I grabbed my 1965 Leica M2 fitted with a vintage Canon 35mm F2 lens and burned a couple of rolls of film on my daily commute from West Hollywood into Downtown Los Angeles where the Craft + Tailored offices are located. I wanted to share my passion and the experience that comes from the immersive and unique experience of this car because in my opinion there is nothing in the world quite like driving an air-cooled Porsche 911. Each variant of an air-cooled 911 offers its own feel, sound, and experience and although to some they may all look the same the differences sometimes even between just one year of production is vast and varied. Regardless if it’s an early 911 or the most modern model when one drives past you regardless of your automotive knowledge you know that its a Porsche 911. Matter of fact you may not even need to see it, you can normally tell that it’s a 911 just by the distinctive sound the flat-six makes as it drives by.
Like most things in my life, including watches, style, and my overall perspective on taste, it always starts with an intense passion for wanting to know more. You could really sum this up as an obsession, matter of fact by most peoples standards I think it would be better defined as a sickness. I have always been this way, even when I was a kid, I always wanted to know more. When the small ember of interest enters my mind, it quickly grows into an uncontrollable fire. I become obsessed and deeply immersed into the origins, the roots, and the stuff that most people don’t even care about. For example, what is the paint make up of early 911’s, what did the correct enameled key fobs look like and where were they made, I even wanted to know why the color of the fiberglass used in the engines air duct varied by coloring over the years. My obsession or well er… I think my passion for these details, is at times by the average person’s standards is totally out of control – The good dudes over at 000 Magazine know what I’m talking about
Not to over-romanticize this but driving an early Porsche 911 is an experience that sticks with you, one that you think about subconsciously, and most importantly something that evokes an emotional response and feel that is unlike anything in this world. Before we get into the details, I want to thank someone who not only helped me with the acquisition of my 911 and who has also become a very close friend who’s name is Marco Gerace, Marco who owns and operates TLG Auto in Los Angeles works on vintage Porsche and has been in the Porsche world since he was born as his father Tony Gerace started TLG in 1978 in response to the impersonal experience offered by Porsche dealerships in the Los Angeles area which is very similar to the reason I began Craft & Tailored. In my profession as a vintage watch broker and collector, I find myself consistently in the advisory position with our customers by teaching them and by helping them understand the tiny little details of the watches they are looking to acquire and or invest in. Marco has become this for me in the Porsche realm and not only deals with my questions, texts, and phone calls. But Marco takes the time to help me go deeper into the details that I lose sleep over and obsess about consistently and continuously.
Those close to me will tell you I’m the guy who is running in 10 different directions and spinning just as many plates all at once. My 911 is the mistress of my mind, she doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than herself, and as soon as your attention sways away from her, she lets you know right away. The car has taken the nickname “Joelene” after the woman in the 1973 Dolly Parton song “Jolene” as the song is about a woman who’s after her man and captures his attention. When that key turns over, and the engine comes to life, the world around me becomes quiet, and I become intensely focused. There is nothing like driving an air-cooled Porsche 911, the experience is immersive, and much like the car itself, it’s distinctive and unique onto itself. The moment you think about anything other than driving that car shit happens, you clip a gear, you miss a downshift, you over or understeer. This car demands your full focus and attention at all times.
Everything about this car is analog. It’s a cable, belt, bolt, or spring that makes things work, not a computer chip or some form of software and you can feel that from the moment you open the door. When I walk up to the car, my attention immediately moves from the other things I am thinking about in my life and moves directly to the 911. The click and pop of the door to the distinctive musky smell of the cockpit, which can be described as a mixture of oil, fuel, and age are instantly intoxicating. The turn of the key that brings the flat six 2.7 K-Jetronic engine to life with its distinctive and iconic raspy whirly rumble. Immediately your attention and focus move into the car as you need to use the hand throttle to match the running rpms until the motor gets to running temp which requires a dance between the accelerator pedal and the hand throttle get things just right. The five-gauge cluster is simple yet refined. From the fonts of the VDO gauges, the rev counter being the center and largest of the five gauges, I even love the orange color of the needles that dance around as the car comes to life. The Quartz powered clock with lap timer is one of my favorite gauges. Yes, I am a watch nerd, but there is something about the analog nature of actually having a running clock in the car that is just so cool. See what I mean about this experience being immersive? Up to this point, we haven’t even begun driving the damn car yet, we have just gotten into the car and started the motor!
