Waiting to Hit the Road Again

I ALWAYS LIKED THE LOOK of the Porsche 944, but in the ‘80s, with a mortgage, boat and two young kids, a new one was out of my financial league. Then, one day in the mid-‘90s, while helping a friend shop for a sports car, I noticed the price on a nice used black 944. New, I still couldn’t afford, but a used one might fit the pocket book one day.

A few years later, I spotted a 1984 Guards Red 944 with a Gemballa body kit at Ludwig Heimrath’s and took it for a test drive. The grip and balance on the twisting on-ramp to the Don Valley Parkway sold the car. I had mainly driven front-wheel-drive cars and the smoothness of the 944’s cornering was a joy not experienced before. I paid $8,500 for a 13-year-old car with a reported 160,000 kilometres. It was a fun purchase as Ludwig and my wife, also of German stock, went nose to nose while I just stood back and watched.

Over the next 10 years, I put another 100,000 kilometres on the clock and somewhere along the line became a UCR member. I drove the car through the mountains of Pennsylvania, the Virginias and as far as Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

The 944 was not without issues but the Auto Select team in Newmarket slowly chipped away at the mechanical faults. With these cars, you need specialists like Franz, Nick and their entire crew. I’ve been going to them now for nearly 20 years and wouldn’t go anywhere else. They actually fix things and don’t just change parts. Their personal service is fantastic.

I loved driving the 944 and got a smile when a teenager would walk in front of me at a traffic light and flash a thumbs-up for a 20-year-old car. I also recall cruising along the 403 near Brantford when I noticed a VW Jetta catching up. As he pulled even, he slowed to match my speed and gave me a thumbs-up before pulling away. That type of thing happened on numerous occasions.

Eventually the hidden rust cancer started to get to the point where serious money was needed to halt the spread. I strongly considered keeping the car, but since it didn’t have airbags, a search for a replacement was started. I looked at several cars including an excellent 968 but didn’t like the Oak Green colour. A new Mercedes SLK couldn’t match the cornering of a 24-year-old 944. At the 2006 Canadian International Autoshow, Porsche had a car that wasn’t a 911 and wasn’t a Boxster. I sat in the driver’s seat and could see myself one day in a Cayman but the price of a new one was still a little out of my reach.

Twelve years later, I still own the Cayman S and still love to drive it. The IMS bearing issue worries me but Franzel installed a magnetic oil-drain plug and cuts the oil filter in half at every oil change. He says to drive the car like it was meant to be driven.

A couple of years later I looked at a used Carrera at Pfaff Porsche but made the mistake of procrastinating. When I finally made up my mind, that car was sold, but Horst said to drop over as there was a used, low-mileage Cayman S for sale that I might like. It was two years old, had 11,000 kilometres on the clock, and was in impeccable condition. We took it for a test drive and found it drove like a go-kart.  It was certified pre-owned with the remainder of the new-car warranty as well as an extended warranty. Being September, there was also a very significant discount from the original MSRP price. This time I didn’t hesitate and bought the car then and there. The trade-in value of the 944 was $3,500 so the car had depreciated $5,000 over 10 years. I am told it’s a racecar somewhere now.

Twelve years later, I still own the Cayman S and still love to drive it. The IMS bearing issue worries me but Franzel installed a magnetic oil-drain plug and cuts the oil filter in half at every oil change. He says to drive the car like it was meant to be driven. The car is just about to turn over 100,000 kilometres and the only problems to date have been a faulty water pump and alternator pulley.

The Cayman has travelled to the east coast and South Carolina more than once. The luggage space is remarkable but my wife doesn’t find the passenger seat comfortable. It’s a beautiful car to drive and handles like nothing else I have ever driven. On twisty mountain roads the car is fantastic.

In Seal Grey Metallic and full leather cocoa-brown interior, it is also a pretty car to look at. And that’s not just me talking, the car placed second for the 2013 People’s Choice award at the PCA UCR Concours (second of two entries, but who’s counting?)

I had a 2012 Mercedes E 350 coupe for a few years as my daily driver and winter beater. As a freeway grand-touring car, it was smooth but the boss didn’t like her seat in that either. Being pre-COVID, I wanted and planned to go for a long drive to either Newfoundland or the west coast. The seat issue meant the E 350 was out and, if I opted for the Cayman, I’d have to go solo. Best not to comment on that option.

Cruising the used-car Porsche dealers websites in January, I noticed something I thought unusual. The dealers all had several 2018 Macans with no mileage. At the 2020 Toronto auto show, I asked a Porsche salesman for the story. Evidently, Porsche had oversupplied the dealers and they were “highly motivated” to sell them. I’d been a naysayer about Porsche SUVs but a test drive offered a pleasant surprise in terms of driveability and passenger seat comfort (18-way adjustable) and there is room for my bicycle. I compared the Macan against an Alfa Romeo Stelvio (always wanted a 1750 GTV) but it wasn’t nearly as smooth or solid (not an Alfa unless something doesn’t work), plus (and this is a big plus) I had someone to service the Macan.

So, three days before COVID exploded, I traded in the Mercedes and became the owner of a new black 2018 Macan Sport (not to be confused with an S).

As a teenager, my brother and I drove all the way from Toronto to Costa Rica through the US, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica in a 65-horsepower VW camper bus we called the Pan Technican. Since then, I’ve driven the Pacific Coast Highway numerous times, through Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California, Alberta, Ireland, Spain and Italy. The roads and scenery are spectacular, but those drives were all in rental vehicles. The dream has always been to do some of the same roads in a Porsche.

Last summer, I co-drove a friend’s 2009 Aston Martin Vantage back to Toronto from Edmonton. The back roads and scenery are beautiful, particularly in Saskatchewan, but the Vantage doesn’t sit on the road or handle like the Cayman (sorry, Peter). The Provinz story about the long-distance trips of the two Boxster guys from Markham is additional inspiration to hit the road again.

Now we just need COVID to disappear so we can go for a drive — anywhere! </>

Story and Photos by Tom Richardson, PCA UCR Member | Porschephile Editor: Jillian Weir

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