Seriously Irreverent Musings

Category: Air Cooled 911s (page 1 of 4)

Air Cooled Porsches

Joy Ride

I spent some time this afternoon joyriding. Thanks to Covid-19 I didn’t even have to head out to the twisties on the backroads to have fun. Instead, I just cruised out Olympic to the 405 North.

It has been weeks since I had my 89 911 G-Body Targa on the road. I have been letting it idle for about 10 – 15 minutes each week just to keep it breathing. But today I just had to get out and drive. Nothing fancy. Nothing serious. Nothing far. Just took it out to drive.

With gas cheap, even in CA it is in the low $3 per gallon range, this was a great way to stay socially distant. Just me, the wind, and the howl of my naturally aspirated, air-cooled flat six. Even though I did not go far, once the oil warmed up, I made sure I revved the hell out of it, coming close to redlining it a couple of times.

I love the feel of driving that car. Manual steering. Manual brakes. Manual transmission. Complete driver engagement, requiring more than enough focus to forget about Covid-19 for awhile.

With few cars on the road, it doesn’t get a whole lot better. I have a feeling I will be doing this again real soon.

Lufting Great

Apparently the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend is a great day for a car show. Who knew. Patrick Long. That’s who.

Luftgekühlt 6, the sixth installment of the uber successful air-cooled Porsche show franchise, was held on the back lot at Universal Studios on the Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend. It was not only great. It was a smash. Frankly, I thought Luft 5, which was held at Ganahl Lumber in Torrance, was an amazing event. I thought it would be tough to beat. I was wrong. Not a little wrong, but totally and completely wrong. Luft 6 was simply spectacular.

Leading up to the event, I was a little iffy about the whole thing. I just wasn’t feeling it. I have been to Lufts 1,4, and 5, and I have loved them all. But for some reason I was a little nonplussed about Luft 6. Maybe it was because I have been working too hard and traveling too much. Maybe it was because I have seen so many of the cars so many times. Maybe it was because I was not sure my 89 G-Body Carrera would be parked in the back lot. Whatever the reason, by the time we entered Gate 4 to get into the back lot, that old Luft feeling was back. Back in a big way.

A couple of weeks before the event, I got in touch with Marc, my high school friend and fellow Porsche enthusiast, who lives in Las Vegas, and asked him if he was going to Luft. He said, “Yes.” I asked him if I could tag along. He once again said, “Yes.” Marc is pretty well connected in the motor sports world, so I knew we would have full access to to all aspects of the event. That pumped me up a tad, but I still was not really feeling it.

Friday night Marc and I went to the pre-Luft event at the Petersen Automotive Museum and hung out with all the car folks. We were treated to a vault tour, which was led by Pete Stout of 000 fame. Pete is a self-proclaimed “Porsche Nerd.” He knows a lot about the history of the marque, ranging from street to track. We had a great time, but I was still not feeling it the way I had in the past.

On Saturday, I drove my Guards Red 1989 Carrera Targa to pick Marc up at the hotel, and then we drove to Gate 4, which is all the way around to the back side of the studio.

On the way, a couple of other air-cooled Porsches caught up with us. The waving started and the smiles were contagious. We took Barham down the hill and pulled into the left turn lane for Gate 4. While there, we were treated to the view of a line of air-cooled Porsches heading north on Barham that were lined up waiting to turn right into the lot. We made the left and got in line for entry. At that point, I was back. I was ready to have a great time.

We went thru the gate, were staged to be led to our designated spaces, and proceeded to drive thru the lot. As we passed each stop sign, my excitement grew. At the last stop sign, we were greeted by Pat Long, completely at ease, directing traffic, playing his role of host and master of ceremonies.

We parked, and just started taking it all in. From the outset, we new this Luft was going to be special. The area was huge, with enough different nooks and crannies that were visually disconnected to make it feel like many smaller shows instead of one large one. It also helped disperse the crowd, which was huge, as the event was sold out.

The cars were amazing. It did not matter that I had seen many of them before. I had never seen them is this environment. It made them feel fresh.

The cars showed off the air-cooled culture, ranging from 356s to race cars, from stock to outlaw, from road to off-road. There was something new around every corner.

Some were out on the main streets. Others were lurking on the side streets. All were pretty amazing.

We spent all day at the show, hanging out with some of the crew for lunch and then friends throughout the day. By the time we left, it had rained a bit, and most people had left, which gave me a chance to take a shot of my Carrera sitting all by itself on the backstreets of New York. How kült was that?

Cinco de Drivo

A great drivo and a little drinko.  A perfecto way to celebrate the May 5, 1862 Battle of Puebla!!!!  Ironically, it’s celebrated more in the United States than in Mexico.  Yes, in the United States it’s better known as Cinco de Mayo.  Yes, my PCA buddies and I went for a drivo.  Yes, we then met in Santa Monica at El Cholo for some food and drinko—all before noon.  But, hey, at least we drove first, and it was five o’clock somewhere.

It’s been several weeks since I had my 89 Carrera on the twisties.  And it’s been many weeks since I had it out on one of my favorite roads, Mulholland Highway.  My drought ended this morning when I met my PCA Los Angeles buddies for a spirited drive along Mulholland and then a beautiful cruise down Pacific Coast Highway before stopping at El Cholo for brunch, either liquid or solid or both.

I have been too busy to drive for fun lately.  Pam and I were away.  Then I had to go to Luftgekühlt—yeah, I know, poor, poor pitiful me—which was tons of fun to be at but the drive was on freeways, not twisties.  Then I had other stuff to do.  Then I began to work on a project that requires lots of commute time, which I do in my Cayman.  But not today.  Today, it was drive time.  Today, it was 89 time.  Today, it was Malibu time.  And I smiled all morning.

