PORSCHE PRO­JECTS

In­tro­duc­ing anew Porsche to the fleet: James Rup­pert’s Cayenne V8 S. Plus we say good­bye to Jeremy Laird’s Cay­man, AKA the ‘Croc’

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

To para­phrase Quentin Tarantino, the Croc’s dead, baby. The Croc’s dead. Not at the hand of Marsel­lus Wal­lace in some kind of macabre mod­ern day tor­ture cham­ber. Not, in fact, ac­tu­ally dead at all. But dead to me. For the Croc has been sold and an era ended.

This, of course, comes in com­plete con­tra­dic­tion to my un­equiv­o­cal claim that the Croc was at the very least a long term keeper and just maybe a for­ever car. In my de­fence, four years and 60-odd thou­sand miles hardly ranks as a quick fling. But my ex­pec­ta­tions were cer­tainly for a much longer run. So what hap­pened?

No one sin­gle catas­tro­phe, more a con­flu­ence of events and thoughts led to what was, ul­ti­mately, a re­mark­ably rapid change of heart. From day one back in Au­gust 2014 when I bought the Croc, I’ve had my doubts. I couldn’t quite get its 986 Boxster pre­de­ces­sor out of mind, nor could I en­tirely come to terms with some of the 987’s more mod­ern trap­pings. The re­mote and rub­bery char­ac­ter of its feed­back. The gruff, con­trived sound­track. The oc­ca­sion­ally fussy styling.

Sig­nif­i­cant ef­fort went into sort­ing some of its more ob­vi­ous short­com­ings. A big­ger brake mas­ter cylin­der sorted the pedal feel very nicely. Fun-sized 17-inch rims with skinny tyres did won­ders for the chas­sis’ trans­parency, feed­back and all-round sweet­ness, not to men­tion its on-limit ap­proach­a­bil­ity.

And make no mis­take, there will be plenty of things I’ll miss about the Croc. Most of all, I’ll miss its sense of densely-en­gi­neered so­lid­ity. 987 Cay­mans are among the most, if

not ac­tu­ally the very most, solid-feel­ing cars I’ve ever driven. On pa­per, its 997 coupe sib­ling is even stiffer, but that’s not how it feels. Any­thing newer from Porsche feels rel­a­tively hol­low and plas­tic in com­par­i­son.

I’ll also miss glimps­ing those volup­tuous hips in the side mir­rors and the shapely driver’s side front wing from be­hind the wheel. The prac­ti­cal­ity of the dual boots plus par­cel shelf like­wise mer­its men­tion. De­spite all that, mem­o­ries of the 986 Boxster’s be­guil­ing char­ac­ter sim­ply would not fade. And the fi­nal clincher? That in­volved the long-term out­look for the Croc’s 3.4-litre en­gine, which wasn’t good.

As de­tailed in is­sues of 911&PW pas­sim, my Cay­man had a new en­gine block un­der war­ranty shortly after I bought it and with around 42,000 miles on the clock. With the new block now show­ing around 65,000 miles of its own (for a grand to­tal just un­der 110K on the chas­sis as a whole), fears of a re­peat fail­ure loomed large. After around 35,000 miles on the new block, the oil con­sump­tion be­gan to creep up grad­u­ally. A pair of bore in­spec­tions over the fol­low­ing 18 months re­vealed no ev­i­dence that the bores were on their way out. But with the rate I’d been clock­ing up the miles (20,000, an­nu­ally) the en­gine could eas­ily go from com­pletely fine to ter­mi­nally scored in a sin­gle cal­en­dar year. There’s just no way of know­ing if and when it’s go­ing to hit.

The con­se­quence of that would be a bill for around £12,000 for a qual­ity re­build at the likes of Hartech. Not bad value at all com­pared to the price peo­ple are now pay­ing to have air-cooled 911 en­gines re­freshed. But nev­er­the­less not hugely ap­peal­ing, es­pe­cially when the re­build cost would ri­val the value of the car. I find that lat­ter re­al­ity pretty hard to process.

Any­way, while the un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing the en­gine gnawed away at me, the fact that I could trade the Croc for a low-mile 986 Boxster of my choos­ing for es­sen­tially no out­lay be­came ever harder to ig­nore. I was in two minds about my pref­er­ence for 986 over 987 even with­out en­gine wor­ries. Fac­tor those in and it made the move pretty easy in the end.

The only snag was what, ex­actly, to do with the Croc, which was some­thing of a quandary. As far as I knew, the Croc’s en­gine was OK. But at the same time, I had lit­tle faith it would stay that way. I made a very low key of­fer to sell pri­vately and a few brave souls did make con­tact. But in­vari­ably found my­self talk­ing them out of the pur­chase.

The whole sit­u­a­tion was slightly odd as my Croc was and very likely is no worse a prospect than most high-mile gen 1 987s with the 3.4-litre lump. But then I’d have to say I doubt many if any of them are great long term prospects un­less you are happy to take a re­build in your stride or plan to do very few miles. The bore scor­ing prob­lem with the big­ger M97 en­gines re­ally is a great, great pity.

Long story short, then, I sold it cheap into the trade for a fig­ure lower than £10,000. Pain­ful for such a nicely pre­served car. But such is life. Oh and be­fore some­body sug­gests the 986 Boxster’s en­gine is barely any bet­ter, on that I’d have to dis­agree. With­out go­ing into the de­tails, the 3.2 doesn’t bore score and the IMS is­sue is man­age­able.

What­ever, a 986 3.2 is in­com­ing and quite pos­si­bly it will have been ac­quired by the time you read these words. That is, of course, the car I had orig­i­nally in­tended to buy be­fore mis­sion creep and the se­duc­tion of rel­a­tively shiny new­ness led me down the path to a 987. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bought the Croc. But I didn’t and so I don’t re­gret any of it. My Cay­man may not have been quite to my taste in many ways. The wor­ries over the en­gine woes cer­tainly cast a shadow over the whole ex­pe­ri­ence. And yet it was a fab­u­lous car to live with and gave me four of my very best mo­tor­ing years. It’s very much a mod­ern clas­sic in the mak­ing. So long, Croc, and thanks for all the thrills. PW

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