© 2020 kertong © 2020 kertong

1999 Porsche 911 Carrera Convertible

Car #10 – the affordable 1999 Porsche 911 Cabriolet; owned around 2011. 

There’s a saying that’s popular in the car community – “Fast, cheap, reliable – pick two”. Also known as the Engineering / Project Management Triangle. But here’s the variation that I call “Ray’s Car ADD Triangle”: 

1) Fast powerful engine, sounds great

2) Razor sharp steering/handling response

3) Cheap to buy, cheap to own and maintain 

I’ve been hopping between #1 (Corvettes), and #2 (Elise/S2000). I decided to look for something that can fulfill 1, 2, AND 3 because I want to eat my cake and have it, too. 

So, as an exploratory stab, I ended up picking up this car. I hated that it was a convertible, but it was $20k and I bought it knowing I’d sell it quickly; just wanted to see what the big fuss about Porsche was. 

You see – I hated the stigma of the Porsche brand. Having cut my teeth on the camaro z28, working on cars myself and making it fast enough to outaccelerate its (ahem base) 911 counterparts, I’ll admit I had some scorn at the person who just walks into a dealership and plunks down a huge chunk of money for a “Porsche” without even knowing how a camshaft works. 

But looking at the Porsche recipe, it was known for fantastic steering; had an exotic, nice sounding flat6 in the back, unparalleled brakes, and a history rich with lore and legend. 

During the test drive, I instantly understood. The engine didn’t press me back into the seat like a V8 did – but it was responsive, smooth, good power all throughout the RPM range; and it sounded great doing it. The first few weeks I had this car, I was constantly bouncing off the rev limiter; I was always caught by surprise when it happened. With my previous cars, the rise-rate of the RPM would slow down as it approached its limits; and the car would shake more and more to let you know. In the flat6, it’s just buttery smooth and linear all the way to the top – it went from 5k-7k RPMs in the same amount of time it took to go from 2k-4k RPMs. The steering felt like it was constantly tensioned up – the instant I nudged it off its center, I felt the weight of the car as resistance and felt it respond instantly. The car felt connected directly to the road, which was a night and day difference from my previous base-suspensioned Corvette that float over roads and swept the bumps and texture under the carpet with a layer of air. This car was 80% of the raw sharp feeling of the Elise, and 80% as powerful as the Corvette; but together in one package it was greater than the sum of its parts. 

As I was signing the papers at the dealership, the salesman told me – “Congrats on your first porsche. I promise you, it won’t be your last.” How right he was. 

The more I started falling in love with the Porsche MO, the more I hated the convertible top. It was ugly, ruined the lines of the classic 911 shape, and the body without its roof support structure was so floppy – hitting one bump, you could feel the waves ripple back and forth through the chassis. 

But this is the car that was the only challenger to the V8 in terms of sound. I have a theory – when I was younger, I hated the way Porsches sounded. Sounded like metal gears grinding against each other in a coffee can. But as I got older I think my hearing degraded – and those harsh, high-pitched rough edges are now imperceptible to my aging ears. All I hear now is that soft and mellow mid-range bass of the flat 6 with just a dash of mechanical rasp – and I love it. It wasn’t screaming “look at me, I dare you to challenge me” the way a chevy v8 did. It was just right – its sublime sound was just a secondary byproduct of it working in perfect mechanical harmony. 

And so starts a lifelong obsession with Porsche. I can see why everyone buys one once they have the means. No other car feels like a 911, or even a boxster/cayman. And this “996” early generation is just so pure – compared to the current 991s (another car I later had), these feel more connected, smaller, and pure. They’re cheap too, thanks to an easily fixable engine issue and funky shaped headlights. I like these so much that despite having tasted the current generation 991 911s, I went back multiple times to the 996 generation. 

There are only two cars I recommend to every automotive enthusiast to own at least once in their lifetime – something crazy/impractical but pure (The Lotus Elise), and a 911 of any vintage. Unless you turn 40 – then you’re required by law to buy a Corvette and a Tommy Bahama shirt.