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Passion for the Porsche 911

Michelin logoMichelin 10/05/2017
© Verena Proebst

More than 50 years after it was first unveiled, the Porsche 911 is still in production, now in seventh-generation form. A direct descendent of the air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle, designed by Ferdinand Porsche, it started its life as the 356 in 1950. With its four-cylinder engine, the 356 had no right to go as fast as it did. However, an incredible power-to-weight ratio, alongside brilliant aerodynamics, meant the 356 was fast and agile.

When the 356 morphed into the 911 in 1963, it stuck with the same formula of lightweight construction, an air-cooled boxer engine and streamlined style. For added spice, there was now a 2.0-litre air-cooled flat-six, rated at 130bhp. It sounded glorious; it could take the car to 130 mph – and, if you didn’t treat the 911 with respect, it would put you backwards through the nearest hedge.

By putting the engine in the back of the car, the 911’s handling was tricky on the limit. Go into a corner with too much speed, lift off to try to save the situation and that was it – it was all over. Despite this behaviour, thousands of enthusiasts around the world worship the Porsche 911. And why wouldn’t you? Beautifully built, fabulous to drive and fast too, the six-cylinder 911 is the most complete and versatile sports car ever created.

A family obsession

Verena Proebst, from Southern Germany, has been surrounded by classic cars since she was a child and adores her 911s. “My parents built a museum, which now houses 70 cars and 120 motorbikes, and in there are two Porsche 911s along with a pair of 928s,” she explains. “My father, Walter, used to drive Porsche 910s in endurance races, such as the 1000 km of Nürburgring in the 1970s.

© Verena Proebst

“Ten years ago, my parents gave me a dark-red 911, which I still own. Last year, I was given another one, a bright-red example this time, which I have been restoring so I haven’t driven it yet. So, there are now four 911s in the family. All of them are 1970s air-cooled models – the newer 911s are too easy to drive! I like the challenge of driving my car quickly; I have to work with the car to get the best out of it. I don’t do any circuit driving in it, but I do regularly go to track days with my Porsche-owning friends.”

The thing about the Porsche 911 that very few rivals can match is how challenging and rewarding it is to drive at high speed, and how easy it is to drive at low speed. Its usability is one of the many reasons why Proebst uses her 911 for going shopping or enjoying local drives – it’s not at all temperamental or unreliable so it can be used all the time.

© Verena Proebst

“The dark-red car started out as a 1971 911 S,” Proebst recalls. “These S models were originally offered with a 2.2 or 2.4 litre engine, but this one has a 3.0 litre unit from a later 911. The engine was built by my father and, thanks to the way Porsche built the air-cooled 911, it’s easy to upgrade older cars by fitting newer parts, which tend to just go straight in.”

Owners and friends

As with most groups of classic car owners, Proebst’s 911 is a brilliant social tool. “Most of my friends are 911 owners and we take our cars all over the place,” she explains. “We regularly drive into Austria and to different parts of Germany, enjoying classic car shows. I enjoy using my 911 because of the very distinctive engine and exhaust sound; even people who don’t know about cars know what my car is.

© Verena Proebst

“It’s not unusual for people to smile and wave or give me a thumbs up as I drive by. You don’t get that response if you drive one of the newer Porsches. Those who see me probably also love the fact I take my Labrador, Seppi, with me everywhere I go. He loves to sit in the front seat and watch the scenery go by.”

Proebst’s passion for classics and her role in the car community see her organise an old-timer rally every July, which involves a 400 km tour of Bavaria. “Open to cars over 30 years old, we have space for 70 classics. We have a waiting list every year because it’s so popular. My dark-red 911 does the trip every year and it’s perfect for me. I don’t want to drive any other cars – not even any other Porsches. One day, I would love to own a 1973 Carrera RS 2.7, but as they now sell for €500,000, I don’t think I’ll be buying one any time soon.”

If you’d like to see the 911s close up, Proebst’s family museum is in Adlkofen, about an hour from Munich. Open days are held once a month; full details are available at www.automuseum-adlkofen.de


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