When I bought my first car in 1967 — a 1960 Bugeye — it was just 7 years old. I bought my first Alfa in 1968, a 1963 Giulia Spider Veloce. It was 5 years old.
By 1975, when it was 15 years old, the Bugeye was hopelessly archaic. The same was true for the Alfa in 1978.
By comparison, the 2003 Porsche 996 911 that entered the SCM fleet over a year ago seems as modern and up-to-date as a new car. It’s now 15 years old, but it functions very much like a new car.
The SCM 30th Anniversary Tour is fast approaching. I decided to pre-run sections of it last weekend to double-check the instructions and look for possible trivia questions (“Where do trout go on Sundays…”).
It was a miserable weekend in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures hovered in the mid-40-degree range, with alternating periods of pouring rain and pounding squalls.
I haven’t driven the 911 recently, so it was the steed of choice.
It performed flawlessly, as you might expect from a 911 with 70,000 properly serviced miles.
As I drove over the top of the Mount Hood pass, with snow banks on each side of the road, I reflected on just how good cars have become in the last two decades.
They all have safety and comfort features we could never have dreamed of in 1967. By law they are reliable, with a 100,000-interval mandated before any of the ignition components need to be serviced.
While I’m not going to disclose too many details of the route, this drive is a pavement-hound’s banquet, with twisting roads alternating with wide-open spaces.
I could have taken the Alfa Romeo GTV or even the Duetto. But both of them would have been work to drive — and simply less fun than the 911. I had a lot of miles to cover in a very short time.
I wished for a set of all-season tires. The 225/40/ZR18 Continental Extreme Contact Sport tires that were newly fitted to the 911 when I bought it have superb reviews for dry-weather motoring.
As I hit pools of standing water and began to aquaplane, I wished for a tread pattern that focused on drainage rather than contact.
My 911 is a basic model without Porsche Stability Management or heated seats. I wished for both. (What do you expect for the $80,000 it cost new?) On a long drive, I also missed having adjustable lumbar support.
However, Guy Recordon at Guy’s Upholstery has already ordered the seat heaters and supports and will be installing them soon. My GTV already has them, and they make a huge difference on a long drive.
I’ve installed Apple Car Play in the Porsche, and between the large-screen for the navigation system and being able to listen to “Greatest Hits from the Ballet” from Pandora, I felt electronically up-to-date.
I thought about the one-speed wipers on my old cars, and how the blades sweep a tiny portion of the windshield. I thought about how they lack anti-lock brakes. I thought about how the suspensions, even with the modifications I’ve made, are still woefully inferior to those of the 911.
In some ways, I believe we are in an era that represents the ultimate development of the driver’s car. These cars will evolve in ways that let the on-board computers and interlinked telematics take over more and more of the driving functions from us.
Like “horses for courses,” our 15-year-old modern car was the perfect choice for this weekend. This summer it will be time to bring out the vintage machinery to enjoy the roads in a completely different way.