My first Porsche

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My first Porsche

I have a conjecture about people and the car models they like that draws from the psychological concept of Imprinting: people’s first and strongest attachment to a particular Porsche model comes from the earlier part of their life and reflects their first significant awareness of that model.  For me, that model is the late 80s 911 Carrera with the so-called “whale-tail”.  People a few years older than me, or who had the good luck to become Porsche-aware sooner than me, appear fixated on the 1973 911RS with its duck tail – an amazing car to be sure but not my favorite 911.  

This “theory” of mine applies to Porsche’s pure racing cars too – I’m mesmerized by the 956/962 era prototypes and while I can’t deny the significance or dominance of the 917, it is, in some sense, “before my time”.

My first Porsche was an ‘88 911 Carrera coupe with a whale tail.  I lucked into my opportunity to buy that car in 1999 as a colleague was taking advantage of an early retirement incentive my employer offered (that’s not a euphemism) and was divesting himself of all things in preparation for an interstate move for he and his wife to be closer to their adult daughter.  

Let’s call this guy “PO” (“previous owner”) to respect his privacy.  PO took me to see his independent Porsche mechanic, nominally for an inspection of the car.  When we got there the mechanic told us “Look, there’s only two things that go wrong with this car and they’re both relatively minor.  If either happens within six months, you two agree to split the cost of repair. Agreed?” and that was the end of the pre-purchase inspection.

I can’t even remember if I test-drove this car but now it was mine and I was immediately overcome with buyer’s remorse – how come the brake pedal and the gas pedal were in different zip codes? How am I supposed to heel-toe under these circumstances?  Why are all the ventilation settings ineffective but most sound like a hurricane is brewing? Why is the steering as heavy as a that of a mover’s truck around town?  Was the layout of the dash assigned to the summer intern (or more likely successive summer interns – I’m looking at you wiper switches!)?

I consoled myself with the thought that one can get used to anything.  Oh, and the sweet thrum of that air-cooled 3.2 liter flat-six.  As an afterthought PO had told me “oh, you should join the club and get this thing out on the track” as he handed me a set of used brake pads for the street.  What? That’s a thing?  A legal thing?  So I did. And he was right.  On the track, that 911, ostensibly a street car, was totally at home. I tracked that car for the better part of a decade until I eventually got a dedicated track car.

I’m not sure if I have any colleagues with 956s or 962s in their garages impeding their ability to retire cross-country but if I do, call me.



What are the two things that go wrong with late 80’s 911 Carreras?  The DME relay fails (always carry a spare) and the stock rear sway bar mounts can be torn from the body if you corner hard.

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