The main thing I advocate for people to do when purchasing, maintaining, and modifying a car is research until your eyes bleed. The more information you have about something, the more likely you’ll succeed in finishing said project. As it turns out, I am absolutely dogshit at following my own advice because I just bought a non-running Porsche 944 Turbo, sight unseen. Pray for Tavarish.
As an amateur car enthusiast and professional glutton for punishment, I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting projects. After dedicating precious time and money during the honeymoon phase, I tend to drop them faster than a hot buffet plate when things get a little too predictable, as I’m sure anyone with a yet-undiagnosed case of ADD and an overly-enabling spouse can identify with. That’s why late last week, restless on the Celebrity Equinox cruise liner, I checked Craigslist for bad decisions that could be made good with some old fashioned elbow grease—and find it I did.
It came as a serendipitous smack in the mouth: a local New Jersey ad for a 1987 Porsche 944 Turbo at a price which was the exact amount that was burning a hole in my bank account, and posted a mere hour before I used up all of the ship’s WiFi bandwidth on cheap clunkers.
Here’s the description I found:
Hey guys, I’m leaving in a week so make me an offer. DO NOT LOW BALL ME. Im reasonable and looking for a reasonable offer. If I do not sell this in a week it will stay in my garage for the next 10-12 months so this is my last attempt to find a good home for her before I leave.
This is my baby, and an absolute beast of a car. She’s a 1987 Porsche 944 turbo manual with 47,943 miles on her. Ive put 600 miles on the car since I’ve bought her a few years back.
I bought this car a couple years ago from a millionair that only drove it 3 months while he stayed in NJ for the summer months at his house in Belmar. It was kept in a garage the whole time with the other 3 cars he had. He was the original owner of the car and he gave me a manilla folder with every receipt of any work he did to the car which i still have.
Now the reason im selling this car is because Im a professional boxer along with being an alaskan commercial fisherman for 5 months of the year. I know it sounds a little crazy but, due to my work Im never here in Jersey. It kills me everytime i see the car just sittin here in my driveway. My purpose of this is to find someone who is going to take this car and put the work in and drive her like shes suppose to be.
This is a project car but, minimal as you can see in the photos. Yes it needs work but, if it didn’t Id have this up for 15,000. It needs a front bumper and radiator. Not from a crash you would think but, my dumbass little brother taking it around the block and underestimated the 944 and hitting a curb the right way in an unlucky manner.
It probe needs about 2,000 bucks into it and less if you do the work yourself.
THIS CAR IS THE ONLY CAR OUT THERE WITH THIS MILEAGE AND ALL ORIGINAL!! If you want a car to make your own with little work than call me.
Immediately after reading, a red flag went up - mainly the one where the car reportedly hadn’t been in a crash, directly before the description of a crash. I understood that the seller meant that there were no reported or major accidents, but it did mean that the car was a bit worse for the wear at the very least.
However, 47,000 original miles on an Porsche 944 Turbo - a car that had seen an explosive market as of late - was nothing to write off. Not without further investigation, in any case. With no cell coverage in the Caribbean Sea, I used Google Hangouts to send a inquiring text to the seller, who replied promptly with “Two guys are coming to see the car tomorrow. Sorry.” He mentioned that at the end of the week he’d be leaving for a long haul for fishing or boxing, or some hilarious combination of the two.
After giving him my standard sob story about how I’ll give the car the love it so desperately craves and that I’m sort of a big deal on the internet, I told him that I’d give him a call in a few days if the car wasn’t in someone else’s possession, safe in the knowledge that this would in all likelihood be too daunting a project for any of the usual half-assed unwashed curbstoners that try to make a quick buck flipping 2001 Chevy Malibus that “need TLC.” Even armed with this foresight, I was thousands of miles away and the guy was leaving the country on his fish boxing expedition before my return.
That’s when I employed the help of a friend, under the always enticing heading of “Hey dude, wanna make some cash?” After arranging a meetup in which the risk of abduction was lowered to a reasonable orange, my friend informed me that the car indeed existed and was just as shitty and in need of attention as described.
Shockingly, it didn’t run due to “something small” going wrong with the ignition system, resulting in a loss of spark. The seller said it just happened, like, yesterday and that he’d be willing to drop the price to accommodate the new issue. Why, that was right neighborly.
At this point, I asked my trusted eyes and ears on terra firma to confirm if the engine’s cranking sounded strong. If it sounded like the timing was at fault or it had no compression in any cylinder, that would be a dead giveaway that the timing components had taken a crap and that there was likely valve damage, giving me about a-dozen-and-change reasons to pass on this car.
Luckily, she sounded healthy enough, so I decided to take a chance and give an offer to the seller, against my better judgment and over my now increasingly upset wife’s tone. I wired the money to my friend who converted it into greenbacks and paid the seller, who in turn gave a manila folder’s worth of receipts along with the car’s title and a promise that I could arrange a pickup of the car when I got back.
Of course, you would’ve known this if you followed me on Twitter, where vague hashtags actually mean something.
As it stands now, I still haven’t seen the car because I’m currently aboard the Celebrity Reflection, sailing somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. It turns out the exact thing that helps ease the sting of an arguably dumb car purchase on vacation is the purchase of another vacation, directly after your first vacation.
I’ll be returning to New Jersey this weekend to do a full post-mortem on the car before I bring it back from the dead, chronicling exactly how much hair I pull out of my own naturally balding head, coupled with the exact date of my divorce. Happy Holidays indeed.
If any of my readers want to find a diamond in the rough of your own that’ll be the ultimate test of skill and patience, try and find something cool (and cheap) here and make it freaking amazing. You won’t regret it. Well, probably not.