Posts Tagged Porsche

On the Porsche 911

Porsche 911TMy relationship with the Porsche 911 is like the relationships most people have with celebrities: I feel like I know it even though I don’t.

I’ve never driven a 911, but having read scores of accounts, I can tell you all about the early models’ reputation for sinister oversteer, or the workings of the 2014 911 Turbo’s active aerodynamics.

That’s why I’ve always been ambivalent about the 911. I only know it as a car driven by pretentious rich people and Jerry Seinfeld, but I’m still in a celebratory mood because of its 50th anniversary.

To me, the 911 has always been part of a select group of automotive overachievers. Like the BMW 3 Series and the Toyota Camry, if it’s part of a magazine comparison test, it will almost certainly win.

It’s actually a bit frustrating. There’s always a more interesting car, or one with a better story, that always gets beaten by the Porsche’s sheer competence.

Automotive journalists often say the 911 is a sports car you can use everyday and, indeed, its upright profile, front trunk, and available all-wheel drive make it seem almost practical.

2014 Porsche 911 GT3This is probably why men having midlife crises gravitate toward the 911: yes, it’s a sports car, but it won’t do anything to upset a Westchester family’s genteel sensibilities.

Yet the 911 also has decades of racing victories to its credit, and Porsche’s constant fiddling has made every generation perform better than the last.

It’s also one of the few high-end cars with a passionate customizing subculture, something I find endlessly amusing.

That’s the secret of the 911’s staying power.

The 911 really can be all things to all people. It’s not a car of extremes; it plays the middle so well that nearly anyone can find something to like about it.

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Other People’s Cars: Porsche Carrera GT

Last weekend, I stopped at an antique auto restoration shop near Westport, Connecticut. While drooling over a Jaguar XK120 and a 1959 DeSoto, I spotted a decidedly modern Porsche Carrera GT. Seeing a blue supercar like the one in this photo (I couldn’t figure out how to upload photos from my phone) was an interesting juxtaposition.

The Carrera GT is one of my favorite supercars, because it looks like it’s from the future. The cabin is pushed forward by a massive expanse of engine, and the whole car rides so low it probably couldn’t clear an ant hill. It’s a roadster, with seat fairings that make it look like a Star Wars airspeeder. On the inside, the center console rises up to bring the shifter closer to the driver’s hand.

The Carrera GT started out as a race car; Porsche wanted to retake Le Mans with it. However, the project didn’t work out, so in 2004 Porsche began selling Carrera GTs made from the bones of its stillborn Le Mans prototype. Apparently, failed race cars make excellent street cars. The Carrera GT packs a 5.7-liter V10 with 604 horsepower. It can do 0-60 mph in 3.6 seconds and set a Top Gear lap record when it appeared on the show in 2004 (the record has since been beaten).

If the looks and performance don’t convince you that this is a race care, look no further than the Formula 1-style single-lug wheels, which are color-coded (red for driver’s side, blue for passenger’s).

Seeing such an anally designed car at a restoration shop does pose an interesting question: what will today’s cars be like to restore? Carbon fiber does not rust, but it is much harder to shape into fenders or door panels than steel. The Carrera GT’s electronics will pose another problem. Will computers in the future be able to interface with the Porsche’s control unit, or will it be like trying to get information off a floppy disk? One thing is for sure: those red and blue wheel nuts will be very difficult to find.

The Carrera GT may look like a vehicle from the future, but so did that DeSoto when it rolled off the assembly line in 1959. Now, that big Mopar is a classic, just as the Carrera GT will be in a few decades. Someday, Porsche’s supercar won’t be considered high tech, it will be an antique. When that day comes, I hope the people who restore antique cars will be up to the task.

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