GT3 Diaries

June 2019: getting familiar

What are the logistics of owning a junior supercar like in a dense city like San Francisco?

Not terribly good, I have to say.

Mind you, this is from the perspective of someone who does not own a home in the city, and therefore no garage space to house the GT3. I’m sure the experience of a wealthy person with a house in Pacific Heights – the typical 911 owner, honestly – would be vastly different from what I have to deal with in order to enjoy the bliss of Porsche ownership. 

Lacking a garage, the first order of business was to find a place to park the GT3 somewhat permanently. Our townhouse apartment has a secured lot, but parking a six-figure car in there, when most residents are working-class, is not the wisest. Unlike Asian countries where visible wealth is celebrated, here in America it’s antagonized, especially in the Bay Area where the haves – the tech bros – and have nots – the blue-collars – have been at loggerheads since this latest tech-boom began. In a city where private transport buses get attacked as a symbol for wealth-inequality, I reckon it’d be best to not park a Porsche at our apartment complex.

Obviously, street parking then is out of the question as well. I don’t live in a particularly good part of the city, and property crime as a whole in San Francisco have been on the rise. Leaving a GT3 parked on the street for an extended period of time (remember, I commute by bus) is not a good idea. I’d be inundated with stress, of someone backing into it (parking by braille), or worst, vandalizing it because how dare this person own such an expensive car. Also worth mentioning is the utter lack of street parking in my neighborhood, and the weekly street cleaning San Francisco is so well known for. To park the GT3 out there I’d literally have to play music-chairs with other cars, a super annoying task that anyone who lives in the city understands innately.

So where does the 911 get parked? At work. I’m lucky enough that where I work features a secured structure, and parking there costs only 20 dollars a month. Lacking this, I may not have bought the GT3 to begin with because to rent a parking space in the city is on average 300 dollars a month – about the same as a typical car payment, which is insane. As expensive as the Porsche is to buy and own, the additional cost to rent a spot just to store it would have made the entire proposition untenable – I’d have no money left for maintenance and unexpected costs (it’s a German car, after all).

Thanks my place of employment, I am able to tuck the GT3 neatly at the corner of the parking structure, undisturbed from the public, and also from the elements as well – it’s a covered lot. The car definitely keeps cleaner than it would have been had it been parked outside, and it saves me from buying a sunshade or getting the windows tinted.

While it’s great I don’t have to worry about the car during the weekdays, the arrangement of parking the GT3 at work is not without its challenges. It takes about a 20 minute drive or 45 minute bus ride (on a good schedule) to get there from the house, so on weekends when I want to take the car out for a spin, I have to factor in that extra time onto the equation. Car enthusiasts love to wake up super early and take their vehicles out on the local mountain roads just as the sun is rising; a hard thing for me to do because the additional time to get to the GT3 means I have to wake up even earlier. It’s really nothing to complain about, but those are indeed the circumstances. A typical two-hour drive on the weekends usually ends up taking the better part of three.  

Perhaps someday I’ll have the means to have the GT3 at exactly where I’m living; until then, accessing the car is a bit of a pain.  

Equally painful are the typical road conditions of San Francisco. I’m sure other cities and regions may have it worse, but that doesn’t alter the fact our pothole-ridden streets are not kind to track-focused super cars with wide, low-profile tires. Yes, I am that idiot weaving left and right to avoid road imperfections, while you in your cushy sports-utility vehicle can simply drive over them with nary a sensation felt inside. We’ve had quite a significant amount of rain this first quarter of the year, so the roads were even worse than usual. Indeed, there were a few times I questioned the wisdom of owning a car like the GT3 in such unfriendly environment, that it’d be better to park the car until conditions are fixed/improved for the Summer months.

But that’s not how I roll: cars are mean to driven, after all. In any and all situations. 

Maybe I should have bought the wheel and tire warranty when I purchased the GT3 back in January; honestly the extra $2,600 outlay on top of the already hefty six-figure check I was writing to the dealership scared me the heck off of opting for the extra insurance. The car features forged alloy wheels, so I figured they would be far stronger than the typical cast aluminum sets in most other vehicles. For a motorsport-inspired product, it would be kind of sad if a stray pothole – and there are many in the San Francisco area – can so easily damage an alloy.

Tires are a different matter, and remembering that I caught a puncture within the first month of ownership, the warranty would have been ace had I paid for it. Luckily I was able to safely (?) patched the hole, though it was a more laborious affair than typical because again I don’t have a personal garage, so I had to perform the emergency surgery right in the work parking lot. I bet it looked quite peculiar for the few people who drove by, seeing me lying underneath a Porsche, tugging on the nail to force it out of the tire (damn you, centerlock wheels).

Indeed, simple maintenance items like plugging a tire or washing the car has to be done inside the parking structure. “Detailing? Where’d you get the hose and water?” Well, there obviously isn’t any of those things in the lot: in order to hose the GT3 down I have to drive it to a coin-op car wash facility in South San Francisco. I go to this particular establishment because it features a foam cannon, which is great for getting cleansing soap into spots otherwise unreachable.

I don’t then use the brush to scrub the body though, because we all know that’s terrible for the paint. It’s only a quick foam and rinse; I then drive the car back to the lot at work, where I then essentially wipe down the car with microfiber towels using Optimum No Rinse solution and the Garry Dean method. It’s highly effective, if a bit cumbersome in execution.

Wouldn’t it be nice: to be able to do all of this right there at the place I live in. Hashtag goals, as the kids say.

Since purchase, I’ve put about 3,000 miles on the GT3, signaling the halfway point in terms of mileage before the next oil change service. It’ll be a race to see if I hit the mileage marker or the date (December) first. I really hope it’s the former.  

