Forbidden love: a new car

by Rob Tiller

After several weeks of searching,thinking, and fretting, yesterday I acquired my dream car, a 2006 Porsche 911 Carrera S coupe, lapis blue metallic, well equipped.  This has been an undertaking fraught with hazards, including moral, social, financial, and physical ones, and I’m still not sure I’ve sorted them all out.  But there’s no question that the car itself is a thing of rare beauty, grace, and power.  It’s fantastic!

Some of the reasons not to get a sports car are obvious.  They’re impractical, in that you can’t easily haul groceries or building supplies, much less more than one passenger.  Their ride is less comfortable.  They’re expensive to acquire, maintain, and insure.  They tend to attract speeding tickets.  But some of the hazards are more insidious.  Most people think they know what a Honda Accord signifies — reliable transportation.  People may make all manner of other assumptions about sports cars and their owners:  e.g. they’re selfish, greedy, wasteful, egotistical, or vain.  A buyer of a certain age may be viewed as having a mid-life crisis.

Like lots of stereotypes, these may have some basis in fact.  I was disturbed last year to learn that most BMW owners are Republican.  Not that there’s anything wrong, nothing else appearing, with being in the loyal opposition.  But I had never associated the two brands in my mind, and was concerned that I, a stedfast Dem, could be tagged mistakenly by association with my car.

Any problems of mistaken identity are apt to be magnified with a car that’s more rare and powerful.  Getting to the multiple meanings of the Porsche brand would take a master semiotician.  But the word is generally taken to be a synonym for expensive sports car, with all the negatives that can imply.

My earliest yearning for a Porsche 911 is too far back to clearly remember.  My had plenty of early Calvinist training in repressing such desires, without examining them too closely.  There was the realm of fantasy, and the realm of real life, which were quite separate, and Porsche belonged in the former.

The repressed longing bubbled up a few weeks ago when I was thinking aloud with Sally about replacing my BMW, which was coming to the end of its lease period.  I went down the list of possibilities, including keeping the very fine BMW, and noted as one very unlikely possibility trying to find a Porsche for the same amount of money.  Much to my surprise, Sally said, “Just do it.  If you’re every going to do it, now’s the time.”  At once a weight was lifted, and I saw clearly:  I would undertake the search for a Porsche I could both love and afford.

Buying a used car sports car was a new thing to me, and much more complicated than buying a new car, or even buying a typical used car.   The search took energy and commitment.  I spent many post-midnight hours on autotrader,, and other sites,  reading ads and reviews.  Porsches are highly customized vehicles, with many varying options, but even allowing for that, people had widely varying ideas of what their cars were worth. I eventually got a feel for the market, and began to look closely at particular vehicles, and finally to do some test driving.   I had some great conversations with my car guy friends about the pros and cons of particular cars, and about bargaining strategy.  The cars I drove were, without exception, amazing.  The challenge, though, was to find one that was, for me, perfect.

I did it.  On Friday I flew to D.C., paid the money, got the documentation, and drove home through the mother of all I-95 traffic horrors. Thanks to my seller, John, for being a great first owner.  He clearly loved this car, and he asked me to if I would, too.  I do.