Chances are if you’re reading this you know someone who owns a classic Porsche. Maybe it’s a 356 or a 911. Heck, even a 914 will do – so long as the motor is air-cooled and behind the driver.
Just recently I had a conversation with an owner who said that showing his Porsche at American hot rod shows brings with it great character building opportunities and equally huge ego-deflating challenges. Being the curious type, I spent some time investigating the minefield of things that can blow up in your face when approaching someone so emotionally charged and passionate about old Porsches.
Here’s a hot button list of four off-limit things NEVER to say to one of these people:
1) “Your Porsche is just a glorified Volkswagen.”
Whatever you do, do NOT under any circumstances utter these words. I don’t care if you have to sit on your lip – you are better off keeping your trap shut. At best, you will receive a scowl worthy of Clint Eastwood. At worst, you will be visiting your dentist. Even if Ferdinand Porsche did design the first Volkswagen Bug, and even if the first Porsche 356 was (ahem) oddly reminiscent of said lowly VW, do not make such a crude remark to someone who takes such great pride in their “Excellence Was Expected” krautwagen. Instead, say something nice like, “It must make an owner awfully proud to have such a fine piece of German machinery.”
2) “Aren’t these cars unsafe to drive?”
Oh boy… Ralph Nader must have made quite an impression on you if you actually speak these words. Let me give you the real scoop. Owners of Porsches with their engines in the back are happy to tell you their cars have the advantage of more weight over the driven tires for better traction. Of course, what they won’t tell you is when their precious Porsches start to oversteer themselves backwards off the road, the driver is supposed to step on the gas pedal. Imagine doing exactly what every nerve cell in your body is screaming at you not to do! It’s insane!!
Nevertheless… Now bear with me here, as I hope you are seeing a pattern. These owners require all the empathy you can give them. And no matter how ridiculous their attempts at overcoming the laws of physics may appear, they need your help. Serious help. Better to coddle them a bit and say something really crazy like, “I’ll bet piloting an early 911 separates those who can drive from those who cannot.”
3) “You’ve got HOW MUCH time and money invested in your Porsche?”
Please. If you’ve learned anything from these first two points, do not question the rationality of a mind obsessed with achieving perfection. Try to understand the convolutions these guys go through to justify their pursuit. It’s never going to make sense anyway, so just admire the perfect $20,000 paint job that separates their car from the ones that get actually driven. And make an effort to say something cordial like, “I’ve never seen a more beautiful car.” You’ll go home knowing that you made somebody’s day.
4) “What’s with the movie Le Mans anyway? I don’t get it.”
Here’s a tip. The late Steve McQueen with his dashing good looks and great taste in all things Porsche is the hero to these enthusiasts. To them, he displayed the risk-taking bravado and cool demeanor they find lacking in their ordinary lives. To diss McQueen and the racing film he made is sacrilegious to the Porsche faithful. Yes, the movie has no real plot. Yes, the leading lady never even kisses McQueen. Yes, your wife will probably get up and walk away if she starts watching this film with you. But think of it this way: Without this film to view repeatedly, what would all these Porsche dudes do with their spare time when they are not out working in the garage or posting on the Internet? Try stretching the truth and announce, “I’ve seen Le Mans a dozen times, and I’ve never grown tired of it.” That should do the trick.
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