This was a pretty simple drive.  We met at Gelson’s in Woodland Hills on Mulholland Highway.  We drove on Mulholland.  We drove on PCH.  I left before the group, hoping to get to a decent place to stop and take some pictures of the rest as they raced by.  Unfortunately, my plan fell apart.  Before I found a suitable spot from which to shoot, the lead group, let by my buddy David, was on my rear bumper.  David was leading a group that I can hang with when I am in my Cayman.  When I am in my 89, I don’t even try.  After I found a spot to pull over and let them by, I thought I would have a few minutes to find another spot from which to shoot before the next group on the road caught me.  I was wrong.  The gap between the groups, which was supposed to be at least five minutes, was about 20 seconds.  I could hear them coming up behind me while I could still hear the the lead group screaming away from me.  At that point I knew pictures were not in the cards.  I just inserted myself into the middle of the next group and focused on driving, which was really nice.

I had the oldest car out there today.  It has the fewest driving aids.  And the fewest horses.  But it is lighter and nimbler than the newer models so I can still keep up on shorter radius turns, which are prevalent on Mulholland.  I was maintaining contact with the group, but tenuously.  Suddenly, I reeled them back in.  I figured they came up on a group of bicyclists.  I was shocked when we finished the penultimate turn running up the Snake and saw a Model T lumbering around the last turn.  Unbelievable.  Only in LA.

The group crossed Kanan Dume and headed out towards Decker Canyon then dropped down to PCH.  My tolerance for Decker is just a little more than my tolerance for Yerba Buena, which is also in Malibu and which I call Yerba No Bueno,  So I bailed on the group and headed down Kanan to PCH feeling relaxed, refreshed, happy and windblown, as my Targa top was off. The ride down PCH was great.  The sun felt good.  The wind felt good.  Most importantly, the ocean smelled good.

We all met up at El Cholo and had a great time eating, drinking, swapping wildest turn, I mean biggest fish, stories and celebrating the Battle of Puebla.

Lufting Good

Time flies.  Things change.  Cars come and go.  Classic cars remain classic.  Luft grows.  At least for now.

Luftgekühlt, the epic air-cooled Porsche show, has reached staggering proportions.  This year’s installment was last weekend.  From my perspective, it was way better than last year’s event, and I loved last year’s event.   This was the fifth Luft.  I have been to three of them.  I have had cars in two of them.  I am one of the lucky ones.

Luftgekühlt has risen from obscure roots to become THE air-cooled Porsche event of the year, every year.  Porsche aficionados flock to it as if it were Mecca.  This year was no exception, though I have to admit that the anticipation of the event and getting to the event may have been a tad more enjoyable than the event itself.

Pat Long and Howie Idelson, Luft’s founders, are freakin geniuses.  Though if you asked them, I am not sure even they could have dreamed what would transpire since the first Luft at Deus Ex Machina in Venice four short years ago.  I was at Luft 1.  I thought it was epic then.  I still do.  Even Pam, who has

never been to Luft, thinks it was epic, but that had more to do with Patrick Dempsey being there than the 911s.  But Luft 1 was a backyard party compared to the stadium show they held this year.  Luft has tapped into

the mother lode of passion residing in air-cooled Porsche enthusiasts—enthusiasts that will put up with, or secretly get off on, the underground, industrial, forbidden fruit, cult-like kind of vibe its organizers have  fostered since Luft 1.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am one of the enthusiasts who have caught the Luft bug, and I do not want to be cured.

Over time the number of cars at Luft has grown, but the cars have remained essentially the same.  Initially, I went to see the cars.  Now I go more for the chance to take pictures and see  people.  I see more than enough cars all year.  Seeing one more car, even one I drool over, has become increasingly less interesting.  Of course, I love to take pictures of them, especially in the locations in which Luft is held.  Talking to the people who own them, learning why they have or have not modified them, listening to what they do with them has become way more interesting to me.  Luft provides me with opportunities to shoot and talk—in spades.

This year the location was spectacular.  The lumber yard was huge, encompassing 17 acres.  Cars adorned the outside aisles, inside aisles, and open spaces.  What was nice was that they were spread out and that, despite the throngs in attendance, it did not feel too crowded, unless you wanted a t-shirt or food.  In those cases, the lines were as epic as the show.

My pilgrimage to Luft started Saturday afternoon, the day before the event.  My Guards Red 89 911 Carrera Targa needed cleaning.  After cleaning it, I put it back into the garage, which is located at the back of our lot.  As I was leaving the house around 6 am Sunday morning, this meant that I would be moving a couple of cars out of the driveway, opening and closing the garage and backing the 911 all the way down to the street at the butt crack of dawn on a weekend morning.  Not the best way to ingratiate myself with the rest of my family or my neighbors, but there was no way I was exposing my clean 911 to the elements the night before Luft.

My entry time to get my 89 parked started at 7:00 am.  I planned to be early.  I was not alone.  The drive to the show, which was in Torrance and about 20 miles from where I live in West LA, was epic in its own right.  My first inclination that the ride was about to get very interesting happened a few miles down the 405.  I was cruising at a sedate 80 and minding my own business when I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a 911 coming from behind at warp speed.  It was going so quickly as it passed me that my 911 was buffeted from side to side.  It went by so fast I could not tell if it was an Outlaw or a Singer.  Either way, it was heavily modified.  About two minutes later, the first of a large pack of 911s caught up with me.  My sedate ride was over.  I hopped on the back of the air-cooled train and drove with them the rest of the way to Torrance.

