Friday, November 28, 2014

Porsche People

Many of you will realize that this car, the Mercedes-Benz SSK, 'Count Trossi' model (Carlo Trossi was a Grand-Prix racer and bon vivant in the 1930s, and this car is named for him) was the last car engineered by Ferdinand Porsche for Mercedes, before he quit M-B in order to form his own company in 1931, called 'Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau' (designs and consulting services for engines and vehicles).  Of course the engine and chassis of this car originated in the 1920's, but the engine produces 300 bph at 3400 rpm, and 507 ft pounds of torque at 2000 rpm. It has drum brakes made of copper.

Herr Willie White, a relatively unknown coachbuilder, fabricated this body on the chassis Trossi provided to him (which Trossi purchased after its racing career was finished), and he built it to Trossi's design. The exotic teardrop rear fenders and additional features were already used on various other cars of the era but they are well executed here, although it is not known if certain accompanying details were Trossi's ideas, or White's. 

This car has little to do with modern-day 'Porsche People', except that many would not be enthusiasts today if it were not for earlier, high-performance efforts on Ferdinand's part, such as this car. Anyway, it's a nice Web-sourced picture with which to begin this post, and it fits in with some of the Porsche People ideas that are discussed below. 

If you own a Porsche, you meet people; it goes with the territory. This doesn't happen so much with newer Porsches, I don't think, but if you own a 'classic' Porsche, you are somehow more approachable at gas stations or just about any roadside stop you might make. And so people have no hesitation to step over and ask about the car, make a silly remark - "Such a little car - and you're so big!" - or say something like, "I used to have one of those, a 1963, and I sold it for $250! Man, was that a mistake." No matter that that would have been a different beast entirely, but all older air-cooled Porsche cars are hot-rodded VWs according to many people who can remember air-cooled Porsches to begin with. This is why those cheerful questioners make references to their long-gone '67 Beetle, as if it were all but identical to a Porsche of the era. Among those that do remember air-cooled Porsches, some are not aware that no Porsche has been air-cooled for decades now but, never mind, an old Porsche is an approachable car to the average person who takes notice of it in the first place. It's less intimidating, it seems.

Once I entered a small post office in northern Vermont - I keep a box there because it's faster and cheaper than the mail service at home in Canada - and when I emerged from the building there were a man and a woman standing next to my 911 and their shabby pick-up truck was parked in the next space beyond. Oh god, I thought, what have they done? Is the other side of my car in shreds? They didn't look very friendly.

"We love your car!", they said in unison, "Is it for sale?" Whoops, I read this situation improperly. The usual questions flowed forth, but then they added the unexpected detail that they had taken their recent honeymoon trip in a Porsche, but not just any Porsche. This one had been loaned to them - they were married in Germany - by her uncle, Alois Ruf! Yikes, would they have been surprised if they were to drive my car expecting it to go like a Ruf . . . I said, politely, that my car was not for sale and I thanked them for their enthusiastic interest.

Most people ask, "What year is that car?" or "What is that stuff you are adding to your gas?" (an anti-ethanol additive). These are always openings so that they can chat further about the car, and ask additional questions. I never mind this. The newlywed gave me her card and said to call if I changed my mind. Oh, and he is the Canadian distributor for Ruf's parts, he said. And they wanted my car? Maybe they would have paid a Ruf price for it . . .

You really meet actual Porsche people when you join a Porsche club of some kind. I joined PCA. I say elsewhere on this blog that, basically, the local chapter of such a club is only as good as the people who run it; this is obvious. They are all volunteers, of course, so what demands can you make? Problems arise when people offer their services but then are inclined to ignore what the club needs to run well, but this is another topic for another day. This post will focus on people you find in car clubs, not club functions.

A normal PCA day, on the islands.

I've met plenty of friendly, decent, interesting, generous people at PCA events; like any other affinity group, there is a cross-section of the population on offer, with every personality type, and aberration thereof, present and accounted for. I 'talk Porsche' with some of them, while with others this subject seldom comes up, just real-life adventures.

Some brag, some are modest, some have bundles of cash, while plenty of others do not; they are all just ordinary folks. The DIY types trade notes and advice, some others may trade stock tips for all I know, but the main idea is to gain friends and have fun, most often centered around a car that you know, love, and enjoy. A fair number even claim that the Porsche car is superior to every other in some enigmatic way, while others complain about the difficulty they have getting quality service in the region, if they can't do it themselves. In the end they are just a bunch of standard-issue people.

Doggies are always welcome, too.
I was tempted to say that these 'Porsche People' are gear-heads on various levels, but that is not true across the board. Some have near zero technical knowledge of their Porsches, and have a similar level of capability when driving them. They enjoy something about owning a Porsche(s), and that's all you know about them up front.

