Avoidable Contact #138: Time to get it over with

Jack Baruth

Did you know that your body replaces its cells continually, and that every 7 to 10 years you’re a completely new person? I hope you didn’t know that, because it’s not true. While some cells have a rapid-fire replacement rate—I’m told that the cells in the human colon survive just four days, perhaps less if you’re knocking back the steak-and-vodka at a Brezhnev-esque rate as your humble author is wont to do—the neurons in your brain are essentially permanent. They don’t replace themselves in the normal course of events and they rarely even heal. So you’re really the same person you were seven years ago; you just have a little less RAM on your motherboard.

Despite this, I don’t feel a lot of commonality with the 29-year-old man who had my fingerprints and Social Security Number when he bought my Porsche 993 more than two long decades ago. He was a German-car snob of sorts who would go on to spend well over a million dollars on high-power, high-maintenance street cars from the Fatherland, everything from an old 190E 2.3-16 to a pair of new Phaetons. An autocrosser and “track rat” rather than a proper road racer, he had the fast hands and low eyes of the cone-kicking set. He was very good at detailing cars, or at least very passionate about it, and would spent a whole weekend lovingly rubbing a dozen coats of Zaino onto each of his three Porsches.

What’s changed since then? As with the cells in your body, almost everything. I became a parent. Got divorced and spent a long time enjoying life in truly depraved fashion. Got a live-in chef. Picked up a girlfriend who also cleaned the house while I was gone (cue Joni Mitchell’s “The Gallery”) but also hired a housekeeper who traveled with me as a girlfriend. Threw massive parties in my home for years, including one where we served a hundred filets mignon and spent four thousand bucks on top-shelf liquor. Went racing around the world. Started writing about cars as a hobby, then a side hustle, then a full-time job. Sold Porsches and other street cars, bought a handful of race cars. I’m not saying I was living as large as, say, Toly Arutunoff, but it wasn’t bad.

Then, of course, I had to get serious about parenting and responsibility and whatnot, lest I wind up dead in a Kimpton suite somewhere with nothing in the vicinity of my corpse but my socks, two empty bottles of Ketel One, and a vintage hardcover of Bax Seat: Log Of A Pasture Pilot. Cue the arrival of an elegant and younger second wife who can kind of steer a race car, the normal-person day job at which you see me toil now the same way people watch the slightly depressive gorillas in a local zoo, and a general descent into banal respectability behind the wheel of a Honda Accord.

This slouching towards Bethlehem reached its zenith last week when I sold what my first wife called “the band house” and bought a place out in the country. I can’t imagine how I’m going to get this house cleared out. There are parts of the basement that haven’t seen light in fifteen years. It’s going to be positively archaeological. Maybe even Egyptological. Could be genuinely surprising stuff in there.

Certainly I have a Sphinx of sorts in my garage: the 1995 Porsche 993 that I haven’t driven more than fifty miles a year since 2016 or thereabouts. It’s sitting on four flat Eagle GTs with full tread and 2008 date codes. It’s not in concours condition but I doubt there are very many nicer ones out there.

As of right now, it’s for sale.

To anyone, of course, but probably to someone who will use it as a classic car. I know seven people who have bought 993-generation Porsches in the past few years. With one exception, a fantastically dissipated occasional drug addict and musician who has had a few memorable adventures in his Grand Prix White example, all of my 993 buddies treat their cars like a combination of paperweight and investment instrument. They never drop the clutch at 5K with the steering wheel cranked to do an impromptu U-turn out of a downtown parking space, they don’t drive in the rain, they don’t run across Indiana with the speedometer pegged well above 150 and Pharaoh Sanders blaring out of the Alpine head unit. They treat their Porsches as valuable objects, because that’s what they’ve become.

My plan had been to give the car to my son, let him be the Luke Perry of his high school. That’s a bad idea. He’s not all that interested in street cars and if he drives the 993 the way he drives a 206-cc kart he won’t live to be sixteen and a half. So I’m going to sell it and put the money away for him to live whatever his dream turns out to be: mountain biking in Switzerland for two years, traveling the world to meet every kind of beautiful woman, three races in SRO against the country’s angriest dentists. It’s up to him.