While driving, I always have at least one if not both of the hand crank windows open, regardless of the outside temperature. California and Los Angeles, in general, possess perfect Porsche weather, but I have driven this car through central California with an outside temp of 105 degrees dripping in sweat, and I have driven the car bundled up in the cold rain soaked windy and slippery coast of Carmel California. I have even driven the vehicle in the snow which is rare for California, but yes we do in fact get snow here. The car transforms and reacts differently from a physical perspective in each environment that the vehicle is driven in. When the motor is warmed up to optimum operating temp, and you are in the power band of each gear typically between 4.5k RPM something unusual happens, I don’t even know if I can fully explain it, the low-end noise of the flat-six engine changes. The note that emerges from the motor explains to me why guys like Steve McQueen loved the 911. The gear changes require your attention and a somewhat developed skill, in my opinion. The clutch and pressure plate in the early S cars are fucking heavy and no-nonsense, a smooth gear change is an art form in itself that is an acquired skill that takes some time to develop via smoothness in motion as well as proper rev matching and clutch release. The non assisted steering is direct and responsive, you tell the car where you want to go, and it goes there. I never really understood the term “riding on rails” until I drove my first 911, but I could probably thread a needle with this car which is often the metaphorical sense of things here in the LA traffic. I’m regularly and consistently impressed with how direct the vehicle is specially paired with cars breaking ability. It’s kind of insane if I’m honest, the car could no joke stop on a dime it’s so accurate.
What makes something an icon? This is something that I have found myself in the middle of chasing around the world for the past decade. To me, an icon is something that sets the standard for everything that came before it and after it. I have found myself being pulled towards what I am now understanding as to the cornerstones of design, art, people, watches, fashion.
Porsche in this era really understood what the golden ratio of feel meeting functional and direct design was all about. Im constantly finding myself impressed by the quality of this car. It’s insanely balanced and is a true interpretation of form meeting function in every feature of its design. I love the modern Porsche 911 991 but there is something so lackluster about a product leveraging a technology platform for its excellence. I have driven the 991 GT3 RS and it is an incredible car. You can slam through gears and corner effortlessly, but in the next 3-4 years Porsche will come up with something even better and then something even better. Don’t get me wrong I am a Porsche nerd through and through and I still get a little weak in the knees when the latest and greatest GT whatever 911 drives by… But there is a magic in the early air-cooled cars that you can’t replicate.
I was asked recently by someone why I love vintage so much… why I like “old” stuff… And I kind of laughed at the question. I literally spent the first half of my life immersed in technology and have built a company that sources and sells vintage watches via the internet and via social media, I do not hate on technology by any means here people. But it’s the smell, the feel, the vibe of the whole thing that I love so much. When I wind my watch in the morning, it makes me stop and think about where and what I’m doing. When I get into the 75 911s, it transports me to a different time and place. These things are mini time machines to me in a weird sort of way. I’m reminded of guys like Paul Newman, or Jo Siffert, or even McQueen who were the real deal guys who lived, guys who were icons themselves and paved their own paths in life and did it in style… That’s why I love this shit so much. It’s not for you or the guy next to me waiting at the light on Fairfax and Sunset Blvd. From the watch I wear, the boots on my feet to the car I drive its all for me… The tangible experience that comes from these things to me is priceless and keeps me in a place that makes me want to be a better human, a place that reminds me that I can pave my own path in this life, and in a place that reminds me that I need to seize every moment of every day that I have and to it with tact, class, and of course style…
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