Porsche Parade , Christophorus (The Porsche Magazine), October/November 2007
It's another warm, almost cloudless day in the seaside city of San Diego, California, and while surveying a grassy hill adorned with hundreds of glistening Porsches-everything from early production vehicles to thoroughbred race cars-Toronto-based stockbroker Botho von Bose says matter of factly, "I don't want a garage queen, I want a car I can drive."
The German-born enthusiast isn't kidding; he drove his 2006 911 Club Coupe-one of fifty cars built to honor the 50th anniversary of the Porsche Club of America (PCA)-2,605 miles for this year's annual Porsche Parade. Despite an odometer reading of over 14,000 miles, his 911 is hardly worse for wear, as he has fastidiously removed evidence of his journey to prepare for the probing white-gloved fingers of the judges. It's a ritual he has practiced for 21 consecutive years, beginning with his pilgrimage in a 1986 911 Carrera Cabriolet to his first Porsche Parade in Dallas, Texas.
Among the nearly 2,000 PCA members, spouses, and family who have gathered at the 2007 Parade, that level of unfailing dedication is not unusual. In fact, it's typical.
Consider, for instance, Mike Robbins of Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1958 he traded in his Jaguar XK 140 coupe for a brand new Porsche Speedster, and the following year he indulged in his first (and the event's fourth ever) Porsche Parade in Wisconsin. So addictive was the camaraderie and competitiveness of the event that 2007 is his 49th consecutive Parade. His original, black 1958 Speedster has been a constant companion, accompanying him to 45 of his 49 Parades. In addition to the awards and trophies accumulated over the years, the car's odometer reading of over 516,000 miles speaks volumes of the pleasure he gleans from seeing the world through his Porsche's windshield. "It's just too hard to describe in words," he says of the experience of driving to Porsche Parades. "It's just a feeling you have that this is heaven." And though recent heart surgery prevented him from driving his Speedster to the 2007 event, Robbins' presence is a testimony to his dedication to the Porsche Club community.
Mr. von Bose and Mr. Robbins exemplify what happens when a love of Porsches transcends the mere mechanical, and becomes a part of a larger lifestyle reinforced by the Porsche Club of America. What is it about the event that keeps them coming back for more? "It's one big family," explains von Bose, who describes a feeling of continuity that encompasses the festivities. "You don't see somebody for a year, then you bump into them at the next Parade and it's as if you were just talking to them yesterday." Robbins also sites the human element of the equation. "It's the people that keep me coming back. I've made so many friends through the Porsche Club from all over the country and Europe, meeting them again at the Parade is just so enjoyable." More than just a car show, the week's events include a black tie dinner, a beach party, and a rally, among others.
And yet, the cars anchor the experience. "It's a very unique feeling being in the middle of hundreds of Porsches," Robbins elaborates. "It's almost sort of a spiritual thing." Unlike von Bose, Robbins' tastes gravitate towards the air-cooled, four-cylinder variety, and over the years he has owned several 356s, a couple of 912s, and a 904 race car. Even when he needed a low-key car for commuting, he transplanted Porsche engines into a series of mid-1960s Volkswagen Beetles. "I would amaze people because I could go a lot faster than regular Beetles," Robbins recalls.
Von Bose's automotive tastes, on the other hand, favor modern refinements, and he has driven a number of late model Porsches several thousand miles to the Parade. When he competed for the first time in 1987, PCA did not have a touring class in the Concours, and focused instead on collector cars that rarely ventured outside of their hermetically sealed existences. "When I drove to Dallas," he remembers, "I went through a rainstorm and was unable to clean the undercarriage before the event. Obviously, I was not liked by the judges." A change in rules has since welcomed owners who enjoy driving their cars, and this year's Parade saw Concours participants from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska.
While the Restoration class rewards the perfection of authenticity, the Preservation class was created to balance the condition of the car against its originality. National Procedures Committee Chair Phillip Doty explains, "We decided we needed to encourage more owners with beautiful cars to bring them to the field, and not be turned off by ultra cleanliness and authenticity." "Concours is probably the most visible part of the Parade," adds head judge Gerry Curts.
By late afternoon Mr. von Bose's 911 Club Coupe is announced as a class winner, which puts a smile on his face and a trophy in his hand. What is the next thing he'll do with his pristinely prepared Porsche? Hit the Autocross and single-handedly undo his painstaking efforts for the Concours, enjoy the week's events, and eventually head back to Toronto. After all, Mr. von Bose explains with a smile, "Porsches are meant to be driven."