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Considering a 986...so many newbie questions - Sorry!

 
Old 06-07-2019, 12:17 AM
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TimboAA
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Default Considering a 986...so many newbie questions - Sorry!

First of all, thank you. And second of all, sorry! I've got so many questions that are now just matter of opinion but I'm looking for some guidance. Please correct any of my thought process if I'm wrong as it's my first post on this forum.

Backstory: Blah blah...I want one. I've been lusting after a Porsche since I was a kid of driving age. I seriously considered a Boxster 10-11 years ago and bought a 2008 Mazda Miata MX-5 instead. Great car, fun, etc. A few years go by...get married, sell the car and get a 4 door with back seats, have kids, etc. I'm now just about at the point where I can have a roadster again, however, it'll be a second car. I want the wind in my hair before it's all gone. The sunroof in my current car just doesn't cut it.
  • In my area of New England, I see 986s all day in the $7500-14000+ range. Call it $10k as the most common price I see.
  • Mileage is often around 65-85k miles. Some are lower, some are 100k miles plus.
  • I understand maintenance history is important. Some times I even see cars with the IMS bearing already done with a clutch.
  • '99+ base models came with the 2.7L correct? Is that the preferred engine? Or the 2.5L in the earlier models? Is performance noticeable between the two?
  • Only Boxster S came with the 6-speed. Do I want the S over the base? I don't know!!
  • Right now I'm at internet shopping phase....Does anyone want to take me for a spin in their car? I'll buy you a beer! Hardly anything on Turo out here.
  • I don't mind turning a wrench here and there, but would rather a shop do the clutch/IMS/rear main seal, etc.
Where I'm having trouble deciding is:
  • What years should or engines should I focus on?
  • Boxster or Boxster S - (they'll all be a manual)
  • What mileage range should I narrow in on? Average (65-85k miles)? 100k+ with impeccable service? Low mileage 30-45k miles?)
    • I hear lower mileage cars could be a concern due to lack of use and while they'll look good on paper, may have more issues ????
  • PPI....how the heck does that work? Do I bring the car to a shop? Does the private owner/dealer bring it to the shop? Does the shop go to the car?
  • I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
Thanks again for your help. It is appreciated!
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Old 06-07-2019, 12:55 AM
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So I've had a 2.5l ('97-'99) 986 and enjoyed it thoroughly, but I always wondered what the experience would be like with more horses under the hood. From '00-'04 they moved to a 2.7l Boxster and a 3.2l Boxster S. I've since test driven a '03 Boxster S. Definite improvements from the '99 ('03-'04 had glass rear window, glovebox, electronic frunk/trunk release, etc.) though they are all relatively minor, but they add up into a more enjoyable user friendly experience.

The S comes with a 6-speed (rather than 5-speed), bigger brakes, an additional radiator, and a bigger engine. General wisdom is that if you can afford springing for a S, it's worth the extra $$$. Within the Boxster S there are notable changes/improvements from '00-'04.

With that said, I though the gearing of the 5-speed manual in my '99 was great (far better gear ratios than in my 993, honestly), so either gearbox is great. Some honestly feel the 2.5 or 2.7 is enough for them. Test one or two out and see for yourself.

Personally I like the original 986.1 design ('97-'02) more than the busier 986.2 design ('03-'04), but either makes for a great looking car.

As for mileage/age, conventional wisdom is buy the best car that you can afford. Test drive a few across the years and engine configurations. There are many 986s out there so be picky and wait for just the right one (right color combo, right options, right model year, s or base, etc).

Higher mileage examples might be cheaper, but I wouldn't consider a 100k+ mileage example unless it has had some thorough component refreshing done to it (I'm thinking suspension, engine mounts, and other keep rubberized bits that fatigue with time). It's worth the extra $$$ to find one with the IMS done, but keep in mind that there are different aftermarket IMS fixes out there. Some IMS fixes require periodic replacement, others don't.

