PH CARPOOL: PORSCHE 911 CABRIO
This week's Carpooler wanted a 4x4 for ski trips - 160,000 miles on and he's not looked back!
Car: 1990 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 Cabriolet (964)
Owned since: May 2004
Previously owned: Morris 10, Citroen 2CV, Triumph Mayflower, 1946 MG TC (which I still have), Lotus 6 special with Ashley body, Morris Minor convertible, Austin Healey Sprite Mk2, Lotus 7 series two, Austin Healey Sprite Mk4, MGB GT (chrome bumpers), Morris Minor Traveller (bad mistake, caused by children!), Ford Escort, Ford Fiesta XR2, another Fiesta XR2, Ford Granada Ghia, Ford Granada Scorpio, Jaguar S-Type 4-litre, Jaguar S-Type 2.7-litre (which I still have).
"The exhaust note! The cat must have fallen off at some stage before I bought the car, and a piece of straight pipe was all that could be found to replace it! I'd hankered after a 911 ever since finding myself drooling over an early bright red Targa regularly parked at a squash club where I used to play back in the 80s. My long term wish to own a Porsche went back further, as the really smart sports car to own in the early 60s in the States, where I lived for a time as a teenager, was the 356. I always thought they looked superb, especially with a pair of skis on a rack on the back and blonde in the passenger seat! Watching those fantastic 917s racing in the 70s kept my interest alive but they were, and still are, way out of my reach!
"Coming back down to Earth, the search for a good 911 in my price range was frustrating in the extreme, and I concluded that most adverts did not indicate that a car was genuinely for sale, but usually that the owner was demonstrating to his other half that he 'really was trying to sell' so they could afford the new bathroom/kitchen/baby/etc. But when it came to arranging a viewing or test-driving the car, it was somehow never quite convenient and/or the owner would say that he would never let anyone else drive the car. I had almost given up when Persephone (yes, the car is named after the beautiful wife of Hades, which somehow seemed appropriate) turned up for sale in a local paper. The car looked very good for its age and a refreshingly trusting owner gave me the keys to take her for a test drive without quibbling. It was a sunny day so the roof was down, and as I accelerated onto the A130 dual carriageway that exhaust note sold it there and then!"
"Nothing really! That's probably because I did a fair bit of research, joined one of the Porsche clubs (TIPEC) to pick up some intelligence, which incidentally converted my preference from a Targa to a Cabriolet. I read a bit about older 911s' problems and I realised I was going to have to budget for a few fairly expensive mechanical repairs at some stage on a £20K car which had 69,000 miles on the clock. I had Persephone checked over by an ex-Official Porsche Centre mechanic before completing the purchase, so I also had a fair idea of what those repairs were likely to be, at least in the first stages of ownership. My tip to potential purchasers of similar cars would be to do as much research as they can and to get an independent check carried out by a specialist. Bear in mind that Porsches really are different, and even cars as old as the 964 have a lot of relatively sophisticated control systems and unusual/advanced mechanics, so don't expect your average mechanic to be able to sort out problems. There are lots of specialist garages however, and the local PCGB or TIPEC members will provide intelligence on which offer best value for money."
"Driving the car! It's addictive! It's also very comfortable to drive on a long journey. The seats are superbly designed and offer plenty of lateral support, so an eight-hour drive to the Alps leaves you feeling as if you've not really been very far at all. People come up to me at petrol stations to ask about the car or to say how much they've always wanted one, children wave when they're in an adjacent car in traffic, and other drivers will often give a thumbs-up or wind down a window at traffic lights to ask or comment on the car. People even pull over to let me pass when I'm in Persephone, not all of course, but it is noticeably more than when I'm driving the Jag.
"It's motoring in the raw, and there's no stability management to keep you out of trouble, but the brakes are excellent and a concession to safety is ABS. There's the four-wheel drive system with roughly 70 per cent of the power being transmitted to the rear wheels and 30 per cent to the front in normal conditions, but electronic controls vary the power distribution to each axle according to grip, so driving in the snow is easier than it could be, but the handling characteristics generally in slippery conditions take a bit of getting used to.
Things I hate:
"What? Hate? Nothing! Some irritants there are, I have to confess, among which are slow moving traffic (hard on the clutch leg), 4X4s in the outside lane blocking my view, water ingress into the rear footwalls (a complete mystery as to cause, and if anyone can provide me with the solution I'll gladly buy them a drink), a tendency to stall when cold and, to nit-pick, the headlights and wipers are not quite up to the top speed of the car!"
"Don't know exactly. One of these days I'll file the receipts properly and do a calculation. Persephone has now covered around 227,000 miles, of which I've done 158,000, so around 18,000 miles a year and so I'd expect to have paid out a bit for maintenance and repairs. The big jobs I have had done are a full respray in 2009 by Chaplain in Colchester, and an engine rebuild at 200,000 miles to stop the oil leaks (common on all the air cooled engines), the latter job carried out by Autostrasse in Coggeshall, which looks after all my servicing needs."
Where I've been:
"Too many places to cover here! Lots of trips to Scotland, mostly Perthshire and one up to Skye for a holiday, South Wales to Swansea and beyond, numerous trips to Exeter and Bristol in the West Country, and regular visits to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. For the last few years I've been to the Alps twice each skiing season, taking in a look at the Rallye Monte Carlo Historique cars at Valence en route before heading for all those wondrous twisty alpine roads (and some tunnels)! Two summer time French tours were great fun, one to Macon, Briancon and the Route Napoleon to Nice, Monte Carlo (for a drink at the Ras Cas), the Corniche to St Tropez and then home via the Millau Bridge in 2010.
"More of the same! No plans to replace Persephone. I've never owned a car I've enjoyed as much! Should complete the distance to the moon next year (239K miles or thereabouts I believe), which will be a milestone, and possibly a quarter of a million miles in 2014. I put the winter wheels and tyres on last weekend, and I'm currently planning a skiing trip to the Alps in Jan/Feb, and possibly a gourmet weekend in France in April or May. As I write this however, I'm simply looking forward to driving Persephone wherever business or pleasure next happens to take me!"