Wednesday, 20 June 2012


I dropped in at my local playground earlier this week as I was passing. You may know it as Goodwood circuit.

A Cobra had blasted past me heading in the other direction as I approached, alerting me to the possibility of there being some sort of event going on. McLaren use it to demonstrate their latest MP4-12C software update (I think they're up to V5.19 this week), so there's often something interesting circulating.

Not such luck this time, it was the usual mix of Caterfields, Lotus Elise's and a couple of lost looking Porsche Panameras. As I stood on the deck above the pits, a red hatchback appeared from the chicane, and accelerated past at a highly impressive rate. It was Vauxhall's latest attempt to dethrone VW and Ford, the Astra VXR, and with a claimed 276bhp its got the ammunition, even if it does have to drag 1475kgs around.

What was particularly noticeable (or not) was the engine note. No clear 4 pot wail as it headed towards 7000rpm for this hot hatch; all that was emitted from the designer pipes was a discrete whistling drone, for all the world as if it were powered by Dilithium Crystal.

Have EU drive past regulations and the universal adoption of turbo's consigned a clear crisp exhaust note to history?

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Undervalued; the Porsche 964

I've noticed a definite re-evaluation recently, of the ginger haired orphan stepchild of the 911 dynasty, the '89 to '93 964.

Chastised as being neither modern, nor traditional, and with a tendency to generate big bills, the 964 was the one you looked at before buying a 993 or a Carrera 3.2.

The 964RS was an obvious exception, good examples now starting to follow on the coat tails of its more illustrious 1973 predecessor, and you'd have to dig 6 figure deep for a very good one.

Except, except.....

The 964 was the result of Porsche's first significant investment in the 911 for 15 years. The C4's transmission system was derived from that of the 959, and the 3600cc engine had twin plugs and gave a healthy 250bhp and good economy and emissions. The suspension used coil springs for the first time in a road going 911, and the specification included ABS, and a decent heating system for the first time in air-cooled cars. It even had active aero, with a rear wing that extended to give additional cooling and downforce at speed, yet hid way at a standstill to preserve the traditional 911 profile.

And that's the key point; the 964 is the last Porsche to retain the classic 911 profile, and yet it has all the mod cons, refinement and usability you'd expect from a 90's car. In fact, in 1998 I have fond memories of a six year old car that I used daily, and in which I reached 265kph on an Autobahn.

I'm clearly not the only one who has revised my option, prices of the few good 964's remaining have hardened over the past 24 months, and the very best are now on the market at dealers with asking prices on the mid-20s.

So I've put my money where my mouth is.

I picked this up from today. Its a 1990 C4 with 45,000 miles on the clock, and looks like new. Peter Morgan checked it over and commented that its the best 964 that he's seen for a very long time.

Do you like the registration?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

991 Prices - too cheap?

The prevailing view of the keyboard jockeys on various motoring forums is that the new 991's sales in the UK have been disappointing, and that the cause is the supposedly inflated prices, as you 'have' to pay at least £95,000 for a 'decent' specification.

Not only have they been suckered into over-indulging from Porsche's option list, but they have short memories too.

A 3.4litre 991 (in what they'll have you believe is the poverty specification) produces 350bhp, drags itself 60mph in about 4.5seconds and on to 180mph. I fail to believe that this is not more than sufficient for the UK's crowded roads, and more importantly, quite enough to have a load of fun and is probably the sweetest driving 911 available. It also comes with a 7 speed gearbox, 19" wheels, navigation, a 9 speaker/235watt sound system, bi-Xenon lights, climate, leather seats, and a long list of electronic luxury and safety too-dahs, all as standard in its £72,500 price.

By way of contrast, here are the list prices of (993)911s eighteen years ago:

911 Carrera - Manual - £56,495
911 Carrera - Tip - £59,470

911 Carrera 4 - Manual - £59,845

911 RS - £65,245

911 Turbo - £91,950

And a little further back the list prices of 1992 964s in 1992 pounds were

911 C2 Coupe - Manual £48,310
911 C2 Coupe - Tip £50,914
911 C2 Cab Turbo Look - Tip - £70,294

911 C4 Coupe  - Manual £55,347
911 C4 Cab - Manual  £61,417

911 Turbo 3.3 £75,306

911 Carrera RS - £61,100

And you can add £2181 for aircon to all of those, £800 for an alarm, £995 for metallic paint, and £3084 for leather.

