December 5, 2023

A custom-built Porsche 911 GT3 Touring.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

I spent $228,020 of someone else’s money on my dream car, a dark blue-purple Porsche 911 GT3 Touring with a six-speed manual gearbox and $46,220 in optional extras. (The upgrades alone cost about as much as a new Hyundai Ioniq 5.) Elliot Martins was not the least bit surprised by any of it.

“That’s probably an average build for a GT3: $260,000 or $280,000 would be on the high end,” said Martins, a sales executive at Pfaff Porsche in Vaughan, Ont., just north of Toronto.

It’s one of three dealerships in Canada that specializes in Porsche’s Exclusive Manufaktur program, which offers deep-pocketed customers the chance to customize their cars with an extended range of paints, leathers, trims, special wheels, coloured brakes and illuminated door-sill plaques.

Obviously, “my” GT3 Touring isn’t really mine. It’s Porsche Canada’s car, to be used for marketing and public relations purposes, but they let me build it, choosing everything I would want if I was buying such a car.

All of which explains why, last summer, I showed up to the Pfaff Porsche dealership and was immediately struck by imposter syndrome, feeling as if I didn’t belong and would soon be discovered and escorted off the premises.

Instead, I was escorted into a nook filled with paint and carpet samples, leather and thread in every colour, various steering wheels and shift levers, plus swatches of carbon-fibre, wood veneer and brushed aluminum finishes. I was exactly like a kid in a candy store, except there was no adult in the room to tell me I couldn’t have what I wanted.

The Touring Package option ditches the rear wing.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

As an Exclusive Manufaktur representative for the dealership, Martins was eager to make my dream car real.

“Right now, green is a very popular colour,” he said. “On Instagram, [green cars] are getting the most likes.” Cars, like humans, cycle through fashion trends. Prior to green, we went through a blue phase, he explained, before suggesting purple might be emerging as the next must-have hue.

For “my” GT3 Touring, we went with a standard metallic paint: Gentian Blue, a dark shade that shines blueish-purple in the sunlight and costs an extra $950. The no-cost Touring Package option improves the GT3 by ditching its attention-grabbing rear wing so an understated colour seemed appropriate. The black plastic exterior mirrors were painted to match the body, a $750 option, because black plastic has no place in a $200,000 car.

Quality-of-life options included an extended-range 90-litre fuel tank ($260) and the front axle lift system ($4,180), which raises the bumper so it doesn’t scrape pavement on every single parking-garage ramp.

My choice of Exclusive Manufaktur interior in Mojave Beige cost an eye-watering $17,510. For that price you get the entire dashboard and door panels covered in custom-coloured two-tone leather (Mojave Beige and Black) with contrasting stitching. By this point, I was drunk off the options list and money had become no object. It seemed sensible to throw in the extended leather package ($6,070) that bathed much of the interior in hide, including the air vents, steering wheel column, key fob cover and owner’s manual.

The six-speed manual gearbox.Matt Bubbers/The Globe and Mail

Lightweight, one-piece carbon-fibre bucket seats ($6,740) will be a controversial choice but were a necessity in my now-twisted mind. Despite how uncomfortable these thrones are to drop into, they remind the driver he or she is in a GT3, a racecar, and not your typical fund manager’s cushy 911 Turbo. In these seats, every drive is an occasion. Besides, the hard seats are helpful for feeling out every imperfection in familiar local roads.

The manufacturer’s suggested retail price on a GT3 Touring is $180,300, which means, all told, I spent an additional 26 per cent on options – in other words, on cosmetic touches. It’s an expensive game of dress-up.

“On 911s, customers spend 20 to 40 per cent on top of [the manufacturer’s suggested retail price on options],” Martins said. My build was relatively tame, then.

Lucas Scarfone, a Hamilton, Ont.-based automotive photographer, went further with his dream car, a beautiful pesto-coloured GT3 Touring, which unlike me, he did actually buy with his own money. Above and beyond Exclusive Manufaktur is Porsche’s Sonderwunsch (special wishes) program – option code: CXX – which lets you order totally off-menu items. Scarfone had the black interior trim replaced with brushed aluminum. He texted me the price for that option: $11,600, followed by the facepalm emoji.

It may not have been as reckless a financial move as you might expect. “Someone offered me $475K already [mind-blown emoji],” he texted. In other words, he could flip his newly delivered dream car for nearly double what he just paid for it, because new 911s are in such short supply now.

It’s roughly a two-year wait for a new 911 or 718 sports car these days, Martins said. Even for the higher-volume Macan or Cayenne SUVs, the wait is four to six months. Parts supply shortages caused by the pandemic and the war in the Ukraine continue to restrict the production of new cars. Although, last year, Porsche Canada didn’t do too badly at all, selling 9,141 cars, a new record.

Mojave Beige for the lightweight one-piece carbon bucket seats.

Supply shortages have changed the way people buy cars, Martins said. Most people used to buy a Porsche off the lot. There would be 80 new SUVs just waiting for customers at any given time, he said. Now, nearly every new car he sells is a custom order, bought sight unseen and configured on a computer screen. The net result of tighter supply is, unsurprisingly, that new cars are selling for higher prices, which is good for business.

“My” GT3 Touring was ordered in July, 2021, and arrived earlier this year, although Porsche kept it in storage until April. When I finally laid eyes on the real car, it was a moment of shock, delight and relief that it didn’t look like a dog’s breakfast. The paint was radiant, not at all like it was on the computer screen, but better. The two-tone interior was worth every penny (of Porsche’s money).

No matter how carefully you stare at paint swatches or how many hours you spend in the Exclusive Manufaktur nook, there will be surprises on the day you finally take delivery of your new car. I had no idea, for example, there would embossed, textured leather on the upper dashboard, but it’s lovely.

Driving it, there’s a sense of rightness to it, which is owed to the fact I got to choose everything on it. It was made for me. Too bad I had to return it after only a week without even getting close to experiencing its full potential because for that you need a good mountain pass or racetrack.

Porsche excels at offering its customers exactly what they want, and then making them pay dearly for it; that’s never been more true than it is now.

Scarfone also collected his pesto-coloured GT3 Touring earlier this year. “Oh man, to see it come to life from the computer was amazing,” he texted. “Never thought I’d be able to build my own car one day!!!” By the time you read this, he’ll have already taken the car to its first track day, and has plans to drive it as much as possible this summer.


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