These 986s are still Porsches (despite what some haters might say) and as such they dare subject to the parts and maintenance premiums that all Porsches face. While you might save a few thousand opting for a higher mileage example, rather than a lower mileage car, you could very quickly spend that saved money on repairs/maintenance to get that more worn example to a comparable state that the low mileage one was in.

Excellence Magazine has published some great 'buyers guides' in the past on the 986. You'll have to pay a few bucks for an electronic copy, but it is worth it if you aren't too familiar with these cars. PCA has recently run some pieces on the virtues and value proposition of buying a used 986 too.

IMHO, 986s are beautiful cars that stay true to their roadster roots. Later iterations of the Boxster loose track of those roots and get more and more caught up with modernity. I feel these cars are very under appreciated. Sure they made a ton of them so the 986 likely will never be true "collectors cars," but I wouldn't be surprised if many Porsche collectors opt to have a 986 or two in their stable to be their designated 'drive without worry of depreciation' Porsche.

I'm also based in California where it almost always seems like appropriate top down driving weather so I might be a bit biased towards the roadster format. Good luck with your hunt!
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Old 06-07-2019, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by TimboAA View Post
First of all, thank you. And second of all, sorry! I've got so many questions that are now just matter of opinion but I'm looking for some guidance. Please correct any of my thought process if I'm wrong as it's my first post on this forum.
We all have the same questions. Let me start by saying that I am an unabashed Porsche fan, and I think the 986 Boxster is one of their best designs ever. They're fun, sexy, well-engineered, and easy to work on. They're also plentiful and cheap, which is why they're a great first Porsche, and a great "poor man's Porsche".

What years should or engines should I focus on?
I would recommend early 986 cars. They're cheaper and they'll have more miles on them (more on that in a minute). So, you can acquire them easier and you'll be less afraid to take a wrench to them yourself.

Boxster or Boxster S - (they'll all be a manual)
I'd concentrate on a base model. The 'S' has a price premium, but all it gives you is a slightly more powerful motor and a 6-speed transmission. But no Boxster is 'fast'; they aren't Mustangs or Camaros or Demons; these are cars that are designed to carve turns at moderate speeds on a sunny day with the top down. Speed isn't important to the fun of a Boxster. And, since revving them and rowing the gears is half the fun, the extra power of the 'S' isn't worth the price premium.

What mileage range should I narrow in on? Average (65-85k miles)? 100k+ with impeccable service? Low mileage 30-45k miles?) I hear lower mileage cars could be a concern due to lack of use and while they'll look good on paper, may have more issues ????
I wouldn't look for one with under 85k on the clock. The IMS issues tend to rear their heads between 60k and 80k, and in cars that haven't been exercised hard enough ('splash lubrication'). A 20 year-old car with only a couple thousand miles a year on it has probably been babied, not really driven. These cars like to be driven. I would look for one with 85k to 105k. (FWIW: I bought my first Boxster with 170k, and my second with 110k. Both are running just fine.)

PPI....how the heck does that work? Do I bring the car to a shop? Does the private owner/dealer bring it to the shop? Does the shop go to the car?
I had a PPI done on my first Boxster. The owner let me take the car to the shop. My second I bought without a PPI. Here's the thing about a PPI: At this point in the life of a car, it's really only good as a pricing tool and as a list of things that need your attention. Other than a *gushing* rear main seal (very rare), there's not a lot that goes wrong with these cars that can't be fixed pretty easily in your driveway with hand tools. If you can get a PPI, then do so. If you can't... Well, drive the car and see how it is. If it seems okay and there aren't any funny noises or clouds of smoke, then you're probably all right.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something.
Probably.

