My “Cheap” Porsche Chronicles

There is so much advice out there about buying a used sports car, especially a used Porsche. You really should take advantage of this advice, it makes sense, and it could save you a bunch of money, headaches, and “I told you so” discussions with your significant other. How do I know, you ask, because I didn’t follow any of this sound advice, again; and now I’m dealing with it.  

Yes, I went against the general common-sense guidance for buying a used Porsche and did not get a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) before buying my 15-year-old Boxster. I knew the seller, who happened to be a Porsche Gold Mechanic who went through the car the year prior. It logged about 4,000 trouble-free miles since his inspection, and he said the common wear items looked good when he went through the engine. So the car had to be sound, right? I think you know the answer if you’re still reading at this point. 

The good news is that I paid well under market value for a 2005 base 2.7L Boxster with a 5-speed manual. It needed a few things that I planned to address, drive for the summer, and then decide to either flip it or keep it. That was early March, and the summer didn’t exactly proceed as planned for the obvious 2020 reasons. But still, I owned a Porsche Boxster for less than the price of a used Honda Civic; what could go wrong?

The honeymoon…

With my job change and impending move, I decided to keep the Boxster since I owned it outright, and it’s an enjoyable and practical (for my needs) vehicle. While far more useful, my Macan was less fun and not paid for, so it went to a new home. 

Knowing the car would assume daily driver status, I took it to a Porsche specialty shop in my area with an excellent reputation. I explained that the car needed to be dead reliable and that I wanted them to go through it as they would a PPI to identify items I needed to address ASAP and what to fix in the next year. 

Unfortunately for me, the list I received was full of “must-do” items and very few “keep an eye on it” ones. My car’s list was a “who’s who” of the common problems for pre-2009 Porsches. I needed a new rear main seal, clutch, power steering lines (which I knew about), an Air-Oil Separator, rotors and pads on all four corners, and of course, the Intermediate Shaft Bearing was leaking. If you don’t know what the IMS bearing is for a Porsche, please feel free to look here, or here, and here. These are relatively involved fixes and are all on the list of things you should check before buying any used water-cooled Porsche. 

I was soon paying a repair bill that was half of what I paid for the car. Sidebar, it’s good to be a Porsche mechanic as more than half my bill was for labor. Once that was over with, I had a car with all the big-ticket items addressed, a new upgraded IMS bearing, and a clean bill of health ready to tackle the world; until it wasn’t.

Those familiar with these cars will notice one perpetual criminal absent from my lengthy repair list above, don’t worry, it’s about to make an appearance. While running for coffee one afternoon, I received a warning light on the dash, never good. This one was for low coolant level. This was odd since I checked the coolant reservoir in the trunk two days earlier, and it was full. I proceeded to Starbucks for my afternoon pick-me-up and then back to the office. When pulling into the parking lot, I noticed a huge stain on the ground where I had parked earlier that day, not good. I pulled into a different spot and shut the car off. When I got out and took a knee to look under the car, my fear was confirmed as I saw a steady stream of red coolant coming from the cover that sits under the engine. The water pump! 

The shop checked this common failure item initially and deemed it a relatively new replacement item, so we didn’t change it. A quick call to AAA meant a flat-bed tow was en route, and my Boxster was on its way back to my Porsche shop. 

It turns out that the water pump was okay, good news since when they go, they have a nasty habit of sending bits of the plastic impeller into the engine block. My problem was a coolant diverter responsible for directing the flow of coolant. It cracked and then puked the entire contents of my cooling system on the ground. While ordering a new one, I made sure they also sourced a new water pump just so all the parts would be fresh; no sense in repeating this process in a year. 

Now my repair bills were getting perilously close to what I paid for my “cheap” Porsche. Suppose I added the purchase price and the repair bills. In that case, I could’ve easily scored a very well taken care of 996 generation 911 from the Porsche Club of America’s classified section (with all these items already addressed, of course). It’s okay, I am just doing my part for the Porsche community’s karma bank by fixing the deferred maintenance items the previous five owners of my Boxster ignored. I’m making things right, and I can enjoy it for years to come. 