Getting everyone sorted and parked before the show started went pretty smoothly, though I did see at least one 911 stall and refuse to restart.  It was pushed into the show lot.  Frankly, the time time before the show started at 9 am was great.  Cars were being staged, but the place was empty.  It felt great.  I really had nothing to do, so I got a coffee and just sat back and reveled in the spectacle that was being played out.  Eventually I got motivated to buy a t-shirt, which I am wearing as I write this.  Then I went over to the 000 table. I have been a Pete Stout fan since he was the editor of Panorama, the Porsche Club monthly magazine.  A year or so ago he founded 000, a high end, high quality, coffee table magazine dedicated to all things Porsche.  I had been flirting with subscribing to it for a while, and after taking to Pete, I decided to take the plunge.

A bit later, my friend Marc, who had come from Las Vegas to see the show, arrived.  Marc is a Porsche guy and very well connected in the automotive community.  We were friends in high school, lost touch and then got reconnected based on our common interest in Porsches.  I spent the next several hours with Marc and his buddy, Kris.  We looked at all the cars on display, of course paying particular attention to green cars, which were Kris’ favorites, and my 89, as it was my favorite.  We saw some amazing cars, from Outlaw 356s to Singers, with all sorts of modified and stock 911s in between.  I took a bunch of pictures, playing with my aperture setting to get some special effects of some very special cars.

Just before we were done, Marc met up with Pat Long, and Kris and I tagged along with them as we went in search of Rod Emory.  After a brief conversation with with all, I said good bye and headed home.  Getting my 89 out of the show lot was fun, as several people stopped to point at my personalized license plate.

As I drove home, I was already wondering where they will hold Luft 6.  I will not complain if they go back to the same place.



Not My Mamas Sewing Machine

I was driving home after a tour of Singer Vehicle Design, and, for once, I was at a loss for words.  PCA-LA had hosted an intimate Cars and Coffee event at Singer that morning.  It was a good thing I stopped at Starbucks before I left home because I was so inspired while I was at Singer, I never even frequented the baristas.  For the most part, I just stood and gawked, though I did do a little lusting, too.  I was in awe, in awe of their cars, in awe of their processes, in awe of the vision of the their founders.

Singers are amazing automobiles.  Starting with a customer’s 964 model 911 as a donor car, Singer proceeds to rip it apart and rebuild it completely.  Singers are sort of related to my 89 G-Body 911 Carrera in the same way I am related to Lance Armstrong—we are both human, but one of us has been infused with a lot of technology.  Engine, chassis, suspension, brakes, transmission, interior are all replaced.  Weight is stripped.  Carbon fiber is used liberally on all body panels.  Even the engine compartment is partially leather lined.  With its top end 4.0 liter Ed Pink Racing Engines modified Cosworth six cylinder naturally aspirated air cooled flat six producing just under 400 horse power, the 2,700 pound Singer can leap to 60 miles per hour in about 3.3 seconds.  It is hard to imagine the three piece forged Fuchs style wheels turning that fast in that period of time.  The 964 body is all that is kept, and even that is modified.  The end result is arguably the ultimate expression of old school 911 cool reassembled with modern components and off the charts performance.

I had been feeling pretty lucky since I managed to land one of the coveted spots to attend the event.  I was like one of the kids in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when they learned they had a “winning ticket.”  PCA-LA events sell out, no doubt about it.  But the time it takes to sell out is usually measured in weeks or days, or, every now and then, in hours.  Unbelievably, the Singer event sold out in less than a minute, and demand for it overloaded the MotorsportReg system which handles the signups.  There was so much demand that I was surprised that no one tried to sell their spot on StubHub.

Though it ended with me in awe, my Singer adventure did not start out that way.  Instead, it started with me muttering, “Aw sh*t,”  It was mostly my own fault, though I had a little help from my friends at CalTrans.  Singer is located in the North East San Fernando Valley, about 15 miles from my house in West Los Angeles.  I have not been in the vicinity of Singer in many years, as it is located in a schlocky industrial area.  I got directions from Google on my PC, and it looked pretty easy there.  All I had to do was head north on Coldwater Canyon and turn right on San Fernando Road.  Looks can be deceiving.

I opted to drive my air cooled 89 to Singer, leaving my water cooled Cayman GTS in the driveway.  I left West LA with what I thought was plenty of time to get to Singer.  I even dawdled a bit at Starbucks before I left because I thought I would be early.  I was so wrong.

When I drive my 89, I like to act like it is 1989, and I eschew the use of Waze and Google maps on my cell phone.  Though if it were 1989, at least I would have had a period correct Thomas Guide in my car.  I don’t now.  Anyway, my  aw sh*t moments began when I got to the intersection of Coldwater Canyon and Mulholland, where CalTrans had closed Coldwater in both directions, right at the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains, leaving me with two route options—either turn right or turn left on Mulholland.  I turned right and headed over to Laurel Canyon, apparently something many drivers ahead of me had done.

Though Laurel is only about a mile of twisties east of Coldwater, it took me forever to get there.  First, I had to go the mile, which took a really long time due to the lack of speed at which the cars in front of me were moving, forcing me to grit my teeth and lug the 89 in second gear.  Second, I spent an incredible amount of time at the inordinately long light at the intersection of Mulholland and Laurel.  At that point, the only option I had was to wait, which I did while continuing to grit my teeth, knowing I was now most likely going to be late.

Once I got onto Laurel and into the Valley I should have backtracked to Coldwater because I knew Coldwater intersected with San Fernando Road.  But because I was running late, I decided to wing it and stay on Laurel.  Big mistake.  I stayed on Laurel, but soon Laurel angled west, leaving me with no idea if it intersected with San Fernando Road.  I felt uncomfortable, but I was in old school mode and I am fairly stubborn, so I opted for a trial and error approach, hopping on the 5, assuming it would have a San Fernando exit.  The absence of San Fernando Road on the list of upcoming exits disabused me of staying on it for long.  It was getting later and my stress level was soaring.  I opted to get right back off the 5, not knowing exactly where I was.  I ignored the little voice in my head which was screaming, “You schmuck, just look at your iPhone!”  Instead, I pulled into a gas station and asked for directions.

