Yeah, I wonder how this is going to turn out. I wonder if Jerry Seinfeld, well-known Porsche psychopath, is going to like the new carbon fiber, mid-engined, 604-horsepower Porsche supercar, the Carrera GT. Maybe you should flip to the last paragraph, where writers typically have their “conclusions,” to see if it’s thumbs up or down? Yes, I know, there is a need for more automotive sarcasm. And the truth is, I’ve always wanted to write for a car magazine. Next to being a stand-up comedian, I can’t think of a less important way to make a living. I mean, really, who the hell cares? And priding myself as I do on being an accomplished avatar of the ephemeral, the mutual attraction was irresistible.
So off we flew to a former Soviet air base in the former East Germany, complete with MiG-27 hangers with trees and grass on top of them to hide them from the sky. This is where Porsche is giving test drives of its new machine. I brought along my friend Spike Feresten, writer of the famous “Soup Nazi” episode of my TV series, not for the obvious irony of that but because he also has a Porsche thing.
As we sat in the little East German hotel cafe, we heard Marlene Dietrich’s “Falling in Love Again,” circa 1930, gently wafting from the sound system. Are they kidding? Are we really in Germany, or is this Epcot Center? Wiener schnitzel and pretzels for breakfast? Come on. This is a joke, right? It wasn’t. But we couldn’t have laughed any louder if it was. That’s the thing about eastern Europe and why it spawned the Jewish comedy culture, which became the New York comedy culture, which became the world’s comedy culture. You’ve got to be funny in this place. There’s no other way. You sift out the war, the racial hatreds, the murder, madness, and mayhem, and this place is a riot. And we loved it. Everything about it felt right. What better place to show off a weapon than a military installation? And what better audience to show it off to than a couple of knuckleheaded Jewish comedy guys? We got there on the last couple days of a three-week press tour, and our giggly noodle brains seemed to be just the thing to cheer up the Porsche guys, who may have been running just a bit low on silly by that point. Twenty-one days of writers from Balkan Auto und Car and Turkey Torquesteer Magazine, who, I can tell you, are about as funny as they are well shaven, could definitely take a little bit of fizz out of your mimosa. So, in between spitting up spaetzle noodles because somebody’s corduroys were too short, we oohed and aahed over this car for about 30 straight hours.
I even stood up and gave an impromptu congratulatory speech to the Porsche executives at lunch on the last day, to thank them for their wonderful hospitality and tell them they have successfully built the single greatest sports car in the history of the world to date. I know I’m only a comedian, but screw it, they have. I don’t care what anyone says. All the other superexotic fantasy whatevers, melt them back down; these bloody buggers have cracked it. I’m chuffed, I tell you. Yes, I know all about what’s out there. I’m not interested in that other German “special project” with the 6-foot-long hood. Hello? It’s the 21st century. The last time I saw a car with those proportions, Bluto was driving it. I’m also not interested in $60 quarts of oil or sitting in the middle. I haven’t sat in the middle since I flew coach to Cincinnati, and I didn’t like it. I want a real car. That’s another Porsche thing. Fantasy movies, fantasy restaurants, fantasy cars, enough. They all suck. Porsche doesn’t do fantasy. It does reality.
In 1998, Porsche advertised the all-new, liquid-cooled 911 with the slogan “Everything we know so far.” Well, between 1998 and 2003, they seem to have learned a few more things. Because this little grocery hauler is rippling with new groceries. And it is hauling a lot more than your ass. Somewhere, your sports car soul is strapped in here too.
If you’re 8 years old and this is your first car magazine, you may be wondering, “What is the Porsche thing?” For me, it’s a lot of things. Maybe it’s starting out with the completely wrong idea of where the engine is supposed to be and refusing to admit it for 55 years. I love that. “We’ll make it work anything, damn it.” So what if it’s wrong? It’s a good kind of wrong.
Why is this company so cool? Can you name another company in the history of companies that could get a positive PR spin off killing one of the biggest movie stars of the 20th century in one of its products?
Champion sells a poster with James Dean changing the plugs in that 550 Spyder. Why would people want to be associated with a tragic accident? How could that be cool? Somehow, it was. Personally, I would kill to die in a Porsche Spyder on my way to racing it. Making iconic movies during the week, racing aluminum-bodied Porsches on the weekends, life was only going to get worse for this guy anyway.
If we’re going to talk about the Carrera GT, we’ve got to talk about cool. Cool is what sells sports cars. And Porsche cool is a particular type of cool. My personal definition of cool is how much you are about what you’re about. That’s not just the coolest thing, it’s really the only thing that is cool. Having your hair messed up just right isn’t cool. Stephen Hawking is cool. His hair’s messed up just right for the right reason. I met a lot of Porsche people at this thing. These people have made a lot of cool cars. Are they cool? Yes and no. They’re not hilariously funny. I never put my hand up, crying with laughter, and went, “Please stop with the newton-meters. You’re killing me.” I talked with Porsche executives. I talked with Porsche managers. I talked with Porsche designers. I gave them my home number. I told them, “If you ever need anything, and I mean anything at all, please, please, don’t hesitate.” They won’t call me. They don’t need me. I can’t help them with a ceramic clutch for a 604-horsepower engine that is 6.7 inches in diameter — 6.7 inches! (a normal clutch is 10 to 11 inches) — is 10 times lighter than a normal clutch — 10 times! — and will virtually outlast every other component on the car. That is cool! The carbon fiber seats are half the weight of Porsche’s regular seats, and weight is the enemy. It even says so in the Mazda ads.
