My First Taste of an Air-Cooled 911

Just walking up to it, this 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 looks like any other of the countless 911s I’ve seen and had as my wallpaper background on my computer. As much as I’ve been an apostle of the gospel of the 911, I’ve never driven one. I’ve never taken a sip of that air-cooled Kool-Aid. It changes now.

Why has this car recently skyrocketed in price? It can’t be that special. It must be just a trend. That’s how it should be. The 911 prices must come crashing down, so that I can afford one. Seriously, you guys aren’t missing anything. You can find your fix somewhere else.

It’s red. Bright red. Guards Red, Porsche calls it. Supposedly, they thought this hue looked so good, they didn’t want to spoil it with a clear coat, so the clay bars turn pink when you wax it.

The door closes with that 911 kk-shunk. Everything in the cabin looks like an 80s Porsche. The same dials, gauges and wheel are in my 944, but everything issue of place in here. It’s familiar yet foreign. Like eating authentic spaghetti in Italy. Even the smell is intoxicating. Can they make candles out of this?

Starting it up, the key is on the left. I knew this, but I’m still caught off guard for a second. My left hand didn’t know how to twist the key. An airy roar hits my ears. I’m told to treat the throttle and clutch like I’m learning manuals for the very first time. Feel that friction point, then gently let on the throttle. I obey, recognizing how quickly these have appreciated.

I’m sitting in a different car than any other I’ve ever sat. The cabin feels airy but cramped. I’m sitting upright and my feet angle in toward the center, pressing each floor-hinged pedal gingerly.

We leave town heading south for a twisty road. The map say County Road R, but the signs say G. We follow them anyway. My new wife is riding shotgun, and the 911’s owner is in chase in my 944 behind, so I take every corner with caution remembering every review I’ve read that says the rear can step out if you’re not smart. I am not very smart.

Looking out the windshield of a 911 is like staring down the barrel of a handgun. Each headlight hump is part of the sights aiming the car down the road.

This road is fantastic. It follows Lake Michigan’s Green Bay south out of Egg Harbor. It winds around while the lake twinkles in the sunset off to the right. Mansions set back from the road line the left. Sunlight sparkles the road through the leaves. Light, dark. Light, dark. I can’t decide if I want my Wayfarers on or off. It’s an essential question in this car. I leave them on.

Each corner teases me to test the 911’s limits, but I’m conscious of my own lack of skill. Ignore the price; just drive the car, I tell myself. But the price is difficult to ignore, even for the owner.

The flat six revs weightlessly under throttle stabs. I click it down to second, jam the right pedal. It scoops you up, then sprints to redline. On intuition only, I change gear precisely when need to. Each and every time. The H-pattern feels tilted toward the driver instead of straight on, but it’s advantageous.

Whhhrrooooo-aaaaaarhhhhhh!!! Wind it out. It has power, but you use it all. It isn’t intimidating, but looming behind a docile front is a car you can feel has a hit list.

The wheel tingles like everyone says. When I take my hand off the wheel I can still feel a phantom jitter. I grin.

After too few miles we find a boat launch parking lot and pull off into it. I get out and say, “This is everything anyone has ever said about it.”

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