Print

This is the ninth in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.

The 1967 Porsche 911 was everything that I could hope for – lovely, fast, dependable car! A car with the quality that had been so evident in my first Porsche, the 356 C in 1965. Many admiring comments from other drivers. Then quite unexpectedly an offer to buy it, an offer that was "too good to pass up!" It was now 1969 and the new model 911 had been introduced. The new model had many improvements that were of interest. Most important was the 2.25" increase in the wheelbase, a wider rear wheel track, larger wheels and tires, 185/70 VR 15 on Fuch Alloy wheels, and a change to more magnesium in the crankcase. Another major change was to two 6 volt batteries located in the extreme front corners of the front trunk just under the headlights. These changes resulted in better handling and stability. In addition the body now had a few changes with slight fender flares and the elimination of the hated reflectors which were on the 1968 models.

The Minneapolis dealership contacted me one day to let me know that there was a sand color with brown interior, 911 T available. I felt that the 911 T was preferable because the 911 E had fuel injection for the first time. As well as the new Boge hydropneumatic front suspension struts. (This gave self leveling to the front of the car, regardless of the load in the front trunk.) Having been burned on a new model, the first year fuel injection and suspension scared me off, and the 911S was out of my price range. A deal was soon made for the Sand 911 T.

A twist in the story – the car was still at the Midwest distributor in Chicago. They could have the car shipped, or they would pay for the flight if I would like to fly to Chicago and pick it up? There was an advantage to driving the car back, it would then be ready for its first oil change. (500 miles!) That is what I elected to do.

It was an interesting event. (This was before the Porsche/Audi/VW arrangement that started in 1970.) The distributorship was managed at this time by the nephew of Dr. Ferry Porsche, Norbert Wagner. Mr. Wagner was quite a man! He had been in charge of distribution of Porsche in France before coming to the US. Very urbane and charming. He gave my wife and me a quick tour of the facility, not a long tour, the place was very small. Then suggested that he take us to lunch. Very elegant place. On the way back to the office it became even more interesting! Mr. Wagner was driving as he had on the way to lunch, that is to say, driving as though he were in Germany and there were no speed limits or police!

Just as we went over a steep hill and started down the other side – OH! There were the local police and a radar setup! The police indicated with no little doubt that he was to stop!! As he was slowing and stopping he turned to my wife and me and said, "Remember I do not talk or understand English!" Mr Wagner got out of the car and went to the front trunk and got out his passport, the importers licenses, his German drivers license and who knows what else, and sure enough, he did not understand and English! (Actually he spoke at least three languages!) The police were a bit dumbfounded! They came back to the car and asked me what was going on? I simply told them that he had given us a ride back from lunch and he had only spoken German. The police shook there heads and let us go.

We were not yet through with the police for the day however! On the way back to Minneapolis on the Interstate 94, somewhere in Wisconsin. We had just cleared a toll booth and were accelerating away at a good clip, when suddenly here was a state patrol car along side with all his lights flashing! Gave us a ticket and demanded that we follow him the nearest Justice of the Peace and pay the fine! It cost, I seem to remember all of the cash that I had!

One last thing about the police, some months later I heard from the dealership that they had learned about Norbert Wagner "not speaking English". It turned out that he had done this many times, a few too many times it turned out.

To be continued,-

Howard LaPlante