1,600 ‘Middle-Class’ Owners Gather for Contest : Porsche Parade Lures Those Who Take a Shine to Small, Showy Cars
They are a baffling lot, these auto lovers, willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for a car too small to carry a week’s worth of groceries and too clean to drive.
They are gathered to show off their pampered wheels at the annual Porsche Parade, which is actually more a convention and a contest to determine bragging rights.
“It’s POR-sha,” says Suzy Blakewell of Fort Worth, correcting one of the great unwashed, the driver of a Japanese import. “Accent on the first syllable.”
Blakewell and her husband were between Porsches. They sold their 1973 model 911 and 1963 model 356 because they “decided to consolidate,” she said. They bought a 1986 blue Cabriolet, but “it was too pretty for my husband,” Blakewell said. To replace it, they ordered a $40,000 1987 Carrera in November from the factory in Stuttgart, West Germany, and were still waiting.
1,600 at Event
Porsche or no Porsche, the Blakewells were among the 1,600 people owning 585 Porsches gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for the event last weekend sponsored by the Porsche Club of America.
“I’d say we’re just middle class,” Suzy Blakewell says of the crowd.
Middle class? Does a middle-class person spend $25,000 on a car, invest $5,000 more in it and never take it out of the garage except to show it off?
Thats’s what Charlie Carrera of San Antonio did, and his car did not even win. His 1973 911S placed third out of five in his class of the Concours d’Elegance.
“Basically, a clean car competition,” explains Alan Bambina of Farmers Branch, Tex., owner of a Porsche 356. “A lot of people believe that, if you bring out a brand new car, you’d win. That’s not true. They’d have to be cleaned for grit and dust from transporting it from the factory. They’re cleaned beyond the nth degree,” he said.
Hours of Polishing
It is a cleanliness that boggles the mind. Owners spend hours polishing engine parts. “I’ve spent probably 1,000 hours preparing for this Concours here today,” said Carrera, owner of Circle Drugs in San Antonio.
One sea-green 1963 model 356 had matching green wheel covers made of velvet--not hubcaps, covers for the rubber part of the tire that is supposed to touch the ground.
T. H. Williams of Tampa, Fla., used a plush pink bath towel to wipe the dust from his stepfather’s 1973 911S, the cobalt blue car that beat Carrera for second.
Cleanliness is not the only thing that counts in the competition.
“See these?” said Mike Bruns of Winter Haven, Fla., a mechanic who works on the car Williams is polishing. He pointed to two small marks on either side of the car’s license plate.
“They’re spot welds. They (judges) take off if they’re not there. . . . That’s the way they came from the factory. If they’re not there, some judges consider it over-restored.”
Are these people fanatics?
Drove 1,400 Miles
“Yes,” says Jean Macaluso of Fountain Valley, Calif., who with her husband drove the 1,400 miles to Dallas in their 1959 black Porsche 356.
After two long days of highway driving, they arrived Thursday at the hotel.
“In 10 minutes we came in, dumped our stuff, came out and began working on the car,” she said.
They spend hundreds of hours on the car.
“He does all of the engine work. He’ll pull the engine out of it and do whatever needs to be done,” she said. “He does (cleans) the engine. The interior is mine. We both polish.”
She has dirt under her fingernails to prove it.
“It’s kind of nice,” she sighs. “I know where he is at night.”
Their car is a knockout, shimmering black with a vinyl top.
“Don’t touch it,” she whispers as a woman and two daughters admire and run their hands across the roof.
“At shows at home (in California), women with necklaces will lean over and it will scratch, or people with keys in their pockets will rub against it.” She cringes.
‘Bought It in a Box’
Like so many people at the show, the Macalusos bought their Porsche from the friend of a friend. “A friend of our daughter’s restores cars,” she said. “He got it from his nephew. . . . We bought it in a box. The engine didn’t work. We pushed it around the block and into our garage.”
Ron and Diane Collier of Castle Rock, Colo., tell a similar story about their fourth Porsche, a 914 they found moldering in a garage.
“It was filthy dirty. The dirt was just embedded,” said Diane Collier, and the engine did not run.
They towed it home and scrubbed it up, and with a single $50 part, got it running.
“It’s the ultimate,” Diane Collier said. “You have so much fun driving it. . . . We traded our first one in on a Subaru wagon, if you can believe it. After a couple months, we looked at each other and said: ‘We’ve got to get another Porsche.’ ”
The Colliers bought their first Porsche in 1980.
“My daughter started college. We didn’t need a large car,” said Ron Collier. “We decided to have fun.”
“Life’s too short to drive a Chevy,” said Bambina, a schoolteacher.
Children a Deterrent
Life may also be too expensive to have both a Porsche and a family.
“Children definitely are a deterrent,” Bambina said. “It’s amazing how many who are really active (in Porsche club functions) either have no children or one child.”
But there are some. Suzy Blakewell, the Porscheless one, operates the “Porsche Kids” room at the hotel, a day-care center for children whose parents are busy polishing cars. In the center, of 29 recently painted pictures on a wall, only one was of a car, but all four children playing there were assembling a race track.
While the kids played, judges inspected 72 spotless Porsches lining the 15th fairway at nearby Bear Creek Golf and Racquet Club, going so far as to inspect jacks and tire tools.
The caterers served lunch, a faux German affair of bratwurst, sauerkraut, hot potato salad and beer. Despite their wealth and proximity to cars worth more than some homes, the crowd rushed the chow line like a softball team.
Back on the fairway, Carrera, the San Antonio druggist, and Jerry Curtis, owner of the blue 911 that beat Carrera out for second, file a protest. Thery insist that the No. 1 car in their class, a white 14-year-old car from Idaho, was inferior to theirs.
“It’s ridiculous how unoriginal it is,” complained Williams, Curtis’ 15-year-old stepson. “The car we’re up against has 107 miles. That’s 107 miles--not thousand. It’s like no one ever drives it.”
“This car was driven about 500 miles last year,” Bruns said. “It goes out at all the races and track events. In that sense, I think it’s different from the cars in Baggies.”
Carrera’s, however, is a typical “Baggie car,” kept indoors and covered except for competition.
“I drive the car once a week,” Carrera said.