Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Boy Part 1

After we sold the 944S, there was a period of several years, well to be more accurate 8 years, 2 months and 14 days when I was Porsche-less. It was a tough time. We had two infants – youngsters - prepubescent boys and therefore had a litany of mini-vans, SUV’s and wagons. It was not exactly inspiring.

I had just received a hand-me-down company car; a purple (or more accurately plum) colored Dodge Intrepid and I HATED IT. Every mile was torture, what a piece of crap. I called the guy that had it before me (he had left the company for greener pastures…or at least that is what he said) and asked him “What where you thinking…Purple?” He said it did not look like that in the brochure…”dude, purple is purple, you can tell even from a brochure it was a crappy color. Face it, you screwed up and I have to live with it.” At the same time, we needed to get out of the mini-van we had, our kids were getting bigger and we needed something that was a step up…we needed an SUV.

So my wife hit the newspapers, this was when there were still actually car ads in the paper, before everything was online. And she found something… I was headed home in the lovely Intrepid from Houston and she called me on my cell phone. “How fast can you get to Midlothian?” She asked. “I dunno, maybe 40 minutes, why?” Not sure why my wife was asking me to drive out of my way to Midlothian. “I found a deal.” I should have known.

Well she did find a deal. A young family had got in over their head and had leased two vehicles: a Ford Expedition and a truck. They had to unload them…fast. Here were the details: take over their lease payments, they would pay the transfer fee - $300 and give us $600 cash because they had gone over their mileage. Let me get this straight, we call the leasing company, fill out a form, have it approved based on our credit and we get this Expedition and we get a check from this family for $600? Was this legit? I called the lease company, it was. Oh and did I mention that these folks had put a lot down on the two vehicles so the lease payments were low? I took the exit towards Midlothian as fast as I could.

Test drove the SUV, it was perfect, a Black Expedition XLT with tan cloth interior and 4WD. It was really a nice truck. I told the gal we would take it. My wife worked with the lease company and in a couple of days we had the Expedition for the balance of its lease, or about 36 months. And a check for $600. Perfect. Fact is, I like big SUV’s, they are safe, sit up high and get really terrible gas mileage, but did I mention they were safe?

So the mini van was gone, thank god. Replaced with a 1997 Ford Expedition – things were looking up. So in ’99 I left my cushy / stable job and took the plunge into DOT COM (or rather DOT BOMB) world. I needed new wheels since I had to turn in my company car. During the exit process, they asked me if I wanted to buy it. I had to think about it for a while, like 4-5 nanoseconds before I said no F’ing way or something like that. So I went shopping. Looked everywhere, wanted something cool and I was close to pulling the trigger on a 2000 BMW 3-Series. But because my budget was pretty low, it was a stripper, it had like zero options, not even metallic paint. My pragmatic wife cautioned me not to get the stripper 3-Series. She maintained there were other options. Looking online one day at the website (such as it was) for the lease company we had our Expedition through, I found out they had a lease return lot in the mid-cities. Hmmm, they had treated us pretty good, so why not check out the lot.

I pulled up and met the sales guy. Told him I was looking for a 3-Series and they had a couple, but nothing that lit my fuse. Well he asked me what my budget was and I told him my range. He said he might have something interesting. We went out back. There crowded by a bunch of crappy cars was a dusty ’99 BMW 5-Series with very few miles. It was silver, gray leather, LOADED(!) and it had a very rare (at least in the US) 5-speed manual. And he could get me in the car for less money then my budget. A lot less money. Why so low? I asked him. Easy…it had a manual transmission, nobody wanted a BMW 5-Series with a manual transmission. I did! It was mine.

Picked it up on a very rainy night, it was pouring. So of course I had to completely detail it the next day. I loved that car; it was awesome. But it was doomed too. I was making pretty good bucks in the Dot Com space and I realized I could get rid of the BMW and get back into a Porsche. It went up for sale. Funny I did the same thing with the BMW that the folks did with the Expedition, except I had equity and made the guy who took over the payments pay the transfer fee and give me $1500 cash. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do…or can get away with.

