, I don't have the rights to that song. But that doesn't mean we can't still make this work.

Under the main video player is a smaller one that will play the song. If you start the song just at the seven-second mark (just when the screen goes black), it should be synched with the action. It helps if you hit play on both screens first to start buffering, then pause and rewind both. Also, if you know which road this is, please keep it to yourself. Let's keep this our little secret, mmmkay?

Enjoy, I know I did!

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: The Car Show Rules

June 10, 2011


We learned the car show rules last weekend, most of them the hard way: 1) bring a chair; 2) wear a hat; and 3) put on the sunscreen (a 50-gallon drum of SPF 70 will do).

But the easiest rule we learned proved to be pretty simple and not painful at all. That is, ask questions.

As John DiPietro said to us as the day at the Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show wound down, ''Guys can't wait to tell you the story of their cars. It's like being in the middle of a car magazine come to life.''


As car shows go, this proved to be a very good one. It's a charitable promotion for Boys Republic, where actor Steve McQueen spent his formative years before graduating in 1946, All the lessons from the big-time historic automotive events that are held these days from Amelia Island to Monterey were in evidence, even though we were in modest Chino Hills.

First of all there was a nice theme, in this case the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Le Mans, McQueen's keenly observed movie about the 24-hour sports car race. There was a nice selection of Porsches on display to match the theme (which is why we brought our Carrera M491), plus other brands associated with McQueen movies (you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a dark green Mustang), and even a Manxster.

And there were examples of cars special to McQueen's enthusiasms, like his personal 1970 911S, clones of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Charger from Bullitt, and some Husqvarna motocross bikes that made you think of On Any Sunday. And a nice selection of racing cars, including very nice replicas of a Lola T70 coupe and Porsche 917, a clone of the all-wheel-drive Porsche 959 that competed in the Paris – Dakar rally raid, and a Porsche 904 (a real one). You could even immortalize your own car by taking a picture of it against a backdrop of the Dunlop bridge at Le Mans.


All the other stuff that makes a great car show was there, too. The historic photography (all with affordable prices), a spectacular event poster (only $5), an even better program ($10), plus Chad McQueen and Matt Stone were autographing copies of Stone's book, McQueen's Machines. Not to mention a whole row of booths where you could buy everything from T-shirts to die-cast cars -- all the stuff that 12-year-old kids of all ages like to keep in that special box under the bed.


But as with every car show, the best part is asking people about their cars.

Like the guy who had a Porsche 914-6 when he was young while yearning to one day own a 911, and after having been through 11 examples of Ferry Porsche's classic, showed up at the show with the pride of his lifetime of Porsche enthusiasm, a very nice 914-6.

Or the guy who had been thinking hard for months about finally buying a 911, either an early 1970s one or a later, more practical one, and ended up driving by a car lot in Pasadena, where he saw a perfect black 993 – the crossover point between the air-cooled 911s of the past and the modern water-cooled 996 and 997 – and left with the keys to the car that day.

Or the guy who was asking us questions about restoring his 1982 911SC, and when we asked him about the wisdom of restoring such a generic Porsche, replied that he had bought the car new after swearing he would own a 911 before he turned age 30, and after giving up the down payment on a house to buy the car in 1982 from well-known Porsche dealer Vasek Polak, he was going to damn well keep it always.

Or even our 1985 Carrera 3.2 M491 in bad, bad black – salvage title, no wing, and no pretense. When Chad McQueen, Ford designer Freeman Thomas and GM designer Frank Saucedo came around in a golf cart to scope out the cars, we saw them from across the field as they stopped to take a closer look at our 911, trying to figure out what the heck is going on with it.


We had a pretty nice time at the M491's first car show. Boys Republic is going to pursue the theme of cars from McQueen's movies, since there seemed to some kind of special vehicle in each one, from The Blob to The Hunter. (Can you name them all?) We'll be back.

