BOXSTER MIXED FOR­TUNES

Jeremy Laird’s Cay­man to Boxster swap was go­ing well un­til the wa­ter pump failed. Speedy ac­tion un­der war­ranty sweet­ened the pill, and paved the way for a week­end with a Boxster 2.5, too

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Clank, whine, rat­tle, fiz­zle... oh hell, what's that? It was upon this very cliff I left you hang­ing last is­sue, al­beit in a side-col­umn ex­cerpt rather than the full di­ary-style ex­po­si­tion. But let’s not get ahead of our­selves. Since last we met, the Box has put quite a few miles un­der its belt. Over 5500 since I picked it up in July, ac­tu­ally, or about a decade’s worth of typ­i­cal mod­ern Porsche GT car us­age.

Catty re­marks aside, those miles in­cluded an im­promptu sprint to a friend’s house in France and criss-cross­ing the south of Eng­land for var­i­ous so­cial and do­mes­tic du­ties. I caught the sec­ond half or so of what was a com­pletely crack­ing sum­mer, of course, which made it all the eas­ier to en­joy the Box rather than waste time sec­ond guess­ing my 987-to-986 tran­si­tion. So, it was prob­a­bly fit­ting that just as the weather be­gan to turn that the afore­men­tioned sound­track kicked in.

In­evitably, it was on an es­sen­tial jour­ney to col­lect my sis­ter from hos­pi­tal. But I knew the game was up. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the noises were omi­nous. I stopped im­me­di­ately to be greeted by steam bil­low­ing out from the driver’s side rear air in­take and a drib­ble of liq­uid just ahead of the rear wheel. It was pretty ob­vi­ously the wa­ter pump, which was good be­cause it wasn’t ter­mi­nal but bad be­cause it meant I wasn’t go­ing any­where then and there.

Long story short, the AA col­lected the car and shipped it down to Martin Reed of North Devon Porsche. That process was a lit­tle bit painful due to the AA’S pol­icy of treat­ing trans­port dif­fer­ently de­pend­ing on whether you re­main with the ve­hi­cle, and also thanks to the break­down hap­pen­ing on a Fri­day. But by Mon­day af­ter­noon the car was with Martin and all was es­sen­tially well. By the end of the week, the Box was back in ac­tion.

As it hap­pens, the Box spit­ting its wa­ter pump was also a chance for Sean De­whurst of Flat Six Clas­sics, who sold me the car, to shine. Which he duly did. The Box came with six months and 6000 miles of in­ter­nally un­der­writ­ten cover from Sean. That he was true to his com­mit­ment and cov­ered the costs of the wa­ter pump was wel­come enough. How­ever, Sean clearly

went above and be­yond by lend­ing me one of his stock in the mean­time, en­sur­ing I was with­out wheels for as lit­tle time as pos­si­ble. Put sim­ply, one couldn’t ask for more.

That also gave me the chance to get reac­quainted with an old friend in the form of an early 2.5-litre 986. Not ac­tu­ally my own old 2.5, which frankly would have been too ropey for the likes of Sean to re­tail. But a rather nice 50-some­thing thou­sand mile ex­am­ple in sil­ver with Metropole Blue ex­tended leather. And what a be­guil­ing lit­tle car it was.

For starters, there’s ab­so­lutely no ques­tion there’s that lit­tle bit more pu­rity in all as­pects of those early 2.5s. They feel ev­ery bit the clas­sic car and in a good way. For starters, the cleaner looks with no cen­tral air in­take up front, plus sim­ple black plas­tic grilles for the two main ra­di­a­tor in­takes and no fussy ‘ti­ta­nium’ strip around the wind­screen, as per 3.2S, is a sub­tle but def­i­nite im­prove­ment (in ret­ro­spect) over the 3.2-litre cars. In­side, it’s a sim­i­lar story. There’s no plas­tic painted sil­ver to make it look like metal and that’s all for the good.

The drive is also un­ques­tion­ably that lit­tle bit more old school. There’s marginally more feed­back from the con­trols and through your bum. You can hear much more trans­mis­sion whine and road noise, too. Put sim­ply, the whole car feels more me­chan­i­cal than even an early 3.2-litre 986 Boxster like mine. Of course, my 986 feels more me­chan­i­cal than an early 987. And so it goes, with each suc­cess­ful gen­er­a­tion adding abil­ity but los­ing a lit­tle in the process. Choos­ing a Porsche, I’m in­creas­ingly re­al­is­ing, is all about where you draw that line be­tween ca­pa­bil­ity and char­ac­ter. There’s no right or wrong, just a per­sonal sweetspot.

So did the 2.5 have me han­ker­ing for that lit­tle bit more in­volve­ment? I re­alise that this will make many guf­faw, but I hon­estly think the lit­tle 2.5 has as much charm and merit as a clas­sic car as some­thing like an early air cooled 911S, let’s say the 2.2 for the sake of ar­gu­ment and be­cause I’ve driven a re­ally nice ex­am­ple a lit­tle while back. For sure, I’d say the Boxster sounds bet­ter and goes at least as well or bet­ter. Its steer­ing is as sweet, its shift miles bet­ter, if rather loose and long com­pared to the pre­cise and tight ac­tion of my own 3.2.

Look, I’m not say­ing the Boxster is bet­ter than a £150,000 air cooled 911. Ob­vi­ously the 911 is far rarer and more fash­ion­able. But as a car to drive and en­joy, I’d say they’re sim­ply dif­fer­ent rather than one be­ing bet­ter than the other. I even think the early Boxster cabin has a lovely clas­sic feel now, es­pe­cially with ex­tended leather but oth­er­wise with min­i­mal spec as per the 2.5 Sean leant me.

De­spite all that, I wouldn’t swap my 3.2 for a 2.5. The 2.5 does put you closer to the ma­chine, but only a tiny bit. You lose only a lit­tle in that re­gard with an early 3.2. In re­turn you get what feels like a lot more than a mere 50hp in terms of the power ad­van­tage, plus a gen­er­ally more solid and to­gether feel­ing car with a much bet­ter shift and, to my ears, a more mu­si­cal sound­track at the top end of the rev range. The 3.2, I grant, lacks the 2.5’s de­light­ful low speed whine.

Any­way, it was lovely to be re­minded of just how spe­cial even an early 2.5 986 truly is. For those that tra­di­tion­ally doubt the 986’s cre­den­tials, I doubt any of this will be ter­ri­bly con­vinc­ing. For the rest of us who get Porsche’s first un­am­bigu­ously mod­ern mo­tor car, the 986’s value propo­si­tion con­tin­ues to stun.

Be­low: Jeremy has man­aged to put 5500-miles on the Boxster since July. Good go­ing

Com­pletely stan­dard, right down to the ‘fried egg’ head­lamps. For how long though?

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