From Zuffenhausen to Monterey. 2500 miles IN a porsche 906
No kidding: no other group of people is so obsessed with the Swabian sports car creations than the Californians. The man originally responsible for Porsche‘s success story along the Pacific coast incidentally was an Austrian: Johnny von Neumann. With his company Competition Motors, he persuaded the southern Californians at the beginning of the 1950s that the cars designed by Ferry Porsche were a force to be reckoned with. Many of the Hollywood stars of the day also began to take note of the sports car with the spartan interior that was ideally suited to the Californian lifestyle. One of the first and at the same time most famous Porsche drivers on the Pacific coast was James Dean, who hardly ever missed the opportunity to enter a race with his Porsche 356 1500 Super Speedster and who in 1955 purchased his ”Little Bastard“ as he affectionately called the Porsche 550 Spyder, with which he was subsequently to have his fatal accident that same year. Despite the tragedy of those early years, California, the US state with the most fascinating, exciting and versatile roads you are ever likely to come across, ultimately developed into the marque’s biggest market in the US.
The fascination continues to this day: the full bearded 911 aficionado Magnus Walker is the man who introduced the classic Porsche philosophy to the young 20 year olds and, thanks to his Period Correct streetwear brand, you will now see cool teenagers on the hipster boulevard Abbot Kinney in Venice Beach proudly wearing T-shirts with ”Gmünd“ emblazoned all over them. And even German tongue twisters like “Fuchsfelge“ or “Ölklappe“ are now being spoken there without an accent. The biggest happening on the Californian Porsche scene is undoubtedly the “Rennsport Reunion“ – the most important gathering for all Porsche racing cars, which takes place once a year in Laguna Seca. On Pit Lane you will not only meet famous American “Porschistas“ like Jerry Seinfeld or Jay Leno, but also great European motorsport veterans: Jochen Mass, Jackie Ickx, Hans Herrmann, Derek Bell and Vic Elford. For our journey to the this time, we came up with a special idea: instead of arriving in comfort in a business jet and shuttlebus, this time we want to cover a large section of the journey under our own steam. From Stuttgart to Monterey on the Pacific coast – halfway around the world. But not with any old Porsche, but behind the wheel of a genuine Porsche 906 built-in 1966, an absolute motor racing icon!
The French racing driver Jean Clement once ordered a Carrera 6 to participate in a hillclimb race. To drive such a car with its sensitive magnesium engine off the racetrack sounds pretty crazy. But even into the 1970s, the 906 was in fact driven on the road – after all, it’s a Porsche. So, without much ado, we pick one up, freshly serviced, from the Porsche Museum and take off along the Autobahn to Frankfurt am Main, where a Lufthansa jet is waiting to take is to Los Angeles. Making sure a racing from the 1960s is airworthy is no mean feat. But the logistics experts from Lufthansa take the Carrera and disappear safely and surely with all their professional skills into the belly of the jumbo jet. German engineering meets German efficiency you could say. We experience the Californian version 12 hours later after landing at LAX, where our racing car veteran actually remains hidden away for two full days in the catacombs of customs clearance. Two days, which we sorely miss for our photo shooting sessions – and encourage us to do our utmost to catch up on lost time. Finally, the Porsche is released from customs and we roar off along empty boulevards, under black silhouettes of palm trees outlined against the milky night sky on our way to downtown LA.
Early next morning, the alarm goes off – and then we’re travelling at the start of our tour along Highway Number 1 to Monterey. The sun is burning down out of a blue California sky and our sparsely ventilated Porsche soon earns itself the nickname ”roasting bag“. This is made up for by the reactions of the other car drivers, who simply flip out when they see us overtaking them on the highway and cheer us on at every filling station. We have never ever experienced anything quite like the kind of enthusiasm we saw on the roads in California. We finally arrive at the Laguna Seca Raceway and immediately find ourselves in a free practice session, following the ideal line through the legendary corkscrew curves behind a Porsche 917. We`ve made it: on our own, without a mechanic and just one second set of tyres on board, all the way to California – to the Rennsport Reunion, the “hallowed ground” for Porsche enthusiasts!
Jan Baedeker • Fotos: Stefan Bogner & Victor Jon Goico