One of the best things is just banging around local roads and pretty scenery with a few 356s running along with you
The Gathering of the Faithful. That's what they used to call the annual meeting of 356 owners 30 years ago. Everyone got together, looked at each other's cars, swapped tall tales, and generally just hung out. The title of the event was meaningful, because in the old days, you had to have faith to own a 356. Parts were harder to find with each passing month, most cars were rusty and patched together, and mechanics were inexorably losing interest in cars that were rarely driven.
You'd work all year just to get your car ready to make the annual trek, and even then, one of the more popular ways to spend time at the event was fixing hobbled 356s. Values were abysmally low, everyone was upside down in their cars, and when you wanted to sell one, you had to work hard to find someone who knew you and the car to move it. You really had to have "faith" to carry on, and no one, outside of a handful of 356 zealots, much cared.
Ideas that stood the test of time
The 356 Registry was formed in 1975 when a group of 356 owners felt the Porsche Club of America wasn't giving them enough attention. It wasn't much of an organization then, but a few of the founding ideas have stood the test of time. Today, the Registry has over 8,000 members and is one of the largest and most active single-model car clubs anywhere.
Times have completely changed for the 356. It's now a highly desirable vintage car and the Registry magazine classified ads often have no cars for sale. It's so easy to sell a 356 today, there is little need to work hard at it.
While the PCA annual gathering-the Porsche Parade-remains the largest event and ultimate test for concours cars, a modern 356 Holiday has stayed true to the roots of the founding members. Winning at a Parade Concours is a big deal, often requiring years in preparation. It means you will not be able to drive your car during the extended preparation period and it will be driven very little at the Parade. You will face world-class competition and be judged by some of the most knowledgeable Porsche experts. While the judges are unfailingly polite, the competition is very serious. There are a few winners and many losers.
At a Registry Holiday, everyone is encouraged to enter his car on the concours field. Judging is done by the participants, rather than by appointed experts. It is called "People's Choice," and while it is a great honor to win, it isn't taken too seriously when you don't. No one looks under the car, there are no white gloves wiping the wheelwells, no careful scrutiny of the underside of the spare tire. There are no questions from the judges about if the handle on the screwdriver in your tool kit is painted the correct shade of blue. It is simply a contest of whose car everyone likes the best. It's a simple idea. No one needs to "improve" the event for next time, and no one does.
When a Porsche reaches 50 years old, it is able to enter a single judged class, but not everyone does. This year it was any 1957 model, and there were a handful of cars entered.
Seeing how wonderful you look in your car
In the old days, part of the fun at either the Parade or the Holiday was driving your car to the event. With the level of concours competition at a Parade these days, serious contenders drive the Suburban, with the Porsche packed away in an enclosed trailer. For a Holiday, most people drive their 356. It is a part of the challenge that makes the event special. Once there, people use their cars for all kinds of events and non-events.
One of the best things is just banging around local roads and pretty scenery with a few 356s running along with you. I'm not sure why that is such a kick, except that it gives you a chance to see how wonderful you must look in your own car. It's something you can only do by getting together with other 356 owners.
The Registry has two Holidays most years-one for the eastern half of the U.S. and one for the west. The East Coast Holiday this year was held at the resort of Boyne Highlands in Northern Michigan. Events included a hill climb, a gymkhana, several drives on great local roads, a field trip to Mackinac Island (where cars are not allowed), the People's Choice Concours, and three Tech Sessions.
One of the central missions of the Registry is to help us keep our cars on the road. To that end, much of the Registry magazine content is technical in nature. One Tech Session was dedicated to restoration and reviewed the latest products and methods used to make our old cars look and feel like new. One was dedicated to introducing new members to the ins and outs of the special Porsche alphabet soup of models, such as As, Bs, Cs, and Ds. I presented a Tech Session on the values of 356s, the Porsche market as it exists today, and what the future holds for our cars.
What makes a Holiday so special is that no one has decided to fix what was never broken. Competition at all levels remains friendly, people are there to drive their cars, and everyone enjoys the entries, from the beater Speedsters driven on the concours field to the cost-no-object 4-cam restorations. Everyone is encouraged to drive his car every day, in different ways, while at the event.
What a clever idea for a club built around old cars-doing things the way they used to be without anyone trying to make it better. Sometimes, it seems, you can go home again.