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.

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