And next time we're bringing a chair. We'd like to make the friendly-size concours that the Orange County Region of the Porsche Club of America is holding June 11 in Dana Point, California, but the medics are telling us that there isn't enough sunscreen on the West Coast to keep us from being frazzled a second weekend in a row.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show

June 06, 2011

our 911 at sm show.jpg

I took our 911 M491 (above) to the Steve McQueen show we had given you a heads-up about last week. There was plenty to see -- the grounds of the Boys Republic School made for a nice backdrop. Nice to stroll around and check out cars sitting on lush grass rather than heat-reflecting blacktop. The campus was impressive, with agricultural and sports facilities that attested to its well-rounded curriculum. They dressed it up to look like the location of Le Mans back in the movie's time, including quaint street signs and a French cafe (with tasty pastry).

The show (which also had a silent auction) benefited the Boys Republic, a school for troubled teenagers (now including girls). The school's connection with the famous actor/car enthusiast is that Mr. McQueen went there as a lad, where they helped him straighten up and fly right. The students helped out by guiding folks to the appropriate parking areas (spectator, show cars, judged cars) and gave our car a thumbs-up as I rolled into the show.

The theme of the show was celebrating McQueen's Machine's" by colleague Matt Stone, who was on hand signing copies.

porsche super 90.jpg
As far as the cars, there was more than enough variety for me to get my fix. Porsches were well represented (the 356 Club of Southern California started the show in 2008) but there were also muscle cars (including a few rows of Bullitt tribute Mustangs), hot rods and a handful of race cars that included a Porsche 904. My faves of the show? Porsche: the gorgeous 1960 Porsche Super 90 seen above. Non-Porsche: the early '70's 240Z fitted with a supercharged LS1 V8, big brakes and custom leather interior/roll bar seen below. Following the Z are a few others that I wouldn't kick out of my driveway for leaking oil.

240z v8.jpg

bullitt mustang.jpg

porsche 904.jpg

911 rs america.jpg

John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 115,215 miles

1985 Porsche 911: Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show

May 31, 2011

1970_911S_r34_porsche_lt.jpgWe've got the M491 signed up for the Friends of Steve McQueen Car Show next weekend, Saturday, 4 June. Not likely we'll win anything, but the $20 slot in the concours gives us great parking.

This will be the fourth year of this annual show at Boys Republic in Chino Hills, California, where McQueen spent a couple years during his youth. It's a promotion for the institution, which has provided a home and learning environment for troubled teens since 1907.

This year the show is meant to be a tribute to Le Mans, McQueen's 1971 movie about the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 1970 Porsche 911S driven by McQueen for the movie and seen here probably won't be at the event (it's up for auction this summer), but some interesting people are scheduled to appear.

Vic Elford, who qualified his Porsche 917 long-tail in the 1970 event at 150.804 mph will be there to reminisce about his experiences driving for the movie, as will Jonathan Williams, a Ferrari F2 driver who drove a camera-equipped Porsche 908 during the race.

They'll be joined by John Klawitter, who has produced a short film about the making of Le Mans, and Michael Keyser, a well-known Porsche 911 racer of the 1970s who wrote A French Kiss With Death, a book about the making of the movie. Matt Stone, known for McQueen's Machines, a book about McQueen's cars and motorcycles, will join them. Chad McQueen, Steve McQueen's son, is one of the principals in organizing the event.

There are a number of awards categories, none of which we expect to win, but there is a “Cool Style” category for cars that reflect the spirit of Steve McQueen, and we're thinking our salvage-title car with a broken headlight sends the right message – no wing, no pretense.

A Mitchell B-25 bomber from the Chino Hills airport across the way is scheduled to make a flyover at about noon, then the awards will be give out at 1:30 p.m. Lots of cars, lots of memorabilia, and lots of food, so not a bad deal for $10. More information is available at Friends of Steve McQueen Web site.

Once you've seen the opening sequence of Le Mans where McQueen drives a 1970 Porsche 911S across the French countryside, onto the bridge into the city of Le Mans, past the cathedral, across the big market square and then to the old (and very dangerous) top-gear sweeper at Maison Blanche, you can't help but want to drive a Porsche 911 some day.

