This article is overdue. After all, I’ve picked up a new-to-me car, driven it enough to use half a tank of 93 octane, got it in a member post and mentioned it on Discord. Some of my friends will have seen it on my Facebook wall, or Instagram stories, or even in real life. The truth is, I’m a bad writer when it comes to my own cars because they aren’t basketcases, they aren’t typically that interesting, and most of the time, they just work. My 1999 Porsche Boxster is no exception.
If you were to ask my parents, I had a thing for German cars from a very young age. Well, cars in general, but particularly the sorts you might find hauling ass down an unrestricted stretch of autobahn, or camped out for the Nürburgring 24 hour race. Eurovan MVs, Hebmüller Cabriolets, Luthe-penned BMWs, brick outhouse Benzes — all that sort of stuff. While other kids my age had Mustangs and Corvettes on their bedroom walls, I had a Flachbau 930 cabriolet. Yep, that’s me next to the Mk3.5 Volkswagen Cabriolet.
After experiencing American and Japanese machinery, I ended up returning back to my roots. I’ve done the BMW thing and love it. I’ve sampled Mercedes and Volkswagens, and finding a good manual Audi 5000 Turbo Quattro with the multiple diff locks is about as likely as finding a piece of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in a box of Lucky Charms. Besides, I’d driven enough Porsches at this point to know exactly what I wanted. That was in 2021, and I ended up looking for the right 986 for so long that it eventually found me.
Joining The Club
The saga of this particular Boxster starts with a tale of office space and community. While I’m usually content to work from home, it’s nice to have a change once in a while. In addition, I’ve sort-of drifted into a largely new sphere over the course of the pandemic, and while I’ve kept touch with many friends, greater local community interaction was on the list of desires. Then I learned about a place called RCLUB. It’s a private automotive social club in Toronto where members can wrench, hang out, develop their driving technique on some really nice Simucube racing simulator setups, wash their cars, and just do stuff that would otherwise be impossible in most apartments. David’s probably going to accuse me of being posh for being a member, which is fair enough, but it’s also where this Boxster found me, and where I ended up shooting it. [I’ve gone Hollywood, you may recall. -DT].
It turns out that another member’s mum was ready to let go of her Boxster, a 2.5-liter five-speed car with an incredible story. She actually ordered it while her husband was out of town on a business trip and just didn’t tell him until it showed up. How’s that for girl power? Needless to say, this car was loved from the start, and I’m a sucker for a car with great history. A deal was done, and I ended up taking home the perfect Boxster for a very reasonable price.
What A Spec
I’m hugely picky when it comes to the colors and options on my cars. [Ed Note: Thomas isn’t kidding. When I shopped for my i3, he made it clear: You gotta get the Giga World interior. I drove a nice 2020 model that was cheap and had the big battery, but the interior was black. “Get the right spec” he advised me. I’m glad I listened. -DT]. For example, my 325i had to be one of three specific colors, made before September of 2005, have a single-hump dashboard (no iDrive), no wood trim, the sport package, the Logic7 audio system, and heated seats but not the cold weather package. Oh, and it had to be a rear-wheel-drive manual car in a place that gets snow. Remember that scene in Spaceballs where they literally combed the desert? Yeah.
Unsurprisingly, my Boxster is also a bit of a rarity. It’s Pastel Yellow over Metropol Blue with a Metropol Blue top, a particularly uncommon color combination that’s a joy to behold. In addition, it came with the wind deflector, the amplified premium audio system, the storage box, embossed headrests, heated seats, colored wheel crests, an upgraded exhaust finisher, and 17-inch wheels. It’s a wonderful touring spec, with enough creature comforts for serious mileage.
Oh, and that’s before I get to the documentation. This is a never-wintered car with one previous owner, purchased new in 1999 and kept until September of 2023. It has extensive dealer and specialist maintenance records, a copy of the original order invoice, the original radio code card, and even period-correct license plate frames.
Bring Out The Glass Tables
A good sports car is a party drug, enveloping, intoxicating, and highly addictive. The rush of combustion, the snick of a shifter, the peak of cornering forces telegraphed through the steering wheel. By numbers alone, some of the best sports cars on the planet can be outrun and out-cornered by certain crossover SUVs, but that doesn’t matter. It’s all about sensation. So, what’s an early Boxster like to drive in 2023? In a word, profound.
It all starts with an unmistakable driving position. Slide past the reasonably narrow sills, drop down into the driver’s seat, and it feels like you’re almost skimming the asphalt. The enormous four-spoke telescoping but non-tilting wheel feels at odds with the shrink-wrapped three-pod gauge cluster with the slit in the hood like a red carpet dress, and you catch a glimpse of the left front fender in the corner of the windscreen. The 986’s cabin is tight in the inseam, but the litany of organic shapes transport you back to a different time as you slide the light yet precise cable shifter into first.
