Porsche – A Few Stories from The Early Years

A few days ago, on Facebook I posted of an experience I had in the late 70s. I was traveling the state of California, making cold calls to promote the family business. I think in sales, that is the toughest – meeting people who weren’t expecting you to make your pitch. And that is why many people can’t do this – they get discouraged. But I treated it like a numbers game – a couple of times I sold 5 accounts in 1 day, while there were a few times I would go for a week, or even longer, making no sales.

On the bad days I vowed to make 10 calls – no matter how it was going, slog it out.

Anyway there were some good aspects to this travel – seeing things I never would have seen, and meeting some memorable people along way.

So it came to pass one day I was on the outskirts of Los Angeles, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. I saw a small Porsche dealership in Manhattan Beach, with a famous name – Vasek Polak. He was famous for one thing – his racing team. It was when I walked into the small showroom and saw a door – a portal – into the most amazing place. All of his old racing cars – from 356 Porsches of the 50s and early 60s to a 917 he raced on the CanAm circuit in the 70s.

Never would have even known about this but for my sales travels.

Some years ago, a friend named Bob Cottam was in our Mercedes-Benz car club. Our group had a lot of colorful people over the years, and Bob was no exception.

He told me that in the early 50s, while living in Europe, that he was a Porsche factory driver.

Now, before you read on let me say I have found no Internet documentation of this. But when I visited his home, I saw dozens of trophies from Europe in his living room. So take it as you wish, but I thought you would like his story.

He apparently raced 356s generally on the weekend. Were they local races? I tend to believe so. But it came to pass that the new Austin Healey came out, and Bob ordered one. So this has to be between 1953-1955, probably towards 1953.

And on one weekend, he wasn’t scheduled to race for Porsche so he entered his own Healey.

And he won the race.

And beat the Porsches.

Monday morning, there is a knock on the door. A Porsche employee told him “The boss wants to see you”.

Entering obviously with some trepidation, he sees what became known as the Holy Trinity of the early Porsche. There was Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, Ernst Furhmann, and I forget the 3rd guy. Bob told me but this story is 20 years old or so, Bob’s gone, and the first time I have put this story to paper (virtual at least).

And all that was said came from Dr Porsche:

Herr Cottam, a Porsche driver does not race against his own team!

That was all that was said, and I believe that Bob got the message.

What prompted me to write this was an interaction I had this evening with a long-time neighbor. Since he is still alive and I never post stories about people without their permission we’ll just call him “Walt”.

Anyway for many years – 30 or more? – Walt had a business that was a collision-repair facility for Porsches and a towing business. He had a stellar reputation making those damaged Porsches look like new again. He was walking his dog by my house, and we had a pleasant conversation for a good 30 minutes.

Turned out he was from Stuttgart and also worked for Porsche in those early years, just down the hall from “Butzi” Porsche, Ferry’s son.

How cool is that?

He was saying that Butzi went on to start his Porsche design studio. But even if you aren’t a car nut, I think he is best remembered for designing the 900 series Porsche. To me that is one of those iconic designs – a design that looks as fresh now as its inception in 1963. I think the original is the best looking, before it got federalized with big bumpers and wide flares and wide rear ends with 400 hp motors. Even then, the latest Carreras have an unmistakable linage from that first 911.

That’s a good design.

1 Comment

Filed under Car Pr0n

One response to “Porsche – A Few Stories from The Early Years

  1. ohengineer

    Today is the 10th anniversary of Lex’s death.

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