My Journey from Water to Air or How I Became Old School
by David Derr, former Redwood Region Member
With apologies to Charles Darwin, this is a story of my evolution in
Porsche ownership. As most of us know, Darwin gave us the theory of evolution, which
has the first, simple organisms living in the ocean and gradually making
their way onto land. The development of these relatively simple life
forms in water that eventually became much more complex on land is one
of the stories of evolution.
Porsche's evolution is opposite that natural progression, with the
first cars being cooled by the air, followed by those using water. The
transition from air to water has allowed higher horsepower, lower
emissions, and cars of a sophistication that could only be dreamed of in
the air-cooled era. Porsche has set their own evolutionary path.
My evolution in Porsche ownership is just opposite of the Porsche
factory. I have gone from water to air, just as Darwin suggested is the path to higher
intelligence. Many have labeled this progression "digital to analog",
but I prefer my evolution theory.
My first Porsche was 944 Turbo, which I would say is one of the best
cars ever built. I should never have sold it, which I did to buy a 1997
Boxster, the first to be delivered in the Washington, DC
metro area to a private owner. The very first was apparently delivered
to a tuner. The Boxster was a great-looking car, but the first edition
was woefully underpowered, certainly compared to my Turbo. I sold that
car within two years and purchased a '99 C2 that I owned for just over
10 years. Great car.
My evolutionary story starts with a serendipitous event...actually
two events. I had volunteered to help the Monterey Bay Region of PCA
park cars at the 2009 Historic Races in Laguna Seca, with Porsche the
featured marque. My task was to direct parking for the 911 corral, where
we were expecting upwards of 1500 911's on Saturday. Somewhat early that
morning, a '72 911 RS clone pulled in: black with red livery,
red-centered Fuchs, sitting just right. I was really taken with the idea
of that car: its simplicity and sense of purpose. I will admit to having
been bitten by this particular bug a bit earlier. At a previous Laguna
Seca event, there was a real RS, or so the license plate said, white
with blue livery, looking oh, so pristine. The black RS clone really got
my attention that day.
The group of us tasked with the 911 corral had things well under
control, instructing folks where to park so we could maximize the space
and make sure everyone had room, when the R Gruppe guys showed en masse.
They did not take direction well, deciding to ignore the whole
organization thing and park where they pleased. What can you do? I went
over to talk to those guys and found a bunch of hot rod apostates from
the traditional Porsche community. They were great fun and truly
dedicated to their idea of what a Porsche should be.
Those two events started a relatively long process of introspection
on what I really wanted from my Porsche. As I said, my cars always
carried water and, with the exception of the first edition Boxster,
really spoke to me. They were comfortable, fast, and mostly without
trouble. Before I moved to San Francisco
from the Washington, DC Metro Area,
where I was active with the Potomac Region, I got involved with the Club
DE program, eventually acting as Chief Steward for Potomac DE
events at Summit Point and VIR. I was really a stand-in for Fred Smartt,
but that is another story.
During my Chief Steward days, I got to see lots of cars from
start/finish and got to ride in many. I won't go into the details of the
why of that. Suffice to say that some red and black group drivers
disagreed with my assessment of the driving that took place and wanted
me to see for myself, close up and personal, what they were dealing with
on the track. I had rides in lots of cars, but the standout was a black
early 911, stripped down to no weight, with a driver that knew what he
had. What fun.
As I talked with the R Gruppe guys at Laguna and looked at that black
RS clone, I made my decision to move from my water-filled ride to an air
cooled, old school car. Like a lot of us, I started with many Internet
searches: eBay, Pelican Parts, Excellence, 911 World, etc. In my work, I
travel a bit internationally so picking up the European and Asian 911
magazines got to be an obsession. Clearly a part of this was needing to
find just the right person to buy my '99. It had only 63,000 miles, no
marks, and was well-cared for. It also had 4 rear main seals, with the
last one fixing that particular problem.
One weekend I just decided to start my journey even though I had not
found the car I wanted to buy. I detailed the '99, took it down to an
area in Mill Valley, CA where I was living, and took the photos
that I would use to sell it. While that did not work, I found Cars
Dawydiak (www.carsauto.com) in
San Francisco, who ended up selling it for me and
getting the cash I needed. That meant in July of 2010 I was without a
Porsche for the first time since 1988. Withdrawal....
