2001 Boxster Retroview
I don’t think there is a greater motoring experience than the feeling of wind-in-your hair on a great care free sunny day down your favourite twisty road. I bought a Boxster to satisfy the roofless craving and ran it for three years. Here is my retrospective thoughts on the ownership experience, along with the problems encountered and the financial impact in doing so…
My introduction to the experience of Porsche ownership began in 2005 with the 2001 986 model Boxster 2.7. Having owned an MR2 before this, I was looking to move up the motoring ladder and a recent promotion meant that the Boxster was now on the radar. So I set about looking for one. There were loads for sale, but there was also a lot of rubbish out there.
My journey took me several hundreds of miles to be met with lots of disappointment and frustration. From cars that were generally tatty (one hadn’t even been cleaned!), cars having rust(!) and one which I initially purchased until the agreed day of inspection by a professional at which point the seller backed out.
I eventually found my car 100 miles from home, in Lapis Blue. The owner had just washed it as I turned up and in the sunlight it looked great. Lapis has a purple tinge which gave the car a more unique colouring than the midnight blue colour that I had originally purchased.
Time for a test drive.
The owner lived on a farm and there were plenty of small, quiet roads to give the car a road test. The roof was down and the ride was enjoyable. Then I took a turning down a narrow road with a church that was in the final throws of a wedding celebration. The photographer – and all the guests – were out in the middle of the road. And there was me, sheepishly creeping towards them – roof down – with another bloke sat next to me.
That was my first experience of fully fledged self-consciousness. As I shrunk into my seat (as best as a 6’4″ bloke in a small sports car possibly can), I uttered various apologies as the waves parted allowing us through.
The seller – my passenger – seemed largely oblivious to the attention – something I later attribute to having owned the car for some time, you become incognizant to the attention the car can attract. My spirits were heightened to a ‘done deal’ level as we crawled past the attractive bridesmaids who dutifully commented “oooh, nice car”.
20 minutes later, I had me a Boxster, subject to inspection.
The inspection report (done by Peter Morgan, if you ever need one in the UK) highlighted a few niggling faults, but nothing to be too wary of. Overall the report stated it was a good buy, at a decent price. Slightly over what I wanted to pay, but this was a 2.7, rather than the 2.5’s that I had been looking at previously. In fairness, I couldn’t tell the difference between the engines but from a resale perspective I figured a 2.7 would be a better bet with the added bonus that I was stretching to a newer car, with presumably newer and better internal components. It also had the revised Tequipment model wheels, which are similar to the “S” model wheels but less rounded with a more edgy design. I liked them a lot.
Driving home, after buying my new car was both a wonderful and scary experience. I’d just paid £18,500 for a Porsche. That’s by far and away the most I’d ever spent on a car and I’d just bought a legendary badge with a preconception of wealth. That made me scared and proud. With these thoughts I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. Maybe I should have stayed within my comfort zone and bought a ‘normal’ car? I stepped out of the box with the MR2, maybe this was a step too far?
“Porsche Panic” – a common affliction that affects mere mortals who purchase desirable Marques – started to settle in on the way home. However, after about 30 minutes this feeling subsided as I thought “aah, fek it!”. Pressing the loud pedal a little harder and glancing in the rear view mirror at those wide Boxster hips helped to bring me to a grinning calm.
I was in a Porsche Boxster. Me. I’d got one. It was all mine and truth be told, I couldn’t be happier!!
Driving and Ownership
Driving the Boxster is fantastic. Walking outside and seeing the sun shining on those rare occasions in Britain comes with the immediate thought “TOP DOWN!!” – and you’ll find excuses to drive places. Weekends away and regular days out became a very common occurrence. Its a feeling I’ve never had before or since in another car. The lapis blue looks fantastic when clean – it really gleams in the day, and looks dark and shiny at night. However, it attracts dirt like the colour black and requires lots of cleaning to keep at its optimum pose level.
The car has taken me all over the country and I’ve only ever had positive comments about the car. It turns heads, people ask you about it and kids will point and mouth “Porsche” as you drive by. From a pure vanity point of view, its cool! Porsche is now common enough that it won’t attract much attention in the car park, meaning you can leave it at Tesco’s without worrying that it’ll be a photo opportunity for passers by, nor a noticeable item worth a punt by a thieving chancer.
The car handles beautifully and inspires confidence when applying effort to your driving. You can corner at speeds which are both safe and fun, and feel like your being rewarded for your efforts.
The interior of the 986 is very curvy and there are some neat little styling cues marking a notable attention to detail in the cabin. The swooping lines which follow along the doors and door pocket covers look great, the instruments are nicely placed to glance at (I love how Porsche deem that the rev counter is more important than the speedometer!). The Becker stereo (with Sound Package Plus option) kicks out some meaty bass without being overbearing. The standard speaker system is pretty terrible though, getting very breathless at even moderate volumes. The Sound Package Plus, or the Bose are definitely worthy of consideration if you like your choons bangin’.
As a tallie, its perhaps a little too cramped inside and longer journeys require a couple of stops to get out for a stretch. A small price to pay for such a rewarding driving experience though.
