My Porsche Metamorphous, from 911 to 981
Back in the good ole days, I was a sales manager for a bio-company. One of my duties was to ride with my salespeople out in the field, in their cars, calling on customers. We paid them mileage for them to use their cars, hadn’t evolved to company cars yet. One of the salesmen, we’ll call him Tom, I worked with, covered N. California out of the Bay Area. When it was his “turn in the barrel”, he’d pick me up early in the AM and we’d head out on the road. The car he drove was a 1975 Porsche 911S. I had been a passenger once in a 356, awesome, and once or twice in a 914, but had never been a passenger or driven any sort of Porsche 911 before, and I was impressed.
My sales representative had several flaws, one of which was fortuitous for me. On the bad side, he could not get his reports in on time, forgivable for a topnotch salesperson, which he, unfortunately, was not. If a Sales Rep were 125% of quota, I’d gladly do their paperwork. His other flaw and it turned out to be otherwise, he’d get sleepy on our way back to the Bay Area from a distant sales call. He’d ask me to drive. I agreed, he’d sleep and I’d drive, and here is where my romance with the air-cooled, stick shift Porsche cars began. I found myself pretending to own that car…this had to be remedied.
I had to get one of these Porsche cars, so I commenced my search. Living in the Bay Area at the time, first stop, to Carlsen Porsche in Palo Alto. They had a 71 911 E Targa. This car was fast….apparently, my insurance company agreed, they wouldn’t insure it. Then off to Porsche of Burlingame to look at a very sweet, 1973 non-sunroof, 911 T coupe. It was super low miles and very clean….I bought it. I didn’t tell my wife about it; I just drove it home. She ran out of the house as I turned in the driveway, and said the most memorable line, “Where’d you get that ***** wagon?”
I kept the 73 for a while, sold it when I was forced to accept a company car. Later on bought a 1974 911…..got it cheap because it had some rust, not knowing the metastatic properties of rust at the time. What I know now, there’s the rust you see, and the rust you don’t. You never get rid of it 100%, it almost always comes back, sooner or later. My body shop/paint guy said he could remove all the rust, or so we thought at the time. I had the car taken down to the bare metal, sprayed in a color more pleasing to me, got some new chromed Fuchs wheels (Now that was stupid) from Wheel Enhancement, had the interior done over at Autos International, then in Solana Beach…this bitch was now cherry.
A few months after I had the car restored, I stopped by a 7-11 for something or other. On the way out of the store, I just happened to notice a rust spot in the middle of the driver's door. It was far enough up so the door would have to be re-skinned or replaced. That put me over the edge and I drove the car to Alan Johnson Porsche in San Diego…(I had relocated to San Diego in 1975.) By the way, Alan Johnson moved to Paso Robles, my latest home town. I had lunch with him and a friend last summer. He is still in his game, in his 80’s. Anyway, I perused their used car inventory and one model stood out, a 1980 Weissach Coupe, in Champagne Beige, 7” and 8” wheels, 15” in diameter, complete with a 911 Turbo front chin spoiler and a 911 Turbo tail, full leather interior to include the dash, sport seats, red piping, sunroof and a sport suspension. This car was I of 400 Weissach Coupes sold in North America, rare indeed. Kept it for about 5 years, but was compelled to sell it to help pay off a messy divorce, only to go into a 1/2 decade of Porsche abstinence. It was brutal.
In late 1999, new and final wifey convinced me to get another Porsche car (It wasn’t that hard). She said I was miserable without one (So true). So off to Pioneer Porsche where to my delight, I discovered a nicely kept 1997 993 Carrera, in Grand Prix white, with all the options to include, Option 220, which gave me a LSD and as a bonus, cars with Option 220 came with 4 channel ABS, sweet! I kept this baby for 17 years. It evolved from a street ride, and eventually to a track/street car where we competed in wheel to wheel racing for 10 years, with this chapter coming to an end in 2016. Sold it and used the proceeds to front the greater part of the purchase price of a Carrara White 2004 GT3. Toward the end of this latest Porsche romance with the GT3, a friend asked me to help him find a multi-purpose Porsche car, that would do well as a “grocery getter”, and when the opportunity arose, a proficient track car. I accepted the challenge.
I had no idea what Porsche car this could be, but I knew whom to ask for advice, Adam Gill from Vollig Autowerks, San Diego. This guy knows Porsche cars as few people you will ever meet in the business do. His recommendation, a Porsche Cayman S, 3rd Generation, the 981, 2012 – 2016, aka the 981. The interior, with 8 air bags, is a little larger accommodating the + sized driver such as myself. In addition, the car now has longer wheelbase, wider front track, electric power steering , a snappy interior just dripping with Alcantara, and with two (2) other important features, the 3.4 motor out of the 911 991 car, and could come equipped with a dual-clutch PDK transmission or a six-speed manual with dual-mass flywheel. The Cayman S chassis is reported to be one of the most rigid chassis that Porsche has ever offered. The performance of the Cayman S was reported to be phenomenal by the automotive magazines, and numerous glowing YouTube reviews. The list of available options made my mouth water: Dual Clutch 7 speed PDK with 3 modes (Sport Chrono Package), standard for around town, Sport when you want to have a little fun and Sport + for days at the track, to redline in acceleration in the first 6 speeds, sport suspension 20mm lower than standard, sport exhaust, Porsche Torque Vectoring with mechanical LSD.