It turned out that I was just about a half mile or so from San Fernando Road, and I was really close to Singer.  I thought I was home free and would get there on time for the tour, even if I missed some of the pre-tour schmoozing.  Yet again, I was so wrong.

I made it to San Fernando Road and turned right.  That’s when I noticed the railroad tracks, tracks upon which trains still run, tracks that were not part of the Google instructions I had scanned before I left.  Singer is located in an area that is on wrong side of the tracks, figuratively.  Unfortunately, I also learned that Singer is on the wrong side of the tracks, literally.  I drove right by it because I couldn’t cross the tracks.  After a mile or so, I found a place to cross the tracks.  But by then the little access road on which Singer is located had ended.  I tried circling back behind it, and found myself in the middle of several quarries and every turn resulted in a dead end.  So I retraced my steps and went right by it again, this time going the other way.  Eventually, I found a street on which I could cross the tracks and get to Singer.

Pulling into the lot at Singer was a bit anticlimactic.  I was more than a little stressed, and apparently I was the last one to arrive.  As I parked, I muttered to myself, “I think it’s either time to use my iPhone when I drive my 89 or break down and spend the $1,000 or so to get the nav equipped, period appropriate Porsche Classic Radio.”

Singer has five locations spread out in the area, and we were at the one where final assembly was done.  The mostly nondescript place just oozed hipness.  After decompressing for a moment or two I got out and began chatting with a couple of the Singer employees.  As it looked like I had missed the first tour, I asked them, “When does the second tour start?”  Their response made me laugh.  They said, “It already did.  You will be on the third one.”

And what a tour it was.  Singer is run like a big business.  It is easy to lump them into the Custom Car Restoration business category, consisting mainly of mom and pop, one off customizers.  But that would be so wrong.  Without a doubt Singer restores cars, and it gives customers choices about what goes into those cars.  But Singer is really a low volume, semi-custom, build to order manufacturer of a product line of air cooled cars, cars with a wide range of mostly predefined options.   At the outset of the tour, our guide spoke about their process.  My ears perked up when the word configurator came out of his mouth.  Configurators are used to enable customers to communicate the options they want in a controlled manner.  I was stunned that Singer used one, but I guess if you are going to work with a customer and ask them to drop $425K to $700K on a restoration, you better have a solid way to control costs, document choices and structure communication with each customer.

The tour only got more impressive from that point on.  We were told about the entire build and assembly process, the Singer philosophy, and the way the cars have evolved since it was founded.  We saw a wide range of cars, from raw bodies to finished works in the quality assurance area.  It takes two years for the transformation of a 964 to a Singer, and I am not sure how much of that time is due to backlog.  It does not matter.  The result is magnificent, even if I do not have the words to properly describe it.


Split Porschenality

2017 was a year of recovery for me.  It didn’t start out that way.  In retrospect, I hit bottom in March when I purchased the 1974 911 Targa.  Not because it was a bad car or a bad purchase, but because it was my third car.  Not the third car I had ever bought, but the third Porsche I owned concurrently.  I did not need the car.  I simply wanted it.  I had an unquenched thirst for a reasonably early 911.  So I bought it.  After I bought it, I convinced myself that I was happy and I was done buying cars.  Well, maybe Pam or the fact that I was out of room in the garage and driveway had a lot to do with convincing me I was done buying cars.  In any event, I spent the second quarter driving the 911 and the Cayman and letting the 912 just sit in the garage, except when I pulled it out to teach my younger daughter, Kim, to drive a car with a manual transmission.

Then I noticed that I still had a desire to purchase additional Porsches.  A strong one.  It scared me.  Not a lot, but enough.  I began to question myself.  What was I doing?  How deep did I want to get into this?  What was driving me?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had no interest in collecting more cars nor did I have an interest in modifying them or working on them, though early on I thought I did, but the reality was that I would rather work in the kitchen than in the garage, even in my newly repaired garage.  So where was this compulsion coming from?  What was causing it?  Obviously, some of it came from my DNA.

I have always had a weakness for cars.  I have always been attracted to them.  I have always looked at them with longing.  Cars have never been about basic transportation for me.  They have not always been about looks or comfort, either.  Instead, I have consistently opted for functionality and performance and to a lesser extent comfort.  For 30 years I was smitten with BMWs, mainly 3 and 5 Series coupes or sedans.  I could not walk into a showroom without feeling an irrational urge to buy a new one, though I never wanted to have more than one BMW at the same time.  Recently, I have lost that loving feeling towards them.  Porsches have taken their place, and I can walk into a BMW dealership and feel no need to buy or even sit in one.  Walking into a Porsche dealership continues to be another story.

But there was more to this than nature affecting me.  Nurture was playing a role here, too.  Most normal people would call me a Porsheholic.  And to a large extent, I guess I am.  But I do not hang around with enough normal people.  My Facebook news feed is a continuous stream of cars, cars and more cars.  Sometimes people are present.  No need to even describe my Instagram feed.  My circle of friends includes many serious car club guys.  They are car collectors and restorers.  They own way more cars than I own.  They have multiple garages to house them.  They keep many mechanics in business.  They own cars which have had more oil changes than miles driven.  They were more likely to encourage me than not.  Most thought I was simply committed to the Porsche marque not committable.  Clearly, they were affecting my judgement.  At least I was still sane enough to realize that.

