Celebrating Love Instead Of Hate With A First-Generation Porsche Boxster On The Sicilian Coast
Photography by Andrea Casano
It’s funny how certain people can’t imagine anything but a 911 being worthy of the Porsche crest. The 914, and then the front-engined water-cooled cars that followed, and then the first generation Boxster after that, have all been labeled as the “Porsche for the poor.” Those who believe that are snobs of the worst kind, and if we started measuring the value of car ownership by the dollar value of our cars we’d have a hard time calling ourselves enthusiasts. After all, where does this lead? Are base 911 owners just poor versions of GT3 owners? Please, enough of this nonsense.
The Boxster is also much maligned for its “egg yolk” headlight design, but this car’s styling has aged better than we might have expected it would have 20 years ago. At the very least, its styling did help define sports car styling in the 1990s. Taste is subjective of course, but whether you like the way it looks or not, the first, 986 generation Boxster is an attractive package from a driving standpoint.
They are still very affordable, not overly clogged with electronics, and the combination of light weight distributed around a mid-engine layout will always be compelling. Affordable is a relative term of course, and these cars are not without their maintenance requirements, but for this owner, it’s very much worth it.
If you have read my previous article on a fantastic example of the Yamaha FZR 1000 that gets ridden between the hairpins of Erice, in Sicily, you will have already read about the owner, Toto. The pineapple-like yellow of his 1997 Boxster is a great reflection of his personality, and he certainly falls in the admiring camp when it comes to the look of the 986 bodywork.
If you cannot tell by just looking at it, the original Boxster project had roots in the early 1990s, but its overall spirit is quite close to Porsche’s much earlier history, specifically to its lineage of lightweight mid and rear-engined roadsters like the RSK.
When I ask Toto why he sought out a 986 Boxster rather than a 996 Carrera, I got a simple answer; “It would not have been the same thing! The style of the Boxster is influenced by past Porsche racing cars like the 550 and 718, cars that since my childhood I have carried in my heart. I remembered when my father showed me the photos of these beautiful racing cars at the Targa Florio, and to me they have always represented a unique and original style.” Indeed, Porsche has always been more than the 911, and it is refreshing to hear someone older folks might call a “young person” choosing the Boxster for its connection to history rather than its cost of entry.
Looking back on this photoshoot now it is hard not to get overly sentimental for the times when we could hang out together and spend a day driving and shooting a car with friends, but memories like these give us something to look forward to. I also recall being a bit blown away by the color of Toto’s Porsche when he first arrived at our meeting spot, but over the course of the rest of that day, I came to realize that it is in fact a perfect color for this car—if we’re talking two-seater roofless sports cars from the 1990s, what better color is there than a non-metallic pastel like this? It’s just plain period correct!
The driving experience itself also harkens back to the twilight of real analog, and the overall impression you’re left with is one of balance. The chassis, the power to weight ratio, the suspension damping, even the location of the controls on the dash all seem harmonious and on the same frequency as every other element of the car. It isn’t outright fast, nor is it a go-kart, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find something that feels as precisely in the middle as this car. It’s not hard to outperform it with something new, but it may prove trickier to find something that’s quite as satisfying to drive through some esses. The 2.5L boxer makes just a smidgen over 200 horsepower, but the car weighs less than 2800lbs.
After spending some time with the Boxster, I am only more confused about its reputation. People are coming around, but I believe it’s still markedly underestimated. After finishing up some rolling shots, Toto and I headed to the town of Marsala for a bite by the sea at a local favorite restaurant, La Rotonda, and I asked for his opinion on the 986’s esteem amongst “car people.”
His answer was again very simple, and he explained that many people limit themselves to the technical data to inform their pleasure, and not to the feelings or the spirit that really possesses a car. It’s a sentiment I think anyone reading this should know very well.
After our snack and a wonderful coffee, we move on to a historic part of town for a few more shots by the sea. It is a place where people still travel often on foot, and where the old Sicilians would lug carts of salt to Marsala, with a background decorated by the three Egadi islands. Sea, wind, and salty air; is there a better habitat for an afternoon drive in a fun car with no roof?
In the late afternoon the sun begins to sink to the horizon, and the evening light that follows helps me appreciate the details of the original Boxster’s styling. With the fuel fill cap on the right side of the bonnet in classic Porsche style, the centrally-mounted tachometer, the seats and headrests that combine into a single fluid shape, it is a car that in hindsight did a pretty excellent job of melding the then-forward looking 1990s with the deep history of Porsche.
As our day comes to an end, we are happy to park the cars for the night and indulge in the tradition of reflection, as we sit back in the late evening to enjoy a good glass of Amaro Florio and talk about cars. We start with the Boxster, but of course it’s only a matter of time before the conversational tangents take over. Because at the end of the day though—I mean that in a figurative sense this time—a car enthusiast is one who likes cars, not just the ones they call their own. Too often people are concerned with putting other tastes, other models, other eras, other manufacturers down for the sake of what? It’s much better to find the things we enjoy, and Toto summed up my thoughts perfectly: “There is no car which has no soul, and for this reason it is always necessary to respect them even if we don’t necessarily like them.”
Maybe we had drunk too much and gotten a bit mushy, but I’d so much rather subscribe to that philosophy than a negative or jaded one. Anyone can put something down, finding something to love is tougher, and immeasurably more rewarding.