Meantime, the 911 Targa provoked a running commentary wherever we stopped. "She's new, isn't she? How much?" (About ten times the price of some houses in depressed outport towns.) "Oh, look at this trunk in the front of 'er!" Skepticism being a Newfoundland trait, one crusty character said, "With our sea air, two years, and this would be a rust bucket." I mentioned the galvanized body panels, which lead Porsche to offer a ten-year anticorrosion warranty. "Don't mean nothin' around here." We also loved the encouragement at the starting controls--one starting marshal had the Canadian flag on both cheeks--or as we tore through corners, with people exhorting, "Give 'er, b'y!"
These commentaries were exceeded in interest only by what the Newfies had to say about themselves. Lisa Cakes, the Carmanville- Noggin Cove correspondent of the Gander Beacon, advised her readers that the Targa would come through Carmanville: "People will be able to watch from Rayfield Hancott's garden and the area in front of Shawn Angell's hang out." (Newfies, as it happens, go around with surnames such as Smallwood, Noseworthy, and Pickersgill.) "How are you enjoying Newfoundland?" they kept asking. "We can only understand a few words you say," I'd answer. I quizzed His Worship, Saint John's mayor Andy Wells, about the cod fishery, which is closed, and how it's being replaced economically by the previously unexploited shellfish resource. "Knowin' our track record," he said, "we'll be shaggin' that up, too." Yet a contradictorily high self-opinion also prevails. "A Newfoundlander can put an ass on a cat" is an expression that pops up frequently, including on young Ken Batstone's fast and furious Civic, which crashed during Leg 1; an all-night effort, led by the strivings of a local welder who paused only for a drink of water, resulted in this motto being scrawled on the roof.
Casualties during the week? Targa New-foundland president Robert Giannou's official car, a Chrysler Concorde, threw a rod; Jonathan Fryer slid his '65 Sunbeam Tiger through a gully during the prologue; the Jaguar X-type pace car, borrowed from a local dealership, was written off on Leg 1's very first special stage; Michael Salter's valuable 1955 Austin-Healey 100S spun and was struck by Stephen McCrory's '70 Volvo P1800E; and Jack MacDonnell plowed his Datsun 280Z into a sea wall, putting himself in the hospital overnight. I was pleased to have driven within my own limitations and brought the 911 Targa back unscathed.
As much as I learned about myself and about the car during the Targa Newfoundland, and as thrilling as the adventure was, the moment I remember best is from one of the humdrum transit stages, when, at a country store, Edison Wiltshire was pouring tea into the radiator of his '51 Citron Traction Avant and extolling the virtues of tannic acid. A couple of old laddioes solemnly looked on. If they found anything absurd in seeing Wiltshire treat his radiator this way, they were keeping it to themselves, but hearing me say, "Next thing is, it'll want to stop for biscuits," one fellow became all comical struck, the surprise of it catching him sharp and nearly moving him off his feet. Getting a Newfy all mirthful like that is pretty rewarding. Then we slipped back into the 911 Targa, of which they'd never seen the like, and gave 'er good.