If I was looking for a Boxster, here's what I'd be after:
  • early 986, non-S
  • $5k to $7k
  • 85k to 115k
Something like this one would be right up my alley: https://newjersey.craigslist.org/cto...889942297.html

I'll admit it: I'm a bottom feeder. I'm more than happy to take a bottom of the barrel car for a lot less money and put some time and effort into it. That's half the fun for me. I do the vast majority of the work on my cars, even though I have a spectacular indy. (Seriously, I love my mechanic. I take him my cars, he diagnoses them, and then most of the time I do the repairs.)

And I can not stress enough how easy maintenance is on these cars. There are YouTube videos galore on how to do everything you could ever need to do. Parts are generally very reasonable (except for daggone struts, which cost about twice what they should), and common maintenance items are surprisingly easy. Porsche really did a good job with this car.

There are a bunch of wear-out items that will need attention around 100k miles. Things like coils, plugs, plug tubes, suspension bits, maybe the AOS. All of these are driveway jobs. They aren't hard, but some (like the AOS) are fiddly; especially the first time you do them. Buy yourself the '101 Projects for Your Boxster' manual, search YouTube, and register on Pelican forums and you'll be fine.

Good luck with your search. Keep us posted!

Last edited by Shawn Stanford; 06-07-2019 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 06-07-2019, 03:51 PM
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Having owned a '99 and driven it for 70k miles (with vigor) before selling it, I concur that the early 2.5L Boxsters are great cars. I'm not disputing that, but I do hesitate at the claims made above that the HP gains between a base model Boxster and a Boxster S are insignificant. Take a look at Excellence Magazine's spec index here: https://www.excellence-mag.com/resources/specs/184

Here's a comparison in power to weight ratios (PWR) (assuming manual transmission cars in all cases):

Early 986
'97-'99 (2.5L only) - 0.071 HP/lb (201 HP / 2822 lbs)

Mid 986
'00-'02 (base 2.7L) - 0.078 HP/lb (217 HP / 2778 lbs)
'00-'02 (S 3.2L) - 0.086 HP/lb (250 HP / 2855 lbs)

Late 986
'03-'04 (base 2.7L) - 0.082 HP/lb (228 HP / 2778 lbs)
'03-'04 (S 3.2L) - 0.090 HP/lb (258 HP / 2855 lbs)

Conventional wisdom is that HP gains of less than 10 HP aren't readily noticeable to the common driver. So with that in mind and looking at the table above, you are *should* notice the 57 HP between a late model S and an early 2.5l example. You *might* notice the 27 HP difference between the late model base and an early 2.5l example. You likely *might* notice the 16 HP difference when comparing either a mid base model with an early 2.5l, but you likely *won't* notice the 9 HP difference between a late and amid base model. Similarly, you likely won't notice the 8 HP difference between a mid and late model S either, but you will notice the addition of the glass window, glove box, and so forth as I discussed earlier. There are also changes in the exterior look between the mid and late 986 design.

So you will notice the difference in power between an S and a base model 986. Is it worth the $ premium that comes with a S? That depends on the cars being compared and the buyers preferences. Lastly, I completely agree with the statement made above that 986 Boxsters are momentum cars, not raw power cars. They're above driving a 'slow' car fast, rather than driving a 'fast' car slowly enough to not end up behind bars. 986s handle brilliantly allowing you to really push these cars near to their limits while remaining safe. You can learn a lot about your own driving technic and how to improve it with proper seat time in one of these cars. That's part of what makes them so great.

Would I like to drive a GT2? Sure. Will I be able to learn much about my driving technique while piloting a GT2? Probably not because I will be too focused on not killing myself, rather than pushing things from 8/10ths to 9/10ths.

