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Buying a Used 924S

Acquiring 924S and 944 cars is a disease for which there is no known cure.  We find parts cars, neglected cars and even good cars, but it seems that all of them have something that needs to be fixed or improved – thus the symptoms of the disease.  Our Southeastern Poster Child for this affliction is our friend Elliott Grafton in Blairsville up in north Georgia.

With this in mind, here are two stories of the recent purchase of two 1988 924S’s – one in Long Island and one in Florida.  The names have been changed to protect the patients’ identities.

1988 924S from Long Island

This poor fellow has relatives up in the northeast and goes there every summer.  This time, he found a nice 1988 924S in running condition on Long Island.  He took a look and a test drive, checked the paperwork and bought the car.  Before he left, we talked about checking the underside of the car for rust since this was a “northern car.”  Apparently, the message didn’t sink in.

The topside of the car looks great.  The interior is clean.  Things that sometimes do not work actually work, including the sunroof and rear hatch.  He drove it home from New York, then decided to look underneath..

IMG_0034The first thing noticed was that components under the car were plagued with rust.  The fuel line system was especially troubled, including the high-pressure fuel feed line that goes under the left side of the bottom of the car.  That line had failed in the past, so someone cut out the inch or so that was leaking and replaced it with a hunk of flexible fuel line – and hose clamps.  Not the best idea, especially when you note that the “repair” was about ten inches from the super-hot catalytic converter.  And under the driver’s butt.

When he tried to change the fuel filter, which, by the way, was original to the car, he found that the rust had welded everything together from the fuel pump through the filter.  The line that connects at the fuel pump was rusted solid.  The hard line from the filter forward disintegrated.  Everything has to be replaced from the fuel pump to the engine, but since the fuel pump connections were rusted tight, the fix includes a new fuel pump.  So, tank to engine is going to be new.

But that isn’t all!  The front control arms are also rusted.  While the engine and the power steering are not leaking, the rust bugs are everywhere under the car.  So the repairs will include control arms, replacing the original ball joints, as well as new bushings.  Call it a front suspension rebuild to get rid of the rusty parts.

So, while none of these problems would have made a difference in the decision to purchase the car, it would have made a difference in the 1) purchase price and 2) the decision to drive it 1,200 miles home without some further checking.

Buyer Beware.

1988 Porsche 924S Florida

This recent purchase is a car that was online for a while with the price slowly falling.  It hit a sweet spot, and we bought it.  While it was advertised as a driving daily car with everything working, we took the trailer to pick it up.  It was 350 miles to get home, and surprises on the road are not fun.

qdaqmq7PRjqTrDuGm8inXQThe car was advertised as having most everything working, including the sunroof and the hatch.  The seats were trashed with added seat covers, and the photos showed good white paint.  The linen interior showed as dirty and worn, which is typical and not unexpected.

Upon arrival, a quick check showed why the price was dropping.  The bodywork and paint are not great, and there are war scars everywhere.  But the car runs, drives, stops, and shifts, all in air-conditioned comfort.  There are recent receipts for all the things that cost money and time, including the belts, tensioners, water pump, clutch, clutch slave and master, tires…the stuff that can make these purchases turn into money pits.  That said, a quick peak underneath revealed a clean underside, even though the CarFax showed that during at least some of its life, it resided in the upper midwest.  So it went up on the trailer and home.

Closer examination at home revealed nothing new.  The fluids will need to be changed – all of them, including the transmission and brake fluid.  The engine is due for an oil change, and the owner said that it had synthetic oil – putting synthetic into an older engine can lead to leaks as the synthetics have a way of finding a way out.  However, NO LEAKS!

So this one needs 1) New front seats, which I happen to have in the prize stash, 2) Fluid changes, 3) Cleaned carpets, 4) Body cosmetics, which may include a respray, and 5) general cleaning and detailing, especially in the engine compartment.

Conclusion of all this…

Well, it comes down to this.  The Long Island car was 40% more in purchase price than the Florida car.  It will require a lot of work and some cash to make it safe, but the owner has a shop with a lift and the tools and expertise to fix it.  However, this was not what he thought that he paid for when he purchased it and then drove it 1,200 miles.  Luckily, nothing broke, leaked or burned up.

On the other hand, the Florida car will probably need paint to make it into a really nice ’88, sending the “investment” up to or over the current values for such cars.  While the mechanicals are good, the cosmetics are an issue.

fudd inspectionWith all that said, the message is clear – go into every deal with eyes open and checkbook closed.  Make your purchase decisions based on facts, not emotion.  If you can, get a pre-purchase inspection done so that someone without emotion is looking at the car and providing an accurate report.

Another message is also clear – buying a 924S or 944 or any sports/specialty car that is thirty or more years old will have problems that need to be addressed.  We are lucky in that most of us work on our own cars, have access to used parts, and when used won’t work, we know where to find the best deals on new parts.  If you can’t do work on it yourself, taking your $5K or $10K car to the $100-per-hour-plus shop for repair work can break the bank.

And if you do find that you cannot do the required repairs on your baby because the costs are going to exceed the gross domestic product of a small country, do us all a favor – sell it to one of us who can take care of it, fix it, and return it to the street where it belongs.  I have gone to see cars that were really nice until “it happened,” sidelining the car and ending up in the garage, the carport, or worse yet, the back yard.  The owners think that “someday” they will get to it and fix it, and it never happens.  What could have been brought back to life turns into a bad parts car.  And we shed a tear.

One service that we offer in Central Florida is an evaluation service.  We can inspect your car and provide you with a written report, including current value estimates, repair cost estimates, and specific information to help you make a decision on your car.  Just email and we may be able to help.

Happy motoring!

 

 

Kevin Duffy, Author and Chief Geek View All

Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.

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