al Citro’s eyes glint when telling the story of a June 2008 afternoon in Charlotte. His 1958 356A Speedster had been judged in the Full Restoration class at the Porsche Parade, and it had fallen just shy of the mark.
It wasn’t the level of his car’s restoration that held it back; the car was immaculately prepared, resplendent in #5711 Orange. No, as is often the case in concours, it came down to a couple things: The owner’s manual and a few tools were missing — and a full-flow oil conversion, though well-hidden, was still too conspicuous for prying judges’ eyes. Total score: 289.1. Solid, if not spectacular.
Al was nevertheless pleased with the car’s debut. Months later, it’s not the judges’ thoughts that leave Al brimming with pride; it’s what followed the scoring. “After the judging, they told us we could take the cars back to the staging area,” he begins, indicating relief that the long day was ending. “Then the president of PCA came to us and said they wanted to display the car for the concours banquet, which shocked me. I asked, ‘Do you really mean my car?’ and he answered, ‘Yes, the Porsche family likes it.’” The following night at the banquet, more surprises were in store for Al and his family.
“It got to the end, and we were getting ready to leave the table,” recalls Al. As his family gathered their belongings, the Master of Ceremonies began to talk about the People’s Choice Award. “He started to describe the winning car and we all started looking at each other because it sounded like ours.” It was. The fun didn’t stop there. By the end of the evening, Al’s 356 had nabbed one more distinction: Honorary Judges’ Choice.
Al’s wife Sally, who was unable to attend Parade, was waiting patiently by the home phone for news: “(Al) didn’t call me at all, and I kept thinking, Has something happened? My son-in-law had called every day to tell me what was going on. Well, he called me that night and said, ‘Your husband is floating on a cloud.’ But Al never did actually call me.” Her husband of nearly 49 years sheepishly explains: “Well, I was in such a state of shock, I couldn’t come to grips with it.”
The prize-winning Porsche, chassis number 84215, digs deep into the Citro family history. The year before Al met Sally, he bought it new. What’s more, it’s the only Porsche the Citros have owned.
In the spring of 1958, Al was driving a 1956 MGA when the adage “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” nudged his gaze toward something else. “I had been to many race tracks, and that’s how I became familiar with Porsche,” he says. “I didn’t know anything about them, until I saw them race.” At the time, Al was working at Denver’s Lowry Air Force Base for Martin Company on the U.S. missile program. A trip to Vern Hagestad VW yielded what he desired. “Actually, I wanted a silver one,” he recalls. “But Hagestad told me, ‘Well, Porsche has this orange color, and I think you’ll like it.’ He showed me the paint chip. It was something different, and I liked that.”
A twist of 356-related fate would bring Al and Sally together. A temporary assignment detoured Al to Orlando for most of a year before returning to Denver. During the winter after the return, he came across a female colleague he’d been friends with in Florida. Remembers Al: “I ran into Jannie and she said, ‘Here is my phone number — give me a call when you get a chance.’”