At $9,000, Could This Rough 1997 Porsche Boxster 3.4 Actually Be A Smooth Deal?

At $9,000, Could This Rough 1997 Porsche Boxster 3.4 Actually Be A Smooth Deal?

Today’s Nice Price or No Dice Porsche Boxster represents quite a conundrum. It has a 3.4-litre motor upgrade, but the seller says it’s in rough shape and either could be fixed to be streetable or (gulp) parted out. Let’s look at the car and its price to see which path would be more preferable.

With the pandemic turning 2020 into the year of the hermit, many folks — myself included — have been looking for home remedies for things like haircuts. As it turns out, hair styling is something that takes a lot of practice, and having attempted a modest DIY trim I’m… well, resigned to wearing hats.

The 1997 Ford Expedition we looked at yesterday had also suffered a home-made top chop, with the rearmost section shorn at the window line and continuing all the way up the middle to the windshield header. The seller offered a fastback vinyl cover that ensured the truck was still foul-weather friendly, but that looked daunting to erect or take down. At around $5,500, the vast majority of you took down that topless Expedition, dunning the car with a 68 per cent No Dice loss. On the bright side, the ad for that Expedition did have a pic of a very handsome dog aboard, which I think we all enjoyed.

I want you to think back to a little earlier this week, back to Tuesday in fact. That was when we looked at a Mooney aeroplane that was powered by a Porsche air-cooled flat-six. That was cool and all, but did you know that Porsche also makes car engines? It’s true. In fact, that’s probably what the company is best known for — their auto engines and the cars those engines go into. It’s a funny thing about Porsche engines, at least the flat-six variety — they can pretty easily go into one or another model, as long as the basic format is about the same.

As just such an example of that, today we have an upgraded 1997 Porsche Boxster 986. The engine originally plugged into this car was 149 kW 2.5-litre M96 flat-six. According to the seller, that engine is but a fond (or maybe not so fond) memory, having been replaced by a larger 3.4-litre edition of the M96 pulled from a 1998 996. That bumps the kW to 220, or at least it would if the car also had a 996 ECU instead of still its original 986 controller. That’s just one of this Boxster’s issues. Let’s delve into all the rest.

We’ll start with the aesthetics. This 986 is a bit rough around the edges — literally. The paint is losing its clear coat on the door top and there’s some general chipping around the edges. Most of the bodywork issues seem to be isolated to that driver’s door, as the rest of the car looks reasonably tidy. The seller does note that the front bumper is off a later 986 S with its third radiator opening, and that it is also somewhat beat up.

Down below, there’s a scrape on one of the factory turbo twist wheels to add to the mix. The other three look OK. The headlamp covers are yellowing, per the ad, which makes the car overall look to be in even worse condition.

On the plus side, the top has been replaced by an ’03/’04 cover with the glass rear window. That’s a nice upgrade, although the mechanism for the top is broken, making its actuation an Armstrong event at the moment. Newer tires and brakes do underpin the car.

The interior suffers only from a torn cover on the driver’s seat. These are the upgraded 911 sport seats with the shoulder bolsters, so at least there’s that. A five-needle instrument cluster out of the donor 996 has been added to the dash. That gives you volt and oil pressure gauges and in this car’s case, white faces to all the dials.

OK, now let’s get back to that 3.4-litre mill. According to the seller, that had just 116,999 km on it when it was unceremoniously yanked from the arse-end of its previous home, turned 180 degrees and slotted into the Boxster. The rest of the car has 152K on the clock, but because the gauge cluster is out of that donor 911, it reads that car’s mileage instead.

That’s just the start of the issues here. The next is that 986 ECU. That’s been mapped for the Boxster’s original 2.5-litre and hence has different settings than what the 3.4 is expecting. That’s resulted in a Check Engine Light on the dash, as neither engine nor ECU quite knows what to make of the other, and that means the car can’t pass a smog inspection.

There’s yet more to unpack here. The seller says that another CEL will pop up owing to an exhaust leak. To wrap it all up, there’s a rattle coming from the engine on startup that the seller attributes to the timing chain tensioners. Oh boy.

For those of you with sweaty palms just thinking about the IMS bearing, be relieved to know that it was apparently replaced with the Pelican Parts upgrade. The title is clear and registration is coming due in November. If it’s on its smog test year (California tests most cars every other year at registration) that could be the impetus for the present owner to want to be rid of the car.

So, we have a fairly rough Boxster with what at first blush is a very compelling upgrade, the 3.4-litre six. With a deeper dive, however, you start to discover that the engine swap, among its other problems, tarnishes this Boxster’s attraction. That said, it doesn’t appear that any one of the issues is overwhelming in itself, and a low enough price would make tacking them all less than a foolhardy proposition. Let’s see if that’s the case.

The asking price is $US6,500 ($9,047), which gives you the already installed 911 motor, as well as the rest of the car and the challenges that go with it. What do you think, is that low enough to dive into the deep end of this Porsche’s problems? Or, 911 motor or not, is this a Boxster that should be left in the box?

You decide!