One quick BMW story before we go on… as a part of my Dot Com job, I was doing a lot of work with a well know PC manufacturer in Austin and was down there every week (sometimes twice a week), but frequently for 3-4 days at a time. My best friend had some gigs at a huge club opening for a bunch of touring bands and he asked me to play the gigs, since he needed a bass player. It was like 6 gigs over a three-week period and it dovetailed nicely with my business trips. I said yes.

So picture this, struggling musicians pulling up in a variety of barely running cars and trucks, getting out and lugging old nasty amps and such, dressed in grungy jeans and tee shirts. I pull up in a new BMW 5-Series, pull out a new Ashdown amp and am dressed in my hip Armani duds…the juxtaposition was interesting to say the least. I was the best dressed person in the club and my wife looked especially HOT in her black Jill Sanders outfit. Yeah, success sucks, or so I hear. But we played some great gigs and in the case of one touring band, blew their collective asses off the stage. It was a good night.

In 2001 I decided that it was time to get back into the Porsche scene, so I started looking around. I test drove a few cars, but nothing really stood out. I did not mind waiting until I found the right car, I could be patient. Then one day I logged into the Dallas Morning News website and clicked the link to the car ads and looked at the Porsches for sale. Usually there were a few cars listed, most were either basket cases or brand news ones way beyond my budget and means.

But there was this car, a 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera or 930. It was nearby, it was in my price range. I grabbed the phone and called the number listed. A guy answered the phone and laughed, he had just listed the ad only moments before, but already had like 6 calls. He was a commercial airline pilot and was not flying that day. He asked me how fast I could get to his house. I said fifteen minutes. He said I better hurry.

He met me at his front door and walked me around to the garage and opened the door with the automatic opener. The door rolled up and the sight of the Porsche 930 literally took my breath away. I had to have it. What cinched the deal was we drove to the place where I had most of my mechanical work done to all my previous Porsches and BMW’s. I really trusted these guys. The owner of the 930 trusted these guys too. The service manager told me this was the best 930 they had ever cared for; it really needed nothing. Here are some shots that the Pervious Owner (PO) sent me. Enjoy, but there are better ones to come…

Not for one minute had I ever imagined that I would be able to own the car of my teenage fantasies. A 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera / 930, number 408 of 630 imported into the US. Wow. Normally we do not name our cars, but we christened this one – Bad Boy. It was.

See you all next time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our 944S - The Forgotten Porsche

Marital bliss. My bride and I married in 1990 and we each brought one car to the union. I was driving a 1990 Acura Integra LS and my wife was driving a 1986 Nissan Pulsar. The Acura was a great car; made by Honda it was well built, well engineered and pretty quick (for 1990 anyway). The Pulsar? No beating around the bush, it was a piece of crap. I can only hope that my wife did not pick it out, holding out hope that her parents saw it at a local dealer and thought, “why that is cute, let’s get that for our daughter.” Or something like that.

Anyway it was terrible - terrible slow, terrible looking, with terrible funky mid-80’s ergonomics. My plan was simple, once we wed - ditch the Pulsar. So how could I put my evil plan into play, it was her baby. Then the other quandary, what to replace it with? Hmmmm, let’s see...maybe a Porsche? Actually truth be known, she found it. See my wife is addicted to newspapers (yes she still loves to get the Sunday Newspaper and reads every section, every ad, it takes hours….) and she was going through the Saturday auto ads and she turned to me and “Hey is a 1987 Porsche 944S a pretty good car?” That is like asking Parnelli Jones if he liked to drive Indy cars (OK, maybe dating myself a little bit with that reference). So we went to the dealer to check it out.

