Merch, not Meh

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I’m sorry but I can’t be silent any longer. I don’t see why a brand a great as Porsche continues to struggle along with merchandise, especially clothing, that is just second rate. I don’t mean in terms of manufactured quality, just in terms of design.

Their T shirts are a case study of uncool. There is no brand identity or theme. They look like they come from several different companies. They don’t reflect the shared values of ownership or the varied qualities of their vehicle range, historic and present. The colours are apparently random. The pricing is too high. A cycling shirt? Seriously? They bought a licence to use the Steve McQueen name and then used it for this lot. I’m not a fan of baseball caps but you have to ask, would McQueen be seen dead wearing any of this stuff?

Have you ever seen anyone wearing one of these official Driver’s Selection shirts? No other part of Porsche’s business is so poorly thought out.

Worse still, take a look at some of the competition (eg here and here).

Effortless cool, colour themed, reflecting brand values and tight, dramatic designs.

I won’t get into a discussion about Audi, BMW or Aston Martin because they aren’t even trying. How odd is that in a market sector that lives for competition and in which brands are so important to so many fanfolk? (both owners and wannabes).

This is one of my reasons for starting Class Action Designs. Porsche people surely want to wear stuff that effectively communicates “This car marque reflects who I am, what I really care about.”

My suggestion would be for Porsche to invite 20 of the World’s top designers to submit some ideas for where to go with their merchandising. In the meantime, do please consider buying something from this independent source. Next up, in 2016, is a 917 design, based on a painting of mine.

 

 

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Emissions and omissions

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So VW got caught defrauding people and lying to the US Govt. They failed to manoeuvre their cars into the tight parking spot of low cost, high performance and low pollution. So now they are undertaking a hapless PR campaign and attempting to mollify an outraged US administration (that almost certainly makes more pollution per second itself than any car company…depleted Uranium is going to be hard to remove from large parts of the Middle East.)

VW are currently involved in a round of ‘relentless clarifications’ followed up by the ritualised public sacrifice of engineering staff.

Sorry, but I don’t believe for a second that this problem has been caused by a small group of rogue engineers. Much more likely is that sales-hungry management threatened everyone with the sack if they didn’t pass emissions tests (have you seen Rainman -that scene where they are lying to Lambo buyers?) The engineers created a clever, but unethical fix that everyone knew about. Ok, maybe they didn’t know the details of the code, but I’ll bet some board members were fully aware of this interim ‘solution’.

Don’t be surprised if this issue affects lots more vehicle manufacturers (that are crazy enough to make diesels, like the one above…ahem).

The Germans seem particularly poor at dealing with PR. VW group’s chosen global spokesman is currently speaking in German during interviews in the States. Does this fiasco remind you of another legal case in America involving a car company which included a few handfuls of defective parts and nearly lost the entire Gesellschaft?…nobody died in the 996 debacle, but Porsche managed to turn a relatively small engineering issue into a reputational pile-up.

If this is a billion dollar problem, maybe more engineers should be on the boards of engineering companies.

 

 

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Drive it like I bought it

Aston_Martin_DBS_V12_coupé_(front)_b-wSo it’s Sunday and I’m out for a drive with the air temperature reading at a surprising 5 degC (Surprising for December in Scotland). I’m nursing my vehicle back to base at about 55, because of the now-usual set of red indicators glowing across my dashboard (Coolant temperature is a surprisingly high 90 degC). Then the Messerschmitt Twitch I developed as a bike rider activates and my rear view mirror picks up a glimpse of something wide and black -gaining fast.

My first instinct is to say “Bugger you, whoever you are. This is my favourite local road.” I accelerate around a tight bend and then remember that the guts of my car’s circulatory system are held in place by a single, leaky jubilee clip.

Just then the beast above becomes visible in my rear view. Like some kind of primal instinct, my twitching rear has triggered an attack run. This is a huge car, with a soft-top that looks like it was designed by Silver Cross. An umbrella that will soon invert in its own slipstream. Otherwise, I admire the design. It’s not a 996, but it has a brutal charm.

Actually, what I admire most is the commitment of the owner (assuming the driver is the owner). Spending that kind of money and then not caring about the real possibility of side swiping a stone wall takes a certain sang froid.

Five seconds later, I hear an enormous engine (weirdly located in front of the driver) scream past. The road is really too narrow for this craziness. It’s wet and pensioners scuttle to church along this route. Then, he’s hammering on the brakes, having only just got by me in time for the next right hander. It’s a skilful bit of timing and this is clearly someone with a big budget for bodywork emergencies.

Me? I’ve narrowly avoided an underpants emergency.

Two minutes later and I see him again, speeding away through a residential area…no doubt on a pub trip to brag about buzzing some old guy in a 911. “Driving like it was a Cayenne, he was…”

Anyway, when I was young and foolish, I’d have chased him in my Astra GTE, maybe even shortcut and caught him. My driving skills were (and are) probably less well honed than this James Bond, but any fisticuffs on the pavement might have been worth watching.

These days, I’m less inclined to road rage and more aware of the danger that inappropriate aggression can pose to innocent drivebyers. My insurance company recognises and approves of this new me (even if I do secretly hanker after a rematch -on a tight, dry track).

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A (very) small competition

Today’s post is in the form of a small competition. Some raddled old bloke can be seen below ferreting under the rear end of his 911:

(It’s not the glamorous lifestyle that young guys dream of when they get a GoPro, but when I was young, we were expected to ride bicycles off tall buildings as a rite of passage, without boasting about it later 😉

First person to post the time (in the comments below) at which the hole in my exhaust system appears, wins a small Amazon voucher (as well as any bragging rights you may think appropriate).

Opinions about the choice of replacement exhaust (as well as orange crocs as fashion statement by the older gentleman) would be very welcome.

