Gray Market Droptop: 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera

This 1986 Porsche 911 Carrera convertible is described as a gray market example by the selling dealer. The gray market status likely means it retains the European-market H4 lighting; less restrictive emissions; and possibly weight savings courtesy of not having additional impact reinforcement welded into the doors. This is all just the musings of one enthusiast, of course, as plenty of gray market cars were federalized and had all of their tasty European-market features converted to U.S.-spec equipment. For instance, this car is lacking the side markers/repeaters in the fenders that came on European versions of the 911. Regardless, it’s still a very nice example and listed here on eBay with bidding to $27,150 and no reserve.

The 911 features perhaps the most ideal color scheme possibly for an open-top German sports car, combining red paint with a black leather interior and black top. The polished Fuchs alloy wheels aren’t the most exciting choice, but there’s no denying they look good here. The seller claims this is a gray market car, and it sounds like they’re basing this distinction on the VIN number alone and what’s in the CarFax report. This isn’t exactly a surprise, as it seems like German cars were the most popular choice for importing in the 1980s in order to get the higher horsepower engines that our friends at the EPA and NHSTA deemed unfit for our roads.

The 911 features the desirable sport bucket seats, which were a heavily bolstered option that Porsche made available on most models. The convertible is even less likely to be spotted with these hip-hugging buckets, so that’s a serious feather in the cap of this example. The interior is in very nice condition overall, with no major tears or rips in the seats or door panels, and more surprisingly, the panels haven’t been cut apart to mount aftermarket speakers, a common occurrence in 1980s European performance and luxury cars. The seller reports that the true mileage is unknown, but it has to be somewhat reasonable given how nicely preserved the interior appears to be.

The 911 could be on its second or third paint job, so I wouldn’t use the exterior as a means of judging its actual mileage. The engine bay photos make it hard to get a sense of how clean it is, and without a heavy paper trail, it’s a major roll of the dice if this example turns out to be leaky and in need of an engine-out reseal. Curiously, the 911 is registered as non-operational in the California DMV system, but the seller does provide proof that it recently passed its annual smog check. Overall, the missing years in its history file isn’t bothering bidders, and if this turns out to be a true gray market car that was never federalized, it’s no surprise that there are more than a few bidders willing to take a chance on the unknowns.


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  1. alphasud Member

    Yup RoW car with a VIN WP0ZZZ. The 3 Z’s are the key here. Nice sports seats option. Didn’t see a picture of the under hood where you will find the options sticker. Since it’s registered in CA there should also be a California Bar compliance sticker on the drivers door jamb. Seems like a nice car but negotiate a pre purchase inspection with the seller and get some cylinder leak down readings. The 3.2 engine is probably the most reliable of the classic 911. Lots of orange peel in the respray that might be able to be color sanded out.

    Like 3
    • Sean

      What is RoW? And what do the 3Zs mean?? Is that how to tell a grey market car, also no side marker and big bumperettes in the rear so no euro spec

      • Ralph

        rest of (the) world….

        Like 2
      • alphasud Member

        Row was a term used by some manufacturers to differentiate cars that were produced for other markets. USA was the toughest market to build cars for in the 80’s with safety and emissions standards. The VIN number for Porsche starts with WP0. The 4th through 8th call out specifics of the car build. Numbers 4-6 were only used in the US market but RoW cars did not so they used Z as a place holder. WP0ZZZ…… when I worked at the dealer it was easy to identify a grey market car. All grey market cars had to comply with safety and emissions standards set for that model year. So they would have gotten US lighting, a catalyst and a O2 sensor, Evap. Emissions equipment, US bumpers, and ride height. However once certified a lot were refitted back. My euro 928 had a catalyst installed and a supplemental ECU that interfaced with the Motronic ECU to control fuel mixture with a O2 sensor.

        Like 2
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Saw lots of grey market 911s come through the shop with the side lights in the front fenders. Can’t believe anyone would take the time to weld in plugs and repaint the fenders. Those lights were not prohibited in the US. Even had customers want the side lights installed. As stated, these are really nice cars and a lot of fun to drive. This is an excellent example and if it checks out mechanically it’s a good buy.

    Like 4
    • Frank

      I went thru it and my side markers and rear fog light was just fine. I purchased the car from a Danish fellow in NH who imported German cars.

      Like 1
  3. Euromoto Member

    No shots with the top up…

    Like 2
  4. steveh

    As European spec car the speedometer should be in kms, so the mileage shown is unverifiable. Also Euro spec cars did not have the large (ugly) rear bumper overiders

    Like 4
  5. Chris Webster

    It might have H4 headlamps, but these are the US spec headlight housings, not the rest of the world ones.

    Like 3
  6. bobhess bobhess Member

    Good catch steveh and Chris. There was not a requirement to change the rear bumper guards on the grey market cars and the H4s were one of the first things most Porsche owners added to their cars. The speedometer has the mph on the outer ring which makes it a US piece. Lot of interesting questions on this one.

    Like 2
  7. Frank

    I went thru the Feds emission and safety BS when I purchased a Porsche 930. Pictures were taken of the side impact bars in the doors along with lights and a few other items. Then for years the WPOZZZ was sold for less money up until Porsche decided to play the Ferrari game with fewer cars and dealers and more money. WPOZZZ’s are not cheap any longer! Actually no Porsche is cheap

    Like 1
  8. Frank

    I went thru it and my side markers and rear fog light was just fine. I purchased the car from a Danish fellow in NH who imported German cars.

  9. Howie Mueler

    Registered as a non-op car with the CA DMV.

    Like 1
  10. t-bone BOB

    Located in:
    La Habra, California

  11. Pete

    I saw a car exactly like this catch fire on the way to the flight line in Germany a week after this Captain bought it. He demanded Porche replace the entire car instead of just repairing it under warranty. He got a new car.

  12. t-bone BOB

    Ended: Oct 21, 2021 , 2:04PM
    Winning bid:US $34,450.00
    [ 37 bids ]

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