A Personal Porsche 911 Saga: From Magazine Cutouts To The Real Thing
Photography by Paul Steinbruner
The first time I call Rial he’s speaking to me from the guts of a late-model M5, but he didn’t grow up in cars like this. Raised by his mother, money was tight between her, Rial, and his three sisters, and with a deceased father the chance for a traditional “working on cars with my dad got me hooked” storyline never happened for him. But while a house full of women isn’t the typical catalyst for motorsport, his Road & Track subscription was.
Reading the magazine was an escape for 6th-grade Rial, a way to temporarily turn his bedroom into the cockpit of a Porsche, but it was still a ways away from the real thing. Then he met Mike. Well, his older sister did. Her boyfriend worked as a mechanic in a small town in southern Oregon (a one-stoplight kind of place called Cave Junction), and in junior high Rial would ride his bike to the shop to do miscellaneous jobs like sweeping the floors and doing parts runs on his 10-speed. He recalls one such ride to NAPA with the instructions to return immediately—no soda stops this time—with a 2.5” exhaust clamp. The guy at the counter, “Lefty,” asks him if he meant a single 2.5” or perhaps two half-inch clamps? Hurrying back to ask Mike the same question, he and the car’s owner just look at Rial and start laughing—“There’s a car in the world with a half-inch exhaust?!”
Maybe a bit naive but still bridling with enthusiasm, Rial gets invited to join Mike and some friends for a track day in Holtville, CA (they were living in San Diego at this point), and he begs his mother to let him go. It will be the furthest he’s been from home at that point, and for a month his pleases are met with nos. Of course, you already know she let him go eventually, and to this day Rial recalls that ride to the track as one of the defining moments in his life with cars. Mike and his friend Don had a pair of Honda S600s back then, and as they were bombing up dawn-lit highway to the track (these were the times when one car could do it all), they would occasionally cinch up door to door to pass snacks back and forth between the little roadsters. To the young co-pilot in the passenger seat of Mike’s mustard-colored Honda, this was just about the coolest thing in the world.
Right around the time Rial enters high school, he and his twin sister move in with their older sister, who’s living with Mike in Sacramento. Mike is working at a Chevy dealer at this point as a master mechanic and a representative for the union, but like all true enthusiasts he doesn’t limit himself to one thing, which is why even though he was working on American steel all day, he and Rial still managed to soup up his ’74 Civic—no, not just a muffler job, this was turbocharged, running 18lbs of boost. AKA, the kind of Honda with the bite to match its bark. Perhaps it was a little much though, seeing as the motor blew up three times in a rather short window.
Rial’s college years are more or less car-less, but when he graduated Mike was there to give him something to drive to work. No souped imports or turbocharged Corvairs this time though (Mike built one of those complete with a made-in-the-garage water injection setup, along with a turbo’d Chevy pickup, along with, along with, along with, you get it). A white, diesel Chevette that required daily bumper wiping was the car Rial drove to his first job in the investment management world, and in a parking lot full of Porsches and their peers, Rial gives his little domestic diesel a lot of credit for his success—in the ‘80s this was about as uncool a car as you could get (loud but not fast, slow and smelly always), so to avoid being seen in it Rial would arrive to work early and leave late, putting in the long hours.
It paid off, and when he finally sold the Chevette his next car was a used ’86 Carrera Cab, complete with period-correct whale tail. That was sold for an ’88 Turbo Cab. Rial was moving up. The hard work was turning his childhood Road & Track daydreams into daily drivers.
As the years ticked by so did the cars, and Rial’s garage was a revolving door of Porsche leases that he’d keep for a few years at a time. He gets a little older, the cars get a little comfier, a bit bigger, a bit more plush, and this takes us to the early 2000s, where in an effort to get back to the sports cars and driving that he used to have and do, he begins attending vintage events like Monterey Car Week, Laguna Seca in particular. He starts dating his wife around this time, and their relationship is not the kind where wife complains to husband about silly cars crowding their garage and driveway. Rial and Maureen bonded around cars, and her own automotive history wasn’t too shabby either, having owned a few E30 and E36 M3s along the way before an E92 M3 with the Competition Package. In other words, she doesn’t support Rial’s hobby, it’s hers too; when they got married, they no longer needed two Road & Track subscriptions, and hers was the one they kept.
So what does this have to do with the burgundy 911S pictured here? It was on one such trip to Monterey after three years ago, at the Werks Reunion to be specific (we are talking about a Porsche after all), that Rial and Maureen spotted the pert little 2.2S sitting under the European Collectibles tent (run then by the late Jeff Trask) nestled in with some others. They fell in love with the car—its color in particular—but at the time other projects (like his 2002 race car, which we will also be featuring soon) meant that the purchase of the 911 would be hard to justify. That didn’t stop Rial from going to visit the car at EC every few months, and in doing so he formed a friendship with Jeff, who Rial credits as being very patient with him. Jeff knew how much he loved the car, and before he passed away he drove it over to Rial’s home so he and Maureen wouldn’t have to bring their 1.5-month-old daughter to go look at old German cars. Seeing it in their driveway, they had no choice but to make the view more permanent, and if weren’t for Jeff kindly driving it over Rial says it might not have happened. So, decades after reading about the 911, decades after owning his first, Rial finally has one of the first.
It’s a part of an automotive family that includes the aforementioned built ’02 race car, and soon it will also be sitting alongside Vic Provenzano’s old Alfa GTV, which Rial is the process of restoring. An automotive family is a fitting description beyond the garage too, just ask Emerson, their daughter, to tell you where her name comes from once she’s old enough to tell you.