One guy, who frequently points out the expanse of his wealth, said that he enjoys the Porsche club, but that he likes the Ferrari club, too. Therefore, he says that he keeps both a Porsche, and a Ferrari, at each of his homes, one in (a New England state), and the other in Florida. I have never seen any of these four cars, but that is what he says he owns - along with a collection of additional vehicles, and a lot of guns. I haven't any idea if he has more homes, too, but he is a matter-of-fact guy who just tells it as it is. He's not alone.

There are some abundantly friendly people that I like a lot who appear at events with elderly and inexpensive Porsches that they have attempted to fix up by themselves and these cars vary substantially in the success of this effort. The poor car runs, the people showed up, so there is no problem with this. It's nice to see their smiling faces. No one needs to be a billionaire to own some sort of Porsche, but if the car is decades old and marginal, it is automatic that the owner will have dirt under his fingernails. They are welcome in my book.

One man, a doctor, tells a story on himself about a time when his wife became absolutely unhinged when he carried a Lotus engine into the house and laid it on the kitchen table to do some surgery on it. She had objections to this idea for some reason and now he does not do engine surgery any more, but I don't know if these two facts are connected. He's a nice man, her I don't know personally.

Tilt. I had an awkward time getting out of my car at the far left. PCA rally.

My car is somewhat doddery and it needs its hand held often. Many times the issues are due to aging plastic pieces, but as often aging rubber, electrical gizmos, and tiny metal parts - the big parts are mostly okay. That, and don't forget constant adjustments to every conceivable thing. Another club guy has offered to exchange parts from his car to mine as a diagnostic methodology. If using his part fixes what has gone 'off' on my car, then he will help me to find and install a good used, new, or better part to replace the offending one that has been slowing me down.  And, he knows what he is talking about; his car runs like a top.
He's not the only guy I know who will go to great lengths to help solve problems. It's an amazing community. You start with Porsches, but you extend to much else. I imagine that this is true in other car clubs, but I don't know, so I'll blame it on owning a Porsche.

              W. under his car.                                                                  W. under my car, in the barn.

Obviously, I am of a certain sort, willing to get my hands dirty now and then, and this winter I'm going to do some body work, along with myriad adjustments. I'll talk to various of my friends when I get puzzled over something. One good, Porsche 'buddy' has even offered me various free parts if I want, and what he offered is worth $$$. Cool.

C.P. under my car in my new shop. R and P needed repair.
It's normal that there are jerks to be found in a Porsche club, too. Some of them could be helped by counselling, while others are probably not curable. No need to waste time on them here.

Nuts and bolts are one thing, but it is the more personal, human connections that I have developed that are most important. I don't think of my Porsche friends in terms of their cars, I think of them as personalities that are valuable and important to me. The Porsche Club of America has the clunky slogan on its website, "It's not the cars, it's the people." Previously the slogan was stated differently as, "It's not just the cars, it's the people." Either way, clunky or not, I finally have to admit that the sentiment is correct. PCA seems to be abandoning this slogan since it is now hard to find in any current PCA publication, but maybe they are working on a better one that expresses the same idea.

Some joke that the slogan should be, "It's just the cars, not the people." They have it wrong. It's not about PCA, either, it's about people connecting because of shared interests, and that's good. Everybody needs as many friends as they can get, and these aren't virtual, they are real. Life is good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. It's a fun read. I thought this post was interesting, as you discuss 'Porsche people', and your local PCA region. It resonated with me, and prompted me to leave a comment and share my experience.

I have owned my '87 911 for about 3 years now. I joined PCA immediately, and was eager to join my local chapter here in Minneapolis, called Nordstern. In short, the people in that chapter are complete A-holes. It's a good 'ol boys club, and these guys have all been in it for decades. They are not interested in talking to anyone other than their tight little circle. I don't know if it's the Minnesota Nice adage (Minnesota people are so nice they'll give you directions to anywhere but their house), the fact I don't race at their home track, that I'm too young, too poor, a combination of all, or something else.

I joined their "ClubTalk" email blaster (these guys have evidently never heard of a forum) in hopes of joining the camaraderie of my local enthusiasts. It didn't happen. So I emailed the blaster to be removed from the list, and I gave my feedback as to why. I explained that I didn't realize it was mostly racing talk, and that I had hoped it would be more of a DIY'er area where you could ask for help/advice. One of the Nordstern OFFICERS replied to my email, stating, "Don't go! I was about to ask you what type of oil to use in my 918!" This, from an officer. Needless to say, I won't be renewing again with my local chapter.

I have met a lot of other local Porsche people NOT in Nordstern, and they are great. I have met Porsche people in other chapters, and every one has been great.