Much has changed since I last had the opportunity to humblebrag on TTAC. My good friend Derek has monetized the skills he developed and honed here into an actual, real-life job in the automotive industry, and I’ve gone from owning two Porsche 911s to owning zero cars — at least temporarily.
Over an uncharacteristically lazy Labor Day weekend, I found myself chatting with Derek Kreindler about subjects near and dear to the apex of TTAC’s masthead: semiotics, the musical oeuvre of John Mayer, and – briefly – automobiles. Given my mild disappointment with Porsche’s newest mid-engined cars, he suggested a Porsche 911 GT3 from the 996 generation, pronouncing it “certified badass.” I protested that they were quite rare, and I’d never had the opportunity to drive one, but I’d check local listings to pacify him. Lo and behold, there was a Speed Yellow example on a used car lot less than 10 miles away from me. I called and confirmed that the car was still available; I could test drive it provided I arrived at the dealer within 30 minutes. I was out the door before the receiver went dead.
I still remember the day my parents bought me a copy of the iconic Justification for Higher Education poster. I had been nagging them for a while, and when I finally got the poster, it took immediate pride of place in my childhood bedroom. Having matured, I recognize now that the imagery depicts a lifestyle unlikely to be the preserve of the highly educated, but instead that of a lottery winner. Didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter today; the now ratty old poster followed me to college and again to my grown-up domicile.
Wealthy Arab men have been in the habit of offending the sensibilities – pecuniary, aesthetic, and otherwise – of the English upper class for some time now; just ask Prince Charles. Recently, however, privileged Arab youths in the habit of transporting their exotic wheels to London for “Supercar Season” – a fortnight of pre-Ramadan Dionysian revelry based on conspicuous consumption, street racing, and gratuitous throttle blipping rather than imbibition – have found themselves in the public eye. Rather than breathless Youtube and Instagram fluffers, these arrivistes have found themselves in the critical eye of a Very Serious Documentary Film, entitled Millionaire Boy Racers.
If you read the title and mouthed “everything,” I can’t blame you, but please bear with me. What can Alfa Romeo, the Italian former racing marque and the assumed quintessence of automotive passion, emotion, and physical beauty, learn from McLaren, the English Formula One mainstay and sometime purveyor of clinical, efficient supercars? The two companies represent quite divergent poles along the automotive landscape, but they have much in common, both historically and in the present day, particularly in the North American market.
Depending on the type of mood in which I find myself after waking, as well as the type of mood in which I find my car after its waking, I vacillate between being buried in the masterpiece or selling the lemon in short order. Recently my relationship with my Porsche 911 has been somewhat strained. A relatively minor issue prompted my most recent trip to the dealer, yet I was set to depart with another four-figure bill. In a moment of weakness I strolled over to the other side of the dealer and perused their new offerings, in particular the updated 981 Boxster and Cayman twins. Perhaps relatively predictable depreciation losses would be preferable to the Russian roulette of ongoing high-dollar maintenance.
Be forewarned: This post contains some Porsche content.
Those with a strong appreciation for the automobile often romanticize the idealized Road Trip, the Grand Tour. With rose-tinted glasses we esteem those transcontinental slogs made in cars suitable for the occasion, the Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, and so on that are exemplars of the (often) 12-cylinder, Gran Turismo genre. Indeed, it’s difficult to read a review of such a car and escape reference to the hypothetical playboys who only interrupt sumptous repose to flog their aristocratic motors on epic drives of endurance.
In 2013, however, a road trip encompassing thousands of miles is quite a luxury, given the pressing hustle and bustle of the modern world. It’s much quicker and easier to fly, after all. In fact, it seems like the only people electing indulgent road trips these days are well-coined automotive journalists, like my friend Doug DeMuro.