So a 250bhp 964 C4 coupe with air, leather and paint would have been around £62,000.

So it beats me why a 385bhp 991 C4S at £81,000 represents some sort of wildly optimistic pricing strategy on Porsche's part. According to the inflation calculator I found the equivalent to the 964's price would be £103,000.


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Flying Banana

There has been a change in The Car List Blog's fleet.

For a while now the space in the garage for an 'interesting' car has remained empty. But early this year the planets aligned favourably, and I was able to start the hunt for something suitable. My parameters were fairly simple:
- adequate performance for modern roads
- a satisfying driving experience
- 3 or more seats
- a sensible ownership proposition; so good reliability, spares availability and specialist support
- low (if any depreciation)

I considered, and rejected plenty of possible candidates, from 30's vintage tourers, to classic British iron like Stags or Bristols, through to Youngtimers like the Mercedes 190E-16 or Audi Quattro.

Finally, and somewhat predictably, the only candidate remaining on my shortlist was some variety of Porsche 911. The later, water cooled cars offer incredible value at the moment, but big question marks over drive-train longevity are still pulling prices downwards. The late 80s and 90s 964s and 993s are a better fit, but from what I can see there's a good chance most examples will require money spent on suspension, and corrosion is becoming a growing issue. The same can be said for the middle year cars build from 1974 to 1989; a lot of solid looking cars hiding significant rust. While anything can be fixed, the costs can mount up rapidly, and you won't see back a 5 figure sum spent on refreshing rusty metal.

But you might on an early car; those built using the original 'long hood' or 'pre-Impact Bumper' body shape in the decade from 1963. So the decision was made, the now to find a car. The challenge was presented by the market; the price of early 911s started to move upward several years ago, and the very best cars are now being traded for serious money - £50,000 and up. Perhaps I could find something that might form a solid base, and improve it over time? I'm no stickler for originality and I love some of the hotrods built by R-Gruppe members in the US are lovely things......

As it happened, I had to spend a couple of weeks working in Florida in January. Before leaving I did idly run some web searches to see if anything suitable was available, but I wasn't about to spend hours traipsing around the state looking at old cars, time was short anyway and my main focus was on delivering some value to my client.

Then one Thursday evening driving back from the office to my lodgings south of Daytona Beach, I caught out of the corner of an eye the unmistakable profile of a 911 roofline, with it's windows framed in chrome. It was sitting in the showroom of what looked to be a dealer in main street, so I decided I may as well return at the weekend and have a look.

It emerged out that the chrome windowed car I'd spotted was a 2.7litre 911S from 1974. A lovely thing, but yet to have much of a following in the UK, and not what I was searching for. I mentioned to the owner, an expat Austrian, that my preference was for an early car, and he beckoned me to follow him. He led me through the showroom, and through double doors into a large workshop at the back of his unit. Sitting on a lift was a tired looking bright yellow 911, with oxidised paint, wide rear arches, obviously fake Fuchs road wheels, and generic 90's sports seats and steering wheel.

I took a closer look, expecting to find rust in all the usual places. But all the metal looked solid, apart from a section near the front towing eye. In fact, the more I looked, the more solid it seemed.  It wouldn't start though, so I had no-way of checking the state of the mechanicals, but it is the bodywork that's the deal breaker in these old 911s.

I took the opportunity to take a lot of photographs, and later that day uploaded them to my photo-server and emailed the links to a couple of specialists in the UK, asking them to give it a once over. The replies came through within 24 hours, neither could find obvious problems in the photos and gave the car a cautious ok. I left an offer with the dealer, suggesting a lower price that the one he'd picked off the wall, and asking for some remedial work to be undertaken.

By this time I'd returned to the UK and so the usual banter over price took place by email, and by the end of the week the car was mine, and was on its way to the UK.

All I could do was wait and hope that when it finally arrived the car was better than I'd remembered and no worse than I feared.