This year marks the 70th anniversary of Porsche’s first ever sports car, the iconic 356. Geraldine Herbert talks to Porsche owners about what makes the cars so special
Nothing screams ‘midlife crisis’ like a balding, middle-aged man buying a red convertible sports car. Maybe it is an unfair stereotype, but cars speak volumes about their owners. I’ve always thought MINI buyers are defined by attitude and lifestyle rather than age and income, while Toyota’s Prius has long been the choice of those who need a car to satisfy their desires but also their green conscience.
But Porsche buyers are not so easy to categorise. They don’t want a car to simply get from A to B; instead they want every drive to be something special. So just how special is driving a Porsche? In a neurological study undertaken at the faculty of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Amsterdam, 21 Porsche drivers were shown short films of a similar driving experience in different cars, including Porsche. They were also shown several stimuli known for activating addictive behaviour. The results in short were that driving a Porsche is addictive.
But it seems some are seduced long before they ever get behind the wheel of a Porsche. For Wolfgang Oberauer, an IT consultant, there are moments in life that leave a permanent mark on the memory and in his case it was spotting a 911 for the first time.
“It was on 20th July 1998. I was 21 years old and my brother arranged a test drive with a then brand new 911 Carrera ,” says Wolfgang. “This was the classic 911 to me and I said to myself that one day I would own one of these and would have it restored to factory-new condition.”
Today Wolfgang is the proud owner of a silver 1973 Porsche 911 that started life in the Caribbean on the French island of Guadeloupe and, according to its service history, it went to Phoenix, Arizona, later to Hollywood, where it spent 30 years, and from there to France and Britain and finally ending up in Ireland. Bought by Wolfgang in February 2014, he has spent the last couple of years restoring it.
“When I bought it was in a sorry state overall,” recalls Wolfgang. “I stripped the car down and it soon became apparent that it was originally silver. One of the receipts states that a crash repair and respray from original silver into black was done in February 1978 in Lawndale, California. The seller of the car mentioned that rumour has it that the driver who had the accident was Steve McQueen, but I have no idea if that is true.
“We then refurbished the wheels, renewed the chrome and the interior using only original parts. The engine was rebuilt and all parts detailed and resprayed. After the restoration was done I spent a lot of time sourcing accessories such as an original toolkit, jack and tyre inflator, which I bought for the finishing touch,” recalls Wolfgang.
Ted Gaffney and his wife Karen were among the founders of the Porsche Club In Ireland. He was smitten by a yellow 911 he spotted on the Circuit of Ireland in Kerry in 1973.
“It was the first Porsche I saw and I knew one day I would own one,” says Ted. “Twenty-three years later, I purchased my first 911 — a ten-year-old 1986 3.2 Carrera.”
For Karen, current president of the Porsche Club and organiser of the club’s track days for almost 20 years, it was the chance to own one of the world’s most exciting sports cars that drew her to the marque.
“I fell in love with a Cayenne driving one on the Nürburgring; it just handled superbly,” says Karen, the proud owner of 2005 Cayenne.
Owning a Porsche is all about the driving experience. “I bought a Cayenne because I love driving it. My current one is my second and I still love the sound of the engine and the handling,” she says. But its not just a passion for the brand that seduced Karen — it is also Porsche’s unrivalled reliability.
“Seventy-five percent of all Porsches ever built are still on the road. This is an incredible achievement and testament to the quality and standards of the cars,” she says.
There are faster and more extravagant sports cars, but few offer a more unique blend of performance and everyday driving than a Porsche, and for many it is the closest thing you get to a perfect driving experience.
“After two years I still love driving it every time I get into it. The start up when cold, the clinking of everything when it is cooling down after a drive” says Ray Kelly the owner of a 2010 997 .2 Carrera. “Don’t be put off by the cramped seating and other impracticalities,” advises Ray.
“I have packed my camping gear and luggage into a 911. That’s the beauty of this car; it holds far more than you think.”
Porsche has been evolving into the world’s most accomplished sports car over the last five decades. It was Ferdinand Porsche, founder of the car company, who once said: “Change is easy. Improvement is far more difficult.”
However, change is on the way in the form of the Taycan, formerly the Mission E, an electric-powered saloon that was unveiled to coincide with Porsche’s 70th anniversary. If Porsche delivers on its promise, it will be the first saloon to seriously challenge Tesla’s Model S.
There really is something about Porsche that makes pulses rise. Buyers are among the happiest car owners in the world, according to countless consumer surveys.
So whether you are celebrating the kids finally leaving home or you have always dreamed of owing a 911 GT3, if you buy a Porsche it seems the honeymoon never ends.
9th July, 2018