COAL: 2002 Porsche Carrera – Yes, I Still Have It! (Part II)

2002 Porsche 911 (996)

(This is a continuation of last week’s COAL.  Click HERE to see Part I if you missed it.)  Alright, here’s the exciting news: I still have this car!  At going on six years of ownership this is the longest by a couple of years that I have ever owned a car.  However, it is not my daily driver anymore for several reasons but there has been a lot of history since I last wrote about it.

Nothing of any significance has gone wrong with it.  Then again, it hasn’t accrued that many more miles either.  The first year I drove it about 10,000 miles.  In the time since that has reduced by about half every year so at this point it means that I’ve driven it about another 11,000 miles in total since then, so it now has just over 84,000 on the chassis and 26,000 on the engine.

We moved sort of temporarily almost a year ago to a house with an even smaller garage so I decided to store it at my mom’s house about an hour away.  I finally got around to clearing a space in my own garage for it again a couple of months ago so it’s back here now and now gets out every week or so for whatever reasons.

Distant cousins…

I aggravated an old knee injury a couple of years ago which made driving it for any kind of distance quite painful, so that may be one of the reasons I slowed down using it.  Interestingly, although it’s a torn meniscus and my doctor said it will not get better on its own, not driving the car for that time actually HAS made it better.  I also gave up snowboarding which I think aggravated it as well.  My knee no longer bothers me.  And driving the car doesn’t hurt, so I am cautiously optimistic and thinking about another longer trip with it again.

I did drive it to the CC meetup in Auburn, Indiana several years ago and a few of you got to see it in person.  I also drove it to Chicago for another trip to friends.  And then two years ago I drove it to Boise to visit someone else.  Every time I drive the car it puts a smile on my face.

It is still practical enough that I can use it for most things, except that the kids are getting bigger so it’s no longer possible to fit all three of them in it at once. (But they all want to go for rides in it without the others and the oldest, who just got her permit, wants to drive it but isn’t sure about the stick thing.  The youngest has apparently loudly but privately proclaimed to the middle one that when he gets his license in seven years he will be driving it all day, every day…so maybe there is a bright future for it along with being a genuine CC by that time).

While a sixteen year old Porsche is no longer “fast” compared to many vehicles released since then and especially in the last decade, it is still plenty fast.  It gets off the line well and pulls like there’s no tomorrow.  As long as you don’t get out of something even faster before you get it, it feels fast.  And makes a better noise than many things.

What else has it done?  The same frozen lake at Georgetown that I did the autocross on that was mentioned last week saw it again a year and a half ago when some friends of mine rented the lake for a corporate event and invited me.  I took in on there and it ended up being a complete blast; as opposed to the autocross event there were several inches of snow on it which made it extremely fun to blast snow all over the place.

There turned out to be less than a dozen cars at the event so I got to run pretty much all day.  It reminded me again what a boon the stability control is, turning it off so that the car would get going and not shut down the fun made me realize how tail-happy these things really still are.

The day was filled with more spins than I can count while various Audi Quattros and Subarus were just sailing past me.  But their drivers all wanted to try it and those that did had a lot of fun in it…

Also, last spring some friends invited me to join them at the Wednesday night open dragraces at Bandimere Speedway near Morrison, Colorado (near Red Rocks).  I’d not been one to really get into drag racing and I admit that a 911 is not thought of as a drag racing car but it ended up being one of the funnest things I’ve done in it.  Our group included two Corvettes, a Viper, another Porsche, and myself.

The other Porsche belonged to my friend Bill and we faced off against each other several times.  His car is the next series newer, but a Cabriolet with an automatic.  It turned out that our cars were virtually identical in speed and time over those runs, while he had thought his would be faster.  Two months later he sold it and upgraded to a 911 Turbo and I shall not be racing him anymore.

Above is a video that one of our friends shot, I’m in the closer lane.  I get another horrible start but catch up by the end.  My times aren’t very good but Bandimere is at 5200 feet so that hurts things for sure but wow, what a blast!  (After adjusting for altitude my times were actually about half a second slower that what the model was tested at when new with a driver that didn’t have to pay for it…).

My time is on the right, Bill’s is on the left.

The adrenaline, the noise, the having your helmet jammed against the roof while trying to time the lights, the getting to go straight to redline in more than just the first two gears and then having to remember to slow it back down in a hurry at the end of the quarter mile, it’s all intoxicating like you wouldn’t believe.  My fastest (actually my first ever!) run was a 14.637 at 98.72mph with an R/T of .663 which is terrible.

