A Porsche Weekend

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Every year the Porsche Club of Great Britain hold a social weekend which they call the weekend of the year, and refer to it in today’s “newspeak” as the WOTY. Even though I have been a Porsche club member for a very long time I have never managed to fit my activities into a WOTY, but that is not to say I miss all the Porsche weekends. My Porsche weekends tend to be spontaneous, unplanned and strictly personal, and one such happened recently. In my spare time between Grand Prix activities I have been doing archive work for AFN Ltd, the old-established firm in Isleworth who made the chain-driven Frazer Nash cars in the 1930s, imported BMW cars and in 1948 started ten years of manufacturing the Bristol engined Frazer Nash cars. They sired the present empire of Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd, who bring the Porsche cars into this country direct from Stuttgart. There is always something to investigate with reference to AFN Ltd, and Porsche Cars kindly lent me an example of the latest 911 series Carrera, with the new 3.2-litre air-cooled flat-six engine, for a Porsche AFN weekend. When you drive a front-engined water-cooled 4-cylinder 944 Porsche or the V8-cylinder 928 you realise you are in the beginning of a new era; the Porsche cars of the 1980s. However, getting back into a rear-engined 911 series car makes you realise why it is still in full production and selling well. From its inception in 1964 the rear-engined flat-six air-cooled car has been a triumph of development over design and though the 944 and 928 series are superior automobiles they are not as much fun as the 911 series, so depending on what your motoring needs are, Porsche can fill them to perfection. The new 3.2-litre version of the fiat-six engine is incredibly smooth, has enormous torque and retains all the typical Porsche 911 characteristics of “get up and go” and singing happy as the rpm soar up to around 7,000. Porsche steering is like Lotus steering, you say to yourself “why doesn’t everybody make cars that steer like this?” For sheer performance the 3.3-litre 911 Turbo must still be top of the tree, that is until you drive a Berlinetta Boxer Ferrari, but that is another world! However, the new 3.2-litre Carrera Porsche will undoubtedly satisfy most people’s thirst for acceleration and speed, while the years of development that have gone into the 911 series provides a standard of handling and road-holding that is more than adequate for road use. Only a seasoned racing-driving or an idiot could possibly extend the Carrera to the limit of its handling under normal dry road conditions, and while the former would bring it all nicely back under control, the latter would probably end up in the ditch. The 911 says “Come on, let’s go motoring and have some fun together”, the 944 says “just relax and enjoy your motoring”, while the 928 says “leave it to me, I am far superior to the mere human being”. My Porsche weekend took me down to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu where their extensive library solved some mid-thirties Frazer Nash problems for me, and in return I participated in a fairly hilarious “chat show” with W.B. before a large and enthusiastic audience from the “Friends of the Museum” society. Motoring across the New Forest I came up behind a white 944 with the back of a familiar head behind the wheel. As the driver “gave it some welly” on a climbing left-hander, to try and lose me, I knew it was my old friend Vic Willoughby, now retired from motorcycle journalism. We ran in convoy down to Bucklers Hard, where he was staying, and as we stood in the January sunshine and reminisced, he leaning on his own 944 Porsche and me leaning on my borrowed 911 Carrera, he reflected that we had come a long way since we first met in 1949, in the paddock at a motorcycle race in Belgium. Then he was leaning on his own Mk VIII Velocette and I was leaning on my borrowed Mk VIII Velocette. He was always a far better rider than I was, but perhaps I was a better talker! The next day the 911 Carrera wafted me up the M3 to Isleworth, catching up with AFN’s photographer Bill Bates in his 944 Porsche and together we arrived at the Falcon Works in the London Road. It was a great occasion in the life of AFN Ltd. for it was January 29th 1984. On January 29th 1954 the firm sold its first Porsche in Great Britain, 30 years to the very day, and a big gathering had been organised bringing together Charles Meisl, who sold that first 356 Porsche, Erich Hirsch who was the Stuttgart sales manager in 1954 and John Aldington, the MD of AFN Ltd and Porsche Cars Great Britain Ltd. It was John’s uncle, Bill Aldington, who saw the potential of the Porsche and John’s father H. J. (“Aldy”) who negotiated the original deal with the Stuttgart firm. Meisl sold that first Porsche to E. D. (Ted) Woolley, who is still a regular reader of MOTOR SPORT and contributor to our correspondence columns. Poor health prevented Ted from journeying up to Isleworth, but nevertheless he sent a cheery message to everyone. The gathering was open to Porsche owners and customers of AFN Ltd and something like 550 people turned up to fill the showrooms and celebrate 30 years of Porsche cars at the Falcon Works. Returning the 911 Carrera to the Porsche importers it was easy to appreciate why Porsche ownership is more than just owning a good car. The Porsche owner is part of a big friendly family and while brilliant engineers and businessmen control the Porsche empire, Dr Ferry Porsche is still very much in evidence as head of the family. The Twentieth Century will have every reason for honouring many great family names in connection with the world of the motor car, names like Bentley, Royce, Bugatti, Ford, Ferrari, Honda and none more than Porsche. D.S.J.