WDMS - Chapter 235 - December 2014
So, with a 6 year old (who'll be 7 in two months) and the potential for another one, it was time to spend a little thought on transportation. We've surely got no shortage of vehicles, but Anna was itching a bit for a new-to-us daily-driver and so the hunt began. Firstly, we looked at gmt800 Escalades which were at a great price point and are solid. Fairly simple to work on and I'm familiar with them as our trailer-pulling beast is a 3/4ton 8.1 big block version of the same chassis. We really wanted four captains chairs and a bench in the way back, but that would also put the baby way out of reach. We have some friends who love theirs and so we found a few, drove a few and while Anna liked them, it didn't really inspire her either.
Ok, if you've not figured it out now, we're car people. Cars to most people are appliances and I get that. I've been asked thousands of times "what car should I buy" and I've always answered: "Get what you want. In the modern era most all makes have very similar defect rates and no matter what you get it is likely to break, so when you've written the check you did not want to write and get your vehicle back from being fixed it is important that as you walk up to it you smile and think: but I love my car". So while a lot of questioners have gotten the typical "impala/fusion/focus/camry/tahoe/tundra/f150/etc" appliance type answer, car people understand that the rules change and the act of driving has a huge influence on the car choice. A massively huge influence. Anna and I both enjoy driving.
Now, with that being said, Anna's skirt was obviously not being blown up by the current crop of candidates. She liked them just fine, but....there was no zing. I'm sure we could have gotten an 06 Escalade with the 6.0 motor and she would have been okay with it. She'd have made it work. She's a trooper that way.
But...you only live once. So we went back to the drawing board and wiped it clean and restarted the whole thought process starting with "what does it HAVE to do". Her current 4Runner has been a great little SUV and it can carry all three of us and the dogs and go on a long trip just fine. But really, the NEXT DAILY does not NEED to haul the dogs as we've got the crew cab truck. What it DOES need to do is to haul her to work (part time) and it needs to haul the bean once it arrives as well as Ros, our 6 year old. It needs to be able to handle a few bags as well. It would BE NICE if it could scoot when needed and be attractive. The more we talked, the more it became apparent 'excess' was what she did NOT want. We spent some time evaluating the basic needs and I spent time looking at various vehicles for sale.
I ran across a 996 with a rear-facing infant seat in the back and showed it to Anna. This raised the skirt. It was not slow and lumbering. It could cut and thrust. It could hold all four of us on a weekend trip to Dallas (3 hours away). We looked at similar stuff, but kept coming back to the 996 and when I found the silver one (must be silver or grey, no red, no black) in Canada with the aero package (looks like a GT3) that seemed to be the one for us. The more I chatted with the seller the more I really liked him and I could tell he had taken good care of it and, more importantly, with his open honesty and full disclosure I trusted him. He had sent a ton of detailed pictures, the history on the car and there seemed to be no surprises. The car had already had the issue-prone IMS bearing replaced 10k ago, as well as a new clutch and water pump. Very nice BBS wheels held Michelins and it was slightly lowered and really looked great. He was the second owner and while it was not perfect (some rock chips, etc) it sure did look perfect for us. He was incredibly shocked we were not going to have it shipped down and that we'd simply fly up and drive it back. "But it's winter, there could be snow", "uh...ya'll have snow plows and such, right? I mean, the main roads will be mostly clear, right?", "well yeah, but the car is on summer tires and Michelin says not to use these tires in snow or below freezing", "yeah....I don't really see that as an issue and I'm not trusting a shipping company if I don't have to and flights are much, much cheaper...can you pick me up at the airport?", "Sure...yeah.....no problem". The seller was pretty awe-struck I could tell, I just wasn't sure if it was awe of the perceived confidence and skills, or awe of the perceived stupidity. Still, it was clearly awe.
One thing that cracks me up is when folks are looking for a certain type or even a specific car and they find it and then..."oh, that's too far away". I mean, we're DRIVERS. We love cars and we love to drive cars, yet sometimes I read on forums where a car one or two states over is "too far". It's not like camry shopping where if you wait a few weeks another ten of them will be available in your own zip code. Seems odd to me, but oh well.
Above: the one. Below: Two days prior to flying to Canada this paper-tag 991 GT3 car hammers past me on the highway, WOT for about 6 seconds, ripping through shifts. Clearly a sign.
