FEATURES: 2005 Porsche 911 GT3 Owner's Story

By Jack Neff - June 1, 2006
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When it comes to Porsches, I don't buy or sell often. I have been driving"Old Sparky" for more than twenty years. Old Sparky (so named because ofthe flames that continue to singe the rear bumper), my 1979 Porsche 930 911, has served as my street and track car for longer than most men have hadwives. I like the old cars--simple to drive, no electronic anything, tailhappy if you like ... actually controlled by the person behind the wheel.
I didn't have an agenda to buy a new Porsche until I read about the new GT3in 2004. I mused that we have available from the factory a new car that isactually an old car: no traction control, no ESP, DSC, PMS, or otherimposing BS. ABS was standard, but that was the only concession to the "newcar." What a great reason to buy a new machine.
While waiting for the new "old" car, I realized one night that I reallyneeded to take a road trip. Where? I'd always wanted to the see the UnitedStates, so I thought, why not? Out came the atlas and the yellow marker.Let's see, go west, go north, go east--yep, that'll work. Who will do thiswith me? My dear wife is a great passenger but not for three weeks. My planinvolved three passengers, each for approximately one week. The logisticsdeveloped like this: My wife's college roommate, who lives in L.A., has atwenty-nine-year-old son, Clay, who flies to Pittsburgh where I live. Mywife, Mary Jo, flies to L.A. to spend a week with the roommate while Clayand I head west. Mary Jo and I then go north for a week, and she flies homefrom Washington State while my friend, Scott, a Delta pilot, meets us inSpokane and we return to Pittsburgh.
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Day one, part one:I had quickly put 1000-plus break-in miles on the GT3 before starting thetrip. Clay arrived, and we were off to Saint Louis, Missouri. We weren'tto West Virginia when the heavy rain started. Wide tires and rain equal amax of 60 mph. We arrived in Saint Louis that evening, toured the Arch,touched the big muddy, and drank a Budweiser.
Day two, part one:Headed to Tulsa with plans to stay with the only person that I know inOklahoma. This was more like it: sunny and everyone was driving 90 mph onthe OK turnpike. First day to actually check fuel mileage: 25.3 mpg.
Day three, part one:Clay and I were mentally preparing for 650-plus miles en route toAlbuquerque. To my surprise, I-40 west of Oklahoma City was somehow worsethan the previous portion of I-40. Not to worry, we were soon in the greatstate of Texas. Driving across the panhandle of Texas in a fast car wassome of what I had hoped to see in the west: flat and fast. Not muchtraffic on a weekday, and no beeps from the radar detector. We didn't see asingle Texas Ranger or other police. After stopping in Amarillo for lunch,we resumed our 125-mph average. Texas is a great state after all. InAlbuquerque for dinner, we had some real Mexican food and took the tram rideup to San Dia Peak. The nighttime view of the city was spectacular.
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Day four, part one:We felt like we had many of the boring miles behind us as we began the day,and we looked forward to some specific sites that I had planned in the atlaswith the big yellow marker. (The day began HOT.) First stop was thePetrified Forest and the Painted Desert. I would guess that mine was thefirst GT3 to run down this road. Did I mention how well the A/C works inthis car? The next stop was the reason for the I-40 portion throughArizona: Winslow. We drove through the old part of town to a corner where Ihad wanted to take a photo since I first heard the words from "Take it Easy"back in the '70s. Sure enough there was the bronze statue of Don Henley ona corner. Clay and I took some pics with Henley, bought some Eaglesmemorabilia and headed for the Meteor Crater. Talk about a big hole in theground; overwhelming is an understatement. After a quick tour of the crater,we headed for Flagstaff, with a detour. We took a turn south to Sedona andthen on to Jerome. I'd been to Jerome years ago and had to take Clay thereto see the old mining town that is now a haven for artists andbikers--strange bedfellows. Then it was triple digits all the way up I-17 tomeet some old Pittsburgh friends in Flagstaff for dinner.
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Day five, part one:Leaving for Las Vegas. It was July 30 and 109 degrees outside. Walkingdown the street was like trudging through the breeze of a giant hairdryer.We watched the world poker tour and the white tigers at the Mirage and thenvisited the auto collection at the Imperial Palace. You couldn't walk fiftyfeet without someone handing you a card offering "Strippers in your room."
Day six, part one:This was the best driving day we would have. Take I-15 south from Vegas toexit 33, Route 160 to Pahrump, which happens to be where the legal hookerswork. This road must be the straightest, smoothest four-lane road on theplanet. Readers familiar with the GT3 might know that the top two gears arerev-limited at 8000 rpm for a rather impressive top speed. We cruised up toPahrump at 7000 rpm in sixth gear. You do the math. However, some of thebest was yet to come. Turn left at Pahrump on 178 east to Shoshone and thennorth on 127 to Death Valley. You will enjoy the twenty-seven miles oftwisty two-lane to Death Valley. But wait, there's more! You have toreturn on the same road to Shoshone and then continue to follow 127 south toBaker at I-15. This piece of two-lane is all 100-mph plus for over fiftymiles. We passed three vehicles on the way to Baker. The outsidetemperature and our speed both exceeded 100 for this entire section. Wemade L.A. by 3 pm.
Day seven, part one:It was good to spend a day out of the car, swap passengers, and know that Iwas only one-third complete with a little over 4400 miles on the odometer.At this point, we had killed approximately 300,000 insects, most of which Ivacuumed out of the GT3's radiators.
