At every Concours we've attended the cars are always the stars. Yesterday, however, Porsche put on a seminar at the Amelia Island Concours D'Elegance that, in our opinion, deserves the best of show award.
Billed as the "Porsche's Flagship at 50" this Porsche 911 seminar brought together a star filled panel of racing legends unmatched in recent history.
- Hurley Haywood - Porsche’s most successful endurance race driver, with most of his Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring wins in Porsche 911-based race cars. Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of his victories at the 24 Hours at Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring (1973)
- Vic Elford - perhaps most versatile Porsche sports car driver ever, winning major events in both rally and road racing events, including the Monte Carlo Rally in a 911 and the 24 Hours of Daytona in a 908 on back-to-back weekends in 1968. Gave the Porsche 911 its first - ever racing victory ( in England in 1965), winning a hill climb with the Porsche distributor’s press fleet demo. Elford also excelled in Can-Am, Trans-Am, F1, off-road and even four NASCAR events at Daytona
- Peter Schutz - President of Porsche AG, 1981 – 1986, the only American to serve on the Porsche Board of Management, oversaw a dramatic world-wide sales increase and critical years of 911 development - retired
- Bobby Rahal - Racing Legend. 1980 Daytona 24 Hour Winner, Porsche 935, 1987 Sebring Winner, Porsche 962
- Patrick Long - Porsche’s only American factory driver. Won three American Le Mans Series championships in Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs; Rolex 24 at Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans class wins.
- Jack Atkinson - crew chief on the record breaking and highly successful 1973 to 1980 Peter Gregg Brumos Porsche race team.
- Jeff Zwart - seven-time Pike's Peak Hillclimb Champion – all in Porsche 911s; also, SCCA PRO Rally champion. Commercial film producer including many of the well-know Porsche TV ads. Published definitive book of photos of Porsche race cars 1949 - 2004
- Alwin Springer - co-founder of ANDIAL, specialized Porsche tuning shop and builder of countless 911-based racing engines, and former president of Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) – retired, but continues to consult for PMNA
- Harm Lagaaij - Porsche AG Director of Design – has influenced the look of more Porsche models than any other designer in the company's history. Everything from Porsche 924 to the original Boxster and the transition of the 911 from air-cooled (Type 993) to water-cooled (Type 996)
This incredible group of Porsche luminaries sat front and center on a raised podium, in front of more than 1000 adoring fans, surrounded by the cars they made famous.
The Crowds for the Porsche Seminar Were Huge
We arrived over an hour early to the Talbot Ballroom on the main floor of the Amelia Island Ritz Carlton in anticipation of long lines. However, what we found surprised even us.
What we first took to be a queue for some type of autograph session turned out to be attendees waiting in line to enter the Porsche event. One of only three such lines. It was looking like this would be the best attended seminar of the weekend. Fortunately, we were able to move to one of the other doors and get a spot up front.
Meeting Magnus Walker
After just a few minutes of waiting we noticed the unmistakable Magnus Walker, the Urban Outlaw himself, walking toward us. Not ones to miss an opportunity we quickly jumped out of line and introduced ourselves figuring it was worth the chance to lose our spot. Having exchanged emails with Magnus in the past we thought it would be a great way to put a face with a name (not that we wouldn't recognize him...). Anyway, Magnus couldn't have been nicer. We spent the next 30 minutes talking about everything from his collection, to our site, to his newest endeavor the Urban Outlaw clothing line. We were simply blown away at how down to earth and accommodating he was. He made us feel like we've been friends since grade school.
When the doors finally did open we quickly grabbed a couple of seats and continued to chat while waiting for the event to start. Magus explained how he had spent the morning taking part in the Porsche Driving Experience (you may remember this event from our write-up last year) and how excited he was about his "hot-lap" with Patrick Long. When we asked if he would mind if we grabbed a picture of him he didn't hesitate and quickly pointed out the Brumos pin he had attached to his jacket earlier in the day. Our timing was perfect, no sooner had we snapped the picture when the lights dimmed and the presentation began.
90 Minutes of Porsche Magic
Moderating the panel was Bob Varsha from the Speed Channel. After introducing each of the speakers, Bob introduced Peter Schutz - retired President of Porsche AG and the man responsible for saving 911 and the Porsche brand - asking him to explain just how he saved the 911. Peter immediately began to recount a story of a meeting he had with Helmuth Bott (Porsche's then head of Research and Development). He recalled walking into Helmuth's office and seeing a chart on the wall with chronological bars showing the anticipated development of each Porsche model and the subsequent actions he took as a result.
"the 911 had a little short bar that quit at 1981, which was just one year away. I went over to Mr. Botz office and I picked up a big black marker from his desk. I walked over to the chart and extended the bar from the 911 all the way to the end this chart, off the chart, on to his wall, behind his desk, around the corner and into the edge of the window. I looked at Helmuth Bott and said Mr. Bott, do we understand each other? He had a grin from ear to ear like he had just escaped a violent death. That was it, the 911 still lives," quipped Schutz
Of course, this was all delivered in typical Peter Shutz humorous and humble manner. While we've read about his exploits many times, hearing the story first hand was simply priceless.
Amazingly, Peter's story was but one of many. Each speaker revealed something new and interesting about the marque we all love so much. Hurley Haywood recounted a story about the time a seagull crashed through his windshield while he was "daydreaming along" at 170 mph and how they continued the race with him driving around "with a dead seagull as big as a turkey" half in the car and half out. Jeff Zwart discussed the challenges of racing at altitude and speed on Pike's Peak. Vic Elford told about having to beg for Porsches to take rallying only to go on to win some of the largest Rallying events in Europe in Porsches he borrowed from local dealers. Jack Atkinson explained the creation of the Brumos famous red, white and blue livery and how he used to personally hand paint the cars for each race. The stories just kept coming.
We wish we could recount the whole event for you word for word, but it's just not possible. The seminar was filmed and we've heard rumors (nothing official) that it might become available as a DVD. We sincerely hope it does as this one event, in our opinion, was worth the expense of the entire trip. The Porsches on the concours are going to have to be damn good to top this!
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