I remember, and will always remember, exactly how many miles were on the odometer when I first sat down in the driver’s seat as the owner of my 996: 37,858. This past week, a sixth digit column appeared on the display as she cruised through her hundred-thousandth mile. That seems occasion enough to warrant a retrospective column about just how good she’s been to me through the 62,142-plus miles we’ve spent together.
It’s been nearly five years since that day; five years filled with plenty of ups and downs. It has never, however, been less than an adventure. In fact, one could say it started with a day on a racetrack, and that of course never fails to be an adventure. So let us begin there, at Buttonwillow International Raceway in Bakersfield, California, on October 1st, 2010.
I was behind the wheel of my 2003 Audi RS6, the car and I were dialed in. New tires, new brake pads and fluid, new sway bars, and nothing on track in our group could hold a candle to us. A C6 Corvette coupe, a shiny new S5, and a Hemi Challenger were among our victims that day. They all had V8s, but we had a V8 and two turbos. It was hardly fair. The RS6 ticked all the boxes for me–it was fast, it was rumbly, it had presence, and there were two rear seats for my sons, aged (in months) 22 and 4.
We wrapped up the track day and headed home. The Audi and I were both a bit hot and tired from track and sun. As we could both stand for a relaxing cruise, Anne took the wheel for the trip home, and I navigated from the passenger seat via cell phone. The details of what happened shortly later are unimportant, but the last mental picture I have of my beautiful Mugello Blue Audi is of the entire passenger side caved in, fluid leaking onto the highway, the first-generation OnStar system loudly repeating the same phrase over and over through the speakers, something about a collision having been detected.
I was going to need a new ride.
Despite my love for the Audi, I hardly even considered finding another one. It felt like I’d already had that experience, and I had little interest in starting over again. It had taken two years to bring that Audi to that dialed-in day–two years of Dynamic Ride Control system debates and recalls, two years of mid-teens gas mileage, two years of trips from northwest Las Vegas all the way to Henderson for never-inexpensive service. The RS6 had been glorious, but I was ready for something different.
The Porsche bug had been in my ear since 1999, when my high school girlfriend bought me a copy of “Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed” for Christmas. To this day, a copy resides in my glovebox. Porsche, take note: videogames sell cars.
By early December I had tracked down exactly what I had for so long desired: a 2003 996 Carrera 4S. It was offered by a private seller in Van Nuys, California. I visited in person, went for a test drive, and we agreed on price. I journeyed back home, nailed down the financing and insurance, and set a date to close with the seller. Now there was only the matter of getting to Van Nuys again without asking someone to waste a whole day schlepping me there and then driving themselves back to Vegas.
Fortunately I had a coworker friend with alternate means of transportation: a small, tandem two-seat single-engine piston airplane called an RV8. I said, “Hey Malibu, you wanna fly me to that swanky airport in Van Nuys?” He said, “What for?” I replied, “I bought a Porsche there and I need to go pick it up.” He lit up. “That’s the best reason I’ve ever heard!” We wound up not quite making it to Van Nuys due to some weather, but diverted into a small airport called General William J. Fox, out near Palmdale. General aviation, much like racetrack driving, is always an adventure.
I welcomed the C4S by driving it daily, 80 minutes of commute each workday. It didn’t pull in a straight line like the Audi, but was in a different league in agility and immediacy. I was also delighted to get back to having three pedals in my performance car.
The next big adventure in the Porsche was our epic family journey from Las Vegas through Yosemite National Park to Monterey, CA for Rennsport Reunion IV. I’ve already catalogued the events of that trip, but it still stands out as a high point in my motoring history. I had never been to a national-level Porsche event before, and wow, did I pick the right one to start with.
New Mexico became our next home. At first, we didn’t think much of it, but in retrospect, the Land of Enchantment is an especially great state for cars. Lots of high-speed desert highways, twisty mountain roads, little rain, and lots of sun. There, our adventures included the Very Large Array and Taos and Santa Fe and White Sands. We also made it to Austin for Formula 1’s return to the United States.
Then we went cross-country to Ohio for a transitional period. The 996 got a new clutch, but other than that pressed on with minimal maintenance like the rest of the family. We fought through the rain one day to make it down to Rallye Porsche Mariemont 2013, but the best part about Ohio was getting the opportunity to settle permanently in Iowa.
And now here we are. We’ve all changed a bit—I’ve got less hair, the boys are getting taller, the C4S has WeatherTech floor mats and a Rennline dead pedal and the LN Engineering IMS Solution. The ownership experience, though, remains just the same. Even as recently as last night, when after a whirlwind and exhausting two-day work trip, I settled back into the 996. I drove out of the airport parking garage, dropped the windows, and blasted up an on-ramp, nailing a redline gear-change. Involuntarily, I gasped, “God, I love this car.”
Yeah. The experience has definitely not changed. Always an adventure.