Motor (Australia) - - BUYING A MODERN CLASSIC -

IN THE MAR­KET for a top-notch driver’s car for un­der $40K? Happy to forgo a war­ranty and grab some­thing that’s al­ready done all its ini­tial de­pre­ci­at­ing – and may even hold its value bet­ter than a new car? Be sure to in­clude on your list the atmo flat-six 986 Porsche Boxster, a car still plen­ti­fully ca­pa­ble at thrilling those who love driv­ing.

The chas­sis and steer­ing are so good that the Boxster can seem un­der­pow­ered, es­pe­cially the 2.5-litre. It sim­ply blooms when driven at the up­per and outer edges of its per­for­mance en­ve­lope, mak­ing you laugh out loud. The noise from be­hind your ears makes you want to send the tachome­ter’s nee­dle into the up­per ranges again and again, the flat-six’s wail com­ing on song around 5000rpm.

The car tack­les coun­try roads with aplomb, its nose re­spond­ing to even the small­est in­puts, the brakes very finely judged. A good Boxster drives like a Porsche should. And it feels solid, just like a Porsche should.

The 986 was also a mul­ti­ple Per­for­mance Car of the Year win­ner, the Boxster claim­ing the 1998 gong, while the pow­ered-up S ver­sion took home the 2000 and 2003 awards. BODY AND PAINTWORK Park on level ground, then start the ex­te­rior ex­am­i­na­tion by check­ing for ob­vi­ous signs of body dam­age or ac­ci­dent re­pairs. Mea­sure the body panel gaps, par­tic­u­larly around the lug­gage com­part­ment lids and the doors. If the gaps are even, chances are the body is straight. Ma­jor in­con­sis­ten­cies in gaps in­di­cate a poor re­pair job.

Grab a torch and peer through the front spoiler to as­sess the con­di­tion of the front-mounted ra­di­a­tors. The ex­cel­lent aero­dy­namic de­sign of the Boxster is fan­tas­tic at draw­ing cool­ing air through the ra­di­a­tors, but it also acts as an enor­mous vac­uum cleaner, suck­ing up any­thing it can from the road sur­face. Make sure the ra­di­a­tors are clear of de­bris, as or­ganic ma­te­ri­als will de­cay and cause cor­ro­sion is­sues. ME­CHAN­I­CALS Check the brake discs (ro­tors), calipers and pads. Pad fric­tion ma­te­rial must be greater than 2mm, and the discs must be free from dam­age or sur­face rust. Look for ev­i­dence of fluid leak­age over any com­po­nents in the wheel

wells, in­clud­ing at the rear of each wheel.

Re­move the bat­tery cover in the cen­tre of the front lug­gage sec­tion and in­spect the bat­tery for con­di­tion, ev­i­dence of acid spill and cor­ro­sion. Ex­am­ine the com­part­ment’s pan­elled ar­eas for mois­ture dam­age and stain­ing.

It’s pos­si­ble to carry out a ba­sic in­spec­tion of the top of the en­gine. Look for ob­vi­ous signs of oil, coolant and power steer­ing fluid leak­age. Ac­cess to the en­gine’s drive belt is via a sep­a­rate panel, lo­cated in­side the rear sec­tion of the cabin.

A known Boxster is­sue is fail­ure of the en­gine’s rear main seal – a give­away sign be­ing when oil be­gins weep­ing from it. Own­ers usu­ally keep an eye on the oil level and get a new RMS fit­ted when the car is hav­ing a clutch change or ser­vice, but if you’re view­ing a car with a weep­ing seal, fac­tor this into your think­ing when hag­gling on price.

It’s also pos­si­ble to check the level and colour of both oil and coolant. If the proper coolant/anti-freeze mix­ture hasn’t been main­tained, the coolant will be a muddy brown colour – con­tam­i­nated coolant in it­self is a rea­son to walk away.

The in­ter­me­di­ate shaft (IMS) bear­ing, which sup­ports the in­ter­me­di­ate shaft on the fly­wheel end of the en­gine is a big prob­lem. This was orig­i­nally de­signed to be a dry op­er­a­tion, but over time oil and con­tam­i­nants from the en­gine can flow down the bear­ing seal, wash away the orig­i­nal lu­bri­ca­tion and be­come stuck in­side. The bear­ing can then start to wear quicker. When it wears out, the tim­ing chains can come loose and the en­gine will soon be­come an ex-en­gine.

The cen­tre bolt that holds it all to­gether can also be prob­lem­atic. If the bolt breaks, the IMS will float, the en­gine will go out of time and blow up. A break­ing IMS bear­ing will also weaken and break the cen­tre stud. The stud has a groove to al­low for a seal­ing O-ring to seal to the outer cover. The groove causes a stress con­cen­tra­tion to hap­pen, which makes stud fail­ure much more likely. It's best to re­move the bear­ing and re­place the stud with a newer, stronger and groove­less one.

If there's a rat­tling that goes away 10 sec­onds after startup or un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion, this is a sign that the chains or the bear­ing are rat­tling around in the en­gine. To de­tect an earlystage prob­lem, if you hear some­thing akin to wa­ter pump/belt idler pul­ley fail­ure, get the car in the air and iso­late the sound with a stetho­scope. You can also check the oil fil­ter for the pres­ence of metal frag­ments from ball bear­ings, or black plas­tic from the seal bear­ing. Al­ter­na­tively, use di­ag­nos­tic tools to see if the cam tim­ing is out.

IN­TE­RIOR In­spect all in­te­rior fit­tings and as­sem­blies, in­clud­ing as­sess­ing the con­di­tion of both seats, en­sur­ing none of the trim is cracked, torn, faded or miss­ing. Check all elec­tric seat func­tions are work­ing cor­rectly, es­pe­cially seat heat­ing (if in­stalled). A cracked dash­board is ex­tremely ex­pen­sive to re­pair. Run the elec­tric win­dows up and down, firstly to en­sure they work as in­tended, but also to see if there’s any mois­ture trapped in the door.

Op­er­ate the power roof to make sure it works cor­rectly, then ex­am­ine the fab­ric closely, as it’s very ex­pen­sive to re­place. Check seal­ing, wa­ter drains and the con­di­tion of the rear win­dow, plus con­di­tion and align­ment of the frame with the roof open and closed. If the op­tional hard­top is in­cluded in the sale, check for match­ing colour and con­di­tion, while mak­ing sure all fit­tings are present and in good or­der.

All 986 Boxsters are fit­ted with a col­lapsi­ble spare tyre assem­bly in­stalled in the front lug­gage com­part­ment. Re­move its cover and in­spect, as well as en­sur­ing the air com­pres­sor and as­so­ci­ated ac­ces­sories are present.

Happy Boxster buy­ing.

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