This past Christmas my brother in-law gave me a great book by Randy Leffingwell titled: The Porsche 911 History of the Legendary Sports Car. As some of you may know, Randy is a fairly well known author and photographer with regard to the Porsche marque. His Porsche books include:
- Porsche 911: Perfection by Design (this is very similar to the one I received for Christmas)
- The Porsche 911 History of the Legendary Sports Car (printed for Xmas ’07. Available in limited supply at Barnes and Noble Retail outlets).
- Porsche 911 Buyer’s Guide
- Illustrated Porsche Buyer’s Guide (Illustrated Buyer’s Guide)
- Porsche Legends (Motorbooks Classic)
Randy’s books are fairly well reviewed on Amazon (I’ve provided links above to those that are available) so I won’t go through that on this page.
I made it a point to reach out to Randy after reviewing Porsche 911: History of the Legendary Sports Car and as a result he and I have been exchanging emails for the last few weeks. While talking with Randy, I though it might be interesting to interview him for my blog as he has some interesting insight into the Porsche brand. Randy was gracious enough to answer a few questions and I thought I would post them for everyone to see.
Randy is constantly touring the States and abroad for material for his books and is always on the lookout for unique and interesting Porsche vehicles to include in one of his next books.
Question: How did you first get interested in Porsche?
Answer: I’ve always been fascinated by mechanical things, interested to know how they work and how they came to work that way. I was born in 1948, the year both Porsche and Ferrari introduced their first production models. Each company had a distinctly different approach to making cars and to targeting their products. In 1964, when I turned 16 and got a driving license, a Porsche/Mercedes-Benz dealer near where I grew up had a 904GTS on the showroom floor with license plates on the front and rear and a price tag of $4,995. I bicycled home to my father – a Buick man – and told him he could buy an incredible automobile for a little more than the Riviera he was looking at, and have something exciting and something that, I thought even then, might be worth more after a few years than another used Buick. I also thought I could drive it. Ferraris and Aston-Martins at that time were $10,000, $11,000, and I new my father was comfortable enough to buy a Buick every year but nowhere near enough to spend double that on a two-seater. So I only could hope….
He bought the Riviera. But the sales guys at the dealership let me sit in and crawl all over the 904 and I got pretty deeply enthralled. Two years later, they had a 906 Carrera 6 on the floor – with license plates! – and they wanted $7,995. I again bicycled home to tell Dad that he had another chance to buy a great Porsche “investment.” He went out and bought a Riviera Gran Sport. I was racing bicycles by this time so I passed the dealership every day on my training route. The car sat there for six months. The price dropped to $5,995. The sales guys would let me sit in it. My thrall deepened.
I worked all that summer to earn money for college, went off to school and worked while I was there. In the Spring I came home for break and my dad wanted me to buy a Volkswagen because his best friend owned a dealership. Not what I wanted, and since it was my money, I already had spotted a Super 90 coupe in my college town. I was coming home to raid my savings account. I didn’t get the VW but I didn’t get the S90 either because it sold while I was home. I got an English sports car instead; not the same, engine in the wrong place, water-cooled…. But I had become fascinated by Porsches.
I read Sports Car Graphic every month, and Road & Track, and Car and Driver. Porsches got better and faster and Ferraris got more expensive. Well, so did Porsches but it was all relative. I lived in France in 1968 and saw LeMans in September – delayed from June due to the student riots and national strike – and watched and heard the 908s run against the GT40s. I was there in 1969 for the 917s against the Ferrari 512s. Those were as much battles of makers as they were contests of great sounds.
Question: Do you own a Porsche? If so, what year and model?
Question: Do you have a favorite Porsche year and model? If so, what is it?
Answer: Life interrupted the fantasy; I finished college, got jobs, needed vehicles that would carry kids, cameras, lights, stands, ladders, clothing, and research materials for a month or more on the road, kids, ski gear, camping equipment, saddles, on and on.
Whenever the choice came between buying work equipment and a work vehicle, paying for college, funding an eventual retirement, skis, saddles, the Porsche got put aside. Which, unfortunately is where that aspiration sits now: aside. If I ever do get one, I want a 993 and probably a cabriolet. I love the sound of the engine and living in Southern California, we have an 11 ½ month driving season for open cars here.