So we're taking our car to Boys Republic. Good weather is here at last, and it's that season where you drive old cars and occasionally sit around on camp chairs and look at old cars. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com


1985 Porsche: Just Right

May 31, 2011


I love the Fuchs. In my opinion, they are the icon of classic sports car wheels. I even loved them on my Matchbox Porsche long before I could drive.

What are your favorites?

Scott Jacobs, Sr. Mgr, Photography

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Wide Track

May 27, 2011

1985_911_det_porsche_lt_H&Rspacer1.jpgSo practically the first thing, Scott Oldham says, “Let's go wide.”

It might be because he's one of those guys who used to smoke cigarettes in that part of the high-school parking lot where only the bad boys hung out. Or maybe it's because he's a Pontiac guy, and remembers the GM car division that Bunkie Knudsen saved in 1959 with Wide Track, the wider track dimension for the Pontiac chassis that helped win a NASCAR racing championship.

As much as it killed us all to admit it, Oldham was right. We had to go wide. And we got right on the Internet to H&R Springs, the default choice for wheel spacers.

1985_911_det_porsche_lt_H&Rspacer2.jpgWe're all about the wide look with this M491 Turbo Look version of the 911, and that's why we're running it without the big tea tray wing in the back. Going wide is part of the Porsche thing, as the blistered fenders and wide rear tires introduced to the 911 in sports car racing during the 1970s changed the car's styling vocabulary. To see how important the wide look is to the 911, you have only to look at the way former Porsche design director Harm Lagaay went back to the wide-body look with the current 997-generation 911 after the narrow-look 996-generation car that preceded it failed to generate much styling excitement.

It was pretty clear to us that our 1985 M491's rear wheels and tires didn't fill up the wheel wells, and while we might have considered big wheels and tires, the big money involved seemed a little foolish in a car with some other needs. Wheel spacers were a more affordable alternative, and we knew that the M491 Turbo Look had wheel bearings that were stout enough to overcome any reservations we might have – a twin-bearing setup in the hubs of the special trailing arms that Porsche designed for the 911 Turbo, which was designed for racing. (Of course, the right-rear wheel bearing is making a little noise anyway, so we might address this soon, though there's no hurry, our Porsche contacts tell us.) Probably the car will understeer more at low speed with the wider rear track dimension, but into every life a little rain must fall.

We knew enough to go to H&R Springs for our wheel spacers, since this company founded in Washington by a couple of German expatriates is known for high-quality German-built hardware. Its wheel spacers are cast from an aluminum and magnesium alloy and then anodized.

The installation of wheel spacers isn't exactly the work of a moment, as you want to measure the fender clearance pretty scrupulously and ensure that the tire won't touch the fender, and we wanted to avoid the trouble of rolling the fenders in any case. H&R's dedicated Web site for its TRAK wheel spacers provides all the particulars for measuring the available clearance (driver's weight in the car; measure at two spots, etc.).

As it turns out, a local distributor for H&R's TRAK wheel spacers is nearby in Culver City at Wheel Enhancement, the place where every Porsche in Beverly Hills comes in the search for trick wheels. It also turns out the principals are mad about Porsches. John Brown is working on a 1977 911 that is pretty unmolested, although its Beverly Hills owner sliced the top open and had one of those glass moonroofs installed back in the 1970s, so he's had to put a new roof panel from a salvage yard into it. And Dave Martin is driving a Porsche Boxster Spyder these days, his first-ever open Porsche after a string of 911s and a Porsche Cayman S, and he says the car gets more looks than any Porsche this side of an old 356 and the task of erecting the top for rainy days (or long-distance travel) isn't as bad as people make out.

Once Wheel Enhancement's John Brown made the measurements and checked the clearance with the brake calipers, he concluded that the rear wheels could accommodate 21mm spacers. The TRAK DRM-style spacers would be an easy fit, as they bolt to the existing hub, and then have their own studs for mounting the wheel.

