story and photos by derek mccallister

I still remember my first Porsche. I still own my first Porsche. The first time I wanted one, I had little to no knowledge of the cars. I did some searching and bought an incredibly cheap car. The car didn’t run. It had rust everywhere; it couldn’t roll from the brakes being so rusted they were seized. The hatch wouldn’t open, but it had leaks everywhere; it looked like it had been taken from the bottom of the ocean. 
The 924 community told me, “There’s no way that car will run. What a pile of crap.” The pessimism was pretty strong. But when I start a project, I’m one of those that will finish it. Perhaps it’s a stubborn pride I get from my father; perhaps it’s the satisfying feeling of rubbing the nose of someone who arrogantly told me I couldn’t do it in the dirt.
I remember pulling it up onto the trailer, the sound of the ratchet and of the tires rubbing against the asphalt as it inched up. When we got it home, it took five of us to push it off the trailer, through the gravel and into the spot where my passion for Porsche cars was born. I had no idea where this car would take me, and at the time had hardly any idea what I was getting myself into. “This is going to be a great restoration!” I thought.

"I blew a head gasket and the process of rebuilding the engine ensued."

Then reality set in. I’d been on a forum called 924board.org for a while and had done some research; I was finding that not only were the 924 cars of hardly any value, but I would end up sinking a ton of money into the car to make it original. Within four months I had the car back on the road. But because I had only done the minimum to drive the car, I blew a head gasket and the process of rebuilding the engine ensued.
I started attending a few autocrosses as a spectator. I had run a couple of them in my Ford Escort ZX2 back when I got the car and I really enjoyed it. I kept thinking about my 924 and how much I was going to enjoy driving a Porsche someday. That’s when it hit me, “I don’t want a restoration. I want a race car.” And with that the 924 became the focus of a long journey to build my first race car. I stripped the car out, gutted the interior. I even started making some of my own parts: A carbon fiber dash, a carbon fiber cover here and there. 

 "I was starting to realize that some parts were hard to get..." 

I would pose questions to the community and always got helpful replies. I was starting to realize that some parts were hard to get, some were getting harder and harder to find, and others were just not available. “You can use part XYZ, which is the equivalent of this,” would sometimes be the response. Others had ideas for upgrades. There was always talk of the most cost efficient way to do something that was a quality improvement. These were not the ideas of people who wanted to be cheapskates, these were the ideas shared from those who were passionate about the cars they drove and wanted to keep them going for years to come.

I started to realize that the community I had joined was different from other forums and communities. When I asked questions after I bought my 911, often the response was a scoff or a nose up when I would look for something different from stock. A bit of bitterness on the palate when one simply is genuinely curious about something or wants to learn. But though the 924 community lacked that attitude, there was a defined scoff to those who lacked the motivation to seek out their own answers. Search first, if you can’t find an answer, then ask.

Camaraderie for knowledge, if you like. I don’t think that this feeling and attitude is necessarily unique to the 924 crowd, and I’m sure there are other communities that are passionate about their rides. But I’ve found that I’ve grown fond of the community, their attitude and the camaraderie. I’ve found nothing like it anywhere else. I still drop many members an email just to say ‘hi’, to see how their latest projects are coming, and because I find them to be outstanding.
What does this have to do with passion and being an underdog? What does this have to do with anything? My point is that without this community, it is not likely I would have found the motivation to feed my passion for cars. I did not find the kind of things I was looking for in other places. Some communities were unwilling to share, and kept technical knowledge locked in a safe, like a secret. I found that frustrating; that people somehow felt sharing knowledge was taboo. “We don’t share such things. Only the select few in the special circle may maintain their cars properly. Join our cult or else.” An unspoken rule, like a bunch of grunting monkeys and only those who knew the alpha male of the crowd didn’t get shit flung at them. Others simply didn’t know, and there were only a few knowledgeable members whom didn’t find it necessary to help people.

"There is this sense of pride in owning the 924 and 944 cars..."

Over the past several years, I’ve owned and driven the 914, 924, 944, and 911. While I miss all of the cars I’ve bought and sold over the years, the cars I have not ever sold have been the 924 and 944. There is this sense of pride in owning the 924 and 944 cars: The underdogs of the Porsche family. 
In every 924 and 944 community I’ve found have been people who love Porsche, who have skill but perhaps not the budget necessary to maintain a 911 for the long term. Others have the funds, but prefer what they feel is the superior handling of these cars. I’ve also encountered others who feel that even if they aren’t superior cars, rather than conform to the masses they want to show their driving skills on the track with a car they like. Lastly are the people who realize that good examples of the 924 and 944 cars are getting harder and harder to find. People who love them realize that even though they aren’t worth much monetarily, they’re worth a huge grin on your face.