Thankfully, summer arrived.  I wanted to drive the 911, but, as it did not have air conditioning, it was very tough to justify, even though I was more willing to accept sweat dripping from my brow and my shirt sticking to the seat when I drove it than I was willing to accept not driving it.  That’s when it dawned on me.  I really only cared about driving my cars.  That was why I owned them.  As I have written about before, my friend Mark helped me realize that I had no need to own more cars.  I just needed to own the right cars.  And one of the right cars for me was his 1989 Carrera Targa.  So, counterintuitively, I took my first step towards recovery by buying his 1989 Carrera …. and selling my 1969 912 and my 1974 911.

I have owned the 1989 Carrera for the past four months.  My Porscheholism has gone into remission.  I have no desire to purchase another Porsche, even a 993.  My driving needs are met completely by my Cayman GTS and my Carrera.  It is with more than a slight sense of relief that I can go to any car event and leave without longing to purchase another car, even when great ones are dangled in my path.  I can go into a Porsche showroom and leave feeling the same way.  Having said that, it is not clear if I have recovered or just replaced one illness with another.

Now that I can drive either car any time in relative comfort, I find myself having issues deciding which car to drive.  It’s not like one is more fun to drive than the other.  I love driving them both, even though the two cars represent wildly different manifestations of Porsche engineering.  One is essentially analog.  One is essentially digital.  One is air-cooled.  One is water-cooled.  One has a rear engine.  One has a mid-engine.  One has a manual transmission.  One has a dual electronic clutch transmission.  One has a few creature comforts.  One has a lot, including a seriously good air-conditioner and seat warmers, arguably one of the least functional features to have in a car in LA.  One has classic styling.  One has masculine elegance.  One represents the past.  One represents the current, though with the advent of the Cayman 718 and its turbocharged four banger, I could argue that both represent the past.  So while I no longer long to possess another Porsche, I now long for a way to choose which Porsche to drive.

This is not an issue to be taken lightly.  It has been causing me serious angst.  I have spoken to several of my car club cronies about it, as they are way more experienced with it than I am.  While they cannot help me solve my problem, at least they understand it and have helped me label it.  Apparently, I have a split Porschenality.  I am not alone, but I am definitely in the minority, as most Porsche sports car owners are either 911 centric or Boxster/Cayman centric.  Sort of like most people are either right or left brain dominant.  Only a relative handful show convergence.

As 2017 draws to a close, I have been searching for worthy resolutions for 2018.  So far I have only one on my list:  Find a way to decide which car to drive.  Somehow I doubt I will, but I will have lots of fun trying.



Twisting About

After two plus hours of constant turns, I felt like screaming.  My PCA Los Angeles buddies and I were  50 some miles into a 56 mile twistfest.  The road we were on, Yerba Buena, had super tight radius turns and the surface was pretty eroded and really rough.  I was not having fun, and through chattering teeth I was muttering to myself that its name should be Yerba No Bueno.

I was in my 89 911 Targa.  The good news was that the weather was perfect, and my Targa top was off, enabling me to really enjoy the morning.  The bad news was that I had been muscling my manually steered, manually braked, manually shifted air-cooled 911 in and out of turns for the past two plus hours, and I was feeling fatigued.  My hands were tired.  My arms were tired.  Heck, my core was tired.  I was beginning to rue my choice of car for the day.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love that 911, but I could have been driving my Cayman GTS with traction control, power steering, power brakes, and dual electronic clutch transmission, not to mention its all important Porsche Torque Vectoring.  Niceties that just about all the cars I was following had, and niceties I was sorely missing.

I found myself wishing the numbers on the mile markers would drop faster, as I knew when they reached zero, I would be at Pacific Coast Highway.  The road would be flat,  and the turns would end.  It’s not like I shouldn’t have known better.  I love driving in the Santa Monica Mountains in and around Malibu, which is where we were.  Usually, I thoroughly enjoy the twists and turns there.  The route, a magnificently diabolical one, zigzagged east and west, up and over and back up and over and back down the coastal range before ending at Neptune’s Net, a casual seafood restaurant and biker bar that is near the Ventura County line and that has been featured in numerous movies and tv shows, including the original Point Break and The Fast and The Furious.

As the miles wound down and I neared the bottom, I found it somewhat comforting and more than a little ironic that the opening notes and lyrics of Levelland, one of my favorite Robert Earl Keen songs, began playing on my iPod just as the road began to level out.

This was supposed to be a Sunday drive.  A walk in the park.  Just a jaunt through the hills.  My mistake was that I had not read the whole route before I embarked on the drive in my 911.  I had read the first part a couple of days earlier, though I sort of skipped over where we were starting from.  I mean, I read the word Gelson’s in Calabasas, and I said to myself, “No problem.  I know where that is.”  The next lines referenced  Old Topanga Canyon Road, Topanga Canyon Boulevard and  Fernwood Pacific Drive.  That was when I stopped reading.

Unless you are visiting a friend who lives on it, there is only one reason to get onto Fernwood Pacific Drive, and that reason is because it turns into Tuna Canyon Road.  Tuna Canyon, not to be confused in any way shape or turn with La Tuna Canyon, which is in the Verdugo Mountains west of La Canada, is one of the twistiest downhill runs in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Tuna Canyon is a one way road.  It is narrow.  It is old.  It is eroding.  It has really tight turns.  It is carved into a canyon with really steep walls.  Just getting to Tuna Canyon is an adventure, as Fernwood Pacific Drive is narrow with a capital N.  There are many places where the road is not wide enough for two cars to pass each other even though some sadistic soul has painted signs indicating two way traffic on it.  And that is before you come up on the signs telling you that the Road Narrows.

My most vivid memory of Tuna Canyon is its one way stop signs – two of them.  The stop signs are not there to control traffic, as there is no oncoming or cross traffic on the road.  They are positioned just before two portions of the canyon with the steepest walls.  Wall so steep that rocks are more likely than not to be rolling down them.  The stop signs are there to give you a chance avoid any object that might be falling in your path.    The last time I drove Tuna Canyon I vowed it would be my last.