The front wheels were another matter. Even 7mm spacers would be a struggle, as the task of removing the existing studs and installing the spacers with studs long enough to ensure good wheel location and then probably rolling the lip of the inner fender would be more trouble (and expense) than it was worth.

After 90 minutes – 30 minutes of which were spent admiring the car afterwards in the parking lot and digging this car's unique wide, wide look – we were on our way, and $221.75 covered the whole deal.

Go wide.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com


1985 Porsche 911: The Ultimate Porsche Pit Bike

May 25, 2011


When you go to the races, there are snappy pit bikes everywhere – everything from trick bicycles to cut-down motocross bikes. But when you go to the Porsche races, the ultimate pit bike is the diesel-powered Porsche tractor.

When Dr. Porsche was trying to revolutionize the German automobile in the 1930s with what became the VW Beetle, he drew on lessons he had learned from the Ford Model T, which had revolutionized the American automobile.

But along the way, Dr. Porsche also learned about Henry Ford's other great contribution to the American scene, the Fordson tractor. When it was introduced in 1916, this small, lightweight tractor was the most affordable tractor in the world. As a result, the average farmer could afford to own a tractor for the first time.

Porsche developed three tractor prototypes with gasoline engines in 1934 and the German government commissioned further development in 1937. After World War II, Porsche continued to develop an air-cooled diesel powerplant for tractors and had a concept for a four-wheel-drive tractor. In the end, the Porsche diesel found its way into the Allgaier AP17 tractor beginning in 1950. The 18-hp diesel powertrain was unique because it had a hydraulic clutch between the engine and transmission, simplifying operation.

Porsche-powered Allgaier tractors were so popular that Mannesmann AG bought the license, converted the old Zeppelin factory in Friedrichshafen and began to mass produce them beginning in 1956. About 125,000 tractors were built until production officially ended in 1963.

Only about 1,000 Porsche diesel tractors reached the U.S. during that time, and a dealership in Pennsylvania sold the Junior model for $1,750 and the Super for $3,600. Of course, there are so many Porsche enthusiasts in the U.S. these days that there are a lot more Porsche tractors here. Fully restored ones go for around $15,000 - $20,000, while runners go for about $5,000 - $6,000.

And, yes, there is an owner registry for Porsche tractors, just like everything else with a Porsche badge.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: PROM NIGHT

May 24, 2011

prom So, what did you drive to your prom?

Bryn MacKinnon, Class of '90

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Anything but Silver

May 23, 2011


Sometimes it's like every Porsche on the road is either silver or black.

That's why I'm totally all right with the maroon trim that our 911's previous owner grafted into the interior. A little color is a relief from a black hole of Germanic austerity.

Freeman Thomas, Ford's director of strategic design, remembers his time as a young designer at Porsche 1983 – 1987 and then later with Volkswagen when he would make all his designs in silver. But he's past that now, and he showed me a terrific Porsche 356 from the 1950s that reminded us both that Porsche actually knows how to use color in a dramatic way.

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As Thomas recalls, his upbringing in California probably made him a lot more aware of Porsche's German heritage than the Germans themselvers, so it's no wonder he liked silver, since it's the traditional color of German racing cars. Meanwhile, the German designers with which Thomas worked were always drawing cars with surfboards, since California represented a similarly exotic culture to them.

This is a Porsche 356 from 1956, the year when the A model embraced modernity. It's actually a lightweight Carrera body, although it carries a Normal engine, as the troubles with the roller-bearing Carrera engine meant that there were more Carrera bodies that year than there were engines for them.

But what's interesting about this car is its high 1950s style, the combination of aquamarine bodywork and the dramatic red upholstery of the seats. The ivory-rim steering wheel and the very rare sunroof option add to the effect. This car looks just as it did when it came out of the factory (the car has been in the U.S. since 1959), and it seems like some kind of Thunderbird compared to the boring silver and black 911s that you see on the road today.