I had dinner recently with TTAC’s enfant terrible, Doug Demuro, something we do every few weeks as our respective schedules permit. Predictably, our pre-, mid- and post-prandial conversation revolved around our shared passion for automobiles, as well as the people who read and write about them. At one point I made a hasty proclamation, which was in retrospect unwise given my audience: “Doug, I really don’t think any manufacturers are making objectively bad cars right now.” Doug paused and replied: “My friend, have you ever heard of Chrys-ler?,” enunciating the last pair of syllables as if speaking to an alien. He continued, “check out the 200 if you have a chance.”
A few days ago I breathlessly described the highlights of old Porsche ownership – the immersive driving experience, the camaraderie among like-minded enthusiasts, and the opportunity to meet people through sharing the fun with others. In a cliffhanger, I also hinted that there were some downsides to driving that type of car everyday… of course it’s not always halcyon days of empty roads and spirited drives. I made that intimation for two reasons: Sometimes the car can grate on the nerves of even its biggest apologist, whereas the remainder of the time it’s broken, with that same apologist’s wallet in peril.
Having detailed previously both the ultimate and proximate causes of how I ended up – by choice – with a nearly 20 year old Porsche 911 as my sole vehicle, the next logical step is to chronicle the highlights (and lowlights) of the ownership experience. If you suspect that the high-maintenance, although not particularly high-performance car would begin to fade into the background of modern life through daily use, you’d be mistaken.
In my previous entry I recounted how I forsook other marques and at the eleventh hour turned my hymnal to 993 while shopping for my first car, but I didn’t elaborate on why I had such an interest in the ass-engined Nazi slot cars in the first place. You might think that I was seduced by how effectively the evolved Beetle enhanced my countenance the first time I caught my reflection against the glass façade of one of Atlanta’s concrete canyons, or how a previous generation of my occupational forebears made a Guards Red “Turbo-look” M491-optioned neunelfer a de rigueur part of “the look” for anyone with more than a modicum of ambition, along with slicked-back hair, Oliver Peoples glasses, and red suspenders, but you’d be mistaken – it goes a bit deeper than that. Despite a litany of transgressions against their most faithful devotees, Porsche ensnared me from an early age.
Please welcome our newest contributor, TTAC reader David Walton
Like many automotive enthusiasts of my generation, my childhood was spent furtively devouring the latest missives from Brock Yates, Peter Egan, John Phillips, David E. Davis, Jr., and their countless imitators while ignoring my school lessons. I was preoccupied by some weighty existential topics, including but not limited to whether or not my first Ferrari would be Rosso Corsa. This rabid devotion continued up until my 16th birthday, which roughly coincided with the realization that my parents weren’t going to buy me anything cool or fast, and that I wasn’t going to buy myself anything cool or fast anytime soon.
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- Ollicat I have a Spyder. The belt will last for many years or 60,000-80,000 miles. Not really a worry.
- Redapple2 Cadillac and racing. Boy those 2 go together dont they? What a joke. Up there with opening a coffee shop in NYC. EvilGM be clowning. Again.
- Jbltg Rear bench seat does not match the front buckets. What's up?
- Theflyersfan The two Louisville truck plants are still operating, but not sure for how much longer. I have a couple of friends who work at a manufacturing company in town that makes cooling systems for the trucks built here. And they are on pins and needles wondering if or when they get the call to not go back to work because there are no trucks being made. That's what drives me up the wall with these strikes. The auto workers still get a minimum amount of pay even while striking, but the massive support staff that builds components, staffs temp workers, runs the logistics, etc, ends up with nothing except the bare hope that the state's crippled unemployment system can help them keep afloat. In a city where shipping (UPS central hub and they almost went on strike on August 1) and heavy manufacturing (GE Appliance Park and the Ford plants) keeps tens of thousands of people employed, plus the support companies, any prolonged shutdown is a total disaster for the city as well. UAW members - you're not getting a 38% raise right away. That just doesn't happen. Start a little lower and end this. And then you can fight the good fight against the corner office staff who make millions for being in meetings all day.
- Dusterdude The "fire them all" is looking a little less unreasonable the longer the union sticks to the totally ridiculous demands ( or maybe the members should fire theit leadership ! )