Still, this year's sleeper award goes to Zvi Hirsch, a thirty-two-year-old Miami firefighter who left his '69 E in a factory color known as sand beige -- it looks just as unprepossessing as it sounds -- and upgraded virtually everything else. "I wanted a car that was built the way the factory would have done it in '69, '70, or '71," he explains. "I could buy a brand-new GT3 right now with all the money I have in this car. But anybody can go out and get one of those. This is unique."
I find myself thinking about his words as I drive back to the hotel in the new Carrera I'm borrowing for the weekend. It's an immensely capable and comfortable car, but it's also the 911 of more -- more power, more weight, more room, more luxury. Even as it reaches the most exalted levels of performance, it distances the driver from the driving experience with sound-deadening material, power brakes and steering, stability control, and a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It's hard to believe that this car was built in the same factory that produced the 1970 911S hot rod that Ray Crawford drove up from San Clemente.
The moment I slide into the red-leather Recaro Racing bucket seat of Crawford's black beauty and grasp the sleek Momo Prototipo steering wheel, I realize that I'm in a car designed for driving, not merely conveying occupants from point A to point B. I twist the key and the 260-hp Andial-built engine sparks eagerly to life. The throws of the 915 gearbox are relatively long, but engagement is positive and instantaneous. The lively, unboosted steering provides unfiltered feedback about what the chassis is doing, and I swear that I can feel the brake pads clamping down on the rotors. The experience is viscerally mechanical and tactilely satisfying in a way that even the finest modern cars can't match.
Before this Treffen, I hadn't been a particular fan of early 911s. Too sober, I thought. Not enough power and a bit -- dare I say it? -- boring. But hot-rodded 911s, I realize, are a different breed of Porsche. Two thoughts come to mind as I ease Crawford's baby into the parking lot: First, I'm sure glad I didn't hurt it. Second, I really need an R Gruppe car of my own.