Thursday, November 14, 2013

There and Back Again

I bought my first Porsche in 1994. It was a 1972 911T. These were they days of Usenet and mailing lists, and the overwhelming advice I saw going out to new Porsche owners was to take the car to some sort of drivers' ed event to learn how they handle. At the time, wasn't aware of PCA, POC or Excellence, so all I had was the fledgling Internet for assistance. Not surprisingly then, the first thing I found was the PCA Zone 7 Autocross School at Candlestick Park. From the first session on the skid pad, I was hooked, and there was no looking back. Well, at least until my racing budget had to coexist with making house payments.

Fast forward to 2005 or so, I was engaged, had recently started working for Google in Mountain View, and the Cayman was announced. This sounded like a terrific car to me, but my wife-to-be, with memories of being stuck in the cargo box of her dad's RX-7, insisted that any new car I got needed back seats in order to accommodate future children. I got agreement that, if I found a car that met that constraint, I'd be allowed to get it. She agreed. I had something in mind, but it was still more of a fantasy, well beyond my financial means.

My biggest concerns around having children were financial. I saw my parents struggling to raise four kids on one modest income, and I didn't want to be anywhere close to that situation. By 2007, there was no way that I could say, with a straight face, that we couldn't afford to have children. By the middle of 2008, three important things happened, at least as far as this story is concerned: we had our first child, we moved back to the Seattle area with my transfer to the Kirkland office, and Porsche announced the first 911 with DFI and PDK. 

I've always been susceptible to upgrades, and the Porsche product line at the time was pretty much perfect for that. The cost differences from a Cayman to a Cayman S to a Carrera to a Carrera S to a GT3 to a Turbo are all roughly equal. Each step was tempting and not _too_ outlandish. Yes. jumping straight to the top of the product line-up was outlandish, so just don't look at it that way.

After the dust settled with moving, I went to the local Porsche dealership and said when they announced a Turbo with DFI and PDK, they should give me a call. It took about a year, and the announcement came in August, during one of the two weeks that year I wasn't in the Seattle area. When I got to the dealer, I was apparently third in line to get one of these, and the dealer didn't have firm allocation numbers yet. Over the next month or so, the other two people backed out. I wound up getting the first one delivered to the Seattle area, and all was good.

Well, for the first 18 months, all was good. Sure, there was a cooling system failure at an autocross, which meant getting the car towed back from Bremerton. I also lost a radiator due to an unfortunate cone, which meant another tow, but other than that, it was above reproach for about 18 months, graced the cover of the local PCA newsletter (, and got me a couple jackets.

The real problem began in August. A number of different alarms went off in the car, mentioning things like the transmission being in emergency mode, start assist being disabled, etc. The dealer said the main problem was a bad coil, but they also noticed a leak in the transmission. Apparently, with PDK, the dealer can't actually service the transmission, so that means a replacement. The first replacement wouldn't select reverse. That led to replacing everything else around the transmission to try to figure out what the problem was. It eventually became clear that there wasn't anything else wrong and the problem must be in the replacement transmission. By the time the second replacement transmission arrived and the car was reassembled, plus the time the car was out for the failed cooling system, it had been at the dealer for 30 days during its first two years. In Washington State, that means it met the terms of the Lemon Law.

Before this failure, I was really happy with the car. When I got it back, two days before an autocross, we were back at square one with the the throttle mapping. By the end of the weekend, it had mistakenly learned that I didn't want a gradual throttle response at low speed, but preferred to get a bunch of power all at once. It was bad enough that my wife noticed the difference, and she maybe drove the car a total of 10 times over my two years of owning it. Add to that our decision to move from Kirkland to Seattle as I'd started working in our Fremont office, and the fact that, if anything else went wrong with the car after this opportunity had passed, I'd be kicking myself, I decided to have Porsche repurchase the car. Besides, soon after all this started, Porsche announced the next generation 911.

Yesterday, in Zuffenhausen, my next car rolled off the assembly line. It should be here by mid-January. I'm optimistic that they've figured out the problems this time.

No comments:

Post a Comment