Porsche still has a similar enthusiasm for color. The zippy bubble-gum colors of the 911S from the late 1960s and early 1970s are still famous, while the 911 had a color pallet of about a dozen colors in the 1980s. Even now, when Porsche has tried to rationalize its costs as much as possible, the company continues to offer cars in dramatic colors, notably the GT3. If only Porsche could get Americans to order up 911s that weren't either silver or black.

Good thing we've got black wheels and the maroon interior, otherwise this car would be almost as anonymous as all those silver and black 911s in Century City, where the lawyers hang out.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

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1985 Porsche 911: They Race Porsches, Don't They?

May 18, 2011


Through some terrible sequence of circumstances, civilians have this idea that when you have a Porsche, you're meant to park it someplace and admire it. Maybe wax it a little if you like.

But if that's true, what are all were all these people doing at this Porsche Club of America speed event with their fancy race car transporters?


Like any other car club, the PCA has its own share of stroking around, where people stand around with their cars and tell lies. But when you look at the schedule of events published by the club, it's hard to keep from being surprised by the sheer number of speed events.

Old man Porsche was a racer, of course, the leader of engineering teams that created the 1923 Benz Tropfenwagen, the 1928 Mercedes-Benz SSK, and of course the first Auto Union grand prix cars. Ferry Porsche was a good driver in his own right, and even won a rally in the 1931 Wanderer 6 sports car his father designed. And racing eventually became Porsche's primary outlet for publicity, since like small car companies everywhere it had much to prove and no advertising budget.

And yet for all the big racing transporters at the PCA's California Festival of Speed, the mission at the event seemed to be driving, not racing. For every club race like this, you'll find two or three track-based driver education events, not to mention an autocross or three. In fact, the guy from whom we bought this Carrera 3.2 was an instructor at such driver education events.

Racing is fun, of course. All you have to do is look at the graphics that people paint on their race car transporters to see how much fun it is. (Photographer Kurt Niebuhr and I even saw a semi-vintage hauler in the colors of Rothmans cigarettes, Porsche's primary sponsor in the heady days of the Porsche 962 at Le Mans in the 1980s.)

But lots of car clubs have racing programs. The thing that strikes me is the particular way driving is so essential to the Porsche club ethic. It's easy to see these cars as garage totems or lawn ornaments, symbols of conspicuous consumption, but the people who own them seem to care as much about driving as they do about the cars.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com


1985 Porsche 911: Makes Me Feel Like McQueen

May 12, 2011


I'm a dork. Steve McQueen wasn't a dork. And Steve McQueen loved Porsche's. He owned and raced many, including a Speedster, a 917 and the 1970 911S through the French countryside.

Basically McQueen was a Porsche nut.


This is the 1970 911S McQueen drove in the movie Le Mans. (Watch the clip below.)

So this morning I'm driving our 1985 Porsche 911 to work. It's a perfect Southern California morning. Sunny, about 75 degrees. I take the long way. Over by the beach, where the tall blondes jog and the boys try to look so hard. I have the windows down and the sunroof open. I don't care if I'm a dork. Thirty minutes of pure happiness. Just me and a wonderful machine.

I'm really starting to enjoy this car. I wonder if McQueen liked the 915 transmission.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: Our Favorite Caption

May 06, 2011


Thanks to blackngold1000 for this week's favorite caption.

Here are the others that made us take a second look:

1985 Porsche 911: A Macro Look (ergsum)
Once you own one, everything appears bigger. (vt8919)
You can see all the way to 1985! (bonzjr)
And if you look down you can see the shape of the past, and the present, and the future... (technetium99)
I said that I wanted a telescoping *steering wheel*! (nelsonlu)
We will be focusing on the Porsche 911 project all this week. (ergsum)
Can't beat these specs! (snipenet)
Can you see me now? (zoomzoomn)
The giant Mammoth lady will be happy to hear that we have found her binoculars. (cantdrive92)
I can see that red door lock light from miles away. (questionlp)
In Germany, we call these "spy" glasses. (ed124c)
Where's the turbo?! (aussie_kc)
Claes, Coosje, Classic (cuthgood130)
No, the binoculars don't fit. (teampenske3)
damnit, now everyone knows it's just a diecast model porsche... (attgig)

What was your favorite?