Final thought is get in the drivers seat of a few different 986s and compare your own personal experience in each one. That's the best measure of whether or not it is the *right* car for you.
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Old 06-07-2019, 07:23 PM
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Glad to hear you are in the market for a awesome car. We see these cars quite frequently and they are great for the value. I will make a list of things you want to look at when purchasing

Couple of common problems:
  • IMS Bearing
  • Air Oil Separator
  • Valve cover leaks
  • RMS leaks
  • Clutch/flywheel wear
  • Wheel bearing issues
  • Some top issues with hinges braking
  • Water pump
  • Tensioners for belts

Those are just some things to look at when purchasing on the history to see if they are done or a issue. I would look at a car with 65,000-90,000 miles. Most of the issues will flare up by then, I like the 1999-2000 year range, they are priced well and if maintained are a great car. Please let me know if you have any questions!
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Old 06-07-2019, 07:25 PM
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You need to look at HP and torque through the whole RPM band. Max HP is only one tiny data point. The S engine has much more low end torque than the 2.7 and 2.5.

I own a 2004 S and a 2002 base. Big difference in power available in the rev band. The S starts pulling hard at 2K RPM, the base need to be taken to 3K RPM before it gets lively.
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Old 06-07-2019, 07:27 PM
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I should also add that the 6 speed transmissions is much closer ratio than the 5 speed. This allows you to keep the RPM close to the optimum torque/HP range.
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Old 06-07-2019, 08:55 PM
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Where in W Mass are you? I'm in Amherst. I have had my '02S for about a year and could not be more pleased.
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Old 06-08-2019, 01:08 AM
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Wow...these responses are great and JUST what I need. I truly appreciate the narrowing down and guidance. I've watched a lot of videos and read a lot of articles. Begged the wife and I'm lining things up to be able to star the real hunt and be able to actually make the move.

Spyder_Man:
I appreciate the positive review of the 5-speed. I've driven many 5 and 6 speed cars and while I have always been in the "more gears are better" crowd all the way back to my early bicycle days, I appreciate less now. I've come from a Miata which was 167HP and a blast. Maybe a tad bit lighter than the 986 but probably very comparable.

Shawn Stanford:
Thank you for the break down! You have allowed me to reconsider the earlier models. I've also read somewhere that the early 2.5Ls had a real throttle cable....is this true?! Because I miss the days of a real throttle cable vs this electric drive by wire stuff. And thank you for mentioning not looking for one with under 85k on the clock. As I have discussions with friends and try to figure out where I should be for mileage, it's a hard concept for a lot of people to understand that driving it is good. I understand the allure of lower mileage...heck I'm sure we all do. I do see that the S does carry a premium price tag and is often 'within budget'. I say that because realistically, I don't know what my budget *should* be. And I appreciate you mentioning being a bottom feeder. I do that in my other hobby of collecting arcade games. I appreciate where you mention I should be looking at price wise. With that in mind, it does seem that dealers are still making a few bucks on them vs going to a private seller.

HBi_Auto:I'm assuming you mean the years 1999-2000 vs the mileage range? I'd appreciate finding a car with the IMS and clutch, RMS, AOS, already done just as a piece of mind, but I do like that list of things to look for in the list of service items.

Anker: You mention the close ratio transmission. The car I'm selling to help fund this is a 1984 VW Rabbit GTI with an engine swap, etc. etc. Those came with an extremely close ratio 5-speed. I'm not sure if you've driven one of those, but it was a ton of fun with very little HP. You say you own both and it appears that they both drive differently, which one do you prefer? Does it depend on the day? I can imagine it would. I feel like I'd want to ring out the base model more than the S.

MrAllegro: PM incoming...I'm literally the next town over to the east. Can I buy you a beer and talk Porsches with you? Perhaps even go for a spin???

Thank you again for all of the responses! They are greatly appreciated!
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Old 06-08-2019, 03:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Spyder_Man View Post
Having owned a '99 and driven it for 70k miles (with vigor) before selling it, I concur that the early 2.5L Boxsters are great cars. I'm not disputing that, but I do hesitate at the claims made above that the HP gains between a base model Boxster and a Boxster S are insignificant. Take a look at Excellence Magazine's spec index here: https://www.excellence-mag.com/resources/specs/184
Yeah, sorry, on re-read I said that the S wasn't worth the money. I should have said - and meant - that it's not worth it to me. Big difference! Some people like neck-snapping acceleration, I get more fun out of momentum driving: holding speed, rather than gaining it. To each their own!
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Old 06-08-2019, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by HBi_Auto View Post
Couple of common problems: IMS Bearing
I'm afraid I'm going to have to invoke shenanigans on this. I don't think the numbers hold up that the IMS is a common problem. It's absolutely catastrophic, but all the evidence I've seen says it's a pretty small percentage of cars.

