Forever Classic: 47k-mile 1971 Porsche 911T

I never understood Porsche fanaticism until recently.

Then hit me all at once: the superiority of rear engine design, the sexy sloping back, the slightly elitist but still cool aura. I just "got it".

As unmistakably European as they are, they're also intricately tied into the American consciousness. James Dean died driving a Porsche too fast, after all. And the legendary 356 Speedster was made with the American market, especially southern California, in mind. Porsche loved America. And Americans loved Porsche too.

As classic as the 911 has become, it was built to replace the even more legendary and beloved 356, which dare I say, was even prettier.

But with the all-new-for '64 911, Porsche managed to do the impossible: they topped a classic design with another classic design, thanks to the genius of Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, who recently passed away at the age of 76.

Designer's don't know how to do that these days. Heck, they don't even design classic shapes anymore.

Part of the classic shape is due to the ingenuity of a mounting the engine in the rear of the vehicle, for ideal handling and performance.

This is a 1971 911T.

The "T" was the base model, after the 912 was dropped. It does not stand for "Targa" or "Turbo", both other Porsche variants. The engine was simply an air-cooled flat-6-cylinder producing about 123 horsepower. In 1970, the size was increased to 2,195 cc.

This one looks to be an immaculate survivor.

The seller says it has only 47,000 original miles, which is remarkable, but not unheard of. Porsches were often not driven much by owners who either treasured them as weekend cruisers or couldn't afford the time, energy and cost of maintenance and kept them hidden in garages, so a lot do come up with supposedly low miles. Since these older cars probably only had 5-digit odometers, there is always a chance the mileage is not original and the odometer could have turned over. Check the seats, pedals and foot well for wear. I would also ask for any and all documentation. The owner provides no explanation for the low miles, so it could have been in storage for a long time. That might mean the engine will need quite a bit of expensive work to tune up. Porsches are known not to take deep slumbers well.

That said, the seller does say a complete mechanical overhaul was done, including suspension, brakes, transmission and engine. That all sounds pretty remarkable, and a good sign, but again, it needs to be backed up with receipts.

Fortunately, the seller mentions it's a matching-numbers engine and transmission, which is a huge bonus and bragging point. 

Cosmetically, the car also seems good from the photos. The exterior color looks like a deep flat burgundy-brown, which is unusual, and better than the all-too common Guards Red (I dislike a bright red Porsche). I like it. It's perfectly annoying and divisive like almost all colors from the '70s are, but it works somehow. I would inquire whether it's original.

The seller doesn't provide pictures of the seats but the interior looks black, which is a fine match for the exterior color.

I would also demand to have the car jacked up and inspect the underside. Since the vehicle is in the Northeast, I would look for rust in every place imaginable.

I do note what appears to be some front end damage. The bumper looks like it as an indentation, which could be an indicator of either of an innocent slow-speed tap while moving the car in storage or something worse like a road collision. Fortunately, in a Porsche, it's better to hit the front than the rear, since the engine is in the back. I would definitely ask what happened and why they never bothered to fix it, given the obvious attention to detail the car has received elsewhere. How I dislike sellers who don't do easy cosmetic fixes on their cars. I feel like saying, just pay for it, it will go a lot further when selling the car. If a potential buyer notices the damage, it's open season when grilling the seller.

The front bumper is also missing bumper guards, which are present on the back, along with what may be federalized reflectors on the rear bumpers as well. While not as irritating as the reflectors that were slapped on the 356, these could be potentially removed for a clean look to match the front. I would definitely add front guards to match the back, it's a quaint period look that also serves a functional protective purpose (and may have prevented the dent).

The seller is asking for $32,000, which is not cheap, but is in line with what I've seen them go for. The latest NADA value I found ranges from $16,300 low retail to $26,500 high. Hemmings CPI Value Guide places a '71 911T Coupe at fair $11,200, good $20,000 and excellent $38,000. So the $32k price could be considered on the high end. It is the base model, has some cosmetic damage and may have other unknown issues. It's also not particularly rare, though there definitely aren't many left.

It just depends on where you heart is and if you like the color. For $32K, almost a third away from a new 911, you really want to feel confident and be happy. The days when these sell for under $20k is over, so buyers need to be as aggressive as the sellers.

If you do get it, keep it maintained and drive it for those beautiful days when you're feeling fine.

Find it here on Craigslist in Providence, Rhode Island.

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