Friday, January 22, 2010

Porsche & Me: A Comedy In Ambiguous Parts

So I posted about BMW, then Mercedes, and now it's time for Porsche. Where do I start with you Porsche?

The 911 Classic (Above) and Current (Below)

Not named after a day in 2001, rather, the 911 is one of the most divisive cars in history - but love it or hate it, this car has staying power. First introduced in 1963, the 911 was the sporty version of the Beetle, sort of. (Audi TT anybody?) Designed on the same principles as the Porsche designed Beetle, (I'll get to you later VW) it was intended to replace the hideous Porsche 356 (Below), which was Porsche's first production car. The 356 was a rear-engined car as well - merely to free up space for more seats and save money. So you could say the storied 911 really began in 1948, with the 356 starting production.

Ferdinand Porsche: there are two of them. The elder is a god, I am convinced: he designed the world's first hybrid in 1901 AND the Volkswagen Beetle AND got thrown in jail as a war-criminal. While he was in jail his son took over. The elder Porsche died in 1951. He received a check for every Beetle sold, that's how his son got the money to do the things he has done. So Ferry (the son) had his daddy to look over his shoulder until 1951. Then he was on his own and didn't really do much (besides winning a Formula 1 race in 1962 and class at Le Mans in 1951) until he designed the 911.

It's gone through different bodies. Early on, it was about the only car Porsche sold and today many people, including me, wish it still was the only car they sold. And since I have been asked before, the 930 is the body to get, made from 1975-1989 (above). Porsche's generally look hideous though: the 944 and 928 look like cheap Mazda RX7 knockoffs, while the 968 like a rich-man's Mazda Miata; the Panamerica goes beyond looking like a used bar of soap to looking like stool; the Cayenne is just terrible and the Roxster is worse; the Panamericana looks cheap and trashy, or like a dune-buggy; the Carrera GT looks like a 911 spit out by a car designer who started out making it a low-riding hot-rod, then got confused, terribly confused. So has every Porsche except for the 911 been a terrible thing?

Yes and no. The 911, as a car, is a beautiful example of the German mind: revision after revision after revision after revision after revision after revision to get a bad idea to work, just so you can say you did it. It has become spectacular. It earns its place as the go-to supercar for the nouveau-rich. But the 959 (above), now there was a car. There were only 337 made but dear God, please can I have one of those in my lifetime? They were designed for Le Mans, then transferred to Dakar and replaced at Le Mans. In 1985 the three 959s went to Dakar and DNF. In 1986 they took 1-2. From a standing start the car will cover a kilometer in 21.6 seconds. And of course it has a twin, the 961 (below): the one Porsche did take to Le Mans. In 1986 Porsche took places 1-7 at the 24 hours, with the 961 in 7th place, 3 laps ahead of the nearest car, and 22 laps ahead of the only other non-Group C car to finish in the running. The 961 was a GTX car, and it beat 11 Group C racers, the biggest, baddest cars Le Mans has ever seen. The next year it didn't finish. That, that was a car. But in the end it was just a modified 911.

However, the 959/961 led to the 911 GT1, which was Porsche's most beautiful car since the 60s:

And it was completely impractical on the road. But when it looks that good, who cares?

Speaking of Porsche race cars, they all pretty much rock: the amazing 550 which just looks good from every single angle (above); the 787 F2 car; the beautiful 904, 906, 907, and 908 with the longtail body-kit; the 910 hill-climber; the 914-6 GT with its tiny engine; the 917 and 936 Le Mans runners; the 934 and 935 911 race cars; the 953 predecessor to the 959; and then of course the legendary Group C cars the 956 and 962 (962 Below); then more recent cars like the seemingly accidentally brilliant WSC-95, which won Le Mans twice, the uber-dominating LMP2 RS Spyder, and the secretive LMP project that never raced. There is only one or two Porsche race cars that I do not like. Too bad they only have one good road car, and two good extensions of it. I wish I could get in on some of the beauty and fun of the race cars. And even if you do get that one good road car, you look like a cad driving it. Whether you pronounce it "poor-chuh" or "poor-shh," the brand is a well known car-maker for no reason other than their penchant for winning races and their "Cheapest Supercar" status - oh, and Jeremy Clarkson sticking a lit pipe in his mouth backwards.

Here's a link JR found for some gorgeous posters from the height of Porsche beauty. And some examples. And no, I don't even want to talk about the Tapiro. If you drive a Porsche you look like this guy:

And one last thing, a terrible confession of sorts. I want a Porsche 928 in Gold. I know. It probably invalidates the entire post. They are terrible, but they terribly move me deeply to lust. I know I shouldn't, and I know the color is just strange, but I want it and it's called the Weissach Edition (1982):

Monday, January 18, 2010

Appropriateness Of Story

Can I tell a story not my own? The Politically Correct Post-Modern era seems to imply that I need to stay within my cultural bounds and out of other people's. But can I tell anything but another's story? My story is, of course, mundane to me because it is I who lived it. There is a pronounced duality between that and my love of hearing other people tell my story. But this era tells me to keep my nose out of other people's business while progressively taking away my privacy. This is the era of contradiction for the sake of not offending somebody. But by attempting to remain vanilla, we offend ourself, our basic nature as humans – we ignore our desires for individuality, recognition, and the observed truths of our lives in favor of a PC existence that avoids confrontation. Confrontation is good – it is the only way I learn. Like iron sharpens iron, so me arguing another becomes. Stereotypes come from somewhere and they are not the whole story. Must that be a contradiction? Do we have to completely deny stereotypes to tell the whole story, or must we ignore the story to tell the stereotypes? It seems writer's these days think so. I must tell another's story, because that is what is fresh to me, that is what is puzzling, and that is what is worthy of illumination in my own mind. And explaining the stereotypes are one way to get there. If you want to read it, feel free, but I intend to offend. It seems that on the one hand, without experiencing it I cannot fully communicate it, but on the other, I can explore it more, push its boundaries; by looking from the outside I see things those on the inside miss. But this does not deny needing a base understanding to work from. Research is key, but can overpower too easily. Dichotomies do not exist. It is how we work things together where the genius lies, where the making is.

Part 2: After talking to Matthew, of Matt's Motoblag, we came to a broader consensus concerning these brief thoughts. We related this back to War Stories, using the Historian to illuminate the quintessential person telling another's story.

1. There is a consistency of quality of the person telling their own story. Though it is often not great. Stories like We Were Soldier's Once, and Young are good, but the amatuer author falls into cliches too often. This is forgivable because we imagine the experience would start to define the cliche for the experienced, but it still saps potential power from the story for the reader.

2. The consistency of quality for the other telling a story is much more diverse, though there is a greater possibility for it being better. It could be better because: the writer is a writer, and as such, can write; the writer is outside of the situation, so is more likely to be writing only because the story interests them, which could make their writing more exciting all around, and usually leads to a broader depth of knowledge from research (Richard Rhodes is an amazing historian). But it could be worse, and often is, because the writer does not understand the minds of the experienced and, further, may just be trying to cash in on a passing fad, which generally turns out terribly.

3. For the writer telling another's story, the research base must be broad, but too much research can overwhelm a story.

Thanks Matt!