I never sought after a Porsche because I wanted to compare my dick to someone else’s, or compare pocket books, or see who could have the best buffing job on their car. I wanted to learn about cars and enjoy a car I really was interested in. 
The 924 community was the same. It was never a status thing there. It was always a love for the car, a genuine interest in the engineering, a love for the design, or an emotional attachment because it was a car they grew up with. Whatever the reason, it was shared as a community. Helpful, intelligent, passionate, but not widely appreciated among most of the P-Car crowd.

“I built this car with my own bare hands and basic tools.”

To this day, I’m still working on my race car. The car runs and drives (at least until I burned up the coil), and is now ready to have fun with. I’ll never forget the first drive with it: Just around the block, with the satisfying and distinct sucking sound of the ITBs on decel, the punchy acceleration (with the occasional hiccup - the fuel map isn’t perfect). I parked the car in the driveway and when I got out of the seat from that first drive in a car that took me five years to complete, there was nothing more satisfying than the thought, “I built this car with my own bare hands and basic tools.” If that isn’t accomplishment, satisfaction, and passion at its best, I don’t know what is.
There was a time when I could not tell you what a cold air intake does, or what a Macpherson strut setup is, or even how a clutch works. But thanks to this amazing community, three 924 cars later, I’m rebuilding my own engine, making my own fuel system, and putting together my own car. I stopped keeping track of my receipts just because I find it easier to enjoy the hobby that way. I’ve built a small fleet of Porsche cars in the last few years, all of which I’ve owned, maintained, modified, and enjoyed in their own quirky ways.

I now venture through the car world with confidence. I’ve learned a lot in the past several years. One can learn a lot if one actually dives in feet first, and bothers to read and understand things; even more when you stop wondering and start doing. I’ve recently acquired an old Lamborghini Jalpa to restore. At any given time prior to this year, I would have likely told myself that it was a stupid and impossible feat. 
There are times when some things scare me. But I still own my 924s and remember everything I’ve done on my 911 and 914. Every time I doubt my abilities I stop myself and remember how much I’ve learned, and that I can learn. I tell myself, “Stop worrying. Fuck the fear,” and I go forth with my wrench. “It’s just a car,” I think. “But it’s a damn cool car!” Cool cars are not exempt from the care of your own hands. Engines are still engines, electronics are still electronics, and a badge will not stop me from pursuing my passion.

I don’t think I would feel this way without the confidence instilled by this community and the people I’ve come across, the car attitude and car knowledge, and people I recognize as the best mechanics I’ll ever know.

I maintain and keep my 924s, they are who I am.

I don’t know if the 924 and 944 community could ever be recognized as the stars of the Porsche world. I don’t even think they care to. But I’ve seen the attitude of people who want to build awesome things, who want to learn, and will go the extra mile to keep these rides going. 
Some without the slightest care of keeping things stock, others with the mindset of only adding improvement, and some who want a perfect concours car.

You won’t find mockery in this corner of the Porsche world. But you will find passion, sincerity, camaraderie, sarcasm, dirty jokes, talk of which beer is best while watching Le Mans, and talk of which 924 is best while racing LeMons. It drives me to pursue my childhood dream and my passion for cars

"I’ve made friends who share the same passion for cars that I have."

Perhaps my 924 cars will never have the status of my 911 or 914. Perhaps no one will ever walk up and say, “Cool car dude!” Perhaps there will never be any reason for my car to be featured or given a stellar review in some fancy show-car magazine. It’s just not that kind of car. But I can say that I’ve learned a lot, met some amazing people, and found a community of shared knowledge, engineering ability, and intense ingenuity. I’ve made friends who share the same passion for cars that I have. All in all, I haven’t found that elsewhere.

And, damn, if that isn’t the best thing to find in a community.
 


Comments

Joe Sharp
02/08/2014 09:11

Great article Derek. As a member of the 944online forum, I've been following the Jalpa restoration for a little while. I know that his Lambo will be quite sweet when he finishes it. It may not be a Porsche, but it is his dream car and that's all that matters. All I want is a ride in it!

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Adam
02/10/2014 09:27

Great article, you hit the nail on the head!

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