Ironically, Thomas hadn't been able to afford a Porsche while he was working in Stuttgart. But since returning to the States, he'd bought a 911E and was giving it a Huergas-style makeover. During the course of their first hours-long phone conversation, Thomas and Huergas discovered that they were Porsche soulmates. After meeting at several car shows, they realized that the existing car clubs -- PCA, the Early 911S Registry, and so on -- didn't really fit their hot-rod ethic. So in 1999, they created R Gruppe with twelve charter members. The late Steve McQueen was given membership #001.
The club has no formal entrance requirements. The cars tend to be discreet early 911s modified with period-correct parts, but this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, and there's no shortage of backdated chassis and look-at-me graphics. The club mantra is: "There are no R Gruppe cars. There are R Gruppe people." In other words, Porsche diehards who regularly exercise their cars and attend several events a year. Joining the brotherhood entails a lot of hanging with other members and hoping that -- like a fraternity pledge -- you're judged to be R Gruppe material. As Thomas puts it: "There's just enough structure so that things don't fall apart."
The Treffen, I discover, is a perfect example. The only items on the agenda are a visit to Bruce Canepa's killer shop/showroom/museum and a Saturday night banquet. Other than that, there are informally organized drives, an impromptu visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, casual meals, and, mostly, adult beverages and tire-kicking in the Porsche-only parking lot of the Hyatt in Monterey. On Friday, around midnight, I hear a couple of guys still arguing out there in the dark over whether that's a '67 or a '68 rocker panel.
During daylight hours, I ride shotgun with Chuck Miller, an old-school hot-rodder who's got 212,000 miles on his '73 S with an RS look and engine. Later, I buzz around with Bob Imamura, another SoCal hot-rodder with another fast ducktail coupe, in his case a '70 S with a 3.0-liter engine out of an '81 SC. Next, I buckle into the houndstooth sport seat of Dave Eck's reworked '72 T, whose subdued exterior hides a mind-boggling array of goodies -- twin-plug flat six, RS flares, RSR distributor, 930 Turbo brakes, '86 suspension bits, etc.