I stopped reading the route and fired off an email to David, my PCA Los Angeles friend who had crafted it.  In a not so oblique way, I alluded to the issues with Tuna Canyon.  David echoed my concerns, and said he planned it to be a nice and slow Sunday drive.  Too bad no one in my run group knew that.

Somewhat mollified, I decided to go on the drive.  I thought the 911 could use some exercise.  I really didn’t plan on it getting that much.  So on Sunday off I went.  As I was driving, I encountered two obstacles, harbingers that made me question my commitment to the drive.  First, I realized I had no idea at which Gelson’s we planned to meet.  The one off Valley Circle in Calabasas or the one off Topanga Canyon in Calabasas.  I reasoned that it must be the one off Topanga Canyon, given the portion of the route I had read.  But just to be sure I called Pam, and I asked her to look it up.  Right after solving that issue, I noted that CalTrans had closed the 405 North to the 101 North interchange.  The interchange I had to take to get to Calabasas.  I was already running a little late, and I was already dreading Tuna Canyon.  I have to admit that I came close to just turning around and bailing on the drive.  After a few choice words in the car, I followed the directions and took the detour, which added about 10 minutes or so to my drive to Gelson’s.

We had well over 30 Porsches on the drive.  David had split us into two run groups.  I was in the first, and randomly found my self positioned behind a GT3 and a Turbo Cabriolet.  From the outset I realized that this was not a Sunday drive.  Though it could still be described as spirited, that description was a little frayed, as were my nerves.  My poor gutty little 911 with the 3.2 liter engine was straining to stay with its more powerful musclebound brethren.  The good news was that we made it onto and down Fernwood with out any issues, and soon I found myself on Tuna Canyon.  David had picked Tuna Canyon for the view on the way down, as there are several places where it feels like you are about to drive right into the ocean.  While it was a great day for the view, it is not a great road on which to admire it.  I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the trip down to the coast.  The 911 is nimble, and it just sort of floats through the tight turns.  As we hit PCH I thought the most twisty portion of the drive was over.  I was wrong.

We had a brief respite from the turns as we meandered up PCH for a bit before tuning onto Los Flores Canyon Road and then onto Rambla Pacifico Street.  The turns came fast and furious, but they were reasonably well spaced and the radii were not super tight.  Soon we hit Piuma Road for an instant before getting onto Las Virgenes Road, better known as Malibu Canyon.

At that point I just assumed we would get back onto Mulholland Highway, one of my favorite roads, and take it until it ended at PCH.  I was wrong about that, too.   We stayed on Mulholland Highway for a good bit.  Long enough to go past the Rock Store, run The Snake, cross Kanan Dune and Decker Canyon before turning off it and onto Little Sycamore Canyon Road and then onto the aforementioned Yerba No Bueno Road.

Upon arriving at Neptune’s Net, I just sat in my car for a few moments, decompressing and letting the lyrics of Levelland wash over me, feeling very glad that I was back on level land.  In retrospect, Tuna Canyon was a cakewalk.  I am pretty sure I will drive it again.  Maybe because it was early in the drive or maybe because I liked it better in the 911 than I did in my Cayman, something that is a rarity for me, or maybe because I actually liked the one way stop signs.  I can’t say for sure.  What I can say for sure is that I do not expect to be on Yerba No Bueno any time soon.


Zen In My 911

I awoke in a funk.  I had been out of sorts for several weeks, as work was insane, causing Pam and I, and consequently John and Kris, to cancel our trip to Austin.  On top of that, I had been dwelling on the Route 91 shootings all week.  Pam and I had plans to see Jason Aldean at the Forum Friday night, but, thankfully and appropriately, the show was cancelled.

I got up and just felt wrong.  I thought about going outside for a walk/run, but as I walked around the house, my hamstring reminded me why I shouldn’t.  I thought about going to the gym and riding the bike, but then I thought about doing that tomorrow and just lost interest in exercising.

The only tug I felt was from my 89 911 Targa sitting in the garage.  I realized I wanted to get out and drive.  I did not care where.  I just needed to get in the car and go.  So after playing with the dog and eating breakfast, off I went.

At first, I wasn’t feeling it.  My drive down Robertson towards the 10 was lumpy, more crowded than normal on a Saturday morning.  I stopped to get some gas, got back on Robertson and then got on to the 10 west, heading towards PCH.  The 10 west was lumpy, too.  As I entered the McClure Tunnel, I was still in a funk.

I had my iPod, yes I still have an iPod because I like special purpose devices, playing on random.  While I was in the tunnel, I heard the first few notes of one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, “Desolation Row. ” The twisted lyrics of that 11 minute song never cease to grab me, and I marveled at the timing of it popping up on my iPod just as I hit PCH and absorbed the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the bluffs of Santa Monica.

I drove.  Dylan sang.  There was enough traffic that I had to work the five speed manual transmission most of the time.  Clutch out, accelerate, clutch in, shift gears, clutch out.  Repeat.  Decelerate, brake, clutch in, downshift, rev match, clutch out.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.

I made my way up PCH.  “Desolation Row” ended.  I replayed it.  I drove on.  My window was open.  I felt the wind.  It added to my soundtrack.  I kept the 911 in low gears.  The engine noise added to my soundtrack.  I relished the repetitive manual motions to work the gearbox.  I became present.  My mind stilled.

I continued up PCH.  “Desolation Row” ended.  I replayed it.  I drove on.  I did not care about pace.  I did not care about anything.  I vaguely noticed other cars.  I vaguely noticed the ocean.  I stayed present.  My mind stayed stilled.

“Desolation Row” ended.  I replayed it.  I drove on.  “Desolation Row” ended.  I replayed it.  I drove on.  I felt great.  I relaxed, truly relaxed, for the first time in weeks.  No funk remained.

