Can’t quite afford a 911? Opt for a Boxster instead and you certainly won’t feel short-changed. However, many cars have been neglected – so here's how to buy a good one. Expert buying advice to help you choose your perfect car.
Boxsters provide a comfortable driving position for nearly everyone, thanks to an adjustable steering wheel and generous seat adjustment. It's swiftly apparent the chassis and steering are so good that the Boxster can seem underpowered, especially the 2.5-litre model. It simply blooms when being driven at the upper and outer edges of its performance envelope, easily making you laugh out loud. The fantastic noise from behind your ears makes you want to send the tachometer’s needle into the upper ranges again and again, as the flat-six’s wail really comes on song around 5000rpm. The car tackles country lanes with aplomb, its nose responding to even the smallest inputs, the brakes so finely judged that you’ll find yourself left-foot braking in no time. So, a good Boxster drives like a Porsche should. And it feels solid, just like a Porsche should.
BODY AND PAINTWORK
Park on level ground, then start the exterior examination by checking for obvious signs of body damage or accident repairs. Corrosion is easy to spot as the paint will have bubbled and/or cracked. Measure the body panel gaps, particularly around the luggage compartment lids and the doors. If the gaps are even then chances are the body is straight. Major inconsistencies in gaps indicate the car has been poorly repaired.
Check around the combined headlight and indicator assemblies for cracked lenses and stonechip damage.
You also need to grab a torch and peer through the front spoiler to assess the condition of the frontmounted radiators. The excellent aerodynamic design of the Boxster is fantastic at drawing cooling air through the radiators, but the downside is that it also acts as an enormous vacuum cleaner, sucking up anything it can from the road surface. Make sure the radiators are clear of debris, as organic materials will decay and cause corrosion issues.
Check the brake discs (rotors), calipers and pads. Pad friction material must be greater than 2mm, and the discs must be free from damage or surface rust. Look for evidence of fluid leakage over any components in the wheel wells, including at the rear of each wheel.
Remove the battery cover in the centre of the front luggage section and inspect the battery for condition and evidence of acid spill and/or corrosion. Examine the compartment’s panelled areas for moisture damage and staining – if everything is clean, what lies beneath is probably in decent nick.
Accessing the engine is complicated, but once you’ve removed the top cover it’s possible to carry out a basic inspection of the top of the engine. Look for obvious signs of oil, coolant and power steering fluid leakage.
Access to the engine-driven belt and some accessories is through a separate panel, located from inside the rear section of the cabin. A known Boxster issue is failure of the engine’s rear main seal – a giveaway sign being when oil begins weeping from it.
Owners usually keep an eye on the oil level and get a new RMS fitted when the car is having a clutch change or service, but if you’re viewing a car with a weeping seal, factor this into your thinking when haggling on price.
It’s also possible to check the level and colour of both oil and coolant via the overflow/filling container in the rear luggage area. If the proper coolant/anti-freeze mixture hasn’t been maintained, the coolant will be a muddy brown colour – contaminated coolant in itself is a reason to walk away.
Inspect all interior fittings and assemblies, including assessing the condition of both seats, ensuring none of the trim is cracked, torn, faded or missing. Check all electric seat functions are working correctly, especially seat heating (if installed).
A cracked dashboard is extremely expensive to repair. Run the electric windows up and down, firstly to ensure they work as intended, but also to see if there’s any moisture trapped in the door.
Operate the power roof to make sure it works correctly, then examine the fabric closely, as it’s very expensive to replace. Check sealing, water drains and the condition of the rear window, plus condition and alignment of the frame with roof open and closed. If the optional hardtop is included in the sale, check for matching colour and condition, while making sure all fittings are present and in good order. All 986 Boxsters are fitted with a collapsible spare tyre assembly installed in the front luggage compartment.
Remove its cover and inspect, as well as ensuring the air compressor and associated accessories are present.
Many believe a standard Boxster is perfect, but a turbo kit is available (tpcracing.com) that offers an extra 140bhp.
WHY YOU WANT ONE
An affordable, mid-engined Porsche and a convertible to boot was always going to be a success, but the first-gen Boxster still exceeded all expectations. Sold initially in just 2.5-litre form to distance it from the 911, pressure from customers for more power meant that in 1999 the base model’s capacity was upped to 2.7 and the 3.2-litre Boxster S joined the party. High production numbers means these are destined to be affordable classics, but parts costs can be high, so picking the right car is essential when buying.
INTERMEDIATE SHAFT BEARING
The intermediate shaft (IMS) bearing, which supports the intermediate shaft on the flywheel end of the engine is a big problem. This was originally designed to be a dry operation, but over time oil and contaminants from the engine can flow down the bearing seal, wash away the original lubrication and become stuck inside.
The bearing can then start to wear quicker. When it wears out, the timing chains can come loose and the engine will soon become an ex-engine. When the bearing destructs, it can fire debris into other bits of the engine too.
The centre bolt that holds it all together can also be problematic. If the bolt breaks, the IMS will float, the engine will go out of time and seconds later, the engine will blow. A breaking IMS bearing will also weaken and break the centre stud. The stud has a groove to allow for a sealing O-ring to seal to the outer cover. The groove causes a stress concentration to happen, which makes stud failure much more likely. It's best to remove the bearing and replace the stud with a newer, stronger and grooveless one.
If there's a rattling that goes away 10 seconds after start-up or under acceleration, this is a sign that the chains or the bearing are rattling around in the engine. To detect an early-stage problem, if you hear something akin to water pump/belt idler pulley failure, get the car in the air and isolate the sound with a stethoscope. You can also check the oil filter for the presence of metal fragments from ball bearings, or black plastic from the seal bearing. Alternatively, use diagnostic tools to see if the cam timing is out.
TRICIA BELL: 2001 BOXSTER 2.7
'I love the handling, the way you feel so connected through the steering and the way it can take you calmly through town, yet still be awesome on the open road. In 10 years and 140k miles, it’s never let me down and the only work needed beyond regular specialist servicing has been new engine mounts, a radiator expansion tank, a mass airflow sensor and a clutch at 112,000 miles. The biggest bill was for some front suspension work – £859. It's worked out at £960 per year for servicing and repairs.'
WHAT TO PAY (2003 model)
1996 Porsche Boxster 2.5
Power 201bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 177lb ft @ 5000rpm
Top speed 155mph
0-60mph 6.4 seconds
Fuel consumption 26-30mpg
Gearbox RWD, five-speed manual
ESSENTIAL PARTS all from
Porsche Shop, inclusive of VAT
Cabriolet roof hood £750.80
Front headlamp kit £1201.31
Front brake disc and pad sets from £156.55
Rear brake disc and pad sets from £166.48
Clutch kit from £274.20
CLUBS Porsche Club Great Britain porscheclubgb.com 01608 652911 / Porsche Boxster forum 986forum.com
SPECIALISTS Porsche Shop porscheshop.co.uk 0121 585 6088
Pelican Parts pelicanparts.com
Specialist Cars of Malton specialistcarsltd.co.uk 01653 696181 RPM Technik rpmtechnik.co.uk
JZM Porsche jzmporsche.com