Learning To Drive In A Porsche Speedster Replica
Photography by Afshin Behnia
Watching a young woman pilot a silver Porsche Speedster through traffic will turn heads anywhere; except, of course, in Los Angeles. Even with a black toque covering her hair, bystanders may get the impression that Anastasia Hafermaas is Hollywood royalty jetting between sound stages.
The truth, however, is far more interesting: she’s learning how to drive.
Next to Anastasia is her father, Nikolaus Hafermaas, Graphic Design Department Chair at the Art Centre College of Design, who moved to the U.S. about 10 years ago with his family to pursue a career at the college. His daughter was six when they moved, and still fondly remembers their first family car while in the U.S.: a 1968 Pontiac Firebird.
Now, 10 years later, Nikolaus is adamant that his daughter learn to drive well—Anastasia is still on her California learner’s permit, after all.
“I want her to learn proper driving. This [Speedster] is the most immediate, analogue, no-frills car. Once you know how to drive this, it’s downward compatible with everything else,” he said. “I want her to be an active driver, not like in a half coma like everyone else.”
Shortly after moving to the U.S., Nikolaus had this Porsche 356 Speedster replica constructed by a California shop, with a tube frame chassis and 2,100-cc 4-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine—with its exterior inspired by a Revell model kit he’d seen as a boy. Better, its mechanical simplicity and approachable nature makes it ideal for learning how to drive.
“He insists I have to learn stick shift, and I have to really, really learn how to manipulate the car in any situation before he will just let me go,” Anastasia said.
“[The Speedster] is so much more analogue than a lot of more modern cars you see, it’s definitely a different experience because you feel more connected to the machine,” she said, “whereas when I drove my driving instructor’s automatic Toyota, I was like, ‘Oh, I’m in a video game’…”
It’s quickly clear that Anastasia’s lessons with a mechanically simple car are probably how all young drivers should learn how to drive, but that depends on people like Nikolaus to put aside a bit of fear. He says there were several emotions to deal with as lessons in his prized Speedster began.
“It was a mix of joy, pride, and danger—you know, I was really afraid being next to her…not an existential fear, but a thrill: I knew it would be a beautiful thing to watch her learn,” he said. “I take great pleasure watching her drive, when I see that she gets it, going through turns—and then I finally get to relax!”