To us, going to Canada never threatened the deal in the least. Anna spent about an hour on various websites and on the phone and in short order I had a list of all the documents I'd need to cross back into Detroit and she'd even called the Border guys there and spoken to them a few times to ensure they were open 24 hours and double checked the papers I'd need and that they took cash or credit. Everything was printed and organized. The seller already had a letter from PCNA stating that this car (referencing the vin) met USA DOT specs already. Flights were about 350$ from Houston to Toronto so this purchase was looking pretty good. The big issue was timing. I'd only have a few days to be gone and then I needed to be back for Christmas and our family vacation. With work being busy (I had two trips already this week!), this was a damn narrow window to make. Anna could not go due to previous commitments and our 6yr old, so I had to take some backup. My first choice was a buddy in Houston, who I knew had some vacation time and could drive well. He was sick a few days ago, and hopefully was better. I texted him late on Tuesday. We needed to leave on Friday at 5am.
This is the text messages, verbatim:
So....how ya feeling?
>>>>>better. they gave me some drugs. feel better-ish
So....do you have a passport?
>>>>> I do. It's current even
So....do you have to work Friday?
>>>>>I can take a day. Where are we going?
Toronto. To pick up a 996. And drive straight home. That way I'm not solo and have to stop for sleep. I hate stopping.
>>>>>Fly out Friday, drive home Saturday/Sunday?
Fly out Fri at 5am. Toronto by noon. Leave by 4pm, home Saturday evening.
>>>>>Let me make a call
>>>>> (3 minutes later) In.
TWS Track day on Sunday, LOL. Awesome.
And that's how it went. I texted him a picture of the car, he said it was pretty and then we made lists of what to bring. I wired the seller a deposit and then pulled out cash on Thursday for the balance and got to bed early. Anna and I left the house at 0230 and picked Richard up and then Anna dropped us off at IAH and she went home. We caught the 0510 flight to Charlotte and then the next flight to Toronto, landing right on schedule. I was very happy to see that there was virtually no snow on the ground and the forecast for the day was clear (I texted the seller that we'd landed) and walking over to Canadian Immigration is where the fun began.
Richard got the fun girl and it went like this:
OFFICER: Your reason for entering Canada?
>>>>>That guy over there (points at me) is buying his wife a car for Christmas and I'm helping him drive it back to Texas
OFFICER: What kind of car?
OFFICER: How bad did he screw up that he had to buy his wife a Porsche??
---and with that Richard is free to enter the Canada.
I, on the other hand, was carrying a large amount of cash and I claimed as much on the form and so I got ushered to another checkpoint.
OFFICER: How much money are you carrying
>>>>> (I told him)
>>>>> I'm buying a car here in Canada and we're driving it back to Texas, it's a Christmas present for my wife (going for sympathy here)
OFFICER: What kind of car?
>>>>> It's a Porsche 911, going to be her daily-driver.
OFFICER: Don't they have those in the States?
>>>>> Well they do, but this had the options she wanted and the color and good maintenance history...and they are easy to import
OFFICER: <grinning> Do you think she can handle it?
>>>>> <grinning back> Well, she has a twin turbo Supra that will skunk this 911 as her play toy, so yeah, I think so
We sidetrack onto car racing and this guy used to amateur roadrace Datsun 240s and 260s. He loved to hear about Anna's 10-second Supra and Scratcher, and had some good stories of his own. We chat for about 10 minutes as we're the only ones in this area and he finally says 'get out of here and be safe on the way home!'. My backpack (and only bag) is never opened. I walk through a deserted corridor and through some more doors to the main area and Richard is there waiting and we head outside to find Weng, the seller, just pulling up. Sweet. We hopped in his turbo Saab and scooted over to his house, where he opened the garage door and there sat our gorgeous ride home. It was Toronto in late December and incredibly cold. I was wearing everything I brought and it wasn't quite enough. The car looked great and he backed it out of the garage and we quickly went over the car and it was exactly as he'd described, including the minor flaws.
Above left: Click that box YES and you get to talk to more immigration folks. Right: No snow in Toronto, which meant a nice clear road south!