For service I will have to take the car to the dealership of course, because again, no garage, and therefore, no tools of any kind. It’s a complicated procedure anyways, one where I’m happy to pay the few hundred (yup, for an oil change) and let the dealer techs deal with it. The GT3 has dry-sump oiling with a separate reservoir and two drain plugs, so it’s far different from the standard road car. The 9A1 flat-six is highly sensitive to oil levels, therefore incredibly important to replace the fluid precisely. Since the car is still under the CPO warranty, it’s also better to have maintenance documentation from a dealership.

Too bad it’s all the way over across the bay in Fremont, some 50 miles from San Francisco. I could patronize dealerships more local, but because I bought the car from Fremont Porsche, I get a 10% discount on service, which when dealing with numbers in the hundreds and thousands, is not an insignificant sum.  

During the month of June I went on a drive with a few car enthusiast friends up over at the mountains in Livermore. As one does in these morning gatherings, we hit the local Starbucks for a splash of caffeine fuel before heading off to the driving festivities. Being that I had to trek all the way there from San Francisco, I was quite a bit later than the rest to arrive, and I was unable to finish my coffee before setting off. No problem, I figured: that’s what cup holders are for.

My assumption was massively incorrect.

The GT3 does have cupholders, but in typical German fashion, it appears they’ve been designed as an afterthought, only to please those pesky Americans who adore their enormous, sugar-filled drinks. The mechanism in the 911 is intricate enough: the two lone cupholders in the entire car swings outwards just above the glovebox via a push on the panel, and the cradles simply hang in the air. From a beauty standpoint I think it looks rather good, but from a utility perspective, as a I found out, it’s utterly useless for any container that isn’t closed.  

This is due to the fact the GT3 is a decidedly stiff car, and road imperfections filter into the cabin in a satisfactory, motorsport-inspired fashion. Great for the seat-of-the-pants feel, not so good for my cup of coffee sitting on the cupholder cradle. The incline out of the Starbucks parking lot alone was enough of a jolt to cause the liquid to splash out of the mouthpiece and right onto the center console. I immediately grab the cup off the cradle and rapidly drank more of the coffee to a level adequate to prevent any further spillage, no matter how intense it’s rocked.  

Sadly it was a decent amount of coffee, and as someone who likes to sip slowly, it was not a pleasant to have to essentially chug it down. Damn you Germans and your eternal disdain for vehicular conveniences in sports cars.

It wasn’t all bad: on the same cruise on the Livermore mountains, I by chance was able to meet the very first owner (of which I’m the third) of the GT3. He had the car for a year, and traded it in for a McLaren 570S (as one does). These days he’s rolling around in a lime green 991.2 GT3 RS, which of course I was instantly admiring and jealous of. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be able to meet the previous owners of my car, much less the very person who put in the actual order and specified it to his liking.

So it was an interesting fact-finding chat; the guy explaining to me how he came to choose the color (the typical white or silver is too common to be special), and showing me pictures of the car receiving its paint-protection film. The key thing I found out about the GT3 is that it has had ceramic coating done to the entire exterior – including the wheels. I’d been marveling at how the prodigious brake dust from the Brembos doesn’t seem to be sticking at all to the wheels, and now I know why. This revelation means I don’t have to apply wax for the foreseeable future, and I can do periodic rinses in between detailing jobs to prolong the interval. 

Personally, I wouldn’t have paid for ceramic coating (it’s nearly a thousand dollars for a competent job), so I’m glad the first owner chose to do so.

He also told me he took the car often to the track, and from circumstantial evidence (in one of the dealership pictures the car still had a tow-hook inserted up front) it seems the second owner did as well. This gives me reassurance, rather than the fraught that some second-hand buyers of these cars feel when they find out a particular GT3 has been used as intended. I’m buying a car to drive, not to sit pristine and pretty inside a heated garage, so a well-used sample doesn’t bother me at all. As it’s often the case, cars like the GT3 are worse off when its oily bits doesn’t get to operating temperate regularly. Designed for intense track-use, the first two owners actually did me a favor in ensuring my 911 is properly exercised

If anything, I actually came away from talking to the first owner with more confidence and adoration for the my GT3.

The seasonal rain finally ended in June, and we actually had a few days of unseasonably warm weather. It was perfect opportunity then to fully explore what the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires can do. In a word: grip. A tremendous amount of grip. Restricted by the confines of mountain roads and my admittedly poor driving ability, I was unable to get the Cup 2s to invoke even a hint of protest squeal, much less going over its edge for various slip angles. The grip on offer is simply astounding, and crucially it can be felt over the steering wheel, giving me confidence and egging me on to push that much faster.

As maligned for the transition to electric assist as it was back when it first launched, I have to say the GT3’s steering is sublime, and up to the expectations from having read about the famed Porsche steering. Yes, it doesn’t wriggle and dance like a good hydraulic rack, but it’s as communicative as I’d ever need it to be. I can instinctively feel how much turn-in the front-axle can offer - whether or not those Cup 2s are up to proper temperature - through my hands on the wheel.

As sticky as those Michelins are, I think I’m still going to switch to a set of Pilot Sport 4S tires when the Cup 2s are worn out. Living here in San Francisco there just aren’t enough hot weather days to fully lit them up; the less aggressive PS4S rubber offers a larger operating window to access maximum grip, not to mention it fares better in the wet as well. A soft goal is to wear the Cup 2s out during this Summer; let’s see if that will be achieved.


Date acquired: January 2019
Total mileage: 27,036
Mileage this month: 587
Costs this month: $449.47
MPG this month: 15.53 mpg