Porsche’s 70th birthday sees the marque in ruder health than ever before. Wheels celebrates the company’s seven decades of engineering excellence forged on road and track.
It’s enough to make us regular car-buying lunks go in search of a very high window ledge to step off. I’ve burned tens of thousands over the years in vehicle depreciation, when it turns out all I really needed to do was buy a decent 911, revel in the driving thrills and watch it rise in value like a glider riding a warm updraft.
Read next: Landmark Porsche 911s: Porsche turns 70
But can it really be that simple? What happened to the old finance adage that if something appears too good to be true, it probably is?
Well, a degree of prudence is always necessary in any form of investing, and the Porsche owners we spoke to mostly insisted that they did not buy their cars with expectations of turning a profit; merely with the hope that running costs would be kept in check by a degree of capital appreciation.
But are we now in bubble territory, where values could drop like a stone? This seems unlikely, because the fact is that ‘classic’ 911 values have softened over the past 18 or so months, by as much as 15 to 20 percent according to our sources. So a little steam being let out of the market may have now steadied it, but demand remains solid so a plunge in values seems remote.
According to Porsche expert Anthony Raymond (Sales manager, Autohaus Hamilton, Chatswood, NSW) the demand is underpinned by several fundamentals: firstly, at a global level, the rich are getting richer, and are prepared to pay huge premiums for limited-run models like the GT2 RS and 911 R if they are unable to secure a spot in the queue. “This has the effect of dragging the broader ‘classic’ 911 market up,” says Raymond.
Then there’s the housing market, which has surged massively in the last decade or so. “When mature-age home owners with low debt realise their house is worth twice or more than they paid for it, they feel more inclined to buy a ‘lifestyle asset’ like a classic car, and this also pushes the market higher,” says Raymond.
Further to this, as 911 values have boomed since around 2010, it’s made some buyers wonder if they have missed the boat, and turn their attention to other models, like 944 Turbos, 968s and 928s. According to Raymond, values of these models have firmed considerably over the last five or so years, and that trend seems set to continue its upward march.
Wheels’ own Michael Stahl is prime example of a 911 buyer who got the timing right. Stahly took the plunge on his 3.2-litre 1989 G-series car around six years ago, paying circa $55,000. “Aside from having always wanted one, I also knew I basically had no superannuation, so while I had no idea the value would soon double, I did figure that I’d be very unlucky to ever lose money on it, even taking into account the running costs,” says Stahly.
But proving even sound investments can take a hit, Stahly’s 911 would go on to need engine work, and his perfectionist streak didn’t allow him to just do the bare necessities. “I was expecting $12K, but a broken piston and weeping bearing seal prompted all new cylinders and pistons … the rebuild totalled $27,500. The clutch was fine at that point, but the rubber centre failed six months later, so another engine drop, new clutch, $3.5K. But if I did the sums, given that the car is worth $120K any day of the week, I’m probably still slightly in front.”
Read next: 2018 Porsche 911 Carrera T review
The desirability list for 911s includes original Australian delivery (versus UK cars which can have rust; Oz cars are also usually better specced), coupe body (versus cabrio or Targa) and manual (auto only arrived with the 964’s Tiptronic – well, excluding the early, weird Sportomatic; another story). A 911 is generally more valuable if it hasn’t been messed with; there was a big trend in the 1990s to bodykit sad old G-series to look like 964s; then in the early-2010s to ‘backdate’ late G-series and 964s to look like ’73 RSs. What most buyers want now (short of a Singer) are clean, original cars.
But what about enthusiasts wanting something a bit more modern? “I’d direct them to a good 996 or early 997s,” says Anthony Raymond. “These cars have hit the bottom of their deprecation curve and are on the way back up.” He suggests savvy buyers look closely at lower volume models, like the brilliant, wide-bodied 997 GTS. “I’ve had a couple of 991 owners roll out of their current cars and ‘backtrade’ into 997s because they claim it gives a more authentic 911 feel and character,” he says.
And so the 911 legend – and its price of admission – continues to grow.
The mid-engined maestros
Shrewd Porsche buyers should not overlook late-model six-cylinder Cayman and Boxster models, according to our sources – especially the GT4 Cayman (currently around $205K) and limited-run models like the Boxster Spyder. The virtues of the thirstier, less torquey atmo sixes over the turbo flat-fours are well documented, and while second-hand values may not have fully bottomed, the word is that time may not be far off, and from there, these cars should be, at the very least, depreciation-proof. And remain joyous to drive.
A peek under the skirts
Paying a Porsche specialist like Autohaus Hamilton for a pre-purchase inspection could be the best $500 to $1000 you’ll ever spend. “Our techs spend a minimum of three hours going right through the car, and detail any work that needs to be done immediately, and then outline all the rectification work that’s imminent, so a potential buyer knows exactly what costs they face over the next 12 or 18 months,” says Anthony Raymond.