Ever since the pictures of the "floating Porsche" were first published on the web, speculation has run rampant about the person or people behind what is now legend and the outcome of this obviously beloved machine. FlatSixes.com had a chance to speak with the car's owner earlier today and here's what we learned.
Bill Musselman is a man used to floods
You can hear it in his voice as he assures me my call is welcome and not too early, "this is a fine time to talk, we're still fighting the flood and trying to get ready for Derby in the same breath." By "Derby" he means the Kentucky Derby and he and his wife (along with many others in the area) are preparing for it in earnest, flood waters be damned. When you live in a flood zone, along a river, you prepare for certain contingencies, "It was a crazy spring, we normally have a flood after the snow melts up in the West Virginia mountains and Appalachia and all that. We got through that one. I had the Porsches out in the garage and lo-and-behold we came with another big storm that was unexpected."
Unexpected is right. NOAA or what you might know as "The National Weather Service" predicted the river would crest at a height of 24 feet. Very high water indeed, but nothing the area hadn't seen before. Well, with four days of continuous rain, NOAA was forced to adjust their calculation and do so in a big way. They now calculated the river to crest at 34 feet; a full 10 feet higher then what was planned for. "That change in calculation was announced and boy everyone was scrambling. Everyone along the river was scrambling to find new ways to take care of their property and that's when my buddy Smokey came in," said Musselman.
"Smokey" is the mechanic of one of Bill's boating buddies (you probably noticed the marina right next to Bill's house in some of the earlier pictures). Using the original predictions from NOAA, Bill had jacked the 1992 Porsche American Roadster (Bill purchased the car in 1992 and it's apparently the only "Fly Yellow" one of the 250 made) onto blocks giving it plenty of height and what should have been enough to manage the original predictions. As the rain continued for days on end, the river continued to rise. Bill's house sits at the end of a point on the river in a marina community. The access road through the marina sits on much lower land than his house and consequently floods sooner. When the flood waters started lapping against the bottom of Bill's garage door Smokey suggested they might want to try something different than the blocks.
"You know, I've got a bladder that takes a 27-foot boat. Let's just put this sucker up on that," said Smokey. "So, we did that, Easter morning, 7 AM and there was my easter egg basket," proclaimed Musselman. In case you're wondering Easter Sunday was April 24th. That means the Porsche sat on the float, tethered to the house and exposed to the flood waters, for close to two weeks. When I told Bill about the rumors his now famous Porsche had sunk and asked him to verify if she survived he said, "Oh Yeah. I'd say. I got her down and cranked her up and she's happy as a lark." When I asked him where the 964 was now he said she was back in the garage. You mean the house wasn't damaged? "Oh no, it's got a concrete foundation that's 17 feet high and the walls are a foot and a half thick. The water just went into the lower level which it's designed to do and then you wash it out." The house itself sits on top of the massive concrete structure. Now that's solid design.
There was one last rumor I wanted to dispel. It had been reported that Bill was some type of boat captain, perhaps even captain of the Belle of Louisville and that was why he was so well prepared for this event. Explaining this to Bill and asking about his career path Bill simply laughed and said, "no, no, one of my buddies is though [captain of a steamboat]. I don't think many passengers would get aboard with me after seeing my car on a raft. I've been around boats all my life, but this is my first car-boat."
The Air Dock Bladder System
Built by AirDock, Smokey and Bill used 3 bladders that make up a system for supporting a boat up to 27-feet in length and 7500 lbs in weight. With the turbo bodied cabriolet weighing in at less than half that amount, the bladders worked perfectly. "Two of the three bladders were in the back where the engine weight is. It was very well balanced. It was surprising." Each bladder has ropes that tie/lash them together and then there is a separate pump going to each section (look closely at the picture above and you can see three air lines coming out of the pump housing).
With the storm over and the water receding, life is slowly returning to normal. "The water has dropped drastically, it's dropped 12 feet," said Bill. The 964 is now back safe in the garage and sits next to Bill's 2011 Porsche Carrera S. Having survived two floods (the house flooded once before in 1997) and 20 years under one roof and one owner it's pretty safe to say this very collectible Porsche is a survivor.
We would like to give a special thanks to the owner of this lovely and now very famous Porsche for taking the time to speak with us.