I guarantee you it won’t be as far as Mike Holtzclaw, PCA Anchorage, Alaska’s President. FlatSixes.com’s Andrew Granieri sat down with Mike at this year’s PCA Parade to ask a few questions after seeing Mike’s ’85 911 covered in 3M Painters Tape arrive at the 2010 PCA Parade.
Mike arrived to this year’s PCA Parade with plenty of stares, likely a result of his car’s unique appearance. Of course, by ‘unique’, I mean filthy! His 1985 Porsche 911 was caked with more bugs and mud than a Louisiana picnic after Hurricane Katrina hit – but what do you expect? After all, he did drive his car here from Anchorage, Alaska! I got to sit down with Mike and ask him about his 3,804-mile journey here and his enthusiasm for Porsches.
Andrew (PP): Mike, thanks for taking some time to answer some of these questions. First, could you tell us about how you got into Porsches, what model was your first, that sort of thing?
Mike Holtzclaw (MH): When I first started working in Anchorage, there was a bank across the street from where I worked with a red Porsche in the parking lot; when I started working, I told myself, “One day, I’m going to own that car!” As it turned out, it is my car now! My first Porsche! I used to be a Corvette guy and I was looking to get into a 911 Turbo, but this one just caught my eye. It was actually a funny story, getting that car.
PP: I’m all ears!
MH: The owner of the bank also owned the car; it had spent a year just sitting in storage, so the banker’s wife actually put an ad for it in the paper and didn’t tell him about it – as soon as I saw it was for sale, I jumped for it! I had the money together and everything, but he still drove it for a week after I had paid for it. I remember driving back into town one day, seeing him tear off in the other direction with his wife and kids! I pointed to it and yelled, “Hey! That’s my car!” The whole misunderstanding was smoothed over, though; he’s actually a good guy. He has been active in our PCA region for some time now.
PP: How many active members does your region have?
MH: We have 107 active members and growing. We’re going to have 108 members very soon; a friend’s son recently purchased a 944 with a busted head gasket for $400 bucks – that’s with the title included! The boy’s a mechanic, so as soon as he gets that car put back together, he says he’s going to join. We’re very close, and very active.
PP: … In Alaska? Really? Doesn’t it snow almost year-round?
MH: Hey – we have four months of summer! Anchorage only has about 300,000 people, but there are Lamborghinis, Porsches and Ferraris –you name it – all over town. During that window of warm weather you see them come out of the woodwork in droves! It’s like a swarm of exotic cars descends on the town and then – poof! Snow hits and most cars are placed back in storage. Not mine, though; I drive that car year-round.
PP: Awesome! But there must surely be some weather conditions that prevent your winter setup from being effective…
MH: I have a Ford Excursion that’s my business car, so I drive that when it gets really bad, but other than work and five feet of snow, it’s the 911! She’s my workhorse.
PP: How so?
MH: Well I go moose hunting and that’s the car I’ll take hunting… I’ve hauled quartered moose with it, I’ve hauled a lawn mower, I haul tools; any time there’s an opportunity for me to use the car, I use it!
PP: What state was your favorite to drive through?
MH: You know what? I always try to stick to back roads whenever I can on these trips. You get to see things, smell things, hear things that you don’t get to experience on a highway. I loved every minute I spent behind the wheel, in every state I drove through there was something so beautiful or spectacular to see that I’d have to stop and pull out my iPhone to take a picture. I always find something great when I go on these trips, though. When the parade was in Charlotte a couple years back, I finally got to see the Smokey Mountains in person, and they were so majestic, I knew right away why people so enjoyed living in that region. It’s the same feeling everywhere I go. I cover a lot of ground, barreling down the back roads but I always find something that makes me want to stop and take a picture. It’s easy for me to say that these beautiful cars and these wonderful people here at the parade are the reasons why I come every year now, but it’s really the drive that drives me, so to speak.
PP: When you said you cover a lot of ground….
MH: I got here in five days! It could have been a little faster if I’d gotten off the back roads. I try to drive my car to the limit! I admit I’m an active autocross participant, but I haven’t been to any road courses and I’ve never driven in rallies or anything, but when I’m on the ALCAN and on a nice back country road – as long as it’s safe, and there’s no animals or other cars, I really let the 911 open up!
