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