My First Classic Drive Was In A Porsche 356C
Written by Florence Walker // Photography by Ted Gushue
I stepped on a pedal and looked at my French instructor in the hope that this was indeed the brake.
“Zat,” I was informed, “is the clutch.”
Parked in the lot outside the Ermitage Hotel in St Tropez were four magnificent vehicles that had a train to catch. The cars had been driven down to the French riviera by a group of eight, but three had peeled off, probably in the direction of a yacht. When they left, I was asked if I wanted to drive the Bentley. Ha! Sure, why not? Quelle Blague!
It was no joke. But seeing as the Bentley could be a little temperamental in this heat, they said, would it be ok if I took the Porsche?
“But, but,” I stuttered, “you were kidding.”
“We’ve got four cars and four drivers,” Monsieur said, “you do ze maths.”
And so an hour later, Monsieur knelt next to the car to give me a crash course in how to drive, “It’ll be fine,” my instructor reassured himself, “you’ll remember what to do by ze end of ze road.”
Three miles into our trip, I stalled on the single lane heading out of St Tropez. Calm, I thought to myself. Just turn the key in the ignition. VURH-VURH-VURH-VURH. The traffic was beginning to pile up behind us. I tried again. VURH-VURH-VURH-VURH. The door of the Bentley behind me opened and Monsieur ran forward.
“Put your foot on the accelerator,” I was urged, “give it some gaz!”
“Your foot RIGHT DOWN!”
It woke up cranky, threatening to stall again out of spite for the traffic. As soon as the barrier to the autoroute swung up, it would take a heavy foot to keep her happy. And as soon as it did, all my quiet virtues melted away.
The others in the convoy had reassured me they wouldn’t go fast. What a waste! Let’s make these machines fly! I waved and cackled at the others as I roared past.
Sprinting away, wicked thoughts raced through my mind: maybe I should run away? This car would suit a gentlewoman cat burglar. I’ve always fancied my abilities to scale hotel walls and pocket the glittering jewels of young starlets. I could become a regular at hotel bars, seduce my victims then drug their Martinis before pocketing their gold Rolexes.
Incredible, that a machine can transform a person’s psyche with a couple thousand revs.
Fortunately for the owner, as much as a wolf likes to fantasize about being a lone hunter, it’s a pack animal. I returned to my place in the convoy, and satisfied myself by pretending my name was Frances Stevens and I was off to convince John Robie to let my mother come and live with us.