The Porsche Tech Who's Been Wrenching Since Before the 911 Was Born
Larry Moulton has been working on the brand's cars for 56 years.
Porsche Cars North America recently gave out its newly created Technician Tenure Award to 126 of its certified technicians who boast 20 or more years of service. One's dedication, though, particularly stood out: Larry Moulton, 74, was recognized as having the longest run—56 years—of any Porsche dealership tech in the U.S. He's spent his entire career with Porsche in Salt Lake City—including 53 years with Strong Auto Group. For perspective, consider that the 911 had not even hit the market when he began working in 1962. We spoke with him about the differences, similarities, and cultural shifts he's witnessed during a career with apparently no end soon in sight.
Automobile Magazine: How did this adventure begin?
Larry Moulton: I had hot rods and whatever, and when I got out of high school, I started getting into sports cars. Volkswagens and Porsches were my interest, so I went to the VW-Porsche dealer. I started two weeks out of high school, 1962. I was lucky enough to start working on the Porsches, 356s, with the other fella that was there.
AM: How quickly did things evolve?
LM: There were a [couple of service bays] devoted to Porsche, and they had one full-time master mechanic that came in from Germany . . . then the 911 showed up. The first one I'd seen of those, it was a 1965, '66 model. And then we got 911s and 912s, and things just slowly progressed, [and] we got three stalls.
AM: What's the most memorable job that's come your way?
LM: Oh boy, that'd be a good question. One I remember well: A fella bought a '76 911 Turbo, and he decided he was gonna throw it on the Bonneville Salt Flats and set a world record. He left the huge tires on it, which don't work on salt. He did something to boost the turbo up, and I kept telling him, "At least run race gas," and he didn't, so it made it a half a mile and burned a hole right through the side of a cylinder.
AM: How difficult is it to stay up to speed as the cars change?
LM: You go to an engine or electrical school, and six months later you need to go to another one 'cause there's some other layer, technology, or they're adding this or doing that. It's the whole industry moving so fast. You're continually learning and training.
AM: What's come along where you said, I never thought I'd see the day?
LM: The [dual-clutch] transmissions. That was a big thing, and then when the Cayenne came out, it changed everything. Instead of having the shop full of sports cars, all of a sudden you've got six SUVs and two sports cars. It changed the whole outlook and demographic of the product at that point for me.
AM: Speaking of that, how have customers changed?
LM: Back in the day, if you will, people would buy these cars and they were just enthusiasts. [They'd] keep the car for 30 years, and now a lot of the people will lease them, drive them for two years, and then they'll come back and it's, "Oh, I want a brand-new GT2 Turbo now instead of the regular Turbo." [The] products change so fast; if you want the fastest Porsche, you're gonna have to change every year.
AM: Has that impacted your client relationships?
LM: Yeah, but we still have customers that have driven nothing but Porsches for 20, 30 years. [One will] come in and say, "Oh, I got another new one," but then I have some customers who still have the 912 they bought in 1968. You get both sides. I guess it's different and the same in a way. We still talk to a lot of the old-time customers that have been around a long time.
AM: What advice do you give to someone interested in a career as a technician?
LM: Pick a product that's exclusive; just don't pick your run-of-the-mill domestic. If you're gonna make a real success out of it, you need to specialize. You need to be a Porsche guy or an Audi guy. The opportunities are so much greater, and quite honestly you make a lot more money if you can specialize.
AM: What's your favorite model?
LM: As far as the modern cars go, I like the Cayman GTS with a PDK transmission. It's a real driver's car, and it's got a lot of soul. I'd like to have my '58 Speedster back. Or an '84 Carrera, something like that.
AM: What's been the most difficult model to work on?
LM: Just in general, the 964 Turbo. Everything was so [tightly packaged]. The one with the most technology is the new Panamera. It's just like two worlds. A guy I work with, we had a 356 with a bit of a clutch problem, and I had to take the engine in and out about nine times before he was happy. Some of those things, it was a real challenge, but you didn't care how long it took. You just wanted it right.
AM: Tools have changed quite a lot as well; is the job easier today?
LM: No, it's more difficult. The days of the carburetor and the points are long gone. Everything on the car is integrated. All the computers talk to each other. It's a difficult job, and for someone new to come in off the street, that's quite a daunting task.
AM: Do you have tricks to remember everything you've learned?
LM: I don't keep track of it. I remember the old cars; you just kind of keep it straight. I work with a guy named Randy Yates. We've worked together for 35 years. So we can just say, "You remember this?" Or, "You've seen that." It really helps.