As it turns out my plan was not too evil, the car was great. Black with a black leather interior, it had about 36K miles and was in pretty decent condition. Now this was before I knew about Pre Purchase Inspections (PPI), or having a Porsche mechanic give it a once over; fact was, we got lucky. It could have easily gone the other way and we could have ended up with a lemon. But we didn’t.

When it came time to do a deal, we brought both the Integra and Pulsar to the dealer and we traded both of them in. The dealer was a little unnerved having to take in two trades, but they did it. Of course they did it, I cannot image a dealer not doing a deal to move some iron. So I drove home, because my wife could not drive a manual transmission…yet.

First order of business was to teach her how to drive a stick. We went to a large parking lot on a Sunday and we traded places. She was very nervous. She killed it multiple times before I had her moving and shifting. We spent the next couple of days with me in the passenger seat giving her nurturing advice. She got the hang of it. We also had just received my new company car a 1990 Ford Aerostar van, so we split time between the two cars.

My wife had started a new job working for a manufacturer of luxury writing instruments and her job was to visit all the stores that sold them and conduct training, clean and arrange the display cases and make sure they had all the special paper products to demo the pens. I remember her coming home one day and she was worked up, really hot about something. She had gone to a local purveyor of fine jewelry and a couple of the sales gals had been really snotty asking her how she could possibly afford a “Porsh”. She smiled at them sweetly and said that although she could not afford a “Porsche”, her husband could and she got to drive my car. Shut them up…nuff said.

So she had been driving it a while and I noticed that the clutch pedal was getting a bit long, meaning that the action was almost all the way out before the clutch engaged. This meant that they clutch had just about packed it in. I had also just got a monthly bonus and it seems that the 944S knew exactly how much the bonus was because the bill of the new clutch and the amount of the bonus were almost dollar for dollar. New clutch, new lease on life!

I loved that car, it was fast, good looking and did I mention that it was fast? Well it was also doomed. My wife went though pregnancy with our first child switching between the 944S and the Aerostar and she was miserable driving the Porsche. The bigger she got, the worse she fit, but she still stuck with it. We had it after our first son was born in 1992 and actually made a trip to Abilene to visit her parents with our son in the back. It was a tight trip, all the baby stuff filled up the hatch area and one of the rear seats. I was using the Aerostar (or as my father in law called it…the Astroloid) more and more for work, so something had to give.

But before we sold it, I started to work on some maintenance items on the car. Limited tools, limited room, meant that it took forever even to change the rear gear oil to the transaxle. Bottom line we needed a new car. So we took a look around, but did not particularly like anything we saw on the market, until we saw the 1993 Mazda 626, especially the one with the Ford sourced quad-cam V6.

So we went to the dealer and traded the 944S for the Mazda. They offered us a pretty good deal, but we were still a ways apart. We had been going through the negotiation game for a very long time, we were tired, our baby boy was tired, hungry and we had finally run out of diapers. So he decided to put an end to the negotiations by pooping in his diaper. We did not have another one and the smell started to get ripe. At one point, when the smell of poop was getting quite lethal in that small sales cubicle, my wife and I glanced at each other, we were going to hang tough, not give in. It was getting stinkier by the second, but we did not budge on what we were willing to pay. The first one to blink (or run away from the smell) was the loser. At that point, the sales guy excused himself for a moment and came back with the manager who took one whiff of the aroma surrounding us like a fog and agreed to my deal if we would leave right then. They took a chance and rolled us in the car, asking us to come back the next day to sign all the paperwork, but made us promise we would have spare diapers.

As we pulled out of the dealership, we made a quick turn into a nearby parking lot, my shrewd wife pulling out a diaper from the bottom of the diaper bag, turns out she knows a thing or two about the negotiation process too. My oldest son still loves that story; how he helped his parents get a smoking deal on a 1993 Mazda 626 LS with a sporty V6. Ah…the memories of a negotiation game where we held all the cards…err based on lack of diapers.

Until next time.