Recalibrating What It Means To Be Happy With A Targa Florio Enthusiast And His Porsche 911 S
Photography by Armando Musotto
Last summer, when the days had already become an endless repetition of cooped-up and locked down stagnation, I started making as many contacts as I could, looking for interesting cars and people and stories to share with you when the circumstances allowed me to. There’s still a ways to go before the calendar of classic car events is fully restored to pre-pandemic levels, but until then, I will continue seeking out the individual stories, like the one of Pasquale and his Porsche 911 S.
We met for the shoot on a hot July day in my hometown, the seaside village of Cefalù, on the coast of western Sicily, just a few steps away from the streets that once constituted the course of the Targa Florio. It’s a race that has been a steady source of inspiration for me and so many others who are drawn to the race’s inherent romance, drama, and danger, and although it is a touchstone of Italian motorsport history, I also credit the Targa Florio for my love of the German marque that won it more often than any other. Those arrow-striped 908s navigating between the encroaching crowds at speed are unforgettable images; I just wish I could have been there to form those memories firsthand.
Though not as purpose-built as those John Wyer spiders, the 911 also has a history at the Targa Florio—the winning 1973 RSR prototype being arguably one of the most important pieces in the 911’s vast motorsport legacy—and owning his 911 S makes Pasquale feel more connected to that, in a small but still meaningful way.
The 911 is one of those cars that every owner seems to experience differently, easily suited to fit a variety of use cases, both literal and figurative. Keep it polished in the garage as a piece of art, strap some skis to it and head into the Alps, change the tires for slicks and find the nearest circuit, or just enjoy what it represents, what its relatives have done. However you plan to use the car, it just has a way of making it all work.
I can hear the distinct air-cooled flat-six sound of Pasquale’s 911 before I see the twin lights and a smiling face behind the glass. We’ve chosen to meet at an auditorium of rocks in the monumental park of the Rocca di Cefalù, a magical place, full of superstition and limestone dust.
Pasquale and I greet each other before he’s swung his right leg out of the car, and we quickly land on one of our mutually favorite topics, the Targa Florio of course! We trade our favorite bits of trivia and wax sentimental on the lore of this great race, and it’s not surprising to learn that his decision to own a 911 was born from the marque’s connection to the Targa. I live for these conversations, not because there is anything new to talk about—we are really just sharing our nostalgia for the past after all—but because there is always someone new to talk about it with. This is how friendships form and last.
As we move onto the subject of his 911 in particular, Pasquale tells me that he bought it several years ago, and that the restoration of the engine and bodywork took a long time and a lot of money. He was convinced he had made the wrong decision to invest mentally and materially into such an expensive and difficult task, but he is not the giving up type. Many sacrifices were made, many more hours were spent, but the result has paid back dividends on all of it. It’s one of those projects that probably wouldn’t have happened with hindsight, but I can tell he’s glad that he didn’t have that benefit.
The restoration was absolutely conservative, aimed at bringing the car back to its past correctly, with attention paid to the smallest details, the details that Pasquale loves to look for and chip away at. He confesses to me—like nearly every passionate classic car owner, I must say—that the work is never truly done, like infinitely halving the distance to the finish line. But it’s not a bad thing. It keeps him connected, invested, interested, and in love. Perfection can be boring, but striving for it rarely is.
The time to leave the amphitheater has come, and the sun is still high. No chasing sunsets like usual this time. We need to change the location and let this car run through the streets of Cefalù.
A visit to Cefalù-Gibilmanna, of the European hillclimb championship, was a wonderful way to awaken this car, as it’s not the first time it’s been here. Pasquale tells me that it is a climb that he loves to do alone, hypnotized by the sound of the engine pushing his thoughts to the side until he reaches the top. As he runs up the route he knows well, I’m catching him smiling wider and wider with each apex. A man in a heaven on earth.
After this 11-km rush up the massive “hill,” we stop in another magical place that I love, a secret one that I hold close, kissed by a warm and delicate sunshine. As I’m shooting, I ask Pasquale what he would buy regardless of budget, and though I pressed him for different answers, he seemed serious when he said “Another Porsche,” before going on to talk about the one he already considers a dream attained, saying “This car is special for me, every time I drive it I live my dream, and I don’t need anything else.” He speaks with bald honesty and certainty, no melodrama, and while it’s fun to imagine owning a 917, it’s important to remember to enjoy what we already have. After all, despite what too much Instagram scrolling may lead you to believe, owning a vintage 911 is pretty special already. I’m sure Pasquale has other dream cars, but he’s more than content to enjoy the moments he has with the one that sits in his garage instead of his head.
After another round of photos, we descend back down slowly toward the city with our minds at ease, our conversation not particularly novel but flowing easily, comfortably. We’re just plain happy to be alive in this instance. I firmly believe that happiness is relative. Whoever has the most money probably buys the “better” things, but there are plenty of less fortunate folks who derive more joy from their lives without the material opulence. I’m not arguing that a 911 is a common car that the masses can afford to own, but it gets back to relativity; where does the definition of best end, and where does the definition of perfect begin? If that sounds vague, I think it’s just because the lines are different for all of us, and always blurry.
When do we stop chasing and pay attention to what we have? When do we stop being complacent and start looking for what’s next? One person’s dream is another’s birthright. We are all delivered a different lot in life, and we all lead different ones. Pasquale seems to have it figured out though, because whatever your circumstances, the goal is to find happiness, from whatever source works for you. Is it materialistic to derive joy from material things? It can be, but those people usually aren’t feeling any joy a few moments after the purchase has been made. Pasquale is not like that, at all. He worked hard for this car, and if my few hours spent in the passenger seat are anything to go by, it’s only making him smile wider as time ticks on.