I found myself at Encinal Canyon, and decided to drive up it to Mulholland Highway.  My Zen state ended.  I was still present, but my mind was active.  It was time to focus on the rest of my drive.


Air Cooled Odyssey

For the past year and a half I have been on an air cooled odyssey.  I like to think it is over, but I thought it was over four months ago when I bought my 1974 911 Targa.  I was wrong then.  I am probably wrong now.  A few weeks ago I parted company with my 1969 912 Targa and my 1974 Targa.  In their place I acquired a gorgeous 1989 911 Targa.  Why? Why not.  It was just another step on my air cooled odyssey.

I didn’t intend to find myself here when I purchased my original air cooled Porsche, the infamous, and now deceased, 1977 911S Targa, that literally came out of a barn in New York but was supposed to run well.  My goal was simple.  Get a car that needed some work and over time fix it up.  In theory, that was a good idea.  Too bad I did not have it long enough to test the theory.  I did have it long enough for it to catch on fire in my garage after I parked it there, as I have written about before.

I was pretty emotional about losing the 1977 911.  So emotional that I bought the 1969 912 a few months later.  At the time, I convinced myself that I had to replace the 77, and that the 912 was a great car and that I would enjoy driving it.  My judgement with respect to the second part may have been a bit off.  While there is no doubt that the 912 was, and most likely will always be, the rarest car and most likely the most quintessential Porsche I will ever own, I just never felt comfortable driving it.  It was just too damn slow.  Sure it was lighter than a 911.  Sure it sounded good.  Sure it could cruise at freeway speeds.  The problem was that I needed about a mile to increase my speed by about 10 miles per hour when on the freeway.  Every Prius was always whizzing by it.  Hell, every beater Chevy that was running poorly was always whizzing by it.  It didn’t take much.  I consoled myself by focusing on how rare the car I was driving was, but that wasn’t enough.  It just wasn’t fun to drive.  It also needed work.  I was supposed to be fixing it up.  I was going to do some things, and I was going to let the professionals do others.  I did change the coil myself, but that was all I did.  I just kept deferring the other improvements, as my heart just was not in it.  Of course, every time I looked at it I felt guilty

In early March, the 1974 911 came into my life.  I justified it by knowing how much fun it would be to drive and by thinking I had an appreciating, if not appreciated, asset in the 1969 912 sitting in the newly completed garage.  The 1974 911 was a great car.  It ran well.  It needed very little work.  I liked driving it, most of the time.  It had one frustrating issue that took some time to sort out.  It seems that a prior owner had put a pop off valve in the air box backwards.  If the car backfired, the lid of the valve would lift up, as it was supposed to do, but on the way down it would get caught on the air filter, which it was not supposed to do.  The result was that the car would not start.  Initially, I had no idea what was causing the issue and I thought I had to take the air filter off and manipulate the air restrictor plate to get it to start again.  That process worked, but it was really not necessary.  As I learned later all I had to do was lift the air filter a wee bit and the pop off valve lid would fall back into place.  I could also have cut a divot out of the air filter, but I never did that.  Eventually, I learned how to start it without causing it to backfire, but I still had to tell everyone who worked on the car how to get it started in case it wouldn’t.

I drove the 1974 911 a lot.  I drove it to work.  I drove it to PCA events.  I drove it in the canyons.  It was a great car.  The only time I didn’t drive it was when the temperature got over 78 degrees, a frequent event in Southern California, because it was not air conditioned.  I got tired of checking the weather reports everyday to see if I could drive the 911 without schvitzing.  For a brief period I considered adding air conditioning to the car.  Then two mechanics I trust told me very strongly to not do it.  So I made peace, sort of, with the limitation.

I had fun with the 911.  I liked the way it steered.  I liked the way it accelerated, as it was light and was able to quickly change speeds.  I felt like I was driving a Porsche.  I was fortunate to get it into the Lüftgekuhlt 4 air cooled Porsche show in May, an event that will live in my memory for quite some time.  In short, I was pretty sure it was a keeper.

Then my friend Mark came back into the picture.  Yes, the same Mark with whom I had found or purchased my previous cars.  Mark loves to buy, and occasionally sell, cars, and he had just acquired a new one and wanted to sell his 89 Carrera Targa to me.  Mark is a persuasive guy.  He is also usually right.  He pointed out to me that I had been on a journey, getting a learn by doing education about what I wanted, what I liked, and what I needed.  He said he had been down the same road, but that I had had to go down it myself to understand it.  He said my mechanical desires were too grandious, given my skill and interest level.  He said that I needed more creature comforts, like air conditioning, and he said I really liked driving the cars more than collecting them.  He said the 89 was the car I should have bought at the outset of my odyssey had I known then what I know now.  He was right on all counts.

I told him the only way I could think about buying  the 89 Targa was if I sold both the 69 912 and the 74 911.  I had no qualms about selling the 912.  I really didn’t like driving it, and for the most part it just sat in the garage.  I did have some fun times in it with Kim, teaching her to drive a stick shift in it, but those moments were few and far between.  Additionally, the 912 value was going down.  My asset was depreciating, not appreciating, because the 911 market had softened and the 912 market had softened along with it.  I had a little heartburn with taking the loss, but not enough to keep the car.  My more significant concern was really missing the 74 911.