To the winner:
You can select one of these three prizes:


- Hankook shirt (XL) and hat
- Top Gear Season 15 DVD or Blu-ray
- Top Gear puzzle book (not for kids)

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

1985 Porsche 911: You Write the Caption

May 06, 2011


Editor in Chief Scott Oldham sent me this picture of our new old Porsche 911 in front of a building designed by Frank Gehry. The sculpture is by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

Stay focused and see if you can come up with a caption.

We'll post our favorite this afternoon.

Donna DeRosa, Managing Editor

1985 Porsche 911: The Love Affair Continues

May 02, 2011


Maybe it was a series of small but wonderful events, but this weekend just seemed perfect. And what a perfect car I had as a companion. Even mundane errands felt special in the Porsche. The last time I brought our 911 home, I treated it to a wash and some trim dressing. This morning, I gave it another wash and decided to polish out a scuff on the front fender that had been bugging me.

I tried to take a picture of it, but it simply would not come out. The scratches looked as though someone was wearing shorts made from sandpaper and took a seat above the driver's front wheel. Last year, I had some pretty nasty scratches on Turtle Wax Black Box to see if it'll at least minimize the damage caused by an errant turn signal. It ended up eliminating it altogether.

In about 30 seconds, the Black Box took off the fender scuffs this morning. It also left a perfect mirror gloss finish. But this now means that I'll have to polish the rest of the car (you can't have one perfect panel, can you?). I suppose I'll tackle that project the next time I bring the Porsche home. Soon, I hope.

And just to be clear, no, I am not paid by Turtle Wax to endorse their product. But this stuff is amazing. Really. If you have a black car, try it.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

1985 Porsche 911: Car Show and Swap Meet

April 30, 2011


Back on March 6th I took our 1985 Porsche 911 to The Southern California All-Porsche Swap & Car Display held at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, CA. We had just bought our car and was a little worried about how the other Porsche geeks were going to react to our car. Lets face it, it's not exactly a 959 nor is it a perfect, low mileage, unmolested museum piece that has never been wet.

But the car was a hit. The knowledgeable crowd knew what it was. Turbo Look 911s are rare, in fact, we had the only one at the event. And the crowd knew it. I spent most of the morning talking Porsche's with the onlookers and the other owners parked around me. They all loved our black Fuchs and I fell in love with that silver 944 parked in front of us. Very fun.

Then I hit the swap meet and spent a few bucks on a plastic jack point plug our car was missing.

Cool day.




Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Festival of Speed

April 13, 2011


Now that we're driving a Porsche 911, spent last weekend getting to know our peeps. Well, maybe the good people of the Porsche Club of America aren't exactly accustomed to being referred to as “peeps.”

Nevertheless, photographer Kurt Niebuhr and I spent last weekend at the annual California Festival of Speed, a track event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, organized by Zone 8 of the Porsche Club of America, which covers Arizona, Southern California, and Nevada.

This was not a little clubbie deal, either. The pit garages were filled with assorted 911 GT3 Cup race cars and the parking lot was a carpet of Porsches of various persuasions from the last 50 years.

The modest meeting in 1955 of a few like-minded enthusiasts who drove Porsche 356s. From a club largely dedicated to flashing headlights at one another in a kind of secret handshake (still a nice tradition among Porsche guys, though largely restricted to drivers of pre-1974 cars), the PCA has become an official affiliate of Porsche Cars North America itself, and the club organizes a vast number of events across the country — concours, races, tours and plain old car stuff — for guys who own Porsches and want to hang around with other people that do, too.