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Day one, part two:My new passenger, Mary Jo, and I were on the road at 5:30 am to avoid L.A.traffic, which we did, but just barely. Our goal was one of my tworeservations for the entire trip: the Wawona Lodge at Yosemite NationalPark. Around Sequoia National Park the roads are slow, bumpy, twisty, butoverall the GT3 is really not a bad ride. We arrived at Yosemite ten hoursafter the early start and had time for a hike before dinner.
Day two, part two:It was 37 degrees on August 3. The early part of the day was spent inYosemite. Once through the park, the drive continued to our evening stop atLake Tahoe. We entered Tahoe on the south side and stayed on the northshore, which gave us a great afternoon drive around the bluest lake in theStates. Time to enjoy another dinner with a view. Tomorrow we'd be off toSalt Lake City.
Day three, part two:A long drive, rather simple, and not very scenic, unless you call crossingNevada scenic. There was very little traffic. I was doing my best to keepthe speed in check, but, geeze, it was so flat and empty. We drove over aslight crest near Winnemucca, Nevada, and there he was: the Nevada HighwayPatrol. The officer couldn't have been nicer and said if it were up to him,he would just give me a warning, but since "that thar plane" clocked me, hehad to issue me some paper. He wrote me up for just 10 mph over, and wewere on our way, $177.50 less. Later while driving down Salt Lake City'smain street, we crossed a dip in the road and promptly removed the frontspoiler from the car. Another 600-mile day in the GT3.
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Day four, part two:This may have been the easiest day of the entire trip, north on Route 89 toJackson Hole, only 200 or so miles. Even driving a great car like the GT3requires a little break. I checked the car, and I was pleased to note that Ihad logged over 5500 trouble-free miles at an average of 26.1 mpg. These new"old" cars are rather efficient.
Day five, part two:We had an even shorter drive today up to Yellowstone, followed by an eveningat Old Faithful Lodge. At this point of the drive, we had seen what musthave been hundreds of thousands of bikers touring the west while en route toSturgis, South Dakota.
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Day six, part two: The plan today was not overly ambitious, we thought. North through Yellowstone and on to Bozeman, down I-15 to a little shortcut through the Beaverhead National Forest and over the Continental Divide for an evening in Salmon, Idaho. The first few miles of the shortcut were smooth and twisty, followed by a few more miles of rough asphalt, and then no pavement! It was rocky, gravel-covered, dusty, and 25 mph at best. We continued for the next thirty-five miles over Bannock Pass and on to Salmon. We saw one Jeep CJ the entire time. Lesson learned: check the map legends more closely next time.
Day seven, part two: August 6. I had put on 6,920 miles on the GT3 in exactly one month of ownership. We followed the Bitterroot Range north to Missoula and on to our two-day layover in Coeur d' Alene, Idaho. The next day I would exchange my wife at the Spokane airport for my third passenger, Scott.
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Day one, part three: We drove north to Bonners Ferry, just shy of the British Columbia border, and turned east through Kalispell, Whitefish, and Glacier National Park. We then cut down to Wolf Creek at I-15 north of Helena, a spectacular route. Two lanes, no traffic, great view in every direction, so it was 90 to 100 mph. On this stretch we saw a total of four cars, and we achieved some of the highest speeds of the trip. We slowed to a legal speed when we saw two Sturgis-bound bikers pulled over. They didn't need help, but it turned out that we did, because we discovered that we had a flat left-rear tire. No nail, just steel cords on the inside edge of both rear Michelin Pilot Sport PS2s! We limped down the road on the half-filled tire to Wolf Creek, which, shockingly, had a towing service. We were on the flat bed en route to Helena $160 later. Over a beer, we reviewed the afternoon experience. One word: lucky! Just miles before the tire let go we'd really been crusin'. Prior to leaving Pittsburgh, I called the Tire Rack and put four PS 2's on hold just in case I trashed a tire. A quick call had two rears on their way. The shop was eager to help change the tires and willing to fix the excess negative camber at the rear wheels. Service for these two city slickers in their expensive car? Mount and balance two tires plus a four-wheel alignment-- $89.00.
Day three, part three: The rest of the overall trip was really without incident and mostly involved just covering some serious mileage. With what was left of the day, we made it to Buffalo, Wyoming, for the night.
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Day four, part three: On Friday, August 13, a fourteen-hour day. Into Devils Tower by 8 am, south to Crazy Horse Memorial, east to Mount Rushmore, north to Deadwood, and on to the Sturgis bike rally. Sturgis has to be experienced to be believed: half a million bikes and pork 'n' bean wrestling. Then out of Sturgis, through the Badlands just before dusk, and on to Mitchell, South Dakota.
Day five, part three: Required detour: Des Moines, and a connection for Scott. Then I was on to Chicago for a stop to see relatives and get a night's sleep in a real home, not a motel. Nearly 800 miles clocked today.
Day six, part three: I left Chicago with the sun shining again. It had not rained since the first day in West Virginia--twenty days and no wipers. It was an easy 450 miles today to Pittsburgh. The gauges indicate that the average mpg for the trip was 25.9. Not bad considering our typical high speeds. Plus, Sewickley Porsche had a new front spoiler waiting for me at no cost and did a quick check to verify the fine work that the Helena shop had performed.
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The GT3 has over 10,000 miles on the odometer and only a very few small chips from the adventure. I still have "Old Sparky," and I hope to keep the GT3 for two decades, too. It is my daily driver, year-round. My plan is to eventually make this car the highest-mileage GT3 on the planet.

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