Garages Kill: A Porsche 912 in the Big City

First, that blue blur in the photo is indeed a Porsche 912. I spotted it flying up the right lane as I sat in traffic this evening on Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Avenue. If you looked real hard in the background, you’d almost see Barry playing with Bo on the front lawn of his house in the background. No kidding, this was taken between the Washington Monument and the White House. And it made my evening.

While in places like San Diego, Alameda, and most of the rest of the West Coast, classic car sightings during regular commuting hours are something of an ordinary thing. Sure, it’s always neat to see some cool old car, but out there it happens. Here in the humid, salt-using East, classics are generally relegated to weekend use in warm months. Seeing something older and interesting in the daily rush hour is practically unheard of.

This guy, therefore, is my hero. Sure, the flat four in the 912 is generally more reliable than, well, just about every old car I’ve ever had. That’s always been my hangup. I have these visions of causing gridlock because the new Webers in my Alfa Spider (only marginally better than the Spica system they replaced) were not quite fully sorted, or because the points in my Mercedes 6.3 were shot, or I didn’t pour enough gas down the throat of the carbs in my Bavaria. You get the picture. It has been a long time since I had an old car I really trusted. Truth is, I can’t remember one.

That isn’t completely true: my first car was another Alfa Spider: a 1977 with rust from the waist down but the best-sorted Spica system I’ve ever encountered. I never hesitated to get I that car and go. I would have commuted in that one. In a heartbeat. I guess these days my 1984 Mercedes 300D would count, too, but to me those are still workhorses and not classics, even though I know they really are, with the newest being 26 years old. Damn I’m old.

To me, one of the biggest problems with the cars I didn’t trust for my 25 mile each direction commute is that they sat around far too much for far too long. More recently I’ve been making a concerted effort to get the older cars out on a more regular basis. My current Mercedes A124 convertible is generally very reliable, and I;ve just been waiting for a good day to drive it in – top down. My favorite is top down on a cool morning or evening with the heat on and the seat heaters keeping my hindquarters toasty. But nobody is going to snap a picture of me speeding by in what looks to most people like a regular mid-90s Mercedes E-Class. Nope, I need something older and far more temperamental for that. To get the sort of Car Geek admiration I lavished on the blue 912, I need something a little more like all those cars I feared driving in traffic…

So what is old, classic, and reliable? Volvo P1800? Opel GT? Is the 1st Gen RX7 a classic yet? As for those of you who trust your classic cars, drive them to work once in a while so people like me can envy you and live vicariously through your bravery and devil-may-care attitude.

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