The Werks Reunion Was A Perfect Excuse To Celebrate The Importance Of Porsche
Photography by Alex Sobran
A Porsche, like any special car, can take on a variety of function. There are quaint 356s that shuttle to and from coffee shops with the rise of every Sunday’s sun, and then there are the Emory-built ones streaking along the mountain roads above, their silver shells traveling at the kind of blurry speed that prompt the “Filmed in Mexico” disclaimer to appear alongside any filmic evidence. That’s just an illustration of one model’s adaptiveness though, lest we forget the existence of everything else from humble 912s to the not-so-subtle stylings of flame-spraying 934s.
A marque with this scale and scope can only achieve such a spread of products if there are people willing to buy them though, and racing prize money doesn’t exactly pay the bills needed to produce a million 911s. As a quick aside here, let’s not be so harsh on the Cayennes and Macans, as comparing them to the sports cars of yesteryear is just such a narrow evaluation; if the first-generation Cayenne didn’t activate the collective need-to-own impulse of suburbanites across the world, we might not have seen the company do what it does best on the race track in the years that followed. I’m not saying it’s a vehicle that deserves your appreciation in and of itself, but there are practical boons attached to its existence that warrant at least a reduction in the dismissiveness of the self-proclaimed purists who think Porsche should have kept making short-wheelbase 911s instead. “Rant over,” as the Internet arguers say.
Along with these purists are all kinds of other Porsche enthusiasts though, the cross-section of which reveals a gamut of attitudes toward the cars and quite a contrast in some of the approaches to owning them. In one corner are the wannabes driving beat-up Boxsters with questionable “mods” that boil down to slapping Urban Outlaw stickers under the door mirrors, and then you have the people like Jeff Zwart who are exceedingly humble and knowledgable and willing to share their experiences. And their coincident existence is just fine. Even though I just ragged on Boxster Bro a second ago, let’s keep things relative; this is still a person who’s actively participating in the car hobby we all love so much. That’s a good thing, even if it manifests as something not so supreme at times. Lucky for me and the rest of the thick crowd at last weekend’s Werks Reunion, the field of cars was “quite good.”
All of these people, all of these cars, this whole big pile, is what makes Porsche Porsche. Even the shysters who buy up crap and put a fresh coat of paint on it to present it for sale as a “meticulously restored 911”—they’re a part of it too, for better, or, definitely, worse. But they wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a frenzy of people wanting to experience these cars, so while they might be unscrupulous, they are a mark of the passion for this company, if a bit of a strange one. We need the bad stuff to go with the good. If every road-going example was a slightly-souped 901 and every race car was a 917/30 that’d be a pretty cool world, but it’d also be a boring one. We need reference points. Think about it: cars—even the damn Prius that bumped me yesterday in a piss-poor parallel parking attempt—are simply amazing things. That is, if we pull our lens back far enough. However in our daily lives we’ve become so used to these magical machines to render them uninteresting for the majority of the world’s population, and I think if every 911 was cut from the same cloth even they’d get a little banal at some point too. So what is it that makes Porsche special while their cars only go through minor changes over time? When to the outside eye they’ve barely changed over 50 years? Yeah, they’re good-looking and they’re fun to drive, but so are a lot of things with a markedly reduced following.
What makes Porsche special, at least to me—a person who has and likely will never own one but has been privileged enough to drive a few and spend time around a bunch—is the slow evolution of a design that dates back decades (typical answer, I know), but it’s also the almost oxymoronic variety that has been built up along with this gradual evolutionary timeline. And that’s not even getting into the front- and mid-engined cars.
As good as a Cayman or a 928 is, the 911 is the embodiment of Porsche, and everyone has their own definitive version in mind. After all, there are plenty to choose from among all the T’s, E’s, S’s, Carreras, Speedsters, Targas, Turbos—you get what I’m saying. The cars all bear obvious similarities, but once you get into he details—the headlight bezels, the Fuchs finishes, the injection systems, the myriad deck lid spoilers, narrow and wide bodies, etc.—this is when the seemingly simple car opens up to a world of variety. No other vehicle has had such refinement, nor such singularity and diversity at the same time. This is why even the outliers like the slab-sided 935s are instantly recognizable as sharing DNA with the very first 911.
The other aspect is of course, the people. It’s what they use these machines for, the reasons they appreciate them, the adventures they’ve had in them, the artists inspired by them, and the drivers who’ve made them such lauded champions of motorsport that collectively give the Porsche name the gravitas it so deserves.