As of this week, regular-grade Porsche 911s use forced induction. And, because Porsches are Porsches, we can only speculate about the purists. In 2035, will naturally-aspirated 911s be subject to the same kind of frenzy air-cooled Carreras are experiencing today? Should we be cashing in stocks to procure one beat-to-hell, current-generation 911 GTS and speculate wildly? Would burning a pyre of turbochargers in righteous support of natural aspiration assure our entry into the Porsche Club of America?
As our collective driveways and garages illustrate, prudent conjecture has never been a personal strength. (“Seriously, that ‘87 Mitsubishi Starion will totally be a collector’s item soon, dude!”) So let’s retreat to what’s known: Porsche’s past. Here’s a highlight, absent any of the flashpoints: no US DOT impact bumpers or water-cooled engines or automatic transmissions or turbos. In fact, this Porsche, a 1954 356, precedes even the “911” name.
The 356 is simple, serene and uncontentious. To criticize its design would be like lambasting a polished stone. The model is elegant and relaxed, despite the painful-looking sandals grasping her feet. Lose yourself in this scene of a time before Internet forums, virulent YouTube fanboys and EPA standards. It’s damn refreshing.
The Car: 1997 BMW 540i
The Crash: Eighteen-year-olds generally cannot afford a BMW M5. Some, however, might see their way into a haggard, high-mileage BMW 5 Series. The car had enough dashboard warning lights to illuminate a black hole. Also, a V-8 and manual gearbox. I emptied my savings account and limped it home. The peeling window tint and aftermarket taillights made me look like a Triad cocaine dealer.
That was autumn. Just before winter, I had a drag-out argument with my then-girlfriend, mostly because she didn’t realize we were dating. On the drive home, I listened to Tom Waits and thought about buying a piano. Unrequited love is a bitch. So are dump trucks.
To be clear, I didn’t hit the thing; I just failed to realize it’d dropped gate and spilled loose gravel across a 90-degree right-hand turn. The car yawed over surface change, jackknifed and climbed a curb. The damage wasn’t so bad, actually: a collapsed rocker, tweaked front control arm and two bent wheels. Knife twist? Textbooks and boxes of spare parts convinced BMW’s seat sensors that three passengers were present. Eighteen-year-olds cannot afford to replace a half-dozen erroneously deployed airbags, either.
The Damage: A write-off—for both car and ego.
The Moral: Put your luggage in the trunk; it’s O.K. to cry listening to Blue Valentine.