Reflecting on Collecting At The L.A. Porsche Literature And Toy Show
Photography by Alex Sobran
There is someone next to me peering into a miniaturized version of an old Porsche workshop complete with realistically rendered dust, and just a moment ago I saw another person walk through a hotel breakfast room carrying a 356 steering wheel in one hand and a wad of yellowed PCA stickers in the other. Where do these kinds of things happen? At the L.A. Literature and Toy Show, an event dedicated to pretty much any piece of vintage Porsche-related ephemera, and a veritable goldmine for those of us who enjoy automobilia. I can’t say this beats a genuinely good car show, but I can say with confidence that this year’s event was far and away the best time I’ve ever had in the lobby of a Hilton.
As I walked around stripes of tables lining the hotel-brown carpet, I started to wonder: what’s the real value in collecting automobilia? Because you better not be buying a catalog of BBS-logo’d dress shirts for its future eBayability. And as cool as it may be to you—former owner of one just like it way back when—that yellowed magazine centerfold of an IROC Camaro with two rips where the staples used to be: not the best frame-and-hang material. Though it can cost thousands for some of the really rare stuff of course, the majority of what the average collector will buy at a place like this costs about as much as lunch.
But there is something that makes amassing all this stuff worthwhile, and I think it falls in the same family of feelings as the ones you get from thinking about cars instead of driving or looking at them. You know, imagining what it’d be like to have a Porsche Turbo on an open autobahn instead of tolerating the half-static, half-music radio reception in your daily driver as you idle in summer traffic directing every nasty word you know at no one in particular while wiping away facial sweat with your undershirt because the A/C needs a recharge but they don’t sell that outdated refrigerant type anymore unless you pay a damn fortune to that one sketchy guy at Jiffy Lube who can “hook you up” if you meet him after work in his apartment complex’s parking lot and… Daydreaming sums it up pretty neatly. To get your mind at all closer to driving nirvana is an effort worth taking I think, and if a little shirt pin of a Rothmans 956 helps paint your fictional tableau of a blurry Nurburgring whipping by the window of your Porsche race car, so be it.
Flipping through old promotional material just makes these fantasies all the more fleshed out, brings them a little closer to reality by way of glossy paper and gaudy press-photos. It’s the sense of potential; reading the operating instructions and being excited by the thought of what it would be like to actually need that booklet to accompany your 935 is a pretty fun exercise in imagination, especially when reality says you can’t afford the cost of a month’s ownership of one of those fire-breathers. It’s the cheapest time machine for retro car pornography. Scouring the LAX Hilton or those little tents in the vendor alleys at vintage events is the rebuilding of time periods we wish we could go back to, or were alive for in the first place.
And if you actually own the cars that spawned these piles of booklets and patches and trinkets, all the better: now you’re building up not just a pamphlet and poster tower that you can show to friends who couldn’t care less, you’re creating a more meaningful understanding of the origins and provenance of the stuff out in the garage.
It’s also a great excuse to spend hours on car forums: you aren’t wasting time with internet weirdos, you are “antiquing,” a pursuit for only the very most cultured and refined gentry. Yes, quite so CarDude29, I should have “tried a goddamn search first.” Thank you kindly.
But to be serious, in my own experiences tracking down and amassing a small booty of BMW and Porsche schlock—if you want to talk about turbofans or DTM promo-material from when the Berlin Wall still stood, get in touch—I have found another outlet for my love of cars; a special one that brings me wistful memories of times that I don’t have any real memories of; one that lets me laugh at mistranslations and marvel at the progression of time.
What not-car, car things do you collect, and why do you collect them? If you’re looking for a place to start, and if you follow the Porsche persuasion to some degree, the L.A. Literature and Toy Show isn’t a bad choice.