Two years before, Porsche had brought forth the 911, which was really exciting. It was only slightly more than my annual, teacher's salary, so I could at least fantasize owning one. For its day, it was a remarkable achievement and I wanted one.
The Corvettes of Massachusetts club sponsored a series of autocrosses in Burlington, outside of Boston back then, and I was always on the lookout for an autocross to drive the BMW 1600 Alpina that I had paid outrageous interest charges to buy. I was still learning how to drive the car, and any opportunity to get my pulses racing was a good one.
It wasn't unusual to see thirty five cars at those autocrosses. Most of them Corvettes, but I particularly enjoyed seeing the one 911 that was always there, too.
The car would arrive just before the first car started. The car would pull over to a grassy knoll not far from the chalk board where the times were posted, and an elderly gentleman and his wife would get out. She would pull a wicker picnic hamper and folding chair out of the 911, and settle down to read, while her husband would register.
Their car was an early 911. It had the gold "911" script rising o the right on hte lower corner of the engine compartment lid, and it had the early 911 engine with Solex carburetors. The car was shod with American Racing wheels and Goodyear BlueStreak tires. The owner, who appeared to be in his mid-sixties told me that he had the car lowered about half an inch, but that it was otherwise just "as Doctor Porsche had built it."
And the autocross would start. One Corvette after another would snort and bellow its way around the autocross course. I remember that there were two different parking lots that were liked together for the course, and the second section was on a different level than the first. Some of the cars would get awfully sideways transiting and trying to line up for the first turn on the lower level. There was a lot of V8 roar and bellow along with the smell of burning tires and high octane gasoline.
The 911 was always the last car to run. The big Corvettes would paw the ground and roar around the pylons and the scores would appear on the chalk board. The elderly couple with the 911 would be sitting calmly, the wife reading her book, and the husband watching much like he would watch a tennis match. Then it was his turn.
The 911 would always lop off about five or six seconds from the fastest of the Corvette times. There was no muss nor fuss: the 911 almost silent save from the slight whine of the cooling fan and the normal, muffled flat six sound. It was like watching a ballerina twirl across a stage.
The 911's time posted, it was amusing to watch the line of waiting Corvettes' hoods pop upward one after another. Then the drivers, screwdrivers clutched in hands would tinker, twist, the engines roar and growl, as more power and more "quickness" was searched for before the next run.
The 911 was giving away two hundred horsepower and more, and the driver of the 911 was giving away thirty five years to most of the other drivers. Yet each time, the 911's times would lop seconds off the fastest 911 times. It was like watching my grandfather.
I never won at Burlington. I never even came close to to winning. My BMW could only be classed with the V8 Mustangs and Camaros, but I wasn't good enough to win anyway. But to watch the 911 driven by that slightly built, grandfatherly gentleman spank the biggest and best that Corvette could present on those Sundays was worth the entrance fee by itself.
As my windshield wipers beat back and forth in the rain yesterday, I remembered that couple with thier picnic hamper and calm best times of day. It was a time when a young, second year teacher could dream of owning a 911, and it was possible to drive your daily driver to a competition and drive it home again, having met a lot of other guys and girls who were doing the same thing.
Autocrosses held in a corporate parking lot are almost entirely a thing of the past, the victim of the concerns of legal liability. The absolute exclusion of any kind of competitive activity included in personal auto policies along with the trememdous cost of owning and operating a "regular duty" car, has about made driving the "family" car for fun too speculative for most budgets.
Since the Cayenne is as important to Porsche today as the 911 was in 1964, and automobile reviewers critique cup holders with the same fervor as skid pad performance, I can't help but wonder if the best cars have already been built.
Roger M. Woodbury
Lord’s Beach, Maine
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