Those of you steeped in traditional Catholicism know that we have just one of Porsche’s Deadly Sins left to go before the end of the series. What better time, then, to take a moment to talk about just why people do choose to become Porsche owners. Time and time again in my “Porsche’s Deadly Sins” series, people have asked me basically the same question, to wit:
If Porsche is such a terrible company, and they make such terrible products, why do you have three of them?
It’s a simple question with a not-so-simple group of answers. Buckle up and let’s talk about it.
“Sometimes,” the man said, “a cigar is just a cigar.” But to a true auto enthusiast, a car is never just a car. It’s an object that exists in context. The Consumer Reports guy, the appliance buyer, looks at a Cutlass and a Malibu and sees that they are the same product. We look at them and see the history they represent, the context that transcends the metal.
My automotive sense, my car-loving child within, forever lives in Columbia, MD. I see myself standing with my father as he purchases a new MG, riding in the back seat of his LeSabre and seeing the big Oldsmobiles, the stately Cadillacs, the professorial Saabs, the careless old-money scions (small “S”) in their Nine Elevens and XJSes. I come from a time where the GM brands still meant something, where California was irrelevant in our lives, where the phenomenon of the omnipresent entry-level information technology manager douching it up in a G35 Koop had yet to spring, fully-formed, into existence from the forehead of the dot-com boom.
In that mindset, in that heritage, a Porsche is still special. I treasured seeing Porsches as a child. There was no Cayenne, no Panamera. Even a 924 was gorgeous to see, if not all that stirring to drive. When I sit behind the wheel of my 993, I remember sitting behind the wheel of a 1979 911SC in a Washington, DC dealership, my father distracting the salesperson long enough for me to enjoy myself looking around. It’s the same car, or it’s same enough for me. The existence of the loathsome Panamera cannot trouble my quiet joy in this. My 993 is my gift to my childhood.
I own a 944 because there is nothing that equals a 944 as a legal-speeds road tool. The visibility is superb, the driving position is comfortable. I feel that the car is light enough to maneuver and heavy enough to be substantial. The big four has enough torque to push me along, which addresses the main shortcoming of the original EA925. It is unfiltered, delightful, still special after twenty-six years.
I bought my Boxster S “550 Spyder Edition” for pragmatic reasons. It was 2006. I intended to contest the SCCA National Solo Championship. I didn’t want to wear out my 993, didn’t want to subject it to sixty clutch drops a season, didn’t want to spend the money required to keep an aircooled Porsche running at race spec. I also thought I might be able to drive the Boxster a bit better at speed, and I wanted something to thrash on open track days. The Porsche-hating SCCA refused to let the 2005 or 2006 Boxster in “A Stock” so I bought a 4,000-mile 2004-model garage queen and gave it a shot.
Over the course of the next 29,000 miles, I came to respect, then admire, then finally love the Boxster. The M96 may be a limited-life engine but it can be sweet and lovely at seven thousand revs as I clip a curb on the way out of Mid-Ohio’s Carousel. With Hoosier tires mounted, 245 width in front and 285 width in back, it is a match in the midcorner for everything short of a Formula Continental. It can be thrown sideways at triple-digit speeds then collected at my leisure. The control inputs are honest, forthright, trustworthy. Unlike the 993, there’s real ergonomic thought in the relationship of seat, pedals, shifter. I also happen to think it’s pretty, though it’s certainly not as pretty as any air-cooled 911. If I had to sell one of the three, this would be the one I sell, but nota bene that I sold my Audi S5, not my Boxster, when I wanted to make a change in my automotive lineup.
I often step into one of my Porsches while in the grip of some foul mood, but I rarely step out that way. These are good cars. Each is flawed, each is born from compromise, pragmatism, and connivance, but they are also each fundamentally good in a way I cannot easily explain to you. It has nothing to do with prestige or impressing people; there’s nothing impressive about an old 944 or a Boxster and the 993 is starting to look more vintage than upscale. These are my cars, and I am their owner.
I cannot bring myself to love Porsche, the company, any more. Most of their products are either bad or cynical. There’s too much attention to cost-cutting, too many fiscal manipulations, too much German inside-baseball financing going on. Even in the “good old days”, this was a company which often knowingly sent race drivers to their deaths. As a racing driver and team owner I find that difficult to swallow.
That does not mean I could ever bring myself to not love these three cars, my aging, humble fleet, my little stable of dreams fulfilled. I don’t see myself ever buying a new Porsche. When I think of the Porsches I want, they are all beetle-backed air-cooled throbbers. The branded merchandise, luxury retreats, and single-make “gentlemen racer” series without a single gentleman among their ranks are too much for me to swallow. These are my Porsches. Thank you for reading, and, perhaps, for understanding.