Porsche 911 buyers guide.

Finding your car

Finding the right car for you can sometimes be quite a long process, separating the wheat from the chaff may require many trips and inspections. Porsche dealers offiicial and specialist are plentyful, but buying a car through one of these routes does add a considerable premium to the cost of your car. Some may add that it will take away a lot of the risk. This is certainly the case with the official main dealers and some well reputed specialists but this isnt the case with all the so called "specialists" as there are many a horror story making the rounds amoungst the Porsche forums.

However if your looking to buy and inspect your own 911 this is the guide for you, it is no means a replacement for a good independent Pre Purchase Inspection, but it will certainly put you on the right track.

If your in the U.K. you should be scanning the classifieds of 911 and Porsche World, GT Purely Porsche and of course theres the PCGB magazine Porsche Post. Other sources are the Exchange and Mart, Loot and of course the Autotrader. There are also web based Porsche sales sites like ourselves, 911uk.com and pistonheads.com.

If your in the US you should be scanning Porsche Panarama, Excellence magazine and of course Road and Track.

The phone call.

This is a very important part of the purchase process as it will save you trecking halfway across the country to view a smoking rust bucket.

1) How long has the present owner owned the car and what is the reason for selling it.

2) Is the car registered in their name, if it isnt the vendor is probably a dealer.

3) How many owners has the car had.

4) What is the cars mileage and are there records to support this. e.g. Mot's and service history. The 911 should be good for around 100,000 miles before its ready for a major overhaul, like head work etc. This is dependent on whether they are motorway miles or city miles. A car that has spent its life cruising the motorways will be in alot better mechanical condition than a vehicle which has suffered the continuous stop start of city life.

5) Is the car used daily or a second or third car. Is it garaged.

6) Is the car the specification you are looking for: leather, coupe, targa, sunroof e.t.c. Is it the colour you are looking for, can you live with it, as the condition is far more important.

7) Inquire as to the cars condition, is it original or restored? Pre 1976 cars deserve more caution due to their lack of galvinisation.

8) The service history is a good guide to how the car has been looked after, find out who completed its last services and when the last major service was. Older and restored vehicles frequently are missing service history, so a good recent history showing good recent maintenance is a good starting point to evaluating the car.

Based on the above question you need to decide if its worth the journey.


Inspecting the 911's body

Stand back from the car and inspect the lines for ripples and dents, especially along the roof which can be a good indicator of serious impact damage and twisting of the body shell. Look around the body and check all the panel alignment and shut lines. Always keep an eye out for evidence of filler and overspray which is an obvious sign of damage repair or even quick rust repairs which may come through at a later date if not repaired correctly. These area's are worthy of extra questioning and evalution, it may just be overspray from paint chip repair. Check the boot floor to make sure all is original in that area, are there any signs of new welds or panel beating and paint in this area, check the floorpan in the passenger compartment too, any significant floor damage like bowing is a further sign of a hard impact. These car's with roof or floor damage are best left alone as handling will be be effected by this sort of damage and will need rejigging to correct to a satisfactory degree. Crash repair areas are more prone to rust on post 76 cars as the gavanised structure has been breached and will often be the first place to rust.

Rust is the biggest killer of the early 911, as there is very little protection to the elements on these early cars. Apart from the layer of underseal, rust protection wasnt seriously addressed until 1976 when Porsche started galvanising their cars. This is by no means an assurance that your galvanised 911 will have escaped the dreaded tinworm, as with use, they pick up stone chips, road debris, blocked rain channels even accidents and knocks, they all help to breach the factory galvanising. So there is never an excuse for not checking for corrosion. Even on a newish car, rust can be a sure sign of accident damage, it only takes a few months for a badly repaired panel to show the signs.

Areas to check:

  • Lock Posts due to build up from rear arches
  • Hinge post due to build up from front arches
  • Fuel filler cap area due to blocked drain holes
  • Floors,Sills and rocker cover
  • Door bottoms due to blocked drain holes
  • Bonnet front lip
  • Headlamp area of front wings
  • Rear centre valance behind the silencer
  • Are the jack points sound
  • The front bumper mounts collect dirt and debris
  • Inner wings are they sound?
  • Spare wheel well
  • Tank support
  • Rear suspension mounting areas, especially around the torsion tube points.
  • Front suspension attachment points on fuel tank support area.
  • Rear seat pans.
  • Front corners of inner sills.
  • Rear corners of rear parcel shelf.


Inspecting the 911's Mechanics

Engine and Gearbox

These area's are easier to inspect on some ramps, service lift or stands, but this is not always possible, only make this request if you are seriously interested in the car and happy with everything you have seen this far in.