A lot of the other things you mentioni (Air Oil Separator, wheel bearings, water pump, etc.) are wear out items that are going to go eventually. I've been doing these as they pop up in my cars and so far they've all been garage repairs with hand tools. I haven't done WP and belt yet, but from the videos I've seen it looks like a simple repair - certainly easier than the AOS. My RMS (rear main seal) aren't leaking, but from what I've read as long as it's a seep, it's a nuisance, not a problem. I've also done plugs, plug tubes, coils, rear inner CV boots, struts, coffin arms, drop links, tie rod ends, brakes, and various light bulbs; all of it was pretty easy. The most exotic tool I own is a QuickJack, which really only makes getting the car up off the floor easier and faster. Everything else is from Harbor Freight with a smattering of Snap-On.
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Old 06-08-2019, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by MrAllegro View Post
Where in W Mass are you? I'm in Amherst. I have had my '02S for about a year and could not be more pleased.
I am in Stow, just inside I495 west of Boston.
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Old 06-08-2019, 11:46 PM
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Originally Posted by TimboAA View Post
Anker: You mention the close ratio transmission. The car I'm selling to help fund this is a 1984 VW Rabbit GTI with an engine swap, etc. etc. Those came with an extremely close ratio 5-speed. I'm not sure if you've driven one of those, but it was a ton of fun with very little HP. You say you own both and it appears that they both drive differently, which one do you prefer? Does it depend on the day? I can imagine it would. I feel like I'd want to ring out the base model more than the S.
It all depends on what you plan to do with the car.

For driving on country roads with the top down I prefer the base. The 5 speed is easier to shift and the engine has all the power you want for street driving. The only thing I would say against the 5 speed in country road driving is that at 45 mph you are between 4th and 5th gear, With the 6 speed the S is happy in fifth.

For track and DE the S is a ton better than the base. In AX you need to be able to pull quickly away from a sharp turn and it is awful if the engine bogs down. And on track you really want the extra power, the better suspension and the better brakes.

No, I haven't tried a Golf GTI, I had a first generation Golf as a company car in the 70's (gives away my age). I have owned what was considered a hot car at the time, a Simca Ti. I prefer rear wheel drive to front wheel. Weight transfer under acceleration works against you wirth front wheel drive and helps you with rear wheel drive. Best, of course, is all wheel drive with intelligent power transfer between the front and rear.
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Old 06-10-2019, 04:15 PM
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Check your PMs.
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Old 06-11-2019, 12:25 PM
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Originally Posted by TimboAA View Post
I've also read somewhere that the early 2.5Ls had a real throttle cable....is this true
All 2.5s have a mechanical, cable operated throttle - E-Gas started with the 2000 2.7 & S. The transmission is nearly identical between the 2.5 and 2.7 (4th is slightly shorter in the 2.7), but the final drive is taller in the 2.7. I suspect the 16 extra BHP from the 2.7 didn't amount to much extra performance, being saddled with the taller final drive. Another discriminator is '97s do not have side air bags - door panels look better IMO and they are the lightest weight of the bunch at ~2750lbs. All '97s were built in Stuttgart, if that matters to you. 1998s (except for a few early ones) and on, exported to N.A., were built in Finland.

Correction: I just came across a 2000 N.A. model that was built in Stuttgart.

https://bringatrailer.com/listing/20...he-boxster-16/

Last edited by Geza; 06-22-2019 at 09:32 AM.
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