Adriatic Blue Perfection
Adriatic Blue Perfection
Written by Sean Smith
Photos by Sean Smith
Stephen Grisanti grew up in an apartment in Mt. Vernon, NY. At the time, his experience with cars was limited to joyfully washing and waxing his dad’s Cadillac. He did a really good job. His dad got a kick out of young Stephen sliding off the highly Armoralled seats. Stephen’s first transportation was his much-loved white “Ross Professional” bicycle, which shone just as brightly as his daddy’s Caddy. It was immaculate: saddle, handlebars, right down to the spokes, it was antiseptic. Because it rode better when it was clean.
Mt. Vernon, NY was not a hotbed of car culture, so Stephen had never heard the word Porsche, let alone seen one. One day he was out and about with his brother, when before his eyes there suddenly appeared a brand new 1973 Ravenna green 914—a lime green smack upside the head! Instant love… no, lust… at first sight. Stephen doesn’t remember what he said, but his brother let him know that the object of his affection belonged to Pete, a good friend of his. Stephen immediately wanted to know. Can he take me for a ride…? WILL he take me for a ride?
Soon afterwards, Stephen got his ride. Pete saw how much his friend’s brother was in love, so he got an open invitation to ride along. Stephen reveled in that new car smell. The memory of the car stayed with him. The time finally came and Stephen got his license; he was ready for his first car. It had to be a 914. His family didn’t have the money to get him a car, but that didn’t matter. Stephen’s work ethic is very hard to match. He’d worked since he was 8 years old, buying and paying for all his drum lessons on his own. He had a paper route, worked in a health store, a bank. He was forever hustling.
A good buddy of Stephen’s told him his uncle had a 914, so off he went with his dad in tow to have a look at this mythical machine. It was under a tarp. When the cover was removed there indeed sat a forest green 914. The father and son opened the doors to find it filled with cobwebs and smelling of mildew, and the motor didn’t turn over. Dad said “You’re not buying this car! These foreign cars are no good, you have to get yourself something American!” No sale. His dad felt Stephen would soon get over this silly obsession. It didn’t happen. Stephen went into the army at 17; when he finished with that part of his life, his buddies took him out for a mustering-out party in San Antonio Texas. One of the stops was at a Porsche dealership. What was he drawn to? A Viper green 914, up on a carousel. He grabbed a brochure and headed home. The feeling was still there.
Back home, back to work. Stephen worked at several different jobs, no Porsche yet, but he kept the air-cooled vibe going with some Beetles and Ghias. Then in April 1984 he opened the business he was born to create, Classic Shine—the first detailing shop in Greenwich, CT. Big collectors such as Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, and Malcolm Pray Jr. were his clientele. Classic Shine also took care of Pray’s dealerships, as well as Miller Motorcar. Things were humming along. Stephen was in his customer’s high-end exotics everyday, so he didn’t have the time or the thirst to have one for himself. Getting so up-close-and-personal with detailing and delivering the blindingly clean cars back to their homes, Stephen really got to appreciate the quality of the Porsche marque.
Finally Stephen just had to have one of his very own. He put the word out that he wanted a 914-6 project car. He got a call from a man in Hilton Head, SC, who was the original owner of one of these dream cars. The deal was made, and the 914-6 was trucked north. Alas, when it arrived, it wasn’t a dream—it was a nightmare. Sucking it up, Stephen started in on the restoration. Along the way he got himself a red 964; from there he moved to a 1986 930 Turbo. The 914-6 was still in parts in the basement. Later an internet ad caught his eye: an absolutely perfect matching numbers 1968 golden green Mark Allen restored 912 was available at the newly opened Exotic Classics in Syosset, N.Y. Stephen grabbed his young daughter and they headed off to Long Island to have a look. Upon arrival, everything was perfect. The showroom was beautiful, the cars were beautiful, everything was shiny and clean, clean, CLEAN. There was one big problem. Sitting next to the perfect matching numbers super clean 912 was a perfect matching numbers super clean 914-6! What to do? He went home and talked to his wife Brigitte. He showed her pictures of the blue 914-6. Remember, his 914-6 was completely apart in boxes. She told him “If anyone deserves a 914-6 it’s you. If you love it that much you should get it.” Then he showed her pictures of the 912. Brigitte then uttered the words that any Porsche owner would give part of their reproductive organs to hear their spouse say… “Is there any way we can do both?”
A deal was done. The 930 went to Exotic Classics and the 914-6 and the 912 (another story, for another day) found new homes in the spotless garage Grisanti. Naturally, with this perfect 914 sitting in the garage, Stephen totally lost the drive to complete his project car. A lot of money was already tied up in the car. Everything that had been taken off the project car was restored, replaced, or rebuilt, methodically cataloged, and packed in zip-lock bags. Grisanti was told, “No way will you be able to sell it in this condition!” But a buyer emerged and off it went to a good home in Germany.
The 914 is a very polarizing design. It’s pretty much love it or hate it. It would probably never be called pretty, it’s more handsome. But when Porsche took their under-loved four-cylinder 80-horsepower 914 and stuck its big brother’s 110 horsepower 6-cylinder engine in front of its rear wheels, they created something special. It wasn’t the most fire-breathing of sixes (it was standard in the 911T,) but it moves the 914 chassis along quite nicely, and with no widow-maker, snap oversteer you can charge hard into turns and not worry if you lift off the throttle a bit. Chances are that the 2,070 pound 914-6 is the most neutral six-cylinder Porsche from that time. The howl of an early air-cooled motor, plus great handling, plus a challenging road—added up—equals a hell of a lot of fun.
And after it returns to the garage, Stephen will make absolutely sure that it will be as dazzling clean as when it left.