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Take action! Grab some shirts…

White on grey design

White on grey design

So here is one possible Class Action shirt design -a tasteful white on grey.

As the holiday season approaches, how about choosing your own favourite colour combination to illustrate your devotion to 996-dom?

I’m a big fan of the hoodies at this time of the year for three reasons:

  • if you are still driving your machine in winter, they work really well as in-car clothing
  • if you have your car off the road, your hooded top will be a constant reminder that Spring, and normal RPM, will return soon.
  • the hoodies carry the Class Action Designs logo on the back (which I think is cool, obviously).

(PS, the shirt in shot has been washed about five times and is still in great shape. After about 1000 washes, it will become ‘vintage’. After about 2000 washes, you can use it as a polish cloth -and buy some more of the latest designs!)

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Pinky Lai’s masterpiece

In my day job as an inventor/product designer, I see lots of manufactured products. Some of them have great features, some are massively overhyped. There are only a tiny number that I wish I’d designed myself. The 996 variant of the 911 is one of that select few.

Until it appeared on Pinky Lai’s drawing board, Porsches had a brutally functional look. It didn’t matter about those flat-facing headlights because the engineers knew they didn’t make very much difference to the drag coefficient. With the 996, they accepted they had to come up with something that would sell…not just to super-cool racer types but everyone who wanted a performance car they could drive daily…and enjoy looking at as well.

Lai’s design went further than the engineers ever would. Some of the aspects of his approach made manufacture more difficult than  before. Since the 996, many of these elements (which also work together so well) have been softened or moderated in later variants.

Here are a few of my most favourite 996 design aspects:

rear

What a fantastic shape that rear end is. Personally, I like the narrower Porsche rears, but that’s a matter of taste (eg this just looks odd, to me). This to me looks both powerful and subtle.

seam

That bonnet seam. Wow I like the way it flows and twists down the front of the car. More recently replaced by much less interesting lines, I’m afraid.

doorThere is no real need for the door seam to run rearwards as much as it does, but this really works and plays off against the rear window (which thankfully has stayed much the same through all 911s).

headlampLastly, I love the way the headlamps suddenly dip away from the body…just like the tip of a samurai sword (he said, getting carried away).

What are your favourite bits of your favourite car? Do leave a comment or two below.

 

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Badge envy?

20151122_171616I was walking past my air chamber a few minutes ago, having put the rennwagen to bed. A mist forms inside sometimes before the fans deal with it. Suddenly, the security light flashed on and it looked as if I had the world’s largest Carrera badge.

In reality, it’s just the reflection onto the inside of the bubble, but it made me do a double take. Then I thought, actually it’s a bit cool to have your car’s badge projected onto the end of your plastic garage. Those people at Airflow.co.uk should really be licensing some of these ideas. 😉

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Flashing dash (–> flashing cash?)

Oh-oh

Oh-oh

I’ve been a bit preoccupied this week, since my dashboard started to flash numerous red lights at me (starting with the seemingly innocuous one at the ‘120’ mark).

There were lots of great suggestions made by my online friends. I’ve even ordered up a bluetooth plugin diagnostic box, but having seen some of the demos, I’m a  bit worried about a) the security of having all my car data beamed to every router I pass and b) the prospect that the hardware may come loaded with malware. We shall see. Normally my diagnostic skills consist of spotting steam pouring from the engine compartment or hearing graunching noises over the happy rumble of that gorgeous flat six.

After much wiggling of wires, turning of belt wheels and refilling of reservoirs, the most likely problems turn out to be a faulty coolant temperature sensor (and a possible leaky coolant tank cap).  My friendly, but physically distant, mechanic David Phillips gave me some email diagnosis and I’m getting him to check it out in the next few days. All I have to do is drive 50 miles without cooking the engine. I’ll be taking a bottle of coolant in the frunk for any necessary pitstops, en route.

Fingers crossed.

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996-centricity

sunnier timesThis picture was taken a few months ago during the afternoon of the Scottish Summer. As the weather where I live is now worsening from just  ‘dreich’ to better-call-Noah, I’m spending more time reading web articles and polishing my car than actually driving it.

I’ve rediscovered a couple of sets of my bookmarks which you may find interesting (assuming you aren’t too busy carving the canyons of California to be bothered).

The first is about anything Porsche-related which I thought interesting before I actually bought one.

https://pinboard.in/search/u:patrickandrews?query=porsche

The second set of links consists of everything 996-centric which I’ve stumbled upon since becoming a devotee.

https://pinboard.in/search/u:patrickandrews?query=996

Call me obsessive, but I do like to keep informed. These collections include the views of people who drive in cycling gloves, beardy celebs from when colour tv was cool, manically  overcaffeinated young men and IMS doom-and-gloomers (each selling their own recipes for eternal engine life).

Whatever crazy, out-of date or breathily fanboyish opinions are expressed, they don’t come with my endorsement. These authors/presenters all however seem to have something in common. They are really enjoying driving the 996.

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A (very short) road movie

My longsuffering wife bought me a GoPro camera for my birthday and I spent a few happy hours attempting to attach it to the inside of my 996.

I was aiming to get the new toy to take pictures of the road ahead. Instead, I managed to capture several disturbing closeups of my nose, reflections of the dashboard and two cameo performances of Aztec, our aged cat. He insists on delaying  both outward and return journeys by sauntering, as usual, just ahead of the advancing Pirellis.

It would be clever, I thought, to film the side mirror view at the same time, but actually it just induces mild nausea.

Notice my insistence on changing into the wrong gear every so often and you should also be aware that the speedo is malfunctioning (ahem).

This is the road most beloved of motorcyclists in Perthshire, since it now has a smooth coat of new tarmac as well as the same old, beautiful curves.

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