Six Decades, Seven Porsches

Brian Konoske

The Fireman: The American who served as Porsche's troubleshooter for the U.S. market.

Gene Langmesser, CEO of n2a Motors, a California-based retro coachbuilder, served as a project engineer for Porsche from 1988 to 1992. The Germans called him the Fireman, because he extinguished the small conflagrations that arise with any change to a design. And some of the challenges he faced were caused specifically by the U.S. market.

"The 993-series had wraparound taillights that worked fine in Europe," Langmesser says. "But when you drove the car someplace like Arizona, the combination of heat from the desert, the engine, and the taillight bulbs would cause the retaining clips to melt." Which caused the taillamps to fall out. Langmesser redesigned the clips.

Other design challenges came down to cultural sensibilities and Langmesser's role as an American in a German company. The 993's windshield wipers, for instance. "The 993 windshield was so symmetrical that a single wiper could've cleared it with the exact pattern they required. That's what I wanted to do. But the Porsche bosses viewed the single wiper as a Mercedes-Benz thing. They said something like, 'People pay good money for a Porsche-this is not a Mercedes.' So I gave it two wipers, but they're mounted about two inches apart." Thus was Porsche's honor preserved.

Langmesser points out that Porsche's engineering muscle still extends far beyond its own vehicles. Even one of America's most star-spangled brands has some Porsche DNA in its lineup. "The Harley-Davidson V-Rod," Langmesser says. "That's a Porsche motor."

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I have recently parted with my 1987 Diamond Blue Metallic coupe. It was by far the most enjoyable car I have ever owned. I removed the cat, added a custom exhaust from B&B, installed a cold air ram system and had it chipped. The car put out way over 300 hp. It was a joy to drive just to listen to the engine. The pedal position was never an issue and nothing short of a turbo is a better car, even today than a late 80's 911 Carrera
And one last thing (this article really bugged me, obviously). Bump steer is not a twitch in the steering wheel when hitting a seem. Bump steer is from a suspension bottoming out, and a typically problem in "slammed" cars that have been lowered by hacks. Come on guys, really. And yes, it was common for sports cars to not have power steering in the 80's. Emphasis on sports cars...the typical chevy Impala did have power steering.
Too bad cars have all grown by one third or more on average. At 6'3" and 220 pounds, I never found a classic 911 too small. And I never had trouble adjusting to the way the pedals are mounted on the floor. The humorous exaggeration doesn't work in this case.
The author had never driven an air cooled Porsche? What is he, 16? At 42, I didn't think I was old enough to have nothing in common with the current crop of auto journalists. I recently read another auto journalist state he'd never driven a Z3. That dude must be all of 8 years old. And he pretends to know what the quintessential 80's yuppie car is? (It's a grey BMW btw). My 86 Carrera still keeps up with most anything on the track. And it's a rock solid daily driver.

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