Question: Your bio talks about the fact that you have “30 books in print, primarily on Americana subjects”. You cover other subjects such as Lighthouses, Hotwheels and Wine Country, along with American Muscle cars like Corvette and Mustang. How does Porsche fit into this genre?
Answer: My own website is out of date and my wife Carolyn and I are working to update it by early February. At that point, I’ll list the 40 books I’ve done. Most of these deal with what booksellers define as “Americana,” subjects from West Coast Lighthouses to California Wine Country to American Barns to John Deere Tractors to Harley-Davidson motorcycles. But since writing and shooting Porsche Legends 16 years ago, I’ve developed very good relations with Porsche in Germany and in Atlanta. Their cars, and their engineers and designers fascinate me.
Of the 40 books I’ve done – or will have completed by later this spring of 2008, only a few have been my own idea – and Porsche Legends was one of those. I wanted to tell the story of how 35 pivotal cars directed the company and affected the company.
That “life interrupted the fantasy,” a few paragraphs above, can help explain why most of my books are not my own idea. I worked for newspapers, initially strictly as a photographer, and later as a writer/photographer, for 22 years. During that time, I got accustomed to taking assignments, doing the research, doing the story, and starting over again the next day. I came to consider myself a professional journalist, a writer-photographer for hire. So when Motorbooks or Voyageur Press approached me with ideas as varied as wine country, and International Harvester tractors, I dove in, researched deeply, spent months shooting and doing interviews, wrote it, and moved on to whatever came next.
Question: What has been your most memorable moment in researching, photographing and writing your Porsche related material?
Answer: Do I have a dream project? Not really; every book project starts out as something of a dream. Deadlines, weather, and other influences sometimes turn dreams into challenges or nightmares. But then the next project comes along, the tough book comes out, and experiences get logged into the mental notebook as things to watch out for in future projects.
Porsche’s press department has been a dream. I receive exceptional cooperation and in Germany, Michael Baumann, head of international press, and Dieter Landenberger, the new head of archives, opened doors for me that others sometimes find a bit difficult to get in. In Atlanta, Bernd Harling and Bob Carlson have been my heroes so often that I think I embarrass them with my expressions of gratitude. For each of these books, Porsche Legends, Porsche Buyers’ Guide, Porsche 911 Buyers Guide, Porsche 911 – Perfection by Design, and now Porsche 60 Years, I have done huge amounts of research.
There are three kinds of compliments that I’ve gotten over the years that mean the world to me: First, during an interview with someone who is quoted often, if they say, “:You know, in all my years, no one ever has asked me about that before. How did you find out about that?” then I know I’ve done my job well. Second, when an interview is scheduled for an hour, and it goes over another hour and the subject asks if you have plans for lunch,” or dinner, I feel that I’ve done my job well. Third, when an interview subject turns to Michael Baumann or Dieter Landenberger and asks if they can tell me a certain thing, and either of these Porsche representatives says, “Yes, we are cooperating fully with this book. You can tell him anything…,” so they turn and say, “I’m going to tell you something now that no-one outside this department knows…and you can publish it,” then I know I’ve done my job well.
Porsche Legends, and Porsche 911 -Excellence by Design have plenty of each of those instances. Porsche 60 Years, when it publishes in the fall of 2008, will as well.
Butzi Porsche once told me that he thinks that when auto designers add a sculpted line or a trim piece to a car body, they have failed with the form and must find some way to recover the contours. My best photo days are those in beautiful soft pre-sunrise or post-sunset light when Erwin Komenda’s 356 or Butzi’s 911 or Tony Lapine’s 928 or the 964s and 959s that Steve Murkett and Dick Soderberg did, or Tony Hatter’s 993 or Pinky Lai’s 996 or Grant Larson’s 997 reveal the character line drawn by the horizon on their organic shapes. When it shows up on the film or appears on the monitor, I know I’ve done my job well.
Thanks to Randy Leffingwell
I want to thank Randy as he was very generous with his time for this interview. He even threw out the carrot that I might get to have my 993 photographed for one of his upcoming books (because of its unique color combination). If you haven’t had the chance to read (or more importantly view) any of Randy’s books, I strongly encourage you to do so as the photographs are as good as the writing and make these a great resource and addition to your Porsche library.
Other Porsche Books You Should Consider
This Book About Porsche Sounds Great
Lost Spyder Book Review
Porsche: Origin of the Species
Interview with Karl Ludvigsen on Porsche: Excellence was Expected