I you are unable to get underneath the car, you may be advised to get a small inspection mirror, which is basically a mirror on a stick to get your vision into those hard to reach places.

  • Check to see if the cars engine is cold (it may have been warmed to aid the cars starting performance)
  • Does the car start on the key with no difficulties. (Possible warm up regulator problems)
  • Do the revs waver and not give a steady tickover.Does the engine miss when the accellerator is pressed. Is there any popping on decelleration (Possibly Fuel injection problem)
  • Oil leaks can be a major hassle on a 911, It could be something as simple as a leaky rocker cover gasket, but there is always the possibility of something more sinister like the o ring seals on the camshaft housing return pipes, this will require the removal of the heads to rectify £££.
  • Check the area of the crankcase where the two halfs are joined for leaks or temporary repairs like instant gasket. Any case welding? Oil around the end of the crankase could signify leaking old seals.
  • Ask the owner which timing chain tensioners are fitted to the car. Hopefully it has had the later post 84 oil fed tensioners fitted which have proven to be alot more reliable. These can usally be identified by the oil lines entering each chain case at the rear of the engine. If these are not present ask someone to hold the revs at around 1,200 rpm and listen to a out for a clattering from the timing chain case which could signify its time for replacement. Early (pre 84) tensioners tend to last around 30,000 miles
  • Once the car is warmed does it continue to smoke when the throttle is blipped? is the topend valve gear noisy, if it is it could signify a top end build is necassary. Smoke could also be a sign of worn pistons and rings
  • Is there any leaks coming from the front of the gearbox around the selector shaft or any damage from bottoming out of the car? Do the gearbox numbers match the log book? Any welding to the casing? A leak from the other end of the box the bellhousing could signify a worn input shaft seal, this can mean a gearbox rebuild is due.
  • Whilst under the car check out the gaiters on the drive shafts.
  • Are the exhaust and heat exchangers rusty or blowing, check earound the heat exchanger operation flap mechanism. These are fairly expensive or hassle to replace especially if the studs are corroded.
  • With the engine ticking over, Is the oil level indicator on the dashboard low? as this could be a sign of poor maintenance or leaks.
  • Turn the ignition off and check its warm start, it should fire straight up, any difficulty could signify fuel or electrical problems.
  • Is there a big lip around the edge of the brake discs? As this is a sign that expensive brake work being needed fairly soon, including new discs pads etc.

Take it for a drive

  • Is the clutch very stiff? Noisy release bearing or engagement? Could both signify an Imminent need for a new clutch.
  • Are the gearbox selections engaging ok, Trouble selecting gears could signify a worn synchromesh and shouldnt be dismissed as a "915 gearbox their all like that" because they are not!
  • Is oil pressure good? when warm It should be about 50-60 psi under load and around 20 psi at idle.
  • On a flat road does the car steer in a straight line, or pull to one side. Does it pull under braking? This could signify an alignment problem, worn track rod, brake problem or accident damage.
  • If your coast the car out of gear over 50 mph is the any whine from the wheel bearings and gearbox?

Inside the cars Interior.

  • Is the carpet wet, this will show if the car leaks, possible blocked drain tubes or leaking seals, check the bodywork in the damp area for corrosion.
  • The condition of the seats is fairly important as although they are easy to replace, good seats are hard to come by and can be expensive because of this. The seats are also the first thing you see when you enter the car so its nice to give a good impression to your passengers. Check the celectric functions are all working O.K. on powered seats.
  • Check the windsreen for cracks or chips, as under the current MOT regulations this can be a failure and replacement can be expensive.
  • Check under the dash for untidy wiring caused by bad DIY or cowboy alarm/car stereo fitters.
  • Work your way through checking all of the lights and accessories sunroof, windows, air con etc



  • Are the cars wheels scuffed, refurbishment can be expensive.
  • Is the car modified bodily or mechanically? Is this what your looking for? or are you looking for an original classic or concours car? All modifications can effect your Insurance premiums.
  • Tax exempt cars have to have been manufactured before the 1st of January 1973
  • As a rule, a bargain car needing restoration will usually cost you more in the long run than a car that has been restored or maintained correctly throughout its life.
  • RHD coversions are generally worth less than a LHD car, unless it has been done to a very high standard and documented by the specialist who undertook the work. Tell tale signs, was the car registered from new in the UK or Imported? If suspicious check along the top of the bulkhead underneath the boot carpet or around the pedal assembly areas for any signs of non factory welding.

In conclusion

Its now up to you to do the sums and make your decision, this guide should give you a good Idea of what to look out for, but if possible I would always advise an Inspection by a recognised specialist. You are looking to spend a lot of your hard earned cash and for the the sake of a couple of hundred pounds/dollars you could save yourself a lot of money and stress.