I purchased a Smart Top relay for my car, meaning you can drop the roof whilst moving at up to 30mph. This is a great feature, meaning you don’t have to pull up with the handbrake on to active the roof mechanism.
I also bought a set of clear lights to freshen up the face of the car. A worthwhile investment, and makes the car look more modern. Clear lights came standard from 2003 model cars, whereby all the indicators are either ‘smoked’ or clear in colour, rather than yellow. This lessons the ‘chucky egg’ effect of the front assembly.
For the summer time, I bought a set of “Speedster humps”. These are genuine Porsche items from the Tequipment range. They affix to the hard top fixing kit and attach to the roll bar. I thought they looked pretty smart, and covered the visible fabric when the roof was down.
As my car was kept outside, I also sourced a hard-top for the car. This required additional Spinlocks to be fitted, so that the roof can be mounted on the car (cost about £50). These will only have been pre-fitted to cars which have had a hardtop at some point in their life, so most cars will need these before a hardtop can be attached. The hardtop was brilliant – it made the cabin noticeably quieter and warmer for the winter months, and gave the car a different look to the convertible. Two cars for the price of one; can’t be bad!
All these items (except maybe the humps!) are a good investment if your thinking of purchasing. Although the initial outlay is expensive, you recoup most of these cost if you sell them on again separate to the car itself. Over 3 years, although the above items cost around £1,700 initially, they were all sold on for about £1200 with most of the loss being from the hardtop and humps, due to having them re-sprayed in blue (you won’t recover this cost, as all colours tend to sell for the same price). However, as the roof saved the aging fabric from the harshness of the winter months, this meant that I didn’t have to buy a replacement during my ownership.
As mentioned, my Boxster was inspected by Peter Morgan who also writes for 911 & Porsche World magazine. One of the photos he took of my car was later featured in the Boxster buying guide supplement in one of the magazine issues. I was delighted when browsing the magazines in WHSmiths I saw my car proud of place on the back page! I bought 3 copies!
Reliability and Costs
Now, you may have heard about the ‘legendary build quality’ of Porsche. So had I, one of the reasons for looking at the Boxster. Back in 1996, when the Boxster was introduced, this statement of Porsche was based largely on one car; the iconic 911. By all accounts, this was a supercar and rivalled the likes of Maserati, Lotus and Ferrari – all of which seemingly required nothing more than a stiff breeze to have the internal engine components shrivel up and die, leaving you stranded in whichever bus stop or lay by you could coast to. By comparison then, the everyday supercar from Porsche really was something special. You could actually use it in all weather – any time that it suited you. But that doesn’t mean you necessarily should do. This superb reliability compares well to other supercars of the same era – but not really compared to that MX5 you were considering, nor the German engineering that comes from the VW Golf on your driveway.
20,000 miles a year takes its toll on a Boxster – and it will cost. Its a high performance machine and whilst its true that most will probably never leave you stranded in the same way that other prestige sports manufacturers might, it will cost a fair bit to keep going. There are plenty of users who report problems on the 986.
It was reported that Porsche themselves became concerned about the reputation that 986 and the 996 were gaining that the 987 was positively designed to be more reliable. To date, this appears to hold true – forums are less littered with disgruntled 987 owners – and as an owner of both cars in some guise I would agree that the 987 is certainly better put together.
But don’t let that put you off – the 986 is a superb car and hundreds of owners will tell you that its been trouble free motoring since they have bought it. Don’t forget though, whilst you can buy them now for 5 or 6 grand, they were £35-50,000 new – and the running costs maintain that prestige.
For info, here is a list of expenditure over 3 years with my Boxster. Many of these items are quite common, according to the specialists who looked after my vehicle during its ownership;
MAF sensor £351
a clamp for something £1.48
electrical fault – £558.13
hard top kit £120.33
reseal cam box bolts £32.32
New steering rack £187.55
(oil seals, ignition coil pack, rear anti roll bar bushes, brake fluid change) £344.65
wheel bolts £113.36
Radiators x 2 and Air condensers x2 £930.61
Rear screen – £250
Front screen – £60 (excess)
1 minor service (approx 400?)
1 major service (£550)
1 lot of front tyres (approx £200)
2 (or 3) lots of rear tyres (approx £300 per set)
full set of brakes (£300)
Hard-top – £700
Speedster humps – £400ish
Smart Top – £120ish
Clear Lights – £500ish
Depreciation over 3 years – £9,000
An approximately total of around £12,000-£13,000 over 3 years of ownership, using independent Porsche specialists for most of the repair work.
Where is it now?
I sold the car back in 2008 to a local chap, who still has the car now. He’s put a personalised number plate on the car and I still see him driving around from time to time – always with the top down – and always with a big grin on his face.
In the end….
On balance, it was a fantastic car. Despite the downsides of the breakdowns and sometimes eye wateringly expensive repair bills, it remains a fantastic car. If I had the room and finances to store the Boxster and the car which replaced it, I’d probably still have it now. I guess that holds true of all my previous cars, but the Boxster was not only great to drive – it actually made you feel a little special, just for driving it.
If you love driving and aren’t bothered about other peoples preconceived ideas about these cars, then get one bought. Highly recommended.
September 2005 – November 2008