Friday, May 6, 2011

From a Poster to the Real Thing

I
n 1984, at the ripe age of ten, I was immersed and infatuated by the blitz of mid-eighties sports cars being imported to North America. Like every kid, I had the Hot Wheels, the magazines and the posters. In fact, an entire wall of my bedroom was dedicated to car posters. It started with just any "cool car" - but it quickly became exclusive to Porsches. I specifically remember receiving two posters as birthday gifts, a red Testarossa and a white Countach. Both were soon demoted to a lesser wall and eventually rolled up and ungratefully jammed in a closet - unworthy of my Porsche shrine.

I collected posters of all colours and all models: Targas, Carreras, SCs, RSs, 924s, 944s, 928s... but the center of my attention was the voluptuous 911 Turbo (or, as I'd remind everyone, "not just a 911, it’s a nine thirty"). This car, in my preteen mind, had everything in the right place. It was the perfect balance of what a sports car should be: friendly but mean, subtle but aggressive, both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Even a few years later when I was taken aback by the revolutionary 959 (this exact poster), I remained true to my first crush.


Road&Track January 1986
The January 1986 issue of Road&Track cemented it for me. On the cover was a line-up of four guards red Porsches led by the one-and-only, the almighty, 930. I can't tell you how many times I read that article. Whenever the Turbo was mentioned, I would intentionally slow my reading and savour the words.

Growing up in rural Nova Scotia I didn't get to see too many exotic cars in the flesh. However, every few months the family would pile into the station wagon and take the hour-and-a-half drive to "the city". This excursion always became a bit of a hunting trip for me. I'd scan the hundreds of cars whizzing by, waiting for a glimpse of a Porsche...just hoping to see an allusive 930. On the rare occasion I'd get a glimpse of one and would instantly become fixated. I wouldn't be able to pull my eyes away. My dad would joke, "Don't stare son! Maybe that's all the poor fella can afford."

As I neared the age of sixteen, I had the inevitable and disheartening realization that my first car would not resemble any of my posters. So I did some homework and learned that Volkswagens were a not-too-distant relative of the Porsche. With a non-existent budget, I found myself in a ten-year-old hand-me-down grey 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel... <sigh>.

Now fast forward about twenty years and several Volkswagens later. In the Appalachians of Pennsylvania, on a winding mountain road cut through a stand of old-growth ash trees, I find myself behind the wheel of a black 1984 930. The cool fall air slipping over the car, down through the huge intercooler and getting sucked into the hungry 3.3 litre. Half excited and half frightened by the savage snarl behind me, I glance at the tach, depress the heavy clutch and reach for another gear.

Later that day I traded my hard-earned savings for the keys.


That day...
Obviously when a lifelong dream is suddenly staring back at you, there is a certain degree of surrealism. Amidst the euphoric haze, my most overwhelming impression was that is was nothing like what I'd dreamt it would be. But of course how could it live up to the immortal superhero conjured up in my ten-year-old imagination - after all, it was just a car. No power steering, no power brakes, big turbo lag, unwieldy in the rear... Don't get me wrong, it was in no way disappointing. It was what it was - and it was real!

In Atlantic Canada we store our collector cars through the winter months, keeping them from the perils of snow and road salt. Surprisingly in some ways this is kinda nice. Watching the snow melt, the anticipation of that first spring drive becomes so climactic. Yesterday was that day once again. As the seat bolsters hugged my sides, I felt the direct steering, the turbo lag - the smells, sounds and textures were all the same ...I got that same involuntary grin on my face and I relived that first drive all over again.

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