About That Air-Cooled Life
I haven’t officially earned the title, but I would consider myself one of Driving Line's resident car junkies. I’m sure we all like cars, but I LOVE cars. Find me another editor that has owned 23 cars in 24 years of driving (see Confessions of a Car Junkie), and I’ll personally detail your car. I always use the excuse, "I don’t drink, do drugs or kill people; cars are my vice." Harmless, right?
So here we are at car number 23, and even it’s one that even I’m surprised at how it ended up in my hands.
1997 Porsche 993 Carrera
When I first wrote about the air-cooled phenomenon, I never thought that two years later, I would be in one — a '97 Porsche 993 Carrera S, to be exact. My hesitancy was well documented as I knew about the countless horror stories of maintenance issues leaving owners stranded and embarrassed at car meets. Well, five months in, and it might very well be my best car experience yet.
This isn't my first time with the 911; my original Porsche was a yellow '02 996 C2 with a roll bar, GT3 seats and full coilovers — a very capable, tuned and purpose built vehicle. It had everything.
It also got a whole lot of attention — understandable, but not always welcomed. Having owned an Audi R8, a Gallardo and most recently a BMW i8, you get used to the questioning stares, but they're stares that usually translate into “you’re rich” or even a “can I introduce you to my daughter” vibe (true story).
An air-cooled 993, however, attracts a completely different type of enthusiast. Those that seem to inquire or comment on the 993 are less interested in what I do or who I'm seeing. They simply admire the curves of the car and really know what the air-cooled life is all about.
You Had Me at Drive
To truly understand the air-cooled life, you have to drive an air-cooled Porsche. I was roped into this lifestyle by a good friend. At first I was skeptical, of course, but I’m not going to turn down the opportunity to drive a Ruf 964 RCT. That's right — the first air-cooled car I ever got to drive was a true Ruf car. To put this in perspective, think of it like going on your first date... with Emily Ratajkowski. From the start, your expectations have been set way too high.
Whether I was driving a Ruf RCT or a standard 964/993, the spirit of the car always felt the same. There's this feeling of constant available power (more so in the Ruf, obviously) due to the car's lightweight handling and characteristics. The best way to describe it is that it always feels like you're going faster than you really are. It's absolutely the most fun car to drive, especially as you’re going through the gears.
Is all this a fair trade-off with reliability concerns? How would it hold up as a daily driver?
In Good Hands
It all comes down to having a good mechanic. Most air-cooled Porsches are 25 years or older, so it's going to have the typical older car issues already. But having a good mechanic (in my case, the best, Rstrada) makes a world of difference in peace of mind. Sure, it’s going to cost some money, but getting it done correctly is priceless. Knowing the car will start up without any issues (knock on wood!) and run as it should is something most of us just take for granted, but for the air-cooled life, it’s an art form. Do it the right way, and you'll be rewarded; take short cuts, and you’ll be that guy at the show calling AAA. (This could happen regardless of course; it's still an older vehicle).
Living daily with the 993 hasn’t been the challenge I initially expected. Having a cassette deck (you might need to Google that if you're not old enough) instead of Bluetooth is a welcome alternative and allows me to focus on my driving. The immobilizer can be a challenge at times (an alarm feature from the '90s); it's a remote button that needs to be pressed prior to turning on the ignition.
If you know my car history, I’ve owned a wide variety of cars, from a Scion xB to a Lamborghini Gallardo. Old school? Yep, Toyota MR-2 Turbo. New tech? Yep, BMW i8. But I can honestly say the experience of driving an air-cooled is something entirely different.