This Porsche And Mercedes Collection Is All About Aesthetics Over Mechanics
Photography by Shane Allen
This might be a tricky argument, and those that cannot be swayed have every right not to be, but I think there’s validity in this all the same: you don’t need to get a drop of oil on your hands to be a bonafide devotee of the automobile. The comments section is right over there if you want to spit some vitriol, but before you do that, hear me out.
First, just because I’ve written this should in no way be taken as an implication that working on cars isn’t something that should be celebrated in the fullest; personally, I love the sensation of putting away the torque wrenches and hunting in the grass for the f*cking half-inch extension that always wants to play hide and seek as the sun’s setting, because though contorting myself underneath a friend’s BMW as we hand-sawed out the trailing arm bushings a few days ago was certifiably “not fun” in the moment, the knowledge that you’re capable of, in some way, understanding and even building parts of the cars we love is more than enough reward for spending a day in the driveway covered in a smoothie of sweat and grease and God knows what else. But beyond any mechanical aptitude (or an ability to draw blood from oneself in attempt to draw oil from the pan), any driving ability (way too many people put waaaay too much pride in lap times that they’re likely lying about in the first place), or years of experience in chasing either of the two, the most important part of car ownership is keeping an open mind to how others may differ from you in their enjoyment of such.
And, everything is relative; there are Formula 1 mechanics who are more like surgeons, and then there is the 16 year-old who changed his spark plugs for the first time. It’s all good stuff. So, when people like Werner Mayes tell me that they don’t care much for the mechanical elements of the cars they own, I’m more curious as to what the draw is than I am interested in mounting any high horse. Because really, doesn’t this just speak to the persuasion of the automobile? That it can generate so much interest from so many people and for so many reasons? I think Werner’s approach is every bit as valid as anyone else’s, and to boot, his collection of German metal is hard to hate. He’s worn many hats in his professional life, including shooting a documentary on the Titanic out of a submersible, but first and foremost Werner is a designer, and his taste in cars proves he has the eye for it.
Seemingly a big fan of the stuff made in Stuttgart, everything from his daily driver to his special occasion steeds either wears the Porsche crest or the Benz star on its hood. And speaking of the everyday duties of getting around Los Angeles, Werner’s choice is pretty, well, choice. The Mercedes W108/109 chassis is still the pinnacle of luxury sedan design in the eyes of many, and this 280SE and its M117 4.5L V8 is the ultimate in stylish transport in the modern age, cutting a stately path through the bland monotony on our roadways today. After purchasing the Midnight Blue Benz after a friend’s father passed away, this car has been put to good use, though never abuse, of course.
Bouncing over to the Porsche side, let’s also move up a few decades and take a look at his 993 Cab. I’ve always thought these cars were a bit tubby in their dropped-top form, but this one is different somehow. It’s not been modified to sit lower, nor does it wear any additional lips or splitters or spoilers, either; I think it’s mainly the fact that it isn’t painted that seemingly single-color-option of Guards Red that makes this 993 so cool. The Zenith Blue metallic coating on this Cab really goes a long way in separating this car from the throngs of every other 993 you’re bound to see roaming Southern California, and indeed it took Werner a while to find this one. After more than half a year hunting down the unique color, he found this one for sale by a designer for Audi. Go figure. Taste runs in the profession.
Staying in P-car territory, but hopping back on the timeline to just about when the first 911 made its appearance and ensured decades of bad jokes about the engine being in the wrong spot, we arrive at the shadowy black tub of Werner’s 1965 356C. To me, this is a car that can immediately change personas depending on the color; bright and colorful 356s look like puppies in car form, while examples like this one somehow render the Porsche’s bubbly curves as menacing and reminiscent of the first VW Beetle split-windows, which I find to be scary little things despite the fact that they later came equipped with adorable flower holders inside the otherwise no-frills interior. Though already closer to 100 years old than zero, Werner is this car’s second owner, having found it in a garage in Anaheim where it’d sat for some three decades of hibernation.
Though he also owns a 996 Porsche and 1991 Mercedes 300TE, the last car of Werner’s we photographed for this article was his 1987 Mercedes 560SL. Of all the Sport Leichtbaus (yeah right, a true lightweight), the R107 generation is the most imposing and quintessentially German-looking of the lot, as the Gullwing doesn’t really fit with the line spawned from its creation. This car however, with its squared and potent haunches, removable pagoda roof, and range-topping 5.6L under that expansive hood, epitomizes not just luxurious ’80s GT design, but is also a staple of Mercedes’ heritage, marking a transition of sorts between the more old-school and new-school of Mercedes design.
Werner’s collection is clearly one that’s had some thought put into its constituents then, and it should be no surprise then that it’s been a long time coming. Having owned almost a dozen Porsches between him and his wife, Werner’s been feeling the pull of Porsche and Mercedes since his childhood in 1970s SoCal spent longing for the cars he would see around Laguna Beach. Fascinated more by the ideas of the cars’ engineering and their packaged blend of mechanicals and sculptural bodies than with getting underneath one, Werner’s goal was to eventually own one of these machines, and looking at the results of that dream so many years later, I think it’s safe to call him an overachiever.