Driving Greatness

World of Speed celebrates the Porsche 911’s 55th birthday

A successful exhibition should be thought provoking. The curator aspires to stir your emotions and hopefully connect with the viewer. In my case, World of Speed’s new tribute to Porsche’s iconic little rocket ship was a resounding success. It had me asking myself when I first became aware of the marque… without much difficulty, I had it.

We were young! The 911 model was only three years old but already a popular race car. I distinctly remember watching a regional event won by a yellow sports racer (likely a Lotus 23). A white and a brown 911 ran second and third respectively, within a car length of each other the entire distance. I drew a picture of the race from memory in my school binder the following Monday. My Porsches looked more like Volkswagen Bugs but trust me, I knew the difference.

911’s were featured at every road race I attended at Laguna Seca and Sears Point from the mid-sixties on. I was fortunate to get to watch Peter Gregg compete in the under two liter class in the early Trans-Am series. His white #59 was always competitive and typically finished amongst the Mustangs and Camaros.

When I was in middle school, my father’s accountant was a man named Russell Shattuck. Shattuck had two sons — one my age (Jim) and an older one (Steven) whom I barely knew. I didn’t know Steve but he knew me well enough to know I was a race nut. One night he arrived at my parent’s house with a 911 he had “borrowed” from a neighbor. In short order we headed toward the nearest freeway where Steve wound the Porsche up to 120 mph before diving down an off-ramp! I was returned home slightly giddy and sweaty but smiling. (If my parents only knew!)

The International Race of Champions (IROC) conceived in 1973 was a neat deal. The idea was to put the best drivers in world in identical 911 Carreras and let them go at it on select road courses and ovals. The cars featured air-dams, wide fender flares and whale tails. Each was painted a different color so it was easy to follow your favorite. I remember watching them on television…I think it was Riverside. The procession looked like a string of Easter eggs.

I think some of those Porsches ended up in the Camel GT because in the following years there was a glut of brightly painted Carreras running in that series. Lemon yellow, apple green, magenta, they were so cool! And the competition: Corvettes, BMW’s, (remember the Chevy Monza?). All competitors dolled up with aero kits- What a great series that was.

As the years went on, the body kits became more extreme and the cars looked less and less like the stock models they were based on. Most marques adapted turbo chargers. The Porsches would whistle down the straightaways and belch fire when the driver backed off. Spectacular!

My buddies and I were avid slot car racers at the time. Since you couldn’t buy a miniature Porsche that looked like an IROC Carrera, I decided to build my own. Lindberg models made a plastic 911 that was the correct scale (a Targa to be specific). I attached cardboard fender flares, an air-dam and whale tail and painted the whole package a lethal gloss black. It had the right look but the first time I flew off course so did one of my flares! The next time we visited Laguna Seca there was a black 911 competing in the under two liter class with a homemade aero kit. Unpainted tin air-dam and makeshift fender flares. “Look! It’s Veltman’s slot car!” my buddies shouted.

All good memories conjured up by a little Porsche 911 exhibit. Thanks for the memories World of Speed.

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