I won't bore you with details, but after a bank trip (all those 100s were real!) and a Ministry Of Transportation trip (to buy a 10-day transport plate for 20$) we were freaking starving. Weng and his wife were incredibly gracious and took us to a small Chinese place that he swore by. Now, I like Asian food just fine...I don't totally love it unless my wife (whose Asian) is making it as she makes a fried rice dish and a stir fry dish that I'll just devour...but this place looked promising. Richard is game as well and we were totally unprepared for what happened. Weng asked us several questions about what we liked best and then the waiter appeared and Weng talked in Mandarin for a bit and then the waiter left. I'm kindof a picky eater (folks who know me just groaned right now) and was hopeful that in all that ordering there would be something I could/would eat. Sure I had snacks in my bag, (I rarely ever travel sans snacks) but hopefully this would be good. Literally 4 minutes later three large plates of piping hot food get delivered in the middle of the table with smaller empty plates going in front of each of us. Looked a little iffy, but smelled good. Truth be told, it looked a lot iffy.
I'm no foodie, but for food like this, I could learn....
Weng quickly pushed a full plate my way and I put some on my smaller plate and got out my sticks and as everyone else was jockeying food around I sampled a small bite. My brain sent this message quickly to my hands: OMG MOAR!
About forty-five minutes later we were stuffed with awesome food and it was time to get out of town before traffic got bad. Literally stuffed with best restaurant Chinese food ever. Ever. Ever ever.
We said our goodbyes like old friends and promised to keep in touch.
Above left: Don't worry, she's in good hands! (yes, I'm wearing THREE layers!) Right: FIRST gas stop and the attendant asks to come take a pic of the car. True story.
The trip started out a bit rough with construction just south of Toronto but thankfully it didn't last and we were on the way to Detroit at a good clip. A really good clip. FUN FACT: 996s feel very settled at a really good clip.
We arrived on the other side of the tunnel and the guy in the little booth told us to go over to another little area and there would be an officer waiting and he radio'd ahead and as we went the 75 yards over there was indeed a pair of guys directing us to park partially under the overpasses in a well lit area. As we were pulling in, Richard started a stopwatch on his phone and we were told to leave everything in the car except the paperwork we needed and head inside the office. The guys were in full gear with extra cold weather gear as well and very polite. Inside, we found more polite folks and I had to fill out one form (I had all the others) and then we got called to the desk. Together, the officer and I ran down the checklist to ensure I had all the papers and he looked at them. Everything was in order and they ran a check on me (I passed), a check on the car (not stolen, so it passed), and then looked up the value of the car online to assess the import duty. The first figure they came up with (by now we had three folks helping us and it was very friendly and they knew it was a Christmas gift for Anna) was incredibly low. Of course I can keep my mouth shut and accept it, but 1) that would be really wrong, and 2) if they found out later (even a few minutes later) that would be bad. So, I spoke up and said "that does not sound right...too low....did you look up a boxster maybe?". Sure enough the guy did and the value raised by several thousand dollars and they applied their math and they wanted a grand total of $343.45 to import this car. I handed over a credit card and that was it. Again, I could have kept quiet and maybe saved a few dollars, but karma is always watching. And when flaunted with, she will bite you eventually. "Pay the piper" as they say. The outside guys had already come back inside and told the desk folks the car was clear and also about how nice it was. I cannot stress how genuine everyone was and how pleasant they were to deal with. We walked out to the car and as we started to roll, Richard stopped his timing and it read 38 minutes. Nice.
Cincinati has a little light thing by the highway. This is the best I could get, but it was kinda neat in person.
Above: Late night fuel stop somewhere. Below: Running from the sun as we crossed into Arkansas
Detroit was a blur as we hustled south and in moments we were in Ohio. Toledo, Dayton, Cincinnati and then Kentucky. After Louisville and Bowling Green we were in Nashville. I thought about pinging one of my good friends who lives just north of Nashville, but it was the dead of the night and we didn't have time to stop so we soldiered on to Memphis. The sun was coming up as we crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas and the car was humming along perfectly. Little Rock passed quickly and then we were in Texas. Yay. Now, the problem with Texas is that it is huge and although we were on 'home soil', we had a LOT further to go. Getting off of interstates and going to state highways meant small towns and traffic lights and the odds of getting pulled over went up greatly.
