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The Porsche Mystique

Story by Jim Marshall

 

 

At some point Porsche people all start the obsession. Here’s my story…..

 


Planting the seed:
It was late spring 1964, I was a junior in High School and my mind was pretty much focused on cars. I’d seen Porsches around my hometown of Costa Mesa, but they didn’t leave an impression in those young pre-driving license years. One morning, a yellow 356 drove past my parent’s house and caught my eye. The owner lived somewhere in our tract of homes, so while walking to school each morning I began looking for that car. I could hear the exhaust popping as it rounded the corner at the end of our street and smoothly motored by. Soon, I saw it had chromed wheels, a luggage/ski rack on the rear deck and a script which read PORSCHE SC. What did SC mean? I had no idea at the time. But, that yellow 356 was a beauty! By that summer, I became the owner of a “Poor man’s Porsche” - a well used 1960 Corvair that provided basic transportation, leaked copious amounts of oil and smoked after dripping onto the hot exhaust. But – it was never difficult locating it in a parking lot, just follow the oil slick! A year later the Corvair was sold, and (in my opinion) I bought the next best thing to a 356 Porsche - a 1960 Karmann Ghia from my neighbor, Murray, who was buying a used 1966 912. I enjoyed hearing Murray tell me stories about the 356 Speedster he once owned…and then one day, some months later, he asked if I would drive his 912 up and down the street. “What? Really!” I could hardly contain my excitement. Murray wanted to hear the new exhaust he had put on the car. What a thrill actually driving a PORSCHE for the first time! This 19 year old fell further under the Porsche mystique.


Fast forward to college, and I was working part time at a local Pharmacy. One day the pharmacist showed up with a spanking new Metallic Red 1967 911S, complete with a wood dash, steering wheel and shiney alloy wheels. It was stunning! Then, a few months later, the pharmacy owner sold his Austin Healy and purchased a new Irish green ’67 912. I proudly parked the ivory colored Ghia next to his 912 whenever I could. By then, Porsche fascination had invaded my consciousness.


Off to the races:
Bill, a high school friend, had bought a used Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spyder that needed work - and after many months, it was running again. Bill called one day and suggested we take the Alfa up north to watch the SCCA Santa Barbara Airport road races. I was in! That day proved to be an adventure and a great introduction to Porsche race cars. Somewhere along HWY 101, north of LA, Bill said the generator on the Alfa wasn’t charging the battery. “Not to worry” he said, “I have a spare battery in the trunk.” Great!


The races were amazing. The famous Porsche “giant killer” moniker was apparent as we watched small displacement Porsches often trounce the larger engine cars. We walked by one particular 356. It had a script I had never seen before. The script Carrera was on the rear deck, Hmmm. In one of the more exciting races, a beautiful silver car was chasing a Cobra for the lead. I thought it was a silver Ferrari but the announcer said it was Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. A what?! There was that name again.


At the end of the day a man asked if Bill and I could help push start his car as the battery was dead. What was his car? A Porsche 550 Spyder! Just like the ones on the track that day! “It has a VW engine in it right now so it should start easily” the owner exclaimed! We were told how to push the car to avoid denting the aluminum body. We pushed it a few steps forward and Varoom! He was off. What an amazing machine! We got into the Alfa, departed for our journey home and yes, you guessed it, had to swap out the battery. Luckily, prayers answered, we made it home.


Learning the Lingo
Not long after the races, I visited local Chick Iverson VW Porsche. It was a Sunday and they were closed. Peering through the showroom window, on display, was a strange sight. A car which looked like a 911 or 912 but it had no top. A hoop like roll bar appendage was evident. Pressing my face against the window, a plastic rear window was visible lying down. Also, there was a script on the hoop. The word looked like it spelled Tanga or, was it Tango? On Monday I returned to the Iverson showroom. The salesperson explained the car was the latest new model, a Targa named after the famous Targa Florio race in Italy. Carrera, I learned, was also the name of a classic race in Mexico. Ahhh…There is a pattern here.


Ownership and PCA OCR
Two more years passed, it’s now 1969 and my life was College during the day and working nights at AT&T. A friend and I attended the LA Auto Show late that fall and on display was the new 1970 Porsche 914. I’d eagerly read about it in Autoweek. It was even marginally affordable on my meager budget. After seeing the 914 in person I was sold! There was a waiting list for the 914s at Park Porsche Audi in Buena Park, closer to where I was living. A month later they called! The 914 was a thrill to drive compared to the Ghia, and during the purchase I became friends with Ron, the salesman. Well, six months passed and one day Ron called asking if I would be interested in trading the 914 for a 914/6. “Porsche North America has just reduced the price on the 914/6 by $1000 and the 914s are still in great demand.” he explained. I was at Park Porsche the next afternoon. Of the available 914/6s, one in particular caught my attention. It was black/black with a white PORSCHE stripe along the side and Fuchs alloy wheels. We test drove it. Wow! The black “6” went home with me that day and I never looked back. My wife, Joy, and I still have fond memories of all the adventures we had in the 914/6. We owned it until 1976 when it was sold in favor of a 911 Targa. Its rear jump seats were needed to accommodate our growing family.


Joining PCA-OCR seemed a natural so I joined in 1971. Among other early memories with the club, one stands out - attending Steve McQueen’s great racing film “Le Mans” with fellow OCR members. It was in Costa Mesa. Were any of you there that evening?


By that time, I even spoke fluent Porsche! Things like Fuhrmann 4 cam, RSK, 911R, 908/3, and 917LH all had meaning. Carreras and Targas, and Turbos, oh my! The mystique and the adventures continue………….

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