THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Stay with the Porsche you know? Or take your chances with the devilry that is buying an older model? As Jeremy Laird weighs up whether to keep his Cayman or chop it in for a 986 Boxster, he also ponders whether the simple desire for change is what underli
Jeremy Laird has his say
STICK OR TWIST?
After nearly four years and some 65,000 miles, I’ve had a good crack with the Croc. In many ways, it’s been the best car I’ve owned. I’ve driven it far further and far harder than any other car. It’s also been the worst. The Croc has suffered from more mechanical faults than any previous steed, including total engine failure. Either way, my internet browser history of late tells a particular tale. It’s littered with ads for 986 Boxsters. I’m obsessed.
Question is, would I actually prefer a 986 Boxster? Or is it really just something different – anything different – that I’m after? This is surely a question that’s crossed the mind of many a Porscheholic. After all, there’s a fair amount of risk that comes with buying any secondhand car. But that’s especially true of Porsches. No amount of due diligence can guarantee avoidance of a lemon. Wouldn’t it be rum to jump out of a fully functional, known quantity of a 987 Cayman and into a basket case Boxster, basically out of boredom?
Indeed, many would question the sanity of such a move, regardless of the risk factor. Surely a 987 Croc is unambiguously superior to a 986 Box? I’m not so sure. For me 986 engines sound a lot sweeter. The whole car is a little more honest and authentic, its styling simpler and cleaner. Hell, I even prefer the more compact cabin ambience of the 986. I know, I know. Bonkers.
Of course, I’m not so bonkers that I don’t notice the bendiness of the 986 Boxster’s chassis. They’re seriously sheddy by modern standards, in that regard. Or how short it is on outright puff (even in 3.2-litre configuration) or handling precision. But then, nobody seems to mind paying six figures for old 911s with even less performance and steering firmness to rival an over-ripe avocado. Which isn‘t to criticise old 911s. They’re lovely. But like the 986, you don’t buy them for technical superiority. You desire them for the way they make you feel when you look at them or drive them.
More to the point, the 986 remains criminally undervalued, which means I could very likely swap out of my high mile 987 into a pristine low mile 986 at essentially no cost. I might even end up with a bit of petrol money left over. But what I really want to do is avoid regretting the transaction. Flogging the Croc and then discovering I’d made a mistake could be costly, especially since I’d probably decline to return to a 3.4-litre gen 1 987 due to engine reliability concerns. And I don’t fancy paying an extra £10k on top for the gen 2 model.
On the other hand, I’d also like to avoid waking up one day, deciding it is a 986 Boxster I want after all and finding they’ve quintupled in value in the intervening period. Not likely you say? Perhaps, but then did you or anyone else really foresee that people would be paying £50,000 for rusty old 964s or £100,000 to have a 911T fully restored?
One fairly obvious solution would be to buy a 986 and keep the Croc alongside for a while. 986s are cheap enough that this is fairly feasible in terms of purchase price. The problem is doubling up on insurance, road tax and other maintenance costs, not to mention the fact that I only have a single garage slot. Running two Porsches would be an expensive endeavour. I’m not up for that. Or leaving one outside, for that matter.
What’s really vexing is that I previously owned a 986 Boxster and have driven plenty of examples. So, I’m very familiar with both options. But I still don’t know what to do. Is it simply change I’m after? Or do I really prefer 986 Boxsters? At which point you’re probably thinking, get over yourself and your first world problem involving Porsches. Entirely fair, but unfortunately no help at all on a Sunday evening when a particularly clean and unmolested 986 pops up on Autotrader.
Having said all that, it’s probably only finding the right example and my general fear of the unknown with any secondhand car that’s preventing me from making the swap. If there was a perfect 986 3.2S in the right spec sitting outside right now, I’d let the Croc go. I’m certain of that. So it will probably happen if I can find the right car. I’m just not sure if I’ll live to regret it.
A 987 Cayman for a 986 Boxster? It might seem like a backwards step, but
911&PW’S news hound, Jeremy Laird, is obsessing about the 986’s plus points, but ultimately is it just change for change’s sake? Expect to see a Boxster 986 in the ‘Projects’ pages very soon...