Long Haul Porsche
Some people buy Porsches for their performance and some for prestige. Some buy Porsches as investments. And some people just drive them.
John Hudson is one of those who flat-out drives his Porsches. Two models share garage space in his Nashville, Tennessee, home: a 2001 911 Carrera and a 1987 911 Carrera. The 2001 Carrera shows 200,000 miles on the odometer and the 1987 Carrera shows 277,000. “I drive Porsches everywhere. I travel in them and I go to the grocery store in them,” he says in a deep voice with just a hint of Georgia sweetness indicative of his Atlanta upbringing.
“I guess the longest trip I’ve made in a 911 was 11,000 miles,” he says. It was inspired by a 60s TV show called Route 66 about two guys traveling around the country in a Corvette. “When I graduated from the University of Georgia in 1964 I tried to get some of my fraternity brothers to go with me in my MGB where we could, you know, sleep on picnic tables and stuff like that,” he says. “Anyway, I got called to the Army and I reported for active duty about twenty days after I graduated, so the trip had to wait.”
But, he did get to drive a Porsche. “Before I went to Vietnam I drove a ’66 911 and decided I would buy one when I came back.” Back in the states and married, Hudson looked at a new 1969 911T. “I think the price on it was $5,500,” he says. “My wife thought that was outrageous and I didn’t get it.” It was 1971 before he bought his first Porsche—a used, Irish Green 1970 911E.
Four years later, Hudson traded up to a brand new, India Red 1976 911S. “I bought it for like $15,000, kept it for two-and-a-half years, and sold it for more money than I paid for it,” he says, adding, “I got a divorce at the time, so I needed some cash.”
After three months without a Porsche, Hudson bought a used, Sepia Brown 1973 911T. “It was a very good, quick-running car,” says Hudson, “especially after Jim Watson of Lewisburg, Tennessee, built an RS-spec engine for me. I started concoursing the car and I was really looking for a daily driver. That’s when I bought the ’87 Carrera.”
Hudson’s new 1987 Carrera came equipped with a sunroof, limited slip differential, sports shocks, electrically-adjustable sport seats, radio, air conditioning, and cruise control. It was a birthday present for myself,” he says. “The bank I worked for in Nashville had just been sold and all the executives’ stock options and bonuses matured. I had $50,000 in cash, so I went out and bought the car.”
The Carrera – the last version of the long-lived G-series 911s – had debuted in 1984. It was more powerful, more fuel efficient, and more comfortable than its predecessor, the 911SC. The 1987 version introduced the G50 transaxle and a hydraulically-actuated clutch. Its 3.2-liter engine made 217 bhp.
“The ’87 Carrera probably wasn’t quite as quick at the lighter ’73 911T with its RS-spec engine” says Hudson, “but it was a lot easier to drive. The Carrera’s G50 gearbox was more manageable, its hydraulic clutch was easier to push, and its engine always ran perfectly,” he says. “The electronic engine management system really worked well. It was just a good-running car.”
In 2001, Hudson bought a brand new 911 Carrera (996). “The 996 became my daily driver and the ’87 became my weekend fun car,” he says. He continued to enjoy the ’87 Carrera and in 2004 he decided the time was right to make that cross-country trip he had envisioned as a University of Georgia graduate back in 1964.
“My objective was to stay on two-lane roads as much as I could and see every car venue between Atlanta and California,” says Hudson. “My first stop was the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.” He passed through Denver on his way to the National Automobile Museum in Reno. He visited Yosemite on his way to Los Angeles where he spent four days checking out the Peterson Museum, the Hot Rod Museum, and the Nethercutt Collection. From LA he took the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1) to San Francisco, and continued all the way to Seattle to visit at friend.
Heading east, Hudson stopped at Yellowstone in Wyoming, then jogged north to the Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana. “I was in the cavalry in Vietnam,” he said, “so I wanted to go by and see the 7th Cavalry cemetery.” Leaving the Little Bighorn, Hudson used the Interstates for the first time to cut an 1,800-mile swath across the nation’s midsection on his way to Atlanta. After 40 days and 11,000 miles the car was due for some service. “I usually change the oil every 5,000 miles,” he said. “So, I changed it as soon as I got back.”
“The Carrera has only been serviced by three shops,” says Hudson. “Scobey Rogers took care of the car at the Nashville dealership and later at his own shop. A mechanic at Memphis Motor Werks serviced it for 11 years. And when I moved to Atlanta, Pat Collins at Northeast Foreign Car took over – and Pat still services the car,” says Hudson. “If he tells you that you need something, you need it. He’s not cheap and nobody gives a rat’s ass because they know he’ll do a good job.”
Hudson has always taken scrupulous care of the Carrera – mechanically and cosmetically – but he had never considered showing it. “It was a driver!” he says. But when a friend suggested they attend the multi-regional Georgia Rennfest in August 2014 he decided to enter the Carrera in Street Class where repaired stone chips and personal modifications wouldn’t incur any penalties. He tied for first place. Buoyed by success, Hudson entered the Carrera in the Tennessee Musik-Stadt Region Concours in June 2015, winning Street Class and the Dealer’s Choice award.
Going for broke, Hudson decided to compete at the 60th Porsche Parade in French Lick, Indiana in September – three months later. “I spent probably another 150 hours working on the car. I knew I’d be up against some stiff competition,” he said. “When I backed out of the garage to drive to French Lick the car had never been as clean and straight – everything was perfect. By the time I got out of Nashville it was a mess. And it rained all the way up there.”
In Appendix 1 of the Porsche Club of America Competition Rules it states, “Entrants in Touring and Street are encouraged to drive their Porsche to the Parade.” Unsaid, is that additional preparation may be required on site. Because of a swamped show field and continuing rain, the concours was held in a covered parking garage, which is where you would have found John Hudson down on his knees early Sunday morning, the day before the concours.
“The other cars in my class were almost perfect,” says Hudson. “The car next to me had been painted about a year before and there was an ’88 Cabriolet with 30,000 original miles on it,” he recalls. “So here’s mine with 274,000 at the time and his had 30,000. But I had a plan. I went through each panel and each area to make sure it was clean and correct,” he says. “I must have spent two hours on the wheels and tires alone. And I spent a lot of time cleaning the interior, making sure it was right. I started at 7:30 in the morning and finished at 10:30 at night with only one break for a sandwich.”
Hudson slept well that night never doubting his resolve. “I learned in the Army and in playing sports, you don’t quit. Never quit. I decided to go, I entered and, if I’d ended up in last place, at least I tried.”
The judges were on their game the next day. “One ran his hand along the panels of the car feeling for any dirt or imperfections. Another ran his hand around the sunroof and said, ‘You’ve got some wax residue on one little spot there.’ It was that kind of stuff.” But it wasn’t all critical. “One judge looked at me and said, “The wheels are perfect.”
In the end, Hudson’s Carrera took first place in Street Class. “I was really surprised,” says Hudson. “I beat the second place car by 1.1 points – which is not much,” he chuckles. “Like they say, you have to show up to win.”
After its short successful foray, Hudson is retiring the Carrera from concours competition, but he continues to drive it regularly. “I figure I’ve driven a 911 over 700,000 miles. And I’ve driven a Porsche as a daily driver since 1971,” he says. “So I’m a pretty committed customer.” He is, as the saying goes, in it for the long haul.
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