But here is the problem, you can look all over the United States, and chances are you will not find a 2014 to 2016 Cayman S with all of these options. And if you were to get lucky, the car could be in a color you couldn’t live with. But bear with me Grasshopper, there is a silver lining in those clouds, it’s the 2015/2016 Cayman GTS. The GTS is a loaded Cayman S with 15 more HP. This car comes standard with a sport exhaust system, Sport Chrono package, cruise control, Bi-Xenon headlights, Sport Suspension 20mm lower than a Cayman S. The two other key options you will most likely encounter on the GTS will be Porsche Torque Vectoring with Mechanical LSD, cost $1,320 when ordered on the car as new, and PDK, a $3,960 option. Some feel the GTS is a bit of a bargain compared to the Cayman S because these standard features included.
I told my buddy searching for the ideal street/track car, based on Adam’s recommendation, and my research, to get a 2015/2016 GTS. In addition to the great reviews (See: Considering a Porsche Cayman S or Boxster S? Buy the GTS instead , it had some very desirable additional features such as mid-engine as well as direct fuel injection. And in contrast, it was only down 10 HP from the 250 HP 2015 991 that he already owned.
Metamorphous, from 911 with stick to 981 with PDK: Based on all I had learned about the Cayman GTS researching the car for a friend, the proverbial hook was set. I jumped over the metaphorical cliff and made my decision to sell the 2004 GT3 and get a 2015/16 Cayman GTS. This was big deal for me. My past Porsche cars were always 911 cars, and all stick shifts. Now I was to transition to a mid-engine car with dual-clutch PDK? The time had come. I had grown tired of shifting gears in traffic, especially the slow traffic one experiences in San Diego. Driving the 5 or the 805 in rush hours just isn’t fun anymore.
I even went so far as to commence my personal GTS search before selling the GT3. I had every confidence that the GT3 would sell, and sell it did, in 3 days. Had it not, I would have been in deep trouble on the home front. What was nagging me in the recesses of my “gear” head, what were the potential downsides?
My number one concern was performance. My 2004 GT3 was quick and weighed about the same as the GTS, 3,050 Lbs., and it had 45 more HP. Would the GTS be a slug compared to the GT3? There was no way I could wring out the performance potential of the GTS in a pre-purchase test drive. I would have to take the word of the magazines, and YouTube reviews, and wait until I owned the car. Once the car was mine, I felt free to put the PDK into Sport +, and floor it. That I did, and good god was it fast. It actually seemed faster than the GT3, perhaps an illusion created by the snappy shifting PDK and the raucous sport exhaust.
I am pleased to report the GTS is all, and more, of what it is reputed to be. I get very similar times in my GTS as my GT3 at Laguna Seca, and I have dueled with several GT3 cars at other track events. The GTS is the quicker car. Once I learn the car, I expect it to be significantly faster than the 2004 GT3
The end result, moving to a 2015 Porsche Cayman GTS provides me a car 11 years newer with more modern electronics, modern lighting, lots more cabin creature comforts such as the sound system with SIRIUS radio, sport exhaust, sport suspension, 20” wheels, mid-engine handling, 7-speed PDK, and Porsche Torque Vectoring with mechanical LSD.
Have I had second thoughts about morphing from my long history owning stick shift rear engine 911 cars to a mid-engine 981 with PDK? Not yet, nor do anticipate any. I did address one shortcoming; the stock 981 front calipers were four-piston. I am a six-piston guy and had been spoiled by the monster front brakes on my former GT3. As fate would have it, the front calipers from the Porsche 991 S are an exact fit. I ordered up a pair and flushed the brake system with fresh SRF DOT 5 brake fluid, added Pagid Yellow brake pads to all four (4) corners of the car. The car’s stopping ability was substantially upgraded, and have experienced no brake fade at the track. For some reason these brakes don’t squawk on the street. It may be because I went through the Pagid brake in protocol, to the letter.
So fear not, 911 stick shift junkies, a cure may be found in a 981 Cayman S or a Cayman GTS, both with PDK and a wide assortment of track Nannies. And it won’t take 12 steps, only one, stepping on the gas with PDK in Launch Mode may be just what the doctor ordered. If you have gotten this far, thanks for reading.