Featured: Celebrating Love Instead Of Hate With A First-Generation Porsche Boxster On The Sicilian Coast

Celebrating Love Instead Of Hate With A First-Generation Porsche Boxster On The Sicilian Coast

Andrea Casano By Andrea Casano
April 24, 2020
11 comments

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.

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Dan OJack BbabysfirstvolvoP-Nutdoublethink Recent comment authors
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Dan O
Dan O

I bought a clean ’02 Boxster in the fall of 2018 with 41,000 miles on the clock. Since then I’ve added 20,000+ miles via daily driving, weekend drives and PCA events. I prefer the 986 over the later models, they’re less complicated and closer to the original concept. Fewer electronics, no driver aids (besides ABS), no dashboard screens, older school interior. The 217 horsepower is the sweet spot of street performance. It’s more than quick enough, though you can thrash it some to hear that flat six without instant threat of lost license. It handles incredibly well, has great steering… Read more »

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Jack B
Jack B

I have owned many Porsches of all types over the past nearly six decades. I thought I would never find a satisfactory replacement for my beloved 914/6, but I was wrong. My Boxster RS60 with 51,000 miles is it!

babysfirstvolvo
babysfirstvolvo

Having grown up in the late 90s and early 00s, the Boxster and the 996 were the “cool” Porsches of my childhood. They were new and offered my generation something different compared to the air-cooled era. We all thought those cars were for old people anyway. Now that I’m older, I appreciate all Porsches for what they are—regardless of how they’re cooled or see their way forward on a dark road. Great article. I hope to see more stories like this.

P-Nut
P-Nut

Nice to see this article. As someone with three 911s, I think the first Boxters are great, underappreciated cars. The earlier, the better. I imagine they are gaining appreciation for their purity and simplicity.

doublethink
doublethink

after 23 years of reading every review and seeing every “them tube” video about the 986 Porsche, this article has finally given me the courage to consider purchasing a 986 boxster. now watch the prices climb even more…

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João Vasconcelos
João Vasconcelos

Great text, people should stop overlooking this car and see the essence of it. No point to compare with thw 911, this is a roadster not a GT car, the Boxster was made to slide the B roads while enjoying the sun and speed with the top down. I have one and I love it!

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Nafis Malik
Nafis Malik

Man I would love to own the 986 Boxster!

gth452
gth452

Finally a piece on the original Boxster. I have a number of cars including two 911s and my 97 Boxster is my favorite for driving the twisty B roads around New Hampshire. The price point for these brilliant cars is fantastic and if maintained properly they are very reliable. The headlights fit this car perfectly and after the GT1 race car were found on the Boxster first. Had Porsche not used them on the 996 911 generation I don’t think they would be controversial on the Boxster. I agree with the author that this car has the lines of the… Read more »

Roberto D'Angelo
Roberto D'Angelo

A lot in common with this guy, I live in the same place and own the same car. There’s not better one to live the spirit and the romance of Targa Florio in this wonderful Land.

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sashanice
sashanice

Our people and the world needs more love! Really enjoyed the recognition for all cars. Hats off!

Nick Sadila
Nick Sadila

Wow! Great photo and great text!! I fall in love!