By Tom Iervolino
It is 2016 and NNJR-PCA is headed to its 60th Anniversary in 2017. As our historians Stu French and Bob Knapik continue to publish the very interesting and entertaining series of articles recalling our history and events, I thought it might be fun to research and write about what was going on in the world of Porsche and events 66 years ago. Thanks to PCNA for the interesting info and base material.
American automotive enthusiasts have been passionate about Porsche since the nimble German sports car first arrived on U.S. soil in 1950. As a testament to its immediate appeal, American demand ensured that over half of Porsche’s entire global production was allocated to the U.S. just a few years after its debut. Since then, America’s passion for Porsche has only grown. Along the way, “The Coolest Brand in America,” as Kelley Blue Book recently called it, has inspired the devotion of generations of drivers – and earned a recurring role in American culture.
While American automotive enthusiasts have always rallied around Porsche for its dominance on the world’s great race tracks, it is the brand’s multitude of American film appearances that helped establish the brand as an object of desire.
Movies like Risky Business certainly contributed. No other movie has ever captured the grueling trials a teenager is willing to endure to repair a beloved automobile as when Tom Cruise inadvertently deposited his father’s pristine 928 into Lake Michigan. Only a few years later, a 356A Speedster was the setting for one of the silver screen’s most romantic scenes, featuring Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. Porsche also accompanied more eclectic couples: Diane Keaton and Woody Allen drove her brother’s 911 in Annie Hall.
Other prominent Porsche movie moments included the opening scene of 2000’s Gone in 60 Seconds where a brand new 911 is stolen straight from the showroom floor and driven through a plate-glass window, only to shame another driver a moment later during a street race. On the slower side, even Reese Witherspoon had the good taste to drive a Boxster.
Porsche has also been celebrated in song. Despite the title of Janis Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz,” her friends did all drive Porsches. And, Joplin actually owned a 1965 356C Cabriolet that she had painted in ’60s psychedelic fashion. The car became quite famous in its own right and can still be seen on display at various art and auto museums throughout the country. Porsche also inspired Will Smith’s early hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” in which he tells the story of a teenager sneaking his parents’ Porsche out for the evening.
It was not long after its U.S. debut that Porsche design inspired the attention of the art world. In 1953, just three years after Porsche’s introduction to America, the Museum of Modern Art included a 1952 Porsche 1500 Super in one of its exhibits. Today, the Porsche Design subsidiary works with some of the leading brands in the world, influencing products such as high-performance ADIDAS running shoes. Another example is Tag Heuer, the respected high-end watch company, which produces several Porsche – inspired timepieces. And, with gaming now firmly entrenched in American culture, kids of all ages can race their virtual 911GT3 on Forza Motorsport 3, with the specially-designed Porsche steering wheel firmly in hand.
Fame has never been a prerequisite to Porsche ownership – but a genuine love for driving has. That is why Porsche has always created a special bond between owners, whether they are high-profile or everyday enthusiasts. Stars with a passion for the brand include the legendary Paul Newman, an active Porsche racer in the early 1970s, who also owned several models. In fact, Robert Redford once gave Paul Newman a wrecked Porsche as a gag gift because he was tired of hearing about Newman’s racing experiences. Newman promptly had it crushed and deposited in Redford’s living room.
As a six-decade veteran of America’s love affair with the automobile, never has Porsche proven its real character more credibly than on the race track. Porsche has won more Rolex Series races than any other manufacturer ever, having claimed its 58th class victory in April 2010. It has also won more GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge races than any other manufacturer both in overall and class victories. In 2008, Porsche was the most successful manufacturer in the ALMS Series.
“The American chapter of our history book started with one man’s vision and passion just 60 years ago,” said Detlev Von Platen, president and CEO, Porsche Cars North America. “Since then, hundreds of thousands of Porsches have been delivered to U.S. owners, a real testament that automotive passion is alive and thriving in every corner of the country.”
So as we move towards the year of our own 60th anniversary and reflect back 60 plus years ago, I wonder what future NNJR Presidents will write 60 years from now? Will they even write something or will we get our P4Us “magazine” in some sort of telepathic form of communication? I wonder……..
If you have any photos or material from our history, please send it to our Historians (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thanks and see you out there.
Tom Iervolino, NNJR President