Mid-engined, fuel injected, open topped, and available only with a manual transmission. Such a feature list is music to my ears. Music that sounds nearly as good as the horizontally opposed engine that powers this normally unloved canyon carver.
Is it a Porsche? Yes. Does it have a numerical designation? Yes. Is it a 718 Boxster?
I don’t quite remember what introduced me to this odd looking two seater. At some point in my teenage years I began taking an interest in what were then just “old cars”. But my concentration was mostly in vehicles from Japan. My father delighted in recalling questionable high-school hijinx in his old Datsun B210, or his brother’s KE70 Corolla, perhaps unaware of the influence he was having on me.
Back then such aging imports were cheap. I could crack open a copy of the Bay Classifieds or any other local newspaper and skip straight to the oldest gems listed. I would drool over the 240Zs that seemed a summer’s savings away, the DA Integras for which you were spoilt for choice, or the rear-wheel-drive Corollas going for pennies. Once I discovered Craigslist, it became all the more addicting to peek around the county for stuff I could almost afford. I’d put in a budget, select manual transmission, and just scroll through the pages and pages of beaters people were trying to offload.
I can imagine that it might have been this sort of window shopping that brought me upon the 914.
As a teen with a learner’s permit, I hadn’t yet developed my purist ardor for open-top cars or dog-leg transmissions. But the idea of a Porsche that would cost me less than a used Hyundai was impossible to ignore. Warnings about its anemia in stock form, or the vagueness of the earlier tail-shift transmissions couldn’t overcome the fantasy of tearing up some country lane with flat-six noises emanating from just ahead of the rear axle.
The owner of this car, whom I met at a Laguna Seca lapping day, had gone beyond the fantasy. Some suspension work, a cage, good tires, and a warmed up 3.2 Carrera mill rounded out the spec list. That clean examples of this red-headed step child from Stuttgart are now priced above new Hyundais hadn’t affected his willingness to wring the 914s neck around the 2.2 mile course. While chatting, he rather casually alluded to a second 914 at home that would be receiving turbo power and even more chassis work.
Though it seems that prices for air-cooled Porsches are beginning to…cool…the fallout that touched the non-911 models has yet to recede. But my encounter with this wonderful owner reminded me that this blue-chip branded machine is still just a vehicle. And while there will always be speculators popping in and out of the trendiest markets, there are still those who will continue to do what these cars were meant for: