This is the sixth in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.
There we were, nearly new Corvair at the top of the 11,075-foot Red Mountain pass in the Colorado mountains, and the car would not start! Now what to do? I tried everything to get it started, to no avail! (Needless to say that in 1964 there were no cell phones, and even if there had been, the reception would have been spotty!) Well the road was all downhill, so I coasted the car all the way down to the town of Ouray and a Chevrolet dealer. The problem was that the fuel pump had failed. The dealer installed a new one and presented me with a bill for $100.00! I objected that the car was still in warranty! The dealer simply replied that I had not purchased the car from him, and so I owed him $100.00! I had no choice, I paid. However when I retuned home I wrote to Chevrolet in Detroit and presented my case. They replied very quickly with a check for $100.00! It seems that it pays to complain!
In 1965 a change of employment made it possible to move up to the car that I had wanted for some time. In July I took delivery of a 1965 Porsche 356 C coupe. Black with red leather, $4295.00. Hub caps with the Porsche crest ran another $5.45, Chrome wheels, $91.50, Radial tires, $61.00, Nardi wood steering wheel, $67.50, Freight and dealer prep ran the price close to $5000 – one of the last of the 356 models. Interesting to look back on the purchase. To put the purchase in perspective, a new Corvette was $4233.00, a new Chevrolet Impala SS coupe with V 8 was only $2886.00 But, they were not of interest!
Looking back from the perspective of the present Porsche performance the 356 was not that fast. BUT at the time it was really something! The Road & Track test of the 356 showed a 0-60 time of 13.5. I knew that the acceleration of the Porsche was not it's strength, but the car had many other attributes! I was on my way home late one afternoon when a new Pontiac GTO pulled out and started to pass. As we were getting farther from the city and into a very rural area, however on a four lane divided highway, I accelerated as well. The driver of the GTO simply accelerated away and increased his speed, this happened again and again. Finally as we reached an indicated 100 MPH, the GTO slowed and he motioned me to go by. Seems that he was not comfortable at that speed. The Porsche simply purred away! Delightful, impressive!
Many things impressed me about that 356. First and foremost, the styling, unique in all the world! The solidarity of everything! The cozy feeling when seated inside in the most comfortable seats, and the amount of room! The doors, the hood and engine lid fit and finish! The transmission with syncro on all four speeds! And of course the way the car went down the road. It was as though the car was carved from a solid block of steel! Solid! No other word for it! And the brakes! As auto writer and automobile tester, Ken W. Purdy wrote, "You can stamp on Porsche brakes all the way down a mountain side, and they will stop you straight when you reach flat country!" Also unlike the Corvair it went straight down the road! And unlike the Triumph TR 3 it did not require maintenance every time it was driven!
I must interrupt this story to add a strong memory. The first time that I visited the Porsche/VW dealership the salesman took me through the shop to another showroom to show me another Porsche. I could not believe my eyes! The shop was clean! It was bright! The floors had no grease on them! In fact they were painted! Everything was stored and put away! It was the most different shop that I had ever seen! After all, garages were dark, greasy and dirty! But not German garages!
The 356 C was driven more than any car that I had owned to that point. The addition of a luggage rack on the engine lid allowed us to make many trips – many to Elkhart Lake of the June Sprints. It could not help but make one proud to be driving a car that did so well in the races. A long-time Porsche owner advised me that as long as I had the car serviced according to the book, the car would give good service. I did and the advice was correct, Never had a bit of trouble with the car.
But then after more than a year, trouble!
To be continued.