There’s Never A Bad Season For A Swiss Road Trip In A Porsche 912
Photography by Andrea Klainguti
At 1,800 meters above sea level, the Engadine Valley in southeastern Switzerland is a place where winter really shows its snowy muscles. Between November and April, the frigidly cold temperatures have a big impact on the landscape, freezing lakes and covering mountains and villages under a blanket of snow. Everything becomes very Alpine indeed.
With ice and slush mixed with the corrosive salt meant to combat it, plus the risk of inexperienced drivers on the roads, this is not many’s idea of the best time for a leisurely drive in a collectable classic car. It’s perfectly understandable that many owners decide to enjoy their vehicles exclusively during the warm summer months wherever they are in the world, while leaving them protected in a garage during the rest of the year.
Obviously, this is a sensible choice and very logical, and for some very valuable and rare models, proper care like this is a must. But if it’s true that owning a vintage sports car is a matter chiefly concerned with passion, why not enjoy the full experience from time to time? This doesn’t have to mean driving all year round but if you do adopt a more carefree attitude when the conditions are not ideal, it helps one to not miss out on great days like the one I recently had.
Take two friends, the scenic and heavily snowed Bernina mountain road, and add the appropriate car. A Porsche might not be the obvious answer, and for many it won’t be an acceptable one at that. That’s what we were in though, and I can attest to the experience being one of the better ones I’ve had in recent memory. Born in 1965 as the entry-level alternative to the 911 while maintaining much of the same genetics, the Porsche 912 looks almost identical to its bigger sibling, with the most significant difference found in the engine bay: a flat-four derived from the 356 was chosen in order to keep costs low. And while 90hp doesn’t sound like a lot, its low weight, short wheelbase, and nimble, lively handling characteristics combine to provide one of the purest driving experiences this side of its six-cylinder kin. And in slippery conditions like we found ourselves in on that day, it makes for a fine choice for those seeking a little sideways fun!
After reaching the midway point at the Italian border, the small Porsche effortlessly climbed its way back up the mountain, passing tourists stopped on the roadside, busy trying to fit snow chains on their SUVs. Their cars may be equipped with advanced all-wheel-drive systems and all sorts of electronic gimmicks promising to keep them safe when the grip is low, but the truth is none of this technology is a true substitute for low weight and proper driving techniques. Something that we should be reminded of more often in this age of automotive high-tech overload.
It’s true, to venture out in these conditions with a car built 50 years ago requires the owner to be a bit brave, but this should be part of the experience of owning cars like this. And in a time where everything can be predicted and planned seemingly to the smallest of details, it’s good to occasionally be a bit carefree and just go out for a drive and put the worries off ’til later.