Robert McGowan, author of the best-selling book Porsche 911: The Practically Free Supercar, gives the inside line on buying a legend
While prices may have rocketed in recent years, the iconic 911 is still an attainable dream to those in the know. And whether you’re on a budget or your scratch cards have finally come in, there’s a model out there for you.
The trick, according to Robert McGowan, author of Porsche 911: The Practically Free Supercar: The Complete Beginners Guide to the Smartest Route into PorscheOwnership, is to do your research and buy to enjoy.
SFM - When did your love affair with Porsche begin?
RM - On a family walk as a 12 year old kid in Glasgow, we passed a Porsche Centre on the way home. There, resting in the parking lot, was a Guards Red 911 3.2 Targa Sport - I was instantly awe struck and have been obsessed with Porsche ever since.
SFM - What were your standout models back then?
RM - Around that time the 930 Turbo was the bedroom poster of choice for a lot of kids. But there was something about the Targa, with its cool wrap around rear screen and roll-bar, that stuck in my mind. Porsche’s return to the iconic design isn’t surprising.
SFM - When did you first take the plunge and what did you learn from it?
RM - By 32 I’d saved enough money and decided it was time for my first Porsche purchase. I’d learned quite a lot about Porsche over the years and I decided that a 3.2 was the way to go. They were reliable and holding their price, so if it went to plan I wouldn’t lose much, if any, money. That said, there’s always an element of risk with such a big purchase.
After viewing several cars I returned to the origin of my obsession, purchasing an ‘86 Targa Sport in Guards Red, naturally. During the process I learned a lot from inspecting potential buys, however the biggest revelation about the air-cooled cars was the potential rust issues. These were hardly mentioned in any online reports covering these cars back then but an important consideration when giving a potential purchase the once over.
SFM - How did the book come about?
RM - Over time I became known as the Porsche guy in social circles, due to my passion and knowledge of the marque - people are always intrigued about Porsches and their curiosity meant I was always tapped for my knowledge
It occurred to me that most people thought Porsches are too expensive to buy and run and therefore out of their reach. I wanted to change that mindset. By sharing my ownership experience, offering advice on which models to buy, with what to look for and what to expect, I knew more people would feel confident about realising their Porsche ownership dream. Travelling round SE Asia at the time gave me the perfect opportunity to start working on the book.
SFM - What did you learn when researching the book?
RM - While some of the content was based on the knowledge I’d acquired over time, coupled with my experience of owning three Porsches, including my current 993, my research took me deeper into the fascinating early history of Porsche.
This included insight into the potential water-cooled engine problem areas such as single and dual row IMS issues, along with why the materials used can cause the bores to score on some models. Any potential Porsche owner needs to be educated on possible serious and costly issues.
The book became a best seller and opened new doors, including a follow up book which is due out soon and other things like my Facebook Group - Practically Free Porsche - which anyone can join and discuss all things Porsche, share photos etc. It’s my goal to write full time and continue to share knowledge and experience with anyone who’s interested
SFM - What's the biggest mistake potential purchases make?
RM - Some people read stuff on the internet forums and end up more confused than there were before they looked. The biggest mistake I see is people not
having the correct information about certain cars prior to purchase. This can be costly.
SFM - What are your tops tips when purchasing?
RM - In brief I’d say most important is do your research thoroughly and get a PPI done by a reputable specialist. Furthermore, don’t see the car as a pure investment, instead buy a car which you can use and enjoy, then get your money back come resale.
SFM - In the current market what 911 models have the best purchasing/investment potential?
RM - The current climate is unprecedented, however the basic laws of supply and demand remain and as such, low volume special editions like 924 Carrera GT, 911 Turbo, GT2/3 RS and most if not all air-cooled 911’s will likely hold their money as will most of the transaxle cars. If the car market generally takes a dip then I’d expect these cars to fall less than others.
Early air-cooled, RS, GT2/3 Turbo and water-cooled specials like the R and the Classic Sport will likely continue to offer investment potential albeit at a steep cost of entry and no guarantees. But remember, a Porsche should be bought with your heart not your head. The value is in using them as intended, not tucked away as potential investments. Buy to enjoy and any financial appreciation is an added bonus. You only have one life so don’t delay!
SFM - And the future?
RM - Moving forward I suspect we’ll see a softening of prices of cars in general, at least in the short term. Cars are becoming cleaner and more automated and soon the internal combustion engine will be a relic. The impact that this will have on the car market is unknown at this stage. My advice is to buy the car that you love while the opportunity is there. Your money will come and go but time only goes. Buy the right Porsche, at the right price and I promise you’ll have a lot of fun!
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