PP: So how many tickets do you average for each trip?
MH: NONE! I owe Mike Valentine a big “THANK YOU!” for that! I have a Valentine V-1 unit in my car that has saved my bacon more times than I can count! You know, he had a GT3 that was sold to someone in my region, and I wanted to call him to speak with him about the car and thank him for making such a great product – but I only got his assistant or somebody on the phone, so…
PP: There’s a chance he reads PorschePurist, how about thanking him now?
MH: Sounds great! Thanks, Mike! You’ve really saved my butt out on the road! I say my ‘butt’ because my wallet is usually close by!
PP: Did you enter in the Concours?
MH: (Laughs) No! I refused to wash my car when I got here – that mud all on the back is from Utah, the bugs are from Montana, I don’t really see the need to wash it. Now, some of the guys here have been giving me grief over that, so I’ll probably wash it sooner or later. It cleans up really well; that’s why they’re getting so upset with me, I think. If I took that painter’s tape off and washed the car, it would blend right in with all the other 911s!
PP: I may hold you to that claim. Speaking of the painter’s tape, how many times was that reapplied to the car?
MH: It wasn’t! It lasted all 3,804 miles! I think it’s a testament to a great product from 3M. It lasted through the rains, through the wind – and I mean winds, because I was flying down the roads to get here – it survived driving through gravel in Montana, it was perfect. When it slid around the body driving in the rain you could slide it back and it’d dry off sticky again. It kept most of the bugs off the paint, too.
PP: Back to your drive down here – what did you bring along with you?
MH: Everything you could think of, man. On the Alcan Highway, you’re really on your own. On either side of the border there’s a few hotels and gas stations, but the hotels own the gas stations – and they’ll shut them down at night, but they’ll keep the rooms open to sort of trap you there. So I’ll sleep in my car to avoid getting ripped off. I carry a lot of tools in case I break down. (Before we could ask how often that happened, Mike quickly added) Not that I’ve broken down before! I also bring a lot of food and a lot of cash with me. In Canada, there’s a lot of towing companies that are privately run, so they don’t take credit cards. But they will take your cash. Out there, AMEX and Visas aren’t worth a dime. Money talks!
PP: You were pretty quick to point out you’ve not broken down – seriously, nothing’s gone wrong with this car?
MH: Let me tell you, these Porsches are workhorses, man! I perform every scheduled maintenance task when it’s needed and I haven’t had a problem yet. Well, I had a starter die on me, but that wasn’t a big deal. I fixed it and got back on the road.
PP: What oil do you put in your Porsche?
MH: Mobil1! I use Mobil1 exclusively in this car and I have not had a problem with it, I love it! My mechanics back home keep trying to make me switch to Castrol because they offer some blends that they tell me will keep my temperature a little lower. I tell them, “My temperature’s not been a huge problem, and I don’t see why I can’t keep using my 15w-50.”
PP: It seems these long trips have made you quite the seasoned driver. Can you share any tips with PorschePurist readers?
MH: I practice safety – all the time. (I start laughing) Hey, I’m serious! Safety is paramount to me. If I’m not in a safe place to go fast – if I’m in a position where my actions will directly harm another person or thing, I won’t play around. People need to remember that, there’s too many who get in wrecks and hurt bystanders because they’re playing around where they shouldn’t be. So be safe out there, these cars are magnificent, and they’re capable of more than some drivers will ever know, but they command a lot of respect, and they have my respect. I try to make myself a better driver every time I go out for a drive. Here’s a random tip you can tell your readers that a cop told me: Have you ever been caught in a huge downpour; one so bad you can’t see anything in front of you? Polarized glasses. It cuts through the rain and you can see well enough to drive. Learn little things like that and they’ll go a long way. One more thing; unless you race professionally, you probably can’t drive the car to its limits, so drive it to yours, and learn all you can about these wonderful cars.
PP: I’ve been sitting on this one for a while now, and I’m dying to know. Mike, what do you have to say to all the ‘Garage Queen’ Porsche owners?