Just one look at three-day event schedule at Auto Club Speedway showed Niebuhr and me that these guys were serious about their speed. In addition to a full range of track events for Porsche racing cars that included 911s, Boxsters and 944s, there was an autocross (instructors available), a lunchtime track tour for spectators, a ride-and-drive event in new models provided by PCNA though a local dealer and even a concours competition.

There were big semi-trucks parked in the paddock and a row of tents from vendors of assorted Porsche-themed accessories. This was more than a couple guys zipping around a parking lot; this was racing. It was especially apparent in race-tuned engines barking in the speedway's covered garages, as this weekend proved also to be a round of the American Le Mans Series. The Pirelli Cup furnishes a place for these guys to figure out what racing is about (driving instructors available!), thus ensuring the health of Porsche's presence in top-class sports car racing.

Niebuhr and I have some more things (and more pictures) to share from the California Festival of Speed, but the thing that makes it interesting is the official Porsche and PCA position on this whole sports car thing. And that is, they're in favor of more than just the buying and selling of cars. They're in favor of driving, which is really what the whole car deal should be about, you think?

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com

1985 Porsche 911: More Cool Swap Meet Stuff

April 13, 2011


After Jordan and I 28th annual LA Literature and Toy Show, which is a huge Porsche and VW vintage parts swap meet held each year in ballrooms at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton Hotel, I was in a buying mood.

So I continued to shop. First I bought this cool Porsche Club Mexico key fob for $59 Pesos. Then I spend $18 USD on this genuine Porsche key to replace the Home Depot key that came with the car. A few days later I had it cut at a local lock store.

It's the little things.

Scott Oldham, Editor in Chief

1985 Porsche 911: A Newbie's Video Tour

April 07, 2011

Porsche 911 Newbie Tour Screenshot.jpg

Our long-term 911 was made only two years after I was born, so it's a little foreign to me. "Continue reading" for a newbie's trip down memory lane.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor

1985 Porsche 911 Carrera: Buyer's Guide

April 05, 2011

Porsche Buyer's Guide hi-res.jpg

There are a couple of choices you can make when you go out to shop for used Porsche 911s. You can look at them as if they were cupcakes and then choose the freshest one with the most frosting. This is not a bad strategy.

Or you can look at used 911s as if they were unexploded bombs, liable to suffer some terrible episode of mechanical entropy, spontaneously disassembling into their component parts and inflicting great damage on your wallet in the process.

I am prone to the ticking time-bomb mindset, so I think the first step in buying a used 911 should be the Porsche 911 Buyer's Guide by Randy Leffingwell. It's the best 20 bucks you'll ever spend on a used 911.

Motorbook International's franchise for the Porsche 911 buyer's guide from the late Dean Batchelor and it has become the very model of what a buyer's guide should be.

Just as you'd expect, Leffingwell sorts through every year of the Porsche 911 since 1965 right up to the 2009 model. It's not an easy task, as there have been a handful of generations, not to mention frequently obscure changes in specification and equipment. Fortunately the focus here is the American market, so you don't have to sift through irrelevant details. And because Leffingwell is a professional photographer by trade, he includes large, nicely done pictures of each model year's exterior and interior, as well as appropriate details.

There are relevant specifications for each car, not to mention the prices of relevant replacement parts. More important, Leffingwell lets you know what the reliability and durability issues for each model year might be. If you're afraid a used 911 might be a ticking time bomb, this is the kind of information that you like to get up front.

Finally, Leffingwell walks you through the process of looking for a 911 and test driving the cars you find. He knows what a good 911 should look like and what it should drive like. For market pricing you have to look elsewhere (Excellence is the most authoritative and easily accessible source for most people), and that's as it should be.

When it comes to used Porsches, your buddies will always try to tell you about some magical, low-mileage special edition that they once saw advertised in the Grunion Gazette for less than $10,000. Unfortunately, your buddies are generally witless as always and wouldn't know a Porsche 911 from a Volkswagen Super Beetle (not that there's much difference, actually). When you're looking at old cars, you want facts, not guesswork, and Leffingwell delivers the goods about the Porsche 911.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 113,897 miles

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