Now my search started in earnest. I found lots of potentials, from
total basket cases to rolling chassis, to fully-sorted cars. Once you
start a journey like this, all sorts of new connections happen..or some
of you might say I set foot on the long, slippery slope. I found a
pristine '70 that started life as a 911E and had been converted to
full-on RS specs with a 2.7 with all of the trimmings. The owner had
sourced all sorts of RS parts and the car was spotless, top and bottom.
But at $80K, it seemed over the top. I found another early car on eBay
that had been converted to RSR spces and from the photos had a complete
rotisserie restoration, but that one got away. At over $60K, that seemed
a bit out of the budget as well. I went to Southern California on a business trip and visited
Euromasters, who take galvanized bodies and convert them to early
bumpered cars, in effect creating a new car from an old one. This is a
great idea for around $35K, but for some reason, they seemed to lack the
soul I was seeking.
Then I saw a Pelican Parts ad for a car that started life as a '69
912 and had been converted to RS style with the flares, front, and rear
valances, and an '86 3.2L. The car was nearby where I was living in
Northern California at a shop in
Petaluma, Jay Jarvis Autosports
(www.jarvisautosports.com). Jay and his son John had built this car for
a client who owned Alfas. He wanted a car to drive in the California
Mille, but ended up deciding his passion really lay with Alfa Romeo.
When I saw the car, it was dirty, having just returned from that event,
and the interior was full of dog fur. Not the greatest first impression.
But once I drove it, I knew that it was the car for me. It had soul.
An extensive pre-purchase inspection was done by
Deven at Hi Tec in San Rafael, CA. We poked and prodded, trying to find the
rust and other maladies that might affect a car of this age. With the
exception of some rust showing on the "C" pillars, it checked out as a
great car. The motor had been sourced from LA Dismantlers and was from
an '86 Carrera with around 40,0000 miles, and before Jay put it in the
car, he had verified its quality. Deven concurred. We did detect some
other issues, but all were solvable. I made my deal with the owner using
basically the cash I received for my '99. By the way, if you are in the
area, a stop by Deven's shop would be worthwhile. He's a great guy with
great cars. He was working on four-cam motors and a 906 when I was
there. Meeting him was one of those unexpected Porsche connections that
resulted from my quest.
Once I bought the car, Jay and his son agreed to do
some work on it for me. We pulled the transmission, rebuilding where
necessary, although for the most part it was fine. We put on a rear sway
bar and built cool GT3-style exhaust outlets, plus turbo tie rods and
Smart Racing mounts. We added a Porsche Motorsports clutch and installed
a limited slip. The car came with blue-centered 15" Fuchs. I decided to
change them to 16" with an RSR finish. I sourced them in
Florida: 7's for front 8's for the rear. The
tire supplier from Sears Point Raceway provided the Toyo rubber. Now I
have my hot rod Porsche. It is, of course, a matter of taste, but I
think my white clone is just cool. I would highly recommend Jay and his
son; they are dedicated to their craft, and I found out Jay is one of
the key guys at The Racers Group. All of these connections from one
So here is where the story takes a full turn. My
second outing in the "new" car was to Rennsport Reunion IV, held at
Laguna Seca in October (its first being the Historics Week in Carmel). I did not get my corral parking pass
early enough, finding myself in the green lot. On Friday, as I parked my
car, I saw the black RS clone that started my journey. The owner was
there, so I introduced myself and told him of his inspiration for my new
car. After a bit of conversation, we discovered that my car was once
owned by his brother-in-law! Go figure: two degrees of separation or
less. It was clearly meant to be.
I am now back in Virginia
and have found the Porsche guys from
Richmond's "Cars and Coffee", and I am hoping to
reconnect with my friends in the Potomac Region. The car has been a big
hit with these guys, and I am really looking forward to getting the car
to VIR or Summit Point and re-learning how to drive fast, because it is
clear to me that this car requires substantially more attention to drive
quickly than my other Porsches. My evolution for the time being is
complete. But I did see the 991 at the Rennsport Reunion. Hmmm....
Oh, sorry about that higher intelligence crack
earlier in this article. I got a little carried away with my metaphors.