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Akron or Bust – The Porsche 356 Registry East Coast Holiday

by | October 2016

“I don’t want to drive for eight hours on the freeway,” said a fellow 356er when I suggested driving our tubs to the 356 Registry East Coast Holiday in Akron, Ohio.

Sure, it’s more fun to ply the back roads in an old Porsche, but the half-century-old cars are not unsuited to highway travel. Modern freeway speeds aren’t a problem for an automobile designed in the country that invented the Autobahn and – thanks to clever drivetrain packaging – there’s room for a weekend’s worth of stuff behind the seats and in the trunk.

If Google says it’s eight hours from Nashville to Akron, it is eight hours, even if you cruise at 75-to-80 mph. One has to make pit stops along the way where there are always comments at the gas pump like, “Nice car. Awesome car,” from a couple of tattooed guys. Or, “Does it have a Volkswagen motor?” from a shirtless older guy in dungarees. And, “What kind of car is that?” from a little girl to her mom.

We enter Summit County in northern Ohio in the late afternoon. Ahead, dark clouds loom and soon we’re driving through heavy rain with the slender 11″ wiper blades swiping in an unhurried cadence. The tub tracks straight and true, and as one owner later reminds me, “They don’t melt.”

The morning Tech Session saw Brad Ripley, (left) and Chuck Stoddard telling tales and answering questions.

In the next morning’s Tech Session elder Porsche statesman Chuck Stoddard recounts the vagaries of selling Porsches in the 50s and dealing with importer Max Hoffman. “It was easy—it was his way or no way,” says Stoddard. Afterwards, we take a highway drive north to visit the famous Porsche parts house, Stoddard-NLA, which still bears his name.

After being awakened by heavy rain during the night, we rise to a perfect, partly cloudy, and breezy day. Another highway drive – south this time – takes us to the Glenmoor Country Club for the event highlight, the People’s Choice Concours.

George Kehler’s Turkish Red 1955 Continental Coupe is already in place at the head of a manicured lawn that partitions a long dual driveway. Gerald McCormick unloads his ex-John O’Steen 1957 Speedster and drives it to the far end of the lawn near the stately Glenmoor edifice. Gradually, the field fills with a hundred pretty 356s ranging from the unique steel-bodied 1953 America Roadster – recently acquired by collector Chip Perry, to Lee Schlabaugh’s “rusty red” (is that a color?) 1959 356A Coupe.

(Above) Brenda and Tom Moore wipe down their 1959 356A Cabriolet. “We’ve driven her to every 356 Holiday since our 2012 purchase,” they say. (Below) Mechanic Pat Collins (left) and owner Skip Perry with Perry’s Best of Show 1953 America Roadster.

There are originals with patina, perfect restorations, and cars with minor and major alterations. Cory Johnson displays his immaculate Ruby Red 1963 Carrera 2 Coupe and Harry Cooper shows a 911-powered 1962 Karmann Hardtop Outlaw that hints at Abarth Carrera with its sculpted rear fenders. Myron Vernis’ Porsche-powered 1953 Paxton one-off, designed by Brook Stevens, is the most unusual car on the field.

Upper left, Cory Johnson’s 1963 Carrera 2; upper right, Harry Cooper’s 911-powered 1962 Karmann Hardtop Outlaw; lower left, Myron Vernis’ 356-powered 1953 Paxton; lower right, Craig Renick’s 1953 Pre-A coupe was voted Top Outlaw.

The veterans show up for Registry Holidays no matter how far they have to drive; the under-fifty set filters in with new excitement and inherited appreciation. The Porsche owner/stewards change over time but the Porsches and the passion remain the same. May it always be so.

And the drive back home? It was with the wind at our backs and downhill all the way.

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