Cool Toys

By: qwerty53

May 25 2008

Category: Helena, Porsche, Sports Car Club of America, Uncategorized

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Focal Length:55mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:NIKON D50

An admitted life-long car nut, Frank Thompson loves his Porsche(s). His 356B, his 914, his two 911s—he has owned one of every car Porsche has made at one time or another. Just sold his Cabriolet. And he is very knowledgeable about Porsche’s history and doles it out like an enthusiastic storyteller, understandable even to someone like me, who doesn’t converse in terms of cam engines and cylinders, much less ever heard of an engine named Goliath.

The loving gesture his polishing rag was applying to his 1972 911 with “Carerra RSR” bodywork (the Porsche factory racing bodywork) caught my camera lens recently at a local car show. Turns out he was between weekend gigs as a Grid Marshall for the southeast regional SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) events such as The Mitty Challenge in Atlanta and headed to Savannah.

Via his Navy career, in 1984, Frank found himself working on a IMSA Porsche team (GTO class) and from 1989-93, he was driving in races such as Daytona and Sebring in an Austin-Healey Sprite.

Briefly the owner of a 914 Porsche back in the 70’s, but virtually ignorant of the very interesting story behind the man who invented them, I enjoyed Frank’s knowledge highlighting the history of the man
Dr. Ferdinand Porsche, b. 1875 and his son,
Ferdinand Anton Ernst Porsche, b. 1909, referred to as ‘Ferry’.

Dr. Porsche’s first job in the automotive field, in association with Jacob Lohner, resulted, in 1900, in the ‘System Lohner-Porsche’ electric carriage which made its debut at the World’s Fair in Paris. This automobile set several Austrian land speed records. It did over 35 mph!

The family consulting firm, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche, formed in 1931, advertised expertise in ‘Motors, Vehicles, Airplanes, and Boats…’ and the decade proved to be alternatively exhilarating and depressing for the Porsche family. The firm’s design of a small car, the direct antecedent of the Volkswagen, fell on fallow ground until Germany’s newly elected chancellor, Adolf Hitler, decided every German family needed a radio (to be able tolisten to his dogma) and either a small car or a durable tractor.

Dr. Porsche, who considered himself apolitical, also designed the Tiger Tank which was used by Nazi forces and, at the war’s end, was incarcerated in France for 20 months for these contributions. During that time, his son, Ferry, secured a contract to build new Grand Prix race car in Italy. With the fees earned from the Type 360 Cisitalia, he was able to post bail for Anton Piech, the family firm’s lawyer and his father.

Ferry, the father of the modern-day Porsche, began producing the Type 356 roadster in 1947-48. Eventually more than 78,000 356s would be built over 17 years to become an engineer’s cult car in America and the gentry’s quirky toy in Europe. Today, Porsche stands alone as the last independent manufacturer of sports cars. That Porsche has survived is a tribute to its cars and to the loyalty they inspire in their owners.

Perhaps it was an emanation of that loyalty that caught my attention in Frank’s actions, although his was not the only Porsche exhibited that day.

Frank’s restoration reflects his knowledge and appreciation of the history of the Porsche. Many a car show fan observes the amber lens covers to not be original to this car. Frank says he had desired these particular lens for several years and his quest was completed when a friend saw them for sale in Germany.
They arrived,
as if having waited for him to claim them, in their original unopened Bosch boxes.

“Being around the car is my way to imagine, or give my fantasy a reality of the good old days,“ Frank says. “The car depicts what you would expect to see if you were in France, standing at the 24 HEURES du MANS (24 hours of LeMans) in June, 1973.”

Hey, I may even be motivated to watch Steve McQueen’s movie, Le Mans, since I didn’t have time to sit in Frank’s 911 and view it!

Other captures from 2008 Helena Car Show included.

Copyright Laura Brookhart 05/2008


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