Is Life Better in a Classic?

Several of us felt it would be advisable to test the theory that there’s nothing like the joy of driving a classic car by traversing Ohio from south to north, and then south again in vintage sports cars. Porsche 356 Speedsters, Triumph and Mercedes Benz cars, uniquely suited to maximize the rolling terrain and twisting Ohio roadways, departed Cincy for the north shore.

The route and destination were chosen to celebrate driving the cars the way they were driven originally. Our first stop was along the Mad River Valley for a run up Corkscrew Hill, the former site of the Bellefontaine Hillclimb, before proceeding to The Put-In-Bay Road Races Reunion/Revival.

The 1958 Porsche Speedster Carrera in our group won the Hillclimb in 1962, driven by Dick Weiss both then and now. It was an honor and privilege to watch Mr. Weiss climb the hill 52 years later in the same winning car, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

The classic cars clicked off the miles as we motored north through small towns, forests and farm fields to Port Clinton and the Miller Ferry to Put-In-Bay. Arriving at the PIB Road Races Reunion and Revival we discovered the organizers wanted each car to have numbers on the side for easy identification during the parade laps, rallye and track touring. I chose the number 23, the number my dad used when he raced his Austin Healey Sprite at Put-In-Bay in 1958. Unfortunately, we had no supplies to make the graphics. Fortunately, one of southeast Indiana’s premier watercolorists was part of our merry band of sporty car enthusiasts. Ms. Susan Fagan retrieved her painting supplies from the boot of the Mercedes and hand painted a pair of numbers. I insisted she sign them and they are now being framed and will be displayed with the car. Another once-in-a-lifetime opportunity realized.

The original PIB Road Races were built on participation by British sports cars. Rick Benhase and his navigator Nancy brought an absolutely luscious Triumph TR6 on the adventure. Watching the Triumph bend through the turns and the sound of that big six-cylinder engine brought joy to all as we drove the cars in the manner intended by their creators. The PIB event draws the best of Britain, and Rick’s TR6 certainly fit the part as the most immaculate Triumph on the island that week.

One of our traditions at the PIB Road Race Reunion is to drive the original Public Road Race Circuit with islanders as passengers in a period-correct car. During the races, our crew chief, Captain Tom Cole, appeared at my side with Anne Parker, singer of the National Anthems (US, Canada and “God Save The Queen”). Mrs. Parker also hosted Tech Inspection at Parker’s Garage, the island’s service station during the original races. A spritely 85, Anne jumped into the seat and off we went for several laps of the circuit. It was quite the history lesson for me, and it is highly unlikely an experience with such a grand lady will occur again.

Leaving the island, we sped south through rural Ohio, soaking in the rural scenery for over 200, top-down, gloriously sunny miles. At our final fuel stop in Kenton, Ohio, the group broke out in a chorus of “Happy Trails To You”. It summed up the adventure, for it had been very happy trails.

To answer the original question, “Is life better in a classic?”: Preliminary results say yes, however more research is needed to gather evidence, so we will see you on the road…in a classic.

Hi-Po Hybrid

Hybrid super cars are finally coming of age and available for public purchase, with Porsche 918 Spyder leading the charge. Ferrari offers the LaFerrari, McLaren is producing the P1 in very limited numbers, Lamborghini has shown the Asterion, and BMW has the i8—none of which I have seen or kicked their tires or slammed their doors. The 918 is a real car and available through Porsche dealers; you too can drive it, own it, lease it, and enjoy it. I have seen it on the streets of Cincy, heard it, touched it, kicked the tires and slammed the door. It is absolutely breathtaking!

Porsche incorporated several historic design features with the latest technology to create an ultra-attractive package accompanied by the incredible performance of the hybrid drive. For a super car the hybrid advantage is abundant torque from the electric motors, instantly available to set you back in the seat and move you down the road; it is what makes the adrenalin flow. The 918 appears to glide along, eschewing drama on acceleration, braking or cornering. Confidence and surefootedness characterize the performance. Plug In equipped, Regenerative Power, gas V-8, velvety smooth PDK transmission, all-wheel drive, mammoth brakes, 850-plus total horsepower, driver aids, ABS, traction control, driver information center, carbon fiber chassis and body; this is the Hybrid that has captured the attention of the automotive cognoscente.

The 918 is hand-built, not produced or assembled. One can spot the difference immediately in the quality of the build; nary an uneven gap, or errant stitch, lump or wrinkle anywhere. The metallic silver exterior was exquisite, a tall order with composite carbon fiber bodywork. The craftsmanship is evident across every inch.

Super car interiors typically gravitate towards ends of the cockpit spectrum that can be described as either the bare bones “all about speed” approach or the gadget-riddled “comfort pod.” Porsche did not fall victim to any preconceived notions and found a compromise that is very pleasing. Blood red upholstery accentuated by the structure of the cockpit delivered a retro theme evocative of a very popular look of the ‘50s era sports cars from Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar and, of course, Porsche. The seats would be acceptable for competition purposes, performing the task of keeping the occupants snug and secure while providing exemplary comfort. The quality of the interior is completely off the scale, surpassing even the finest luxury cars in materials, fit and finish.

When Porsche brought the 918 to Cincy, the car was accompanied by championship racing driver David Donohue. The 918 is the road-going version of the prototype racing machinery Donohue is renowned for piloting to victory. David is the 918 instructor, a human operator’s manual of sorts, demonstrating the capabilities of the car and coaching the drivers when they take the wheel of this testament to intelligent engineering.

Cincy is a Porsche kind of town; it is the German heritage. Expect to see 918s on the streets soon.

Motoring Events in 2015

Fun with wheels, keels and wings!

Jan. 9-11, Cavalcade Of Customs, Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Jan. 16-18 & 21-25 , Travel, Sports & Boat Show, Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati

Jan. 17-25, North American Auto Show, Cobo Hall, Detroit, Mich.

Feb. 18-22, Greater Cincinnati Auto Expo, Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

April 18, Cincy Motorsports Journal Adams County Classic Driving Tour

April 26, Sharonville Classic Car Show, Sharonville, Ohio

May 14-16, Midwest Donzi Club AOTH, Lake Cumberland, Jamestown, Ky.

May 17, Porsche 356 Drei Staaten Gruppe Show, Sharon Woods Park, Sharonville, Ohio

May, Sporty’s Fly-In and Sweepstakes, Clermont County Airport, Batavia, Ohio

May 24, Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Ind.

June 11-14, Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, Ind.

June 14, Ault Park Concours d’Elegance, Cincinnati, Ohio

June 21-28, Porsche Club of America Parade National Meet, French Lick, Ind.

June 25-28, Mechanics Bank Vintage Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, Lexington, Ohio

July 16-19, Keeneland Concours d’Elegance, Lexington, Ky.

July 15-19, MG Gathering of the Faithful (GOF), Carmel, Ind.

Aug. 6-8, Indian 4 Club Annual Meet, Seneca County Fairgrounds, Tiffin, Ohio

Aug. 30, Cincy Motorsports Journal Bellefontaine Hillclimb Classic Driving Tour

Aug. 31- Sep. 2, Put-In-Bay Road Race Revival, Middle Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio

September, Lunken Airport Aviation Days, Lunken Airport, Cincinnati, Ohio