Porsche 911 Buyers: More Problems to Watch for

by John Glynn on March 11, 2010

I’m seeing quite a few Porsche cars around at the minute that, in my opinion, were hastily bought. When it comes to pre-’89 911s, this is not a good idea.

The usual Buyers’ Guides point out where to look. The spots are always the same but, since many guides have not been updated for a few years, the information is behind the market. This is not good either.

Even when the ‘what to avoid’ information is pertinent to the car in question, buyers are opting to ignore the clues and spend hard earned money on a Porsche 911 that has problems bubbling beneath the surface; ‘bubbling’ being the operative word. It’s high time I finished my own Impact Bumper Buyers’ Guide and I have recently returned to work on it. I’m hoping to have copies on sale here by the end of May.

In the interim, listen carefully. When it comes to 911s, there is one big thing to watch out for. It’s not the early 915 gearbox some guides bang on about, and it’s not the must-have full history others mention. It’s rust.

RUST is the number one thing to watch out for on any pre-’89 911. Once it’s in there, it is a proper nightmare to get it out again, and a double nightmare to keep it out. Opting to buy a classic 911 that shows obvious signs of rust, no matter how small, is a BAD IDEA unless there is absolutely no other option.

“They’re galvanised” say the sellers, “they don’t rot. That little bubble by the door latch is where I caught it with a bunch of keys and never touched it up.”

WAKE UP PEOPLE! Farm gates are galvanised, but anyone who has ever tried to climb over a 20 year-old one, only to find their foot breaks the bottom rung in half, knows that galvanising metal does not make it indestructible. These old Porsches have completely unlined under-arch spaces, with a few handy ledges for mud to build up and get trapped on, near spots that have been sandblasted raw by the gravel flung up on much-enjoyed roads. What do you think is going to happen there?

“Why did Porsche make such a mess of the design then?” you ask. They didn’t! Our beloved 911s still look fresh in terms of style, but they’re 30 or 40 years old. Some rot in that time is inevitable on a UK-supplied RHD car. A similarly-used MGB would be scrap in half the time.

Trust me: anyone who tells you Porsches are galvanised and do not rot is talking out of their tradesmans’ entrance. When conditions are right, the metal in these cars rots like any other.

Any statement by a seller (regardless of how respected you believe them to be) to the effect that the little bubble of rust on a 911 door slam, sill, under a window rubber, on a rear quarter panel or under a 911 headlight is just a stone chip left untreated, should be disregarded until you have seen the other side of the panel with a flashlight and a pokey thing.

In pound-note terms, if a 911 doesn’t have Fuchs, factor in at least £1000 with tyres to sort that and remember: most of the take-off wheels which come up for sale to help pay for Fuchs are worth nothing. If it doesn’t have an original steering wheel, add £100 minimum to sort it. Non original seats? If it had sports seats to start then £400 minimum.

But rust: what to knock off for rust? Put it this way. If you took a 911 with a few tiny sill bubbles showing above the sill cover (on an impact bumper car) to a bodyshop to have it repaired, you could end up paying £1500 a side to have sills and inner sills done including basic paint. More if it needs kidney bowls (see below) and B-posts (the metal panel where the door latches sit), and more again if the paint is complex metallic that has faded with age and is going to take some skill to match.

So the next time someone says “It’s a 911. It’s galvanised. It doesn’t rust”: remember this. It didn’t rust for the ten years the protection was guaranteed for, but that was the extent of its warranted chemical envelope. Car and protection are now in the region of three times that age: well past where you can expect rust to have started eating away at a car that has been in the salt-sprinkled UK all its life.

Yes, there are one or two rot free cars out there, but they are the absolute minority! Do your homework, get it inspected (I do inspections if you’re looking for someone quick and sensible) and take your time making sure it’s right for you. Don’t rush in to anything – unless you’re happy throwing money down a 911-shaped hole, that is.

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