Stuttgart status?

996

Porsche people have more than their fair share of competitiveness, although it takes some very different forms. Carrera isn’t just another badge, after all. It’s about life viewed as a bigger race. Some of us like to compete on track, but most wouldn’t dream of risking their ‘investment’ anywhere near the red line.

Owning something others can’t afford has an unfortunate attraction for people.

It’s certainly tough to get hold of a P-car. The tougher, the better, some would say. The vehicle becomes some kind of badge that’s supposed to say ‘I’ve made it’. When I was growing up, some neighbours got themselves a new rennwagen. The driveway presence and the pricetag weren’t enough in terms of bragging. They needed to tell everyone that they had a hand-tooled kangaroo-skin interior fitted. Even as a car-mad teenager, I thought that was a bit shallow.

Ferry’s Volk can feel like a breed apart but even within this select society there is intense competition. Nobody can accuse you of being uncommitted when you drive a car costing around £100k. By spending more, much more, you can even go for something like the 918 (which ‘everyone’ says it much better than eg the GTS). Actually, nobody I know has ever driven either of them, let alone actually exploited their performance. Such conspicuous consumption seems just ugly. Like those people who personalise their cars with insanely tasteless flared arches or silly graphics or homemade aerokits.

Outside the rarified world of the latest 911 variants, you now have Macans, Panameras, Cayennes. These sound more like mutant fruit species, rather than legitimate descendents of a racecar brand. These products seem designed more as status objects than vehicles.

Somewhere towards the very bottom of this hierarchy of desirability lies the 996. Aside from a small number of real engine reliability issues, the main reason that it used to be so looked down on by purists and pundits was its very popularity. It also looked like the (pretty, but much cheaper) Boxster. People can be so easily influenced by some know-nothing journalist using phrases like ‘hairdresser’s car’ or ‘ugly duckling’ or just ‘lemon’. I’m grateful to those relentless naysayers who talked down the prices of some 911s to the point of purchasability by mere mortals.

So I bought my car. I’m glad it stands for superlative design and not ostentation. Its interior, widely criticised for the plastic buttons, is the nicest I’ve ever sat in. I really don’t care about the bonnet release design or the lack of a glove compartment. There is no Active Management of anything. When all is said and done, this is a vehicle which I chose and which makes me happy. Once in a while, some schoolboys may turn and stare but almost no-one pays attention to my car. I enjoy the shape and the nimble dynamics, within the limits of my driving skill. I feel no need to compete with the latest or the fastest (and certainly not the most expensive).

You can sometimes spot a once-white 944 parked in Edinburgh’s swanky New Town, among the jostling RangeRovers. I love that it is still going, despite not having been near a main dealer in at least two decades. It has ratty paint, few working bulbs and an interior filled with newspapers. That used to be an immaculate victory medal, a genuine Porsche. As one of the alleged 70% of all Stuttgart carts still on the road, I think, in its own way, it’s a still a real winner.

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