Then I noticed a few drops of oil under my car when I backed out of my garage. I tracked this for a few days, and it was never more than a few teaspoons of oil, and they only appeared right after parking the car post-drive. Odd, but something I had to address before I moved. So back to the shop my Boxster went. 

This time, they found a cracked oil filler tube (you add oil to this mid-engine car via a filling port in the trunk). It allowed oil to leak onto the top of the engine, which was then slowly dripping down when the engine was hot. They ordered the part, and it would be ready in a few days, no problem.  

Thankfully for me, this shop knew my situation (about to move out of state) and did a great job of inspecting everything they could think of to make sure they had the right source of the leak before they pronounced the car fixed. The repair bill wasn’t too bad for a Porsche, it didn’t even have a comma in it!

Due to timing, weather, and general stress levels, I decided to get our move done and then fly back to Baltimore to pick the car up and drive it to Tennessee. This was an excellent decision for me because I have a ton of Southwest points, so the flight was free, and the nine-hour drive was a great way to remind myself that I love this car despite the issues and unexpected costs. 

I mentioned the car had some things I knew had to be addressed when I bought it, and those things are still there. That’s right, none of the things I’ve addressed on this car include the ones I knew it needed before I bought it. The nose and hood still need to be repainted, and the head unit and speakers are in desperate need of replacement. The nose and hood can wait, the car is a solid 10-footer, and the cosmetic deficiencies allow me to be less precious with it, which is good.

The stereo is an aftermarket unit from about five years ago, and it isn’t exactly up with modern capabilities, so it needs to go. The speakers are 15-year-old stock units, and I think only half of them show up for work on any given day. The good news is that these are things I can do myself, and Crutchfield offers plenty of choices for my car. 

Since I’ve been driving it, I’ve noticed the seal around the rear window in the convertible top is deteriorating. So that’s going to require some attention before summer. I’m not sure exactly what my options are, but I’m sure what seems to be a simple thing to fix will require a new top. As they say, when it comes to convertibles, you need to mentally put a dollar (or five) in the jar every time you operate the top because you’re just getting closer to needing a new one. 

Years of neglect are showing

Knowing everything that transpired since I bought the car in March, would I do things differently if given a redo? Hell yes. I should’ve put this car through the same level of scrutiny I would’ve if I didn’t know the seller. If an inspection highlighted the issues before buying, I would’ve moved on and continued to search for something else. But I didn’t, so now I must right the wrongs and move on. I’ll need to keep this car for a while to get the appropriate amount of enjoyment for the money I’ve spent. 

Keeping the car for a while is fine with me, for now, because the car is super fun. Let’s face it; a Porsche Boxster is the kind of car every enthusiast should have in the stable. It’s a car I used to erroneously call a Miata in a tuxedo (and I loved my Miata) in my younger days. Now that I have one, I realize it is so much more than a sharp-looking Miata, which is high praise indeed. 

While I rarely keep a car for very long, this is one I feel I need to own for a while and make it my own. I’ve already made one upgrade by swapping the tired stock suspension for a very choice setup from Motion Control Suspension. After an awful experience with coil-overs on my wife’s C5 Z06, I hesitated to do this, but I know the people at MCS are as quality as their product. I have seen how well they perform and hold up on the racetrack, yet they are not too extreme for street driving. The setup is impressive, and the ride is not much harsher than stock, but the response and handling is much better. The adjustability also allows me to raise and lower the ride height, and everyone knows a lowered sports car looks real nice!

Low, but not too low

Only time will tell if I can avoid being distracted by another bright shiny vehicle long enough to make this car a long-term resident. I plan on making the Boxster the subject of periodic updates here, so stay tuned. 

Author: Ryan Carignan

I am an automotive enthusiast, writer, and photographer; welcome to my blog!