Do motoring journalists trash Porsches?

There was an interesting thread on an Internet forum recently about the pros and cons of buying an ex-press Porsche.

Now, for those of you who aren’t aware of it, Porsche keeps a fleet of cars that it loans to journalists for the purpose of testing. In other words, most of the new 911s you see on these pages – and in other magazines and in television programmes – are from Porsche’s press fleet.

The question asked on the forum was whether one of these cars made a good second-hand buy. The concern being that us journalists will have ‘thrashed’ it time and time again.

That’s an interesting one. Yes, of course the press cars get driven hard – Porsche would be disappointed if we didn’t test them fully – and, unfortunately, there is a minority that abuses the privilege and don’t treat the cars with respect.

Personally, I treat press 911s carefully, as if they were my own. Yes, I drive them hard but I certainly don’t rag them (although I did once have an unfortunate ‘off’ on a remote road…). And I know that most other motoring journalists I speak to have the same respect for the cars they privileged.

I do spot signs of road rash around front ends and rear arches, not to mention interior knocks from carelessly thrown-in camera tripods. And I’m sure the cars are in the bodyshop more often than usual for repairs to minor knocks and scrapes.

The thing is, a non-press car could just as easily have been abused by a previous owner and you’d never know it. The good thing about the press cars is that they go into Porsche’s workshop regularly for a through going over and get additional servicing. They’re also thoroughly valeted every week and are beautifully presented. Remember, Porsche wants journalists to have a favourable impression of its cars, so isn’t going to let a sub-standard example out.

So, should you buy a press car? Well, you’ll be getting a low-mileage car that’s spent its life under Porsche’s caring wing but, on the downside, it’s probably been driven harder than usual. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much, so long as the car is priced sensibly according to its condition.

Some argue that an ex-press car is always going to be less desirable. That may be so in the short term but, oddly, some older press Porsches seem to take on a celebrity status, with sellers making a virtue of the car’s history and the fact it’s been featured in magazines.

One well-known example of this is a 1989 911 Turbo SE Cabriolet which I remember driving when it had the famous ‘911 HUL’ numberplate. It’s now up for sale at Gmund Cars (www.gmundcars.com) as a ‘piece of Porsche history’ for a cool £70,000, although it once sold for £245,000 in the heady days of the early 1990s.

Who said press cars weren’t attractive?

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