Mark said he would help me sell my cars, and as I am better at buying than I have ever been at selling, I really appreciated that.  He also insisted that I drive the 89 a significant amount before I bought it.  My first experience in it was after a breakfast with my Porsche buddies at the Spitfire.  At breakfast, I talked to several of them about the car, the Porsche market, and knowing when to move on.  Then I drove the 89.  It drove well.  It has a G50 transmission which is no doubt a huge step up from the 915 transmission in the 74 911.  It has a nice sound system, and even has a Bluetooth connection for my phone.  It is just about all stock.  And it is beautiful.  Oh my god it is beautiful.  It also has air conditioning.  Oh my oh my oh my.  That drive was great.  But Mark said it wasn’t enough.  So the next day I drove it about 40 miles over an assortment of city streets, canyon roads and freeways.  It was amazing.  I was hooked.  Beyond that I was smitten.  I wanted the 89, knowing full well I would miss the 74.

So I bought the 89 Targa and sold the 69 912 and the 74 911.  I have had the 89 for about three and a half weeks.  I have put over 400 miles on it.  I feel compelled to drive it all the time.  I enjoy being Kim’s Uber driver when I am in it.  I look for reasons to run errands in it.  Sometimes I think I forget things on purpose so I have a reason to go back out and drive it.  It feels like an extension of me.  Mark was right.  It is the car I should have bought a year and a half ago.  My odyssey is over.  I have two great cars, the 89 Targa and the 15 Cayman GTS.  Both are fantastic.  Both are very different.  Both are keepers.  At least for now.


Mulholland Musings


I love the Santa Monica Mountains.  I love the emptiness of them.  I love the look of them.  Most importantly, I love driving  on the roads that have been built to traverse them.

One of those roads is Mulholland Highway.  I have loved driving on it for over forty years, ever since my high school friend, Jon, drove me up and down it in the early 70s in his 1967 Alfa Romeo Spider.  While the road has not changed over the past forty years, the surroundings have.  Forty years ago, Mulholland Highway was in the middle of nowhere, leaving me to wonder why it was ever carved into the mountainside.  While the area is still mostly undeveloped, many, many, many houses have sprung up over the years.

Forty years ago, traffic on it was sparse.  For the most part, it is not sparse now.  On Saturday mornings, though, traffic is pretty light, and at times it seems that there are more bicycles on the road than cars, which causes its own issues.

Traffic or no traffic, bikes or no bikes, I wanted to drive Mulholland this morning.  It’s not like I haven’t been on it recently. I have, having driven some portions of it the past two Saturdays.  But today was different.  It was clear.  The sun was shining, and June gloom was long gone.

I had no plans other than going for a drive.  I wanted to experience the sheer joy of driving my 911 in the mountains.  I was not meeting anyone.  I was not 100 percent sure of my route.  I did not know where, or if, I would stop for breakfast.  I just knew I wanted to drive on Mulholland.  As it was going to be close to 100 degrees in LA, heading out or back by way of the valley was a no-no.  So with the Targa top off I headed west on the 10 and north on PCH.

It was glorious out.  Traffic was light.  The miles flew by.  All too soon I had to make a decision.  Should I eat?  Where should I eat?  Duke’s?  Kristy’s Malibu Café in Trancas?  Malibu Café in Calamigos Ranch?  Rock Store?  Home?  Nothing tugged at me or felt right, and I just kept driving north up PCH.  I passed Duke’s.  I passed Kristy’s.  The miles kept flying by.  I saw the sign for Encinal Canyon, one of my favorite roads, and turned onto it.  I knew it would merge into Mulholland after several miles, enabling me to accomplish my goal for the day.

Encinal is a magnificent road.   Very few cars travel on it.  The pavement is new and well maintained.  The turns range from long sweepers to medium radius twisties, and there are several places to pull over and take some pictures, which, of course, I did.  Encinal goes up in a hurry, though it is not a steep ascent like the one on Decker Canyon, a bit to the north.  The 911 made the climb from the coast to about 2,000 feet effortlessly.  Once it tops out, Encinal then traverses the Santa Monica Mountains before connecting with Mulholland Highway, just past the Zuma Ridge Fire Road.

I continued on Mulholland, driving past The Malibu Café at Calamigos Ranch, before teeing into Kanan Dune Road.  Arguably, this is the most dangerous intersection on Mulholland Highway.  Kanan is a major thoroughfare, going from PCH up and over the hills before connecting with the Ventura Freeway.  Cars travel along Kanan at high rates of speed, and the Mulholland/Kanan intersection is only controlled by a stop sign for the cars on Mulholland.

I took the path of least resistance at the stop sign, opting to turn right onto Kanan instead of crossing it.  I headed down Kanan towards PCH, thereby forgoing breakfast at the Rock Store, a place I had never eaten at despite passing many, many times.  After half a mile or so, I changed my mind about heading down Kanan, partially due to the tug of the Rock Store and partially because I wanted to drive Mulholland some more, running down the snake, which terminates pretty close to  the Rock Store.

I made a U-turn and headed back towards Mulholland, ran the down the snake and parked nearby the Rock Store, as I had finally made up my mind where to eat.  There were a handful of motorcycle riders hanging out, but otherwise the place was pretty empty.  As I sat there, I wondered if I should have stopped.  It was hot out, and getting hotter, and stopping for breakfast would just make it even hotter on the way home.  In the end it was worth it, as breakfast was good and it was fun to hang out there.

After I ate, I walked back towards the 911.  As I did, I couldn’t believe how hot it was, and all I could think about was its lack of air-conditioning.  Oh well.  I got in the car and continued along Mulholland until I reached Las Virgenes, also known as Malibu Canyon, where I turned right and headed back towards PCH and ultimately home.

As it was after 10 AM on a sunny day, PCH had a fair amount of traffic and other obstacles, including a combination of jaywalkers crossing indiscriminately and bicycle riders taking up a good portion of the right lane, causing many drivers to make abrupt, dangerous lane changes.  Except for my de rigueur stop to take a few pictures, I hung out in the left lane, assumed everyone else was out to get me, and enjoyed the slow drive down the coast.

Older posts

© 2020 HCAYMAN

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