After it was all over with, I stood in front of everybody connected with the first annual Targa Newfound-land and accepted the ninth- (and last-) place medal for our performance in the Trials class. By this measure, my navigator, Distractible Dave Menzies, and I had failed. The "time, speed, and distance" (TSD) stuff of the leisurely navigational rally proved elusive; our glistening Porsche 911 Targa had been bested by the likes of a 1965 Morris Mini and a 1959 MGA.
Yet we were two of the most exhilarated barnacles clinging to this island (half the size of Great Britain with but one-hundredth the population). We'd collected abundant penalties in the first two days of the five-day rally, so we hewed to the spirit of a Newfoundland expression: "It is as well to be hung for a sheep as a lamb." (Newfoundlanders keep alive a great many old words and sayings.) The fully race-prepared cars in the Targa division had been going all-out. In the final three legs, we would entertain ourselves by trying to match their times.
By our going all-out, justice would be served. The 911 Targa had been creating a sensation. Newfoundlanders are somewhat innocent where cars are concerned; the nearest Porsche dealer is off in Qubec City, well more than 1000 miles by road and a minimum of seven hours on the Nova Scotia ferry. Crowds of spectators squealed when we passed, and clusters immediately formed when we stopped for lunch or at night in the hockey arenas where we always displayed the cars. People walked halfway around the 911 Targa before crying out, "It's a Porsche!" (They never pronounced the final e.) Then the barrage of questions: "What's she cost?" "How much horsepower does she have?" "What's she registered for?" And finally: "Here's me camera, boss. Would you takes me picture sittin' in 'er?" The night we rallyists displayed our cars in the Gander ice arena, I was on the pay phone calling my wife and overheard a ten-year-old boy reporting: "Mom . . . I fell in love . . . a blue Porsche."
So it was clearly our duty to make the 3.6-liter flat-six engine howl for the Newfies, to pitch the car into turns, to fly on this trapeze without a net. For the special Targa stages, the roads were closed to local traffic, and only the laws of physics--or the random appearance of a moose--could stop us.
It was not only for the public good but also out of duty to self that I gave up on the TSD rally. How many times had I dreamed of driving a 911 as fast as I could, day after day? Coming home and admitting I'd never redlined the engine or gotten deep into the brakes would've been disgraceful. The Targa Newfoundland--"The Ultimate North American Tarmac Rally"--was a chance to put it all together with this superb car.
The 911 Targa was fitted with the optional, wider, eighteen-inch wheels and tires. It was not equipped with Porsche Stability Management. The transmission, I'm happy to say, was the six-speed manual. Great satisfaction was derived from diving into a 90-degree turn in any of the numerous towns, villages, and hamlets on the Targa Newfoundland's course and downshifting under braking while matching revs and making the engine shout for spectators. I grew besotted with the 911 Targa. The powerful and fade-free brakes, the perfectly arranged and precisely weighted pedals, the incredible grip of the tires, and the combination of growling powerplant and trick aerodynamics that had us going as fast as 160 mph all combined to boost my confidence and thrill my soul. In the turns, I only had to get the nose down with the brakes, the car would obediently enter, and the chassis would rotate; then, away we would go, rolling into the throttle on exit. This applied at 25 mph in the hardest village corners (Leg 5 presented a couple of first-gear turns) and in a 125-mph bend sweeping through spruces and firs.