Porsche Feast

“A PORSCHE PRESS FUNCTION IS A TWO-DAY, HIGH-SPEED DRIVE PROGRAM ON ROADS WHICH SHOW OFF THE CARS’ MOTORING STYLE TO THE VERY BEST ADVANTAGE.” NO WONDER AN INVITE TO A PORSCHE EVENT WAS, “THE MOST SOUGHT-AFTER INVITATION IN MOTORING JOURNALISM”, AS MY INTRODUCTION TO PORSCHE FEAST, MAY 1986, EXPLAINS IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH.

PETER ROBINSON’S

Classic Wheels EPIC TALES FROM OUR ARCHIVES

In 1984, when I remained banned by Porsche after strident criticism of the early 924 and a 1978 911 SC, Phil Scott contributed ‘The Stuttgart Squadron’ for the March issue. Two years later, the format for Porsche’s ’86 model release remained unchanged: a two-day blat on Victoria’s best roads in a selection of the latest models, all now tuned to run on unleaded fuel: 944, 944 Turbo, 928S (in manual and, the preferred, automatic forms), and 911 Carrera.

Re-reading my story, it’s obvious my favourite was the 944 Turbo: “…a real sports car: nimble, stunningly quick and yet with levels of true refinement that surpasses the bigger 928 model. It is surely the first Porsche that can challenge the immortal 911 in driver appeal, though there will still be those who find the Turbo so well balanced, so marvellously precise and with a poise that the 911 can never hope to approach. Less exciting than the rear-engine model, [but] that it is a better car in any objective judgement is clear.”

I came away from driving the Porsches, “delighted that one company can produce three cars with such different characteristics…[each] totally dedicated to driving. It is simply that the means of achieving this end are so very different.”

As for the 911, the subject of much previous criticism, I wrote, “…the 911 remains immune to objective judgement and there seems no reason to doubt Alan Hamilton when he says he believes it will still be in the Porsche range, in one form or another, in 10 years’ time.”

Thirty-two years later, with the 911 selling in record numbers, it would seem there is no such thing as an expiry date for Porsche’s iconic sports car.

“Climb in behind the wheel and you will wonder if you’re not sitting in some kind of museum in a time warp which has taken you back at least 20 years.” Strange how perceptions change. The narrowness of the cabin and the startling closeness of the near vertical windscreen are two of the things (along with the glorious, ripping rise and fall of the engine note) I miss most whenever I drive a modern, so much bigger and more GT-ish, 911. What I don’t miss are the offset pedals that protruded from the floor and the over-centre feel of the clutch that made driving in heavy traffic so awkward.

Nobody would dare plan such a press launch on Victorian roads in 2018.

“THE 944 TURBO IS SO WELL BALANCED, SO MARVELLOUSLY PRECISE AND WITH A POISE THAT THE 911 CAN NEVER HOPE TO APPROACH”

Didn’t build it, but they came anyway

Alan Hamilton, who took over Australian Porsche distribution from his father in 1972, knew how to dream. In the mid-1980s, facing a reality of lower speed limits and increasing police presence, Hamilton decided to build his own hill climb for his friends (ie customers). From this grew the idea of Porsche Park, on a 1240ha property near Tallarook, 80km north of Melbourne. On its rolling hills, Hamilton planned a 4.1km circuit, constructed to world championship standards with a 1.6km-long straight “so they can really see how fast their cars will go.” Ultimately he also wanted motel-style accommodation, a 1.4km hill climb, a 210-metre skid pan, and even a vineyard.

Hamilton was years ahead of the world: the idea has since been copied in Europe, Asia and America and even (in condensed form) close to Sydney. Sadly Hamilton’s planned expansion into other marques meant the company was caught out in the early-1990s recession and distribution passed – and with it the idea of Porsche Park – to the factory in 1992.

ALSO IN WHEELS, May 1986

Rover jumps into bed with Honda and slaps 416i badges on the Integra, creating the best ‘Rover’ in years; we compare the VB Commodore with the (then-current) VL to determine just how far the Aussie staple has come in seven and a half years; Micmac is roused by the inline six and competent chassis of the Toyota Supra, but he declares the transition to unleaded petrol has taken the JD Camira from slingshot to slug, needing nearly 19 seconds for the standing 400m.

READ THIS STORY AND HEAPS MORE CLASSICS AT wheelsmag.com.au/classic

THE WAY IT WAS

The final frontier

The US space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after takeoff, killing all seven on board. The cause is later traced to an O-ring on the rocket booster which failed due to cold temps.

Big bang reality

The nuclear power station in Chernobyl, Ukraine ruptures, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and spreading radioactive contamination as far as Finland and Sweden.

Turner’s got game

Fed up with Olympic boycotts degrading the ratings, US media mogul Ted Turner creates his own event: the Goodwill Games. They run every four years until finally fizzling out in ’01 after being held in Brisbane.