The summer was approaching, so 3 friends of mine and I rented a house in Westhampton Beach for the summer. Now we needed wheels so we could get out there on weekends. So the four of us walked into the Porsche dealership and each of us bought a car that day. I got a brown 1977 911S Targa with a tan interior. By this time pollution control systems had started to eat up the horsepower of all cars. It still felt fast, although in my memory the 356 B that Tommy drove to Spain every summer was faster.
This was my first brand new car since I left the military, and I loved everything about it. I loved the smell of newness. I was later told that the new car smell is the glue in the car and probably carcinogenic. Go figure.
The drives to the beach every weekend were no big deal. Heavy traffic on the Thruway, no place to really drive. Targa top down, sun on my head, music blasting away. Life was still good.
After the summer we moved out of Manhattan and found a house in New Jersey. My two requirements were, to have trees around me, and to be as close as possible to Lower Manhattan, where I worked.
One day my friend Alex Miller asked to come out to spend the weekend with us, and I drove into Manhattan to pick him and his wife Roberta up. After crossing the GW Bridge, we got on the Palisades Parkway North and it started to drizzle. The exit was a right turn with a decreasing radius curve. I was going too fast, and I did a 360 in less time than it took me to write this. Fortunately I stayed on the road. I could have dropped 200 feet to the river below.
The speed of the spin scared me more than the spin. In an instant, we spun like an ice skater. I realised I needed to learn to drive a car, where the engine was hanging out behind the rear wheels. I’d heard of the dangers of rear engined cars, but you have to experience the speed to believe it.
The following week I started looking for driving schools nearby. I found Skip Barber Racing School in Lime Rock, CT. The two day course was perfect for me then. However, It really didn’t teach me about driving with the engine hanging behind the rear axle. It taught me that I was not as good a driver as I’d thought, and I better not drive fast in wet conditions.
One weekend we had lunch with a prospective client of mine at the Cremaillere Restaurant in Banksville, NY. He was a well known South American banker I’d been chasing for some time. He had his retinue with him, composed of assistants, a girlfriend, security etc. I think there were about 8 of us in total at the table. At lunch the banker ordered a magnum of Petrus, and yet another one before desert.
I really thought that because he had asked me to lunch at my favorite restaurant, that I was going to be able to close him this weekend, and I was going to do my utmost to get him as a client. I decided to make a gesture and paid the bill for lunch when I went to the restroom. The bill was $1,300. I was flabbergasted. Most of it was the wine.
It was late and the sun had set when we left The Cremaillere. While in the parking lot of the restaurant, my wife asked him if he wanted to come to our house for drinks and coffee. He agreed and told his staff to go home, that he was going to go in the back seat of my Porsche (all 275 lbs of him), with his girlfriend, and that his driver should follow us in the Lincoln Continental he had. He also told his driver, that if he lost us, he was fired. I took this as a challenge and took off like a bat-out-of-hell. The Lincoln kept up with us as well as he could, catching us at the toll gates. I kept my eye on the Lincoln as I didn’t want the driver fired, and noticing that my banker was squirming and locking lips in the back seat. I didn’t think it was possible you could do what he was trying to do. At one point he tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to squeeze my seat a bit further as his foot was stuck and he couldn’t move. I was already at the forward detent, and I could barely drive because I’m 6’2″ and couldn’t move my left foot to press the clutch to shift.
Eventually we reached the house and gingerly extracted everybody from the back seat of the Porsche. After tucking clothes back in, we all entered the house, while his driver went to sleep in the Lincoln. We drank espressos and Sambuca in the living room all night, till we started breaking my wife’s Baccarat crystal we had received for a wedding gift. Seems that trying to burn off the alcohol in the glass, while sliding your finger over the rims to create a strange haunting sound without getting burned, is not a good idea. It seemed like a good idea at the time, till my wife put a stop to this all and sent everybody home and me to bed.
I never got him as a client. I heard through the grapevine that his wife discovered his shenanigans during his New York trips and put a stop to his galavanting. It took me many months to pay off that credit card for the meal at Cremaillere.
One day I noticed that plastic cover of the air intake was melting over the engine. Took it in for service and in a couple of days I had it back. Other than that, the Porsche’s were indestructible.
That autumn I had another near miss in the 911. One of the most beautiful things to do is to drive in the countryside to see the changing of the leaves. The problem there, is that falling leaves on the roads make for very slippery conditions. Another spin out scared me a great deal. This time I decided to sell the 911 and get something that wasn’t going to kill me.
So I put the Porsche up for sale and eventually got a bite from a guy who owned a series of Hi-Fi stores in Massachusetts. He didn’t want to give me what I asked for so we wound up making a deal that I was later to regret. He would give me his offer plus a 30% discount on all the stereo equipment I wanted over the next 12 months. Thinking that I was going to make a great deal, I accepted, dreaming of a brand new music system in my house. The problem was that I couldn’t afford the 70% I needed to upgrade my Hi-Fi at the time. When the 12 months passed and I asked him for a discount on some stuff I wanted, he told me the time had lapsed.