Above: Rest stop in Arkansas, Below: Knocking down the miles...
The car had no front or rear plate (those stayed in Canada) and all we had was a small sticker in the passenger front windshield. Sure enough a Texas DPS Trooper passed us going the other way and turned around. Richard was driving (lol) and the stop was short. The Trooper said the sticker should be in place of the rear plate, but of course the instructions on the sticker and the border guys said it went where it was. Trooper was cool, gave Richard a warning and we were out only a few minutes. No worries.
I dropped Richard just north of Houston at his buddies place and I pointed the car towards home, about 1.5 hours away. The last miles were the hardest and the temptation to really open the car up was fierce, but I kept it sedate and cruised into our long driveway with Anna sitting on the front porch waiting. She hopped in and we went up the road to the gas station to top the car off and get a final mileage/distance figure.
22.5 hours (not including the 38 minute border stop)
64.3 gallons of fuel
The next day (Sunday) was indeed a track day at TWS and I scooted up there and did a short session just to feel the car out on higher speed turns. It is very balanced and sure-footed. Steering is incredibly direct and the brakes are solid. Anna finally drove the car a bit and really loves it. I think we've got a keeper.
IMPRESSIONS: This car is really incredible. It really reminds me of Anna's Supra, you sit low and the hood pretty much falls away and the steering is incredibly direct. It weighs about the same as my 92 1LE, but the chassis is so much stiffer and the extra 90hp is very welcome. From a stop, the Camaros 300ft/lbs is 30 more than the Carrera, but once you're in the meat of the powerband the pcar just scoots ahead easily, riding that 90hp. Having 6 gears is slick and the pedal placement is good. They are a bit offset to the right, but once you're oriented it is a non-issue. With 996 pricing so low, this seems to be a huge value in price/performance and we really like the aero kit. At first Anna didn't really like the "carrera" graphic on the side, but she's now seen a lot of historic pcars with it and it is growing on her. It's lowered a touch and sits very well on the 18" BBS wheels. The headlights are the xenon-HID-whatevers and they are absolutely incredible. From a very high speed (let's say triple digits) you can easily stop in about half to a third the distance you can see. Absolutely completely love them. As a bonus, when you come up on left-lane-squatters they DO NOT MISS a flash. Richard and I both took to saying "light'em up" as we approached and they moved right, pronto. Stereo is Bose and is stout. It will absolutely thump and get very loud and be perfectly clear. Seat heaters were incredibly welcome in the very-cold, but even when it is just a bit chilly and the windows are down (say....like you're lapping TWS on a brisk day) they are a Godsend. One of those things I never think I'd want until I use them.
Speaking of seats, the driver and passenger seats are height-adjustable and this could not work out nicer. As the seat goes up, it goes forward a bit and Anna and I sit on the same fore/aft adjustment, but when she raises the seat up it takes it forward so it is perfect for her. So we don't even more the seat fore/aft at all, just use the vertical adjuster. Very slick!!
Keys: We got two keys, one a 'normal' 911 key and the other a grey Carrera GT key...which is pretty damn cool. And yes, it takes a while to enter the car with the key in your left hand for the ignition being on the 'wrong' side.
Fuel: Speaking of 'wrong side', the fuel door is naturally in the front, on the passenger fender. Even though you pull up to the pump and you can see the fender and the pump, getting the spacing 'right on' took a few tries. I was always close enough to put fuel in, but it took me a while to end up where I wanted to.
TIRES: The car had a slight vibration at about 65 that cleared up past 70 so I ran it up to my guy at Discount. He pulled all four tires and re-balanced them and it gave me a good chance to look under and around the car. Pads and rotors were good, not a drip from anywhere under the car and everything looked great. The fronts were at about half tread but were older than I'd like and the rears were a bit more worn. With the wet spring on the way, we ordered a new set of shoes. If it had been my car I'd have likely tried to get to summer on these, but with Anna (and bean) driving it no such risks will be taken. A week later the tires were installed and those slight vibrations are gone. New Pilot Super Sports FTW!!
The Press: http://carbuying.jalopnik.com/how-to-own-a-ridiculously-cheap-and-reliable-porsche-91-1668638286/1668941033/+pgeorge
IMPORTING: One of the frequent questions is importing a car and how is it done. Obviously we looked into this prior to buying airplane tickets but it was remarkably easy.