In the mid-1990s, a dubbed version of my TV show bombed in Germany, and I, for one, am glad of it. I don’t want to distract these guys. Let’s keep these people focused on making these cars. It’s definitely working.
When they rolled this street racer out of the garage (why is rolling it so much cooler than driving it?), I don’t think my wife would have liked the way I looked at this thing. “Why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last longer,” someone from my high school would have said. To which I would have responded, “Actually, it wouldn’t, because of Porsche’s patented new carbon-fiber resin process used for the body panels so they don’t slowly break down and literally melt over time.” Like some other carbon-fiber supercars, whose names I won’t mention; take a wild guess.
I like cars. A lot. I went over this thing like a medical examiner at the Peterson trial. I crawled underneath it. I looked down the exhaust pipes, behind the wheels, inside the headlights. I felt attracted to it in a way I’m not completely comfortable with.
All right, already! What’s it like to drive the damn thing? What’s it like? What’s it like? What do you think it’s like? It’s like going out of your mind in a completely wholesome, productive way. The engine has no flywheel! The throttle responds like Larry when Moe had his nose in a pair of pliers. Instant and loud. The slightest push and it’s “Come here, numbskull.” And the sound coming out of your mouth is the one Curly made when he’d rotate around the floor on his ear: “Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip.”
The first time I had any idea what real speed is was on my friend Cliff Singer’s gold 1972 Honda CB750 four. No one in our little neighborhood had ever been around anything that fast. After my first ride, I got off it and said, “That’s not a throttle. That’s Automatic Scenery Control. Want the scenery to go by faster? Just turn it.” The Carrera GT has ASC.
In Germany, for some reason — well, for obvious reasons — the trees seem to be spaced equidistantly. It’s like driving through the scalp of someone fresh out of the Bosley Medical Group magnified 10,000 times. At one point, driving the Carrera GT, I turned my head to the side, and the trees had become polished hardwood floor. I tried to make sense of the pavement passing beneath me as we flew past 200 mph. I thought, I’ve never cranked open a Dairy Queen soft ice cream dispenser with my open mouth right under it, and now I don’t have to. That Russian runway was a 205-mph vanilla-chocolate swirl that really hit the sports car spot, my friends.
I thought, this feeling must be the reason they built this incredible ground saucer. The other possible reason is how much the Porsche engineers love to say the word monocoque. “In the monocoque.” “Because of the monocoque.” I have no doubt that somewhere deep inside Weissach, even deeper inside some darty-eyed carbon-fiber engineer’s personal computer, there is a bizarre, out-of-focus, crudely made Porsche pornographic home video. And the star of that video is a man known only as Monocoque.
So what, in the end, does this car mean?
What does it mean to us of the sports car nation? We of the religion sports-car-ianity? The few, the proud, the power-to-weight-ratio obsessed. I’ll tell you what it means. Because that’s what they pay me to do. It means justification. It means vindication, even, for anyone in the history of man, woman, or person who ever drove a sports car on the street.
● Primary relationship
● Secondary relationship
● More money
● Rain protection
● Crash protection
● No heat
● Too much heat
● Trunk room
● Foot room
● Head room
● Knee room
● Hip room
● Goose in the face
● Learning how to pronounce Nürburgring
● Owl in the face (nighttime)
● Listening to a mechanic say, “They haven’t made the part you need since 1949.”
● Unexpected sudden release of fire, fluids, fuel supply, engine, you
● Rebuilding an entire body shell from a quarter-size piece of fender and then standing there helplessly watching it burn all the way back to that size
For all of that, one ride in the Porsche Carrera GT is the final, ultimate verdict from the highest Supreme Automotive Court of Issues, Dilemmas, and Compromises that in whatever way that sports car somehow led to the building of this sports car then, indeed, we have all been on the right track all along. I do decree it.
Take it from someone who has turned almost every dollar I could get my hands on (some of them went to Billy Joel) into something made by this company. The Porsche Carrera GT is not just the new benchmark, it’s the new bench. Yeah, it looks unbelievable. Sure, it makes a crazy, shrieking, “Jason and the Argonauts” mutant-creature-trapped-in-a-cage sound. But it’s the feel. You know it’s all about the feel.
The Formula 1-style pushrod-operated coil-over dampers, up high and parallel under the front lid; those amazing, beautiful, forged aluminum control arms to the wheels. That’s the feel. Leather steering wheel, perfect round polished wood shift knob (917!) — oh man, I’m telling you. Paddle shift? Snap out of it, brother. You want to interact with this thing in every possible way you can. If I couldn’t shift this car, I’d ask for some kind of optional attachment so I could mount myself to the hood like an elk. If pedestrians asked any questions, I’d tell them, “What does it look like? I bagged myself.”
That’s what these cars do to me. I know, I know, like Marlene Dietrich, I can’t help it.