People bring all kinds of vehicles…One of the regulars is a 72yr old lady in a green Prius. She runs over and over, loves it.

My best R/T was a .03 (pure luck) and resulted in a 14.785 time at 97.59mph.  The biggest problem is that redline in third gear is just before 100mph.  If you got a great launch you need to make the shift to fourth which costs time and if you go a bad launch then it doesn’t matter anyway. Bill would always pull on me a little at the end due to that with his automatic (but he never got past).

It has acquired a couple more door dings and a few small scratches over the years mainly from the kids and their bikes which at this point are really just character and the car is really “mine”.  Of course I myself accidentally pushed over a bicycle and just stood there aghast while the handlebar made a perfect arc and took a fingernail sized chunk out of the front bumper.  Eeesch.  It’s still nice enough that it looks great from five feet away but it’s ever so slightly scruffy which works well for me, I can enjoy the car in any weather, any season, any location and poke lots of fun at the guys that are afraid to let their cars even get damp.

But even when it’s in the garage, I love it, I can just sit there and look at it.  For a sixteen year old car with 84000 miles on it it looks great.  When it was at my mom’s I seriously considered if it made sense to keep or if I should let it go.  I still think about it a little bit, but I know if I let it go I’ll eventually want another, and then when I take it out I know what the answer is until the next time it sits for a while.

A highlight with it occurred about a year ago when I was invited to a new car track day which I wrote up here.  One of the other attendees was Csaba Csere, the former editor-in-chief for Car&Driver.  We got to chatting and he asked me about my car and showed me his – which is a current model 911 (formally known a 991.2 generation car) in virtually the same color as mine that he bought for his retirement.

We ended up caravanning from one part of the track day to a separate off-road portion of the day behind each other in our cars.  Having read virtually every word he ever wrote at C&D I was quite star-struck, he’s a wonderful person to speak with and very personable.

Reliability, even with its now-infrequent use, has been outstanding.  I change the oil myself annually with Mobil1 0W-40 (9qts or so) and a German made filter (Mann, Mahle or Hengst, each about $8), and that’s about it.  The coolant and brake fluid I had done a couple of years ago, for the $300 that cost the shop is welcome to do it. I keep it on a battery tender if I know it’ll sit for over a week just because and it starts every time. It’ll probably need tires again soon-ish due to age and they are getting a bit loud but aren’t really worn, so on a dollar per mile basis the upkeep is still higher than average I suppose but at least it’s more or less stopped depreciating.  Things that did go bad over the last few years: A window regulator went bad so I took the door apart and replaced it.  Then the lock didn’t work right after putting it all back together so I replaced part of that mechanism.  The window’s timing is slightly off now (when it drops a hair when opening the handle) so I probably need to take it apart again to figure it out but it isn’t bothering me enough to do it now.

The ignition lock also started to tighten up and stopped easily releasing the key (hey, a good reason for push-button ignitions!).  The fix was to buy a new module for the back end of the ignition cylinder that is shared with the Audi A4 and replace it but the caveat is to not buy the approximately $8 aftermarket version, but buy the approximately $30 aftermarket version as the $8 version will go bad as well in short order.  That’s what all the internet posts said and I decided to test it out and they were correct so I’ve done that repair twice now, the hardest part of it being upside down in the driver footwell for fifteen minutes with a tiny screwdriver.

Both those repairs were not exactly welcome but they were cheap, with so many of these cars being built and sharing parts with Boxster and various other cars, many under the skin parts are quite reasonable as long as you don’t insist on having it packaged in the silver Porsche branded box.

The Secondary Air Injection pump still whines a bit more than it should on start-up but it’s done that since I’ve owned it, it’s still working and won’t affect anything if it does die, so it can stay.  It’s an easy fix anyway when/if it does go.

And just last week the battery gave out.  After looking at it, I realized the battery dated from 2011 and I got 88 months out of an 84 month battery.  Amazing how they can time it like that.  I figured that was good performance so I replaced it with a new one of the same brand from Costco.  Hopefully it’ll last another 88 months.

I think that’s about it.  It’s a glorious car and I’m glad to have it.  As Ferris Bueller once said “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.”  I’m not being smarmy here, and I am definitely not rich.  It really IS a well built car that if chosen carefully can be kept on a limited budget and does not have to cost an arm and a leg to either acquire or keep up.