MH: You know, first and foremost, I have to say I have no problem with someone who wants to purchase a car like the Porsches we’ve seen this weekend and just keep them in perfect condition, as a museum piece or whatever. I think that’s wonderful and it really takes a lot of passion and a commitment to keep it looking good. You want my opinion? You gotta let it go once in a while! I think these cars are like books. Each one has a vivid story to it that’s found in a new corner or a daily drive. I respect the folks who keep the cars permanently on display, but I almost feel sorry for them because it’s like they’re missing out on the opportunity to live in the story of their car! If you don’t drive these cars the way they were made to be driven, you’re not reading the whole story. As I drive my 911 more and more, there’s almost a bond you get with the car. You get to know it; how it works, when it feels best. You get to know its story because you’re a part of [the story].
PP: What’s the most interesting thing that happened on your drive to the parade?
MH: Well, I was speeding through this mountainous road and as I round a bend in the road, I start to see that the road is full of buffalo! I mean, they’re packed on the street, off on the sides, they’re everywhere. The pavement heats up during the day, so they were lying on the road to keep themselves warm. I had to jam the brakes really good to stop in time! I didn’t know how I’d get around them!
PP: But you did!
MH: Yes! It was like a slow autocross. Buffalo are pretty much like cows with attitude. They’re wild, and they have those horns on the males. They spook easily, like cows do. But unlike cows, they’re liable to charge your car – I did not want to frighten them and risk damage to the 911! I recorded the whole thing on video on my iPhone here… (See the YouTube video below) Keep in mind this was in Canada, so within that region it was still daylight at 11 PM when I recorded this. The herd was resting for the day. I’ve also got some footage of bears along the side of the road, too. I try and record this stuff when I can.
PP: If you could get another car, what would it be?
MH: There’s an off-color expression for what I’d give to have a 959! (Laughs) I’ve been looking really hard for a 1997/1998 993 Turbo car, with the AWD I know I could make it a real daily car in Alaska, and I’d have even more fun driving down here. I’m also interested in finding a 997 Carrera 4S, if the price is right. It’d be such a thrill to jump from a 140mph car to something that tops out closer to 180mph! I know I’d be getting to these parades a lot faster if I had one.
PP: You mean you’d drive those cars just as hard as your 85?
MH: No – I’d drive them harder! They’re newer cars, with more modern technology and they’re equipped for higher rates of speed! I’d push those cars harder and faster than I push mine! You have to live the dream – I try to, I really do. People here own Porsches that don’t get driven the way they’re designed to be driven. Every time I get in my car, I try to drive it the way it was intended and that’s the dream for me! I’ll do it in an ’85 911, I’d do it in a 993 Turbo, I’d do it in one of those new GT3 RS cars, too! Oh, but the ground clearance on those may not be so good for driving in the Alaskan winter… Long story short, I’m keeping my eyes out for the right car to follow the 1985 911, but I still love driving what I have.
PP: Mike, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions and share some of your stories. Enjoy the rest of the week here at the parade!
MH: No problem! Next year, stay the week!
Believe it or not, this is an extremely abbreviated version of my conversation with Mike. He had many stories to tell – it was really a challenge trying to pick the best ones to share with you all! He was kind enough to tell me all about his journey over a beer, and as I mentioned up above, he is going to give us his iPhone footage to upload for all to see. His passion for the marque, for the cars and for – as he said – the drive itself, offered a unique perspective for the one event that PCA has few, if any, rules to follow: getting there. Yes, many, many people came out to St. Charles, driving their Porsches in from California, Florida, Maryland – all over the United States. Mike just happened to drive the farthest. When the miles in your journey start to hit quadruple-digits, the journey to the event becomes an event in and of itself, especially if the event is the Porsche Parade.
While Valerie, Christian and I were sent to cover the activities from the weekend, I feel like we only got to scratch the surface of this event – partly due to our early departure. Mike shared some great stories with us here for Porsche Purist, but he’s not the only one who drove to the parade. Many readers from the parade likely drove their Porsches to the parade, too. I’m sure, as Mike said, those Porsches have a story to tell as well. I’d ask you to share a memorable part of your trip with us in the comment section below – or, if that’s not enough room, send it in to be published!
Porsche Club of America was founded to bring passionate Porsche people together. Perhaps this interview will inspire a few readers to share some fun road trip stories with us. Better yet, I hope it inspires readers to drive their Porsche to its first PCA parade next year! For what it’s worth, after hanging out with Mike and many other wonderful people this weekend, you’d better believe I’m driving my Porsche to the 2011 PCA Parade!