I haven’t started the car in eighteen months. Need to have that done right at a specialist shop so I don’t damage the engine. There are a few things that need to be done: new plugs, new bumperettes because they’re UV-faded despite being garaged since new, maybe a bit of work so the leather looks perfect instead of just very good. New tires, for sure.

That will take a month. Then I have to figure out how to sell it. The best idea I’ve heard so far came from a Radical dealer, who offered me an SR8 RSX in trade. I should do that and just sell some other stuff to fund my son’s future. The problem is that I could easily bankrupt myself racing an SR8 and do it with no regrets in the moment, the way a friend of mine once decided to try crack cocaine on a lark only to wind up face down in the gutter with an empty bank account four days later.

What’s it worth? I have very little idea. I’ve seen examples with a lot of stories and past damage clear eighty grand in the past month. This one should be worth more. It’s not as valuable as the 1997 Carrera 2S that auctioned off for $137K the other day, but it’s not that far behind. (Don’t tell anybody, but the 993 Carrera 2S is trash to drive. The 993 always needed more front tire, not more rear tire, which is why I run a 225/255 stagger instead of the original factory 205/255. Half of the fun of 911 ownership is hanging the ass of the car out on back roads, something you’ll never do in a 2S except for the half-second before you total it.)

Ideally I won’t have to auction the car, especially not online. I don’t want to hear the peanut gallery’s insane and profoundly stupid theories and opinions about what it’s been through and what it’s actually worth. I don’t want to have to answer a hundred questions from tire-kicking time-wasters who are really looking for reasons not to buy. But if I subjected myself to all of that I might be able to get another twenty grand for my son. That’s nontrivial, because if I was ever rich (and I don’t think I was) I’m sure not rich now.

My wife, Danger Girl, thinks I should have the 993 prepped and then drive it around for a few months before I sell it. I’m not going to do that, because if I do then I’ll never work up the nerve to actually let it go. The minute I sit in that still-quite-new-smelling cockpit and see the world ahead through that charmingly upright windshield I’ll be overwhelmed by nostalgia for who I was and what I did behind the wheel of what was for a long time my favorite car ever.

And yet—to do it anyway, to spend a long touring weekend in pure narcissistic navel-gazing and what Proust called “a useless longing for myself!” To run that eager flat-six to the redline over and over again, to feel the wooden-block sturdiness of the split Brembos, to once again be in a car that is not a centimeter larger in any direction than God and Butzi intended. There’s no way I could sell it after that, even though I would know that each successive trip to the well would find it just a little bit drier from there on out.

Drop me a line if you want it and you have a number in mind. Would I take a trade? Maybe. A front-running Nationals-grade SCCA P1 or P2 from Stohr or West. A brand-new Genesis G90 and fifteen Krugerrands. Surprise me. Cash offers as well. I like cash, even if it’s not what it used to be and won’t be what it is in a year.

The emotionally easiest way for me to consider this sale is as a gift from the 29-year-old I once was to the 18-year-old my son will be before I know it. That old version of me was a fascinating fellow. Longer telomere chains on the cells. A lot more energy. He really inhabited that 993, whereas I would merely sit in it. And kind of smart, to buy a car that would appreciate even after sixty thousand miles of pure debauchery behind the wheel.

Well, I take it back. He wasn’t that smart, because two years after he bought the 993 he had a chance to buy a second one. It was a black six-speed Turbo. Plenty of options. Forty thousand miles.

It would have cost fifty-two thousand dollars.

What would it be worth now? Three times that. And more. But my historical self didn’t do that. Instead he bought a 2004 Boxster S Anniversary Edition. Which did not triple in value between now and then. To put it mildly. This is a comfort in the moments when I feel stupid and unequal to the task of life. Because that old version of me had the same brain as I have now, and I was just as stupid, just as unequal to the task, as I am today — but with a little less RAM on the motherboard, right?

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