Featured: Learning To Drive In A Porsche Speedster Replica

Learning To Drive In A Porsche Speedster Replica

By Michael Banovsky
April 7, 2015
15 comments

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!”

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Rod S
Rod S
4 years ago

I’m here because of your ebay sale! Wonderful story and I’m sincerely hoping your car went to a deserving enthusiast. Cheers!

Johan Samanta
Johan Samanta
7 years ago

You can’t imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the title of this article. My oldest son, Andrew, began driving a little over a year ago and while we, as a family, own two automatic cars, I felt it important for him to learn to drive a manual transmission car as well. Unfortunately, our only manual car (a hot-rodded ’67 Volkswagen Beetle) is not exactly beginner friendly (heavy unassisted competition pressure plate/clutch and big twin IDA carbs with no midrange). While Andrew was game to try it and always a good sport, it was clear that the twitchiness of my old Beetle was making it hard for him to really get comfortable.
I think we were both beginning to feel a little discouraged when I remembered that the perfect solution was sitting in his grandfather’s (my father-in-law) garage- a Porsche Speedster replica! We live in Scottsdale, AZ and my in-laws live in La Mesa, CA but we seem to find our way there on a pretty regular basis, and for the past 6 months Andrew has been logging miles on that Speedster every time we’re there. It really is a great car to learn in as its light weight makes it hard to stall when pulling out from a stop, the clutch is light and easy to engage and to build “feel” with, and, in our case, the engine and carb are a very smooth streetable combination. Our Saturday cruises around the hills and valleys of inland San Diego are priceless. Andrew is even getting the hang of my hot-rod Beetle (though we also did a carburetor swap to a pair of very smooth Weber 40 IDFs, which surely helped).
When I saw this article and the photo of Anastasia behind the wheel, I just had to share our story and our enthusiasm for their choice of car to learn on. Best of luck and many happy miles to you both, Nikolaus and Anastasia!
(here is a pic of Andrew behind the wheel as well)

Riccardo
Riccardo
7 years ago

What a cool father-daughter relationship. If I have daughters in the future I hope that I can do something similar with them, hopefully they will have the interest.

Angelo
Angelo
7 years ago
Dale Shin
Dale Shin
7 years ago

that’s really great thinking. going from a completely manual, bare-bones car to modern, tech-heavy gadget cars should give a really good understanding and feel for driving and cars. cool dad, i want to be like that.

Edward Levin
Edward Levin
7 years ago

Bravo, Nikolaus!

jane reynaud
jane reynaud
7 years ago

Nikolaus, this is brilliant! I learnt to drive in the first car I ever owned – a manual 1978 VW Golf. The day I passed my driver’s test my father confiscated my licence and wouldn’t allow me to drive until I’d proven I could change oil, filters, connect leads and change a tyre without assistance. Months later when I was stranded alone at 11pm out the back of nowhere, enroute home from a friend’s party and years before cellphones phones existed, I was able to work out the problem with the leads, fix it holding a torch between my teeth and get home safely. Your words – immediate, analogue and no frills – sum up everything I loved about my first car, and everything I’ve re-discovered in my dream car I’ve just purchased – a 1962 Porsche 356B. I’m currently rebuilding her with my partner, step by step, front to back, learning every part of mechanical connection and nuance as a I go. This article has me thanking my parents for instilling in me the love of driving, and the magic you find in a car you know and care for just like it was a person, much like you’re doing with your daughter. From down here in Australia I salute you, and wish Anastasia many sparkling adventures behind that wheel.

MuM
MuM
7 years ago

Thank you for reminding me how amazing it was to learn to drive from a father who wanted to share with me the anologue experience. My first memory of “driving” was in his lap behind a Cadillac. He would hide as the passing car swooshed by and I would worry I’d get in trouble. My favorite steering memory was the first time I made two turns across town. One at the end of the block. One into the convenience store parking lot. Still in my Pajamas. When I turned 14 I was let behind the wheel of a 1936 Ford Tudor. Learning Stick shift. I did great in the parking lot. Not so well at a Party when I asked if I could move it up the driveway, which had a slight hill. Mechanical brakes, dim headlights, no windshield washer, no safety glass. I was allowed out by myself and with friends at 16. I can’t imagine a better way to learn following distance respect. Passenger selection. Thanks Dad. Thanks Petrolici. Drive safe and keep your wits.

Thanos Ts
Thanos Ts
7 years ago

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Thanos Ts
Thanos Ts
7 years ago

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Nik Hafermaas
Nik Hafermaas
7 years ago

Big shout out to John P Steele who built our beloved Speedster: http://www.jps-motorsports.com/

Pedro Campuzano
Pedro Campuzano
7 years ago

My wife and I are adament that our son and two daughters learn how to drive stick, and that their first cars be manuals. Our son learned in a 78 320i, our daughters will soon have their turn. They really learn how to communicate with the car and it also keeps their hands busy, can’t text and shift. Great story and lucky girl.

Gaston Donetch
Gaston Donetch
7 years ago

great story! i remember my father teaching me to drive stick in his 308 gtb. my first car was a 1972 2002ti that i still own for sunday drives. it really helps to learn the old way…

Paul Cox
Paul Cox
7 years ago

That’s great. Learn how to use a manual box, double de-clutch, deal with an engine when cold and nurse it as it gradually warms. Maybe even use a manual choke (although probably not on this vehicle), learn how to use the gears to extract the best out of an engine with possibly not that much power. Feel the road, anticipate what’s coming, continually correct steering input, but not too much, deal with oversteer and understeer, think about things, look ahead, real driving is a visceral experience. So much of the real skill is lost in modern cars. Would I want to drive an old car every day now? No way, we have so much to be thankful for in the modern vehicle and the safety features that go with them. If you need to cover mileage quickly, safely, comfortably and economically, a modern car is a no brainer. But to revisit the past in your weekend classic driver on a sunny day; great, nothing beats it.
Good luck to her, she will benefit so much.

Robert Parker
Robert Parker
7 years ago

My son drove my 1996 Volkswagen Harlequin Golf as the first car after passing his written permit test. Later put him a 83 rabbit to get the clutch training.