911 Obsession

All my life I’d been enthralled with cars, but that 1974 TransAm—that was the one that got me hooked on owning serious automotive muscle.

As much fun as it was to drive Ed Butler’s luxury cars, I was beginning to see the chinks in his armor. I admired the business he’d built, and I sure as hell enjoyed sharing in his lifestyle, but I knew I didn’t want to be the guy who says anything to sell a Toyota, and driving borrowed cars was only fun for so long.

The TransAm started me on collecting American muscle cars. There was the 1971 Oldsmobile 442 convertible 455 ram air 4 speed (which I only finally sold in 2015), and then…

  • 1969 Shelby GT 500 drag pack
  • 1969 Camaro Super Sport convertible
  • 1970 442 Oldsmobile
  • 1973 Mustang convertible 351 CID 4 speed
  • 1973 Corvette convertible roadster
  • 1969 Corvette 427 435 HP roadster

That list might have gone on indefinitely, if not for the day my friend Dave Mercer and I were driving back from Newport and took a detour past Picard Porsche in Warwick. There it was: a 1975 Anniversary edition Porsche 911 coupe. It was easily the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen on four wheels.

I became fascinated with Porsches. The American model for making cars go fast was all about brute force. Take a massively heavy vehicle and just load it up with enough horsepower to make it crank. Even European race cars more or less subscribed to this theory.

Porsche upended that idea.

They built a small, light car with a smaller motor and precision handling. It could go faster with less horsepower. By reducing the body weight, the car became more nimble and used less fuel. How to even compare it to American cars? It was the difference between a heavyweight boxer and a ninja.

Light. Fast. Effective as hell.

Porsche reshaped the racing world. And when I drove a 1978 911 SC coupe, that was it.

I’ll never forget looking down over the hood and seeing those two fenders, hearing the scream of the boxer engine on acceleration. There is still nothing like it in the world.

This was a vehicle that demanded skill from its driver. You couldn’t just press the pedal to the floor and go. Because it was so light, with the engine in the rear, the back of the car wanted to pass the front. The 911 earned the dubious nickname of “doctor-killer,” because a doctor’s salary could buy a Porsche, but the skill required to drive it didn’t come standard.

It was exactly the kind of challenge I was built for, and it was the beginning of an obsession that continues to this day.

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Diabolical beauty

Diabolical beauty