1. Make sure your car is configured for US DOT/NHTSA/EPA regs (have letter from the manufacturer)
2. Buy car, get a transport tag and head for the USA
3. At the US CUSTOMS line tell them you are importing the car - They point you to more officers
4. While an officer (or two) looks the car over you go inside and do paperwork.
-For us, we had the letter from Porsche, the 10 day transport tag from Ontario, the title and a bill of sale
-We did a form CBP 7501 that stated what it was, the value, and I paid the appropriate import tax
-They pulled the value online at kbb.com
-The officers came in, told the officer processing us the car was good to go and verified the vin with him
-Ran a check on me (phew) and then the car (not stolen)
-They 'completed' the 7501 with the import stamp and officers badge number and signature and gave us a reciept
-We had a blank from HS-7 but was told they didn't need it (this bit us slightly later)
5. Drove back to Texas
6. Got a 'state inspection' done on the car WITH a "greensheet" (that stopped being green about 10 years ago) for a title application
7. Got a VTR68A done by a DPS officer who is a specialist, he again verified VIN, verified no sign of vin-swapping (he had some stories), and the vehicle is what the forms say it is
8. Then went to the local DMV and found that while nobody else needs an HS-7 form, they do. Even though everything they require being verified at import is already done on the 7501. They were NOT willing to call the border (I had the direct number) and not willing to look further. Great.
Then I went through some calling to the border (super nice) and calls back to the state (incredibly un-helpful) to get this form done. Funny thing is, there is no place on the actual form HS-7 for any border or customs agent to sign or stamp. The border guys even asked my why I could not fill it out myself, but said they'd be willing to help however. Ended up calling the state office in Waco and was told by the lady there that she had talked to the folks from our county when they called and *surprise* it was not explained to her what had all really happened. Color me shocked that a local official would not do everything in their power to help the citizenry.
9. In the end, the form was completed and the documents accepted by a really good local desk guy (wish I had gotten him the first go-round). I paid the tax on the vehicle (in Texas, 6.25% of assumed value) and got plates and a registration sticker and in a few weeks we'll have a Texas title. Success in spite of the locals!!!
All in all, this was pretty simple actually, even with dealing with the lowest-common-denominators at the local office. Looking back, the folks at the Ministry of Transportation in Ontario were incredibly helpful and had great attitudes and then the border and customs guys and gals were incredibly helpful with great attitudes and then I get home....where I pay local taxes and I'm in my own community and I get stonewalled and treated very poorly. Sad.
Above: A great little 100 page book with tons of information....and Anna "hugging" the new addition to our vehicular family
As this page goes live, we've had even more time to enjoy the car and the love just gets stronger. I ordered a "sales booklet" for 2002 Porsches off Amazon (prime FTW) and it is about 100 pages and goes over all the standard and optional features and explains a lot on the design of the car. Did you know that over 1000 acoustic measurements went into speaker design and placement for the Bose system? Did you know that the 996 represents a 25% increase in torsional stiffness over the previous model? Remember, the 996 was a large step forward and the first 'all new' 911 since it was introduced. A significantly stiffer chassis as well as a water-cooled engine heralded the 996, and the 2002 was the start of the 996.2 (pcar folks say nine-nine-six-mark-two) which brought on greater refinements and a bigger engine with more power. Great info and it was 12$! Recently, just after getting home (4 miles) from completely filling the gas tank, we put the car on the scales to see what it weighed. Car still has spare and tool kit and a few odds and ends in it, but 3224 is very representative of an actual 'street' weight. The last "to do" on the car is rig up the real time tire temp array from the race car and take tire temps driving down the road to make sure we are running the right air pressure to use the full footprint of the tire. These are aftermarket sizes and the air pressure recommendations are all across the board on the forums. These tires aren't cheap, I want them to last and that means finding the right pressure that evens out the load and wear.
Above: 3.0 + stock twins + BPU = sub 3 second 0-60 and 10 second 1/4 mile street car (no clue on top speed) -----OR----- 3.6 + 6sp + all stock = 5.0 second 0-60, 13.0 second 1/4 and 177mph top speed!!
(BPU = basic performance upgrades)