Ah, the Boxster. A well-balanced and lovely to drive little mid-engine convertible, it still gets a bad rap for some reason. “It’s a hairdresser’s car,” people say. “It’s a Porsche for people who can’t afford a 911.” Sure, people who say such things have never actually driven a Boxster, but the truth is that the early 1997-04 cars (aka the 986) have been among the cheapest things with four wheels and a Porsche badge for a long time. That means a lot of Boxsters have bounced around from owner to owner at low prices, living a life of deferred maintenance and hard driving. They just don’t get the typical Porsche pampering of, say, a 911 Turbo. That’s exactly why this car up for auction on Cars & Bids caught our eye. A first-year 1997 model with just 1190 miles showing, it’s the cleanest and closest to a brand-new example as you’re likely to find anywhere. It sold for $26,648 (including fees). That’s a decent chunk of change, yes, but it could have gone higher, especially in the context of all the other like-new, collector-grade modern collector cars bringing eye-popping prices lately.
The Boxster came about at a turbulent, important time for Porsche in the mid-1990s. The front-engined cars were all gone, the Cayenne was still several years away, and the company was in rough financial shape. To boost sales volume and efficiency on the production lines, Porsche designed a new entry-level model in conjunction with the next generation 911, with the two cars sharing many components from the A-pillar forward and utilizing similar water-cooled flat-six engines. The new Boxster (a portmanteau of “boxer” and “roadster”) carried the entry-level torch for Porsche, and it was a big seller and a great driver’s car. Car and Driver concluded that “if there has been a contest going on among BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche to see which German automaker could build the best-performing small roadster…Porsche should be passing out cigars right now.” Nevertheless, hairdresser jokes as well as the infamous (and somewhat overblown) IMS bearing issue persisted, helping Boxsters depreciate to a fraction of their original purchase price.
The 986 Boxster actually stopped depreciating in 2017, when you could buy a #2 (“excellent”) condition 1997 model for $13,000. The #2 value is up 27 percent since then, so people are catching on, but at $16,500 it’s still cheap. Cheaper even than older, slower entry-level Porsches like the 944.
This Cars & Bids car had the potential to be a breakout Boxster. It ticked all the collectability boxes – insanely low mileage, first-year model, desirable colors, recent service, lots of documentation. In the end, though, it sold for only slightly above our current condition #1 (“concours” or “best-in-the-world”) value of $25,000, which strikes us as fair and realistic. For context, it’s also important to remember that even before options a new Boxster was a $40,000 car in 1997. That’s nearly 68 grand in 2021 dollars, and according to the seller this car cost $46,328 when it was new, which works out to over 78 grand adjusting for inflation.
Other, higher-mileage 986 Boxsters and Boxster Ss have also sold for similar money to this on other online auction platforms, and old front-drive Hondas sell in the $20k-range online all the time these days. So, for now at least, it looks like the crazy money isn’t chasing these budget two-seaters. That’s probably a good thing.