If you’re looking at an early 911 (by which I mean 1989 and earlier) then keep your eyes wide open for rust.
These cars can corrode badly – and repairs aren’t cheap. You may think that a bit of bubbling around a headlamp is no big deal but the only real solution is a new wing, at a cost of at least £600 a side, plus fitting and spraying which can bring the cost to £1000 – or two grand for a pair. Front wings also rust around the fuel filler, along the top rear edge and down the rear behind the wheel arch.
At least the front wings are bolted on (although don’t think that makes it a five-minute job to remove one). The rears, on the other hand, are welded in place and extend up to the roof – so making a flawless joint is difficult (almost impossible – you can usually see a joint the top of the C post if a wing has been replaced).
But even that pales into insignificance compared to rusty sills. The sill structure on a 911 is complex, corrodes readily and is difficult (and expensive) to repair properly. Life the carpets and check the inner sills (where they meet the floor, basically) and also look at the B post – inside the door shut below the catch. If this is rusty, then it will need replacing and there’s a good chance the sill will have gone, too.
I’m always very wary of a car that’s recently been resprayed – what’s that shiny new paint hiding? People don’t respray cars without a good reason. If a car has just been painted, I want to see photographic evidence of what remedial work has been done beforehand, otherwise I’d worry that the rust has been covered over and will bubble through in a year or two. A car that’s been repainted a few years back is a safer bet, as the rust would have reappeared if it was lurking.
By the way, some dealers like to hide small rust bubbles to make a car look more desirable. Maybe I’m too honest, but I’d rather leave them so that a buyer can see exactly what condition the car is in.
If you’re looking at, say, a 911SC for £10,000 it makes no economic sense to spend thousands restoring the bodywork – you’ll end up with a 911SC worth maybe £12,000. Far better to buy a decent example to start with, even if you have to spend a little more.