In Photos: The 64th Annual Porsche Parade
Another installment of a can’t-miss event from Porsche Club of North America.
I felt like Bugs Bunny as I wandered through Chicago's O'Hare airport: "Shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque." I was on my way to Miami from Berlin but was somehow connecting through Chicago, only 1,000 miles out of my way.
July had turned into a Porsche fest. I was in Scotland for the launch of the new Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder, then on to Germany for track testing of the stunning new 935 plus the GT2 RS Clubsport and GT4 Clubsport. So I wasn't too surprised when another phone call directed me toward the 64th annual Porsche Parade, an event organized by the Porsche Club of America (PCA) in Boca Raton, Florida.
This year's Porsche Parade was headquartered at the opulent Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton Hotel and Resort, which was well capable of accommodating the 2,000 participants and more than 800 cars signed up for the event.
My first taste of the festivities was the Pirelli Welcome Party. The Grand Ballroom was packed with hundreds of people. The evening's dress theme was the '80s, so there were a fair number of Sonny Crocketts and Rico Tubbs floating around. The massive buffet was cranking from the moment the doors opened.
In retrospect, I'm not sure what I expected, but the welcome party was family friendly and casual, with an emcee who kept everyone's interest by moving things along at a good clip. Sitting next to me dinner was Sandra Siegloch, who works for Porsche in Stuttgart, Germany, heading the team responsible for working with all Porsche clubs worldwide. Porsche and Harley-Davidson are apparently the only two vehicle manufacturers with employees totally dedicated to helping their owners' clubs.
The main speaker at dinner was Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche cars North America. The finale of his speech included a reveal of the new Cayman GT4 and 718 Spyder to the assembled dinner guests. Rapturous applause went up as the covers came off, immediately followed by a mini stampede to have a closer look and take pictures. As I had already driven the cars a couple of weeks before in Scotland, I was peppered with questions from interested folks standing around.
I was then fortunate to grab a few words with Zellmer after his speech. He was obviously happy to be at the event with so many Porsche fanatics, and he acknowledged that an important aspect of their customer relations involves strong support for Porsche enthusiasts.
After the Pirelli party, I wandered back to my rental car through the hotel's multistory parking garage. It was 11 p.m. and the garage buzzed as small generators were hummed and lights glared. Maybe 100 people of all ages were feverishly preparing their cars for the next day's concours event. Wheels were off, cars were jacked up a foot into the air, and anything within reach was being cleaned, scrubbed and polished. I asked one owner, why all the late activity? "Oh, right, well pretty much everyone you see here drove their cars to the event," he replied. "So you pretty much have no option but to do all this, at least if you want any chance of concours honors."
The next morning, I had breakfast with a couple of Pirelli representatives to understand a little more about the tiremaker's involvement with the event and its connection with Porsche and the PCA. As it turns out, the Pirelli/Porsche North America relationship goes back almost 40 years. In 1982, Pirelli started working with Porsche to come up with model-specific tires. The "N" designation you might see on a Pirelli (or another brand's) tire means it was developed for a specific Porsche model. That is old news to Porsche fanatics, but Pirelli now also makes tires for older Porsches and other historic sports cars, going all the way back to the 1950s. The company's engineers raided the Pirelli Museum to get old engineering drawings to make sure they produced the correct original sizes and patterns.
After breakfast, I went to check out the concours. It was set out across several holes of the Boca Resort golf course and reminiscent of the classic Amelia Island setup. There were all kinds of cars on display, from the most basic 914s to flawless 356s to every type of 911 up to and including the 2019 GT2 RS. A number of extremely valuable, rare models, and historic race cars such as 935s and even a beautiful 904 were displayed inside, just in case it rained. What struck me most while speaking to contestants was the total joy they showed in sharing the story of their particular car. One Miami couple who drove their concours entry to the event enthusiastically showed me a book of pictures chronicling the four-year restoration of their 1970 914-6. The car was purchased as salvage after a house/garage fire. Looking at the pictures, I couldn't see any paint, just melted bits and carbon black; the car was completely burnt. I frankly couldn't believe it because it now stood in front of me in "original" and pristine condition. My first question, asked with a bewildered look on my face, was, why? Why would you put yourself through this? The owner answered very simply, with a tone of inevitable fact. "It's a six." Yes, of course, this particular 914 came with the Porsche flat-six engine, making it "the one" to have—or in this case resurrect—but wow, what an effort.
Next I almost tripped over one particular Porsche 944 S2 race car. It turned out I raced against this very car in the Firestone Firehawk series when I drove a Chevrolet Camaro back in 1988. I even remembered the S2 being one of what I referred to back then as "The Magnificent Seven." These seven specially prepared 944 S2s all came into the U.S. through the late Al Holbert's Porsche dealership, and they were superlight and very capable.
Moving along, PCA president Tom Gorsuch shared some information with me about the club. PCA is a not-for-profit 501(c)7 entity, and Gorsuch emphasized how volunteers are the club's backbone. The U.S. is split into 145 PCA regions and has by far the most PCA members in the world, 134,000. Next comes the U.K. with just 30,000.
Gorsuch thinks of it this way: PCA is a community for thousands of Porsche owners and enthusiasts. When you buy a Porsche, new or used, you might think, I finally own a Porsche, now what? PCA is a central source for that person. They may want to learn to more about their car, modify it, race it, autocross it, or meet others for road rallies, cars and coffee, car shows, social get togethers, mountain biking, RC car racing, and more. Through PCA they can get in touch with other owners with similar interests. The weeklong Porsche Parade schedule perfectly reflected the varied menu of interests and entertainment events Gorsuch mentioned.
Meanwhile, there were more than 30 sponsors listed for the Parade. Apart from Porsche North America, two major names stood out: Pirelli and Michelin. PCA executive director Vu Nguyen shared a little information about how PCA manages to get two major tire sponsors for the same event. Since both tire giants have obvious Porsche connections and want to be here, they sponsor different parts of the Parade. The huge welcome party is handled by Pirelli and the autocross event by Michelin. Simple.
I have attended hundreds of car events over the last 30 years, and my most memorable takeaway from this year's Porsche Parade was seeing a large number of younger adult PCA members and the presence of so many children. At the Pirelli Welcome Party, children were also mentioned and singled out for their interest and support, and the Michelin Autocross awards dinner includes Parade Kids Recognition. It is fantastic to see this encouragement of children into our car-enthusiast world. The longer that groups like PCA can keep driving enthusiasm alive and well, the better. This year's Porsche Parade went a long way toward contributing to the cause.
Photos by Damon Lowney.