These early 201-horsepower 2.5-liter cars got a final drive 9.4 percent shorter than on later 2.7-liter cars, and slightly longer ratios in fourth and fifth. While that doesn’t sound like much, it makes all the difference in the world. Combined with a 6,600 rpm redline, this all means that second gear tops out at just under 60 mph, and third just below 89 mph. Since you’re rarely running to the ragged edge of the tach in everyday driving, this gearset imbues the Boxster with a lively character that easily keeps you in the meat of the power band at properly sane speeds. You’ll want to be there because above 4,000 rpm, the flat-six belts out an exotic elixir of induction and exhaust noise, a wailing reminder of what we’re losing soon.
After reveling in the mellifluous notes of Stuttgart’s six-pipe organ, the true test of a sports car arrives — a corner. Brushing the ball of your right foot on the middle pedal conjures up immediate bite and a firm yet easy to modulate pedal. The steering feels like reading braille when going in a straight line — keep a gentle enough fingertip grip on the wheel and you’ll swear you’d be able to feel imperfections in the earth’s tectonic plates while driving on a billiard table — so it shouldn’t be surprise that weighting builds in a gloriously linear manner as angle and tire forces rise. Despite the low polar moment of inertia inherent in mid-engined cars, this thing’s absolutely intuitive to drive for everyone from beginners to seasoned pros, communicating far before the limits of grip are ever breached. Set the front end up right and you’ll be able to get on the power early, surging out of the corner on a wave of smooth internal combustion jazz.
Yep, the Boxster does the sports car stuff alright. However, the really shocking things about a 986 Boxster are the ride quality and the cabin noise with the top down. Call it the presence of meaningful sidewall, suspension tuning by German wizards, or just a reasonable curb weight, this thing glides over Toronto bumps that my 325i would be crashing over. It’s uncanny how comfortable this sports car is, and that’s before we get into top-down volume. Thanks to enormous side windows and an adorkable wind deflector, you can hold a proper conversation with the top down at 60 mph without having to raise your voice. I’ve tested many newer cars that are absolutely deafening with just their sunroofs open on the highway, so this attention to noise is an unexpected joy. Perhaps because of its comfort, the 986 feels less serious than its successor, a more jovial roadster up for coffee runs and backroad jaunts alike. How wonderfully joyous.
While my Boxster has been well-kept, it does have a few cosmetic considerations after 24 years of life. The odd scar, the occasional bit of wear, that sort of stuff. I’ve already replaced the worn shift boot and knob with a brand new part, and replaced a frail trim piece covering the alarm system’s ultrasonic interior sensor, but I’ll have to pop new lenses into the headlamps at some point and send it out for some light paintless dent repair.
This car’s definitely received paintwork in its past, and huge regard hasn’t been given to avoiding swirl marks so a full paint correction is planned for the spring. Speaking of springtime maintenance, it makes sense to replace the tires with fresh units in the spring, given the car’s very occasional use over just the next few weeks before winter storage. Continental has released its ExtremeContact Sport 02 300-treadwear summer tires in Boxster fitment, so I have my eye on a set.
The top is wonderfully water-tight, although it’s a touch fuzzy in spots and will need replacement eventually. In addition, the infamous IMS bearing, rear main seal, and clutch were done several years back but will need re-fettling in the future. While my car features the tougher dual-row IMS bearing and is well within the acceptable mileage limit for a replacement IMS bearing, I know better than to turn a blind eye.
A Certain Romance
This certainly isn’t the last you’ll see of the Boxster, but it’s probably best not to expect frequent content. See, we have this thing called “blogging the misery,” a premise where if the going gets bad, the blogs get good. Normally, this is the result of buying cheap and neglected cars, but this Boxster is in pretty good shape. It needs a few odds and ends, but we aren’t talking about rust repair, battery pack replacement, or anything of that magnitude.
Besides, joy isn’t meant to be overshared. It isn’t performative. It’s in the backs of cupboards, the sodium lights, the 6,000 rpm mark on a tachometer, and the 3,500 K glow of golden hour. A quiet shared giggle, barely audible from down the hall, drowning under the waves of the bathroom fan. A little secret that’s pacifist, benign, innocent. It’s in the stories we keep from childhood, the ones we laugh over yet are still wary to tell our parents about. Most of my Boxster tales will likely end up confined to group chats and asphalt. It’s a big wide world out there, and we choose what we want to keep. Let this be our little secret.
(Photo credits: Thomas Hundal, probably Thomas’ dad)
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