The Boxster

Published in the May 2017 issue of “Die Porsche Kassette”

Ⓒ2017 Technolab /

The Boxster part 1...                                                            by Pedro P. Bonilla (GCR PCA)

The Boxster

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Happy Porsche’ing,


The Porsche Boxster was presented to the automotive industry in 1993 as a prototype at the Detroit Auto Show.  It quickly gained popularity as magazines articles spread the word of an entry-level, 2-seater, mid-engined Porsche.

With the input from the consultants, Porsche streamlined its manufacturing, going to a JIT (just in time) production method which dictated the complete elimination of waste and producing just what is needed, when it’s needed and in the exact amount that it’s needed.  Porsche entered into a new, modern, automated manufacturing era.

Now, a sexy, new, entry-level Porsche was all that was required to restart sales.

Porsche saw that the 2-seater roadster market was growing quickly, and looking at the highly successful Mazda Miata, which had been introduced in 1989, Porsche decided to follow suit.  Drawing inspiration from the very successful 550 Spyder of the 1950s, Porsche officially introduced the Boxster.

Based on recommendations from the Toyota consultants, Porsche also streamlined production in order to be more efficient so the Boxster was co-developed and co-engineered with the next-to-come Carrera 996.  These were the first production water-cooled, flat-6 cars, and they shared many of their components.

In 1993, Wendelin Wiedeking, an engineer and former head of production at Porsche was appointed CEO.  One of his first moves was to bring in Japanese (Toyota) consultants into the manufacturing plant, which was perceived as an insult by most of the workers, since Toyota had just recently offered to purchase Porsche.  Luckily the family was unwilling to sell.

With model year 2000, Porsche expanded the Boxster platform by offering 2 versions:

The base Boxster and the more powerful Boxster S.

The base’s power and torque were bumped as the engine now displaced 2.7 liters and made 217 HP.  The “S” version had a displacement of 3.2 liters and made close to 250 HP but also included larger brakes and an extra radiator for better cooling the higher displacement engine.  Also, these were now the e-gas cars, meaning that they had an electronically controlled throttle body vs. having a cable-operated one as in the earlier versions.

Their MSRPs also grew to $41,430 and $49,930 respectively.

These were still 986 cars and every year Porsche made improvements in both power and torque and offered additional creature comforts not found in the earlier models, such as cup holders, glove compartments, glass rear windows, etc.

The Boxster became an instant success!

Between 1996 and 2003 it was Porsche’s best-selling model and has hence been dubbed: The car that saved Porsche

In 1996 Porsche had North American (Canada & USA) combined sales of 7,524 units.  In ’97 it almost doubled sales to 13,731 units and by 2004 it had grown to 33,289 cars per year.

This “instant” success was both a blessing and a curse.  Porsche had to immediately open a second manufacturing facility (in Uusikauppunki, Finland) in order to keep up with demand since the Stuttgart facility was overwhelmed.

The Boxster’s official model designation is 986 and its name comes from combining the words “boxer” (as in the engine configuration) and “roadster”.

The story of the Boxster doesn’t end there.  Just its first generation, the 986.

Throughout it’s history the 986 Boxster has been picked on and demeaned by some as “not a real Porsche”, “a chick car”, “a Porsche with panties” etc., etc., but as each year passed, it got better and better.

When we mentioned that the instant success was also a curse we were also referring to some of the quality issues that they went through initially.

Because production was ramped up so quickly, Porsche did not inspect each and every engine block (as they had done before) prior to engine assembly.  As a result, a number of “porous blocks” made it into production, later causing Porsche to have to replace those engines when their coolant mysteriously started disappearing.

Because they did not want to lose those porous blocks and reduce Boxster production numbers it was decided to bore the cylinders out and place a steel sleeve which would solve the porosity in the blocks.

Some time later some of those sleeved engines failed due to a “slipped sleeve” causing Porsche to have to replace some more engines.

For those of us who have owned (and I still do) a first generation 986 Boxster, it has been a fabulous platform that is pure and simple incredibly fun to drive, whether at the track or on the street.

The simplicity of the car together with its light weight and mid-engine placement has made it an icon.

This doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been without issues, as any other car.  In particular the infamous IMS issue. But the good news is that the IMS issue can be solved and now that the 986 is a classic we are starting to find those who are restoring and preserving them for future generations.

Since its inception the Boxster, unlike other classic Porsches had been depreciating year after year, and now, at 20, the depreciation has finally stopped.  According to Hagerty Classic Insurance Company, values of the 986 have leveled off and they are expect to climb.  So if you have thought about owning one, now is the time, before they start to appreciate in value as they rightfully should.

Sometime down the road we’ll bring you the 2nd (and 3rd) part of the Boxster Story.

At the time, to say that Porsche was struggling economically, would be a gross understatement.  Porsche vehicle sales had declined sharply (from 50,000 units in 1986 to just under 14,000 in ’93), especially in the US, where Porsche sold 50% of its production.  Porsche was going bankrupt!

It made its debut in Europe as a model year 1996 and then came to America in model year 1997.  When it was introduced in the USA in 1997, its MSRP was $39,900.00.

For 1997, 1998 and 1999 the Boxster was sold with a 2.5 liter flat-6, making 201 HP.

It was available with a 5-speed manual or a 4-speed Tiptronic and a myriad of factory options that would bloat the car’s price to typically $50,000 per unit.  Several 986s were ordered with so many options that they easily surpassed $100,000 as their sticker price.

The last of the 986s were offered as model year 2004.  They still maintained their previous engine displacements of 2.7 and 3.2 liters but their MRSPs kept growing to $42,600 and $51,600 for the base and S models respectively and a Special Edition S, dubbed the 550 Spyder was offered at $59,900 which included many factory options as “standard”.