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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Back to the interviews.

Jerry Reilly is trying on "his" street-legal 1998 GT1 for a fit before Sunday's parade. This is in the glassed-in restoration shop on the ground floor of the museum.

 The Archive is a comfortable, well-equipped place to work. Information of all sorts is close at hand.
Everywhere you look in the Archive there are treasures. This was the 550 Spyder "patent model," presented to the federal court in Germany at the time Porsche wished to sell full-size 550s to racing customers throughout Europe and America. The model remained with the court until the judge who had reviewed - and approved - the request retired from service. Then he called Dieter Landenberger, explained what he had, and asked if Porsche wanted it back! Dieter said he never had driven faster in his life than he did to get to the judge's office.
This is a necessary inspection of the legendary 908/3. Leg room for the passenger is severely limited. Even the driver should be short.

After two days working in the Archives and in the museum, we got back into the swing of interviews today with two great ones. This morning, we spent nearly two hours with Hans Herrmann, who is utterly charming and is a great storyteller. Hans is most celebrated for his incredible luck. This had much more to do with surviving the dangers of racing in the 1950s (when he started) and 1960s, when one driver died each month on average, than his successes as a driver, which were considerable. As one example, Hans, and co-driver Herbert Linge, were racing in the Targa Florio. The race comprised 11 laps around Sicily's Circuito Piccolo delle Madonie, over public roads lined with crowds and buildings and railway crossings. At one point they rounded a blind curve at 100 mph and found the train crossing gates down. Hans never lifted, pushed his co-driver's head down, and they and their low 550 Spyder slipped under the crossing gates. The train missed them by less than 10 meters. 

In the afternoon, we got to spend nearly two-and-one-half hours with Herbert Linge. Amazingly, Linge started with Porsche as one of eight mechanics hired in 1943. During the war he got a student exemption as an engineering candidate but he was drafted just as it ended, so he returned to Porsche where he became the company's first mechanic for the U.S. market. American importer Max Hoffman gave Linge his Cadillac convertible and Linge drove from New York to Florida to Chicago to Washington, DC to Denver to Minneapolis tuning and fixing customer 356s in the early 1950s. Porsche and Hoffman recognized that this car was a tough sell since Americans (then and now) were used to big cars and big engines. 

Both Linge and Hermann spent a lot of time with each other, so it was fascinating to ask each of them to talk about the same event. Getting both sides of the story was an illuminating exercise. 

This coming weekend will be a very big one in Stuttgart. Germany celebrates the 125th anniversary of the automobile, and on Sunday, the German car manufacturers are emptying their museums and collections of cars to parade through town. Porsche itself will contribute an impressive 50 cars to a parade that will total 125 cars. The route runs from the Porsche Museum across town to Mercedes-Benz, and from their to Stuttgart City Hall. Dieter is planning to get both Jerry and me into cars—me as a passenger in the Targa Florio-winning 908/3 (provided my tall frame will fit), and Jerry, himself behind the wheel of the one-and-only road-going 1998 GT1.

The cars Porsche is pulling out is staggering, as is the roster of drivers coming to drive their own history: LInge; Herrmann; Paul Ernst Straehle, Jr; Derek Bell; Jacky Ickx; Walter Rohrl; Marc Lieb; and several others. Dr. Wolfgang Porsche will drive 356 Number 1, and the parade will include a privately owned Type 64 from 1939 up to the most recent Porsche Trans-Siberia Rally Cayenne, 14 race cars in all.

And yes, I'll shoot photos like a demon possessed! 

But now I have to stop. Dieter is hosting a symposium on the 1900 Hybrid car, led by its re-creator, downstairs in the museum. There will be pictures.

Stay tuned. 

1 comment:

  1. Randy, there's no way you're fitting into the 908/3!!