Weeks later, he would. “I was driving home from work and I’d forgotten that I’d put the fuel tank on reserve,” he says. “I had to go through farmland in the middle of nowhere, and I was driving along when the engine sputtered. I thought, I’ll just put it on reserve. Well…I was already on reserve!” A stroke of good fortune brought the 356 to rest in front of a general store. Al went to the phone booth and dialed the only phone number he had.
“I called Jannie, and she came and got me.” She invited him to a New Year’s party, explaining she had a new roommate she wanted him to meet. “I went to the party and I asked Jannie, ‘Who’s the girl in the red dress?’ She said, ‘Oh, that’s my new roommate, Sally.’”
Sally takes up the story from there: “Jannie said to me, ‘You know, Al has a Porsche.’ And I asked, ‘What’s a Porsche?’” She laughs now at the thought. “I liked it, except I had a horrible cold on our first date and he had the top down in January in Denver, Colorado! Though it was maybe 50º that day, I said, ‘I have this cold, could we put the top up?’ and he said, ‘It’ll blow the germs out.’” For Al’s sake, luckily it’s been uphill from there. Well, mostly uphill…
“I didn’t have a driver’s license, so he taught me how to drive,” says Sally. “It was no easy feat because I’m so small; I couldn’t reach the pedals. I had to bring the seat all the way up and use a pillow.” Says Al: “Just for kicks, on weekends, we would drive to Bakersfield (the two moved to Santa Barbara after getting married), just for something to do. When you go to Bakersfield, you have to go through the mountains. One time, I said, ‘Why don’t you drive the car?’”
Sally cringes. “The road was terrible, only wide enough for a car-and-a-half. And it was gravelly.” For those familiar with the handling of early-generation, rear-engined Porsches, it’s not hard to guess what happened next.
“Oh yes, and I forgot to tell her about that,” mentions Al of the twitchy nature of the Speedster. “We were going uphill and I figured that if we started to slide, it would be easy to control. But I didn’t go into the details on how to do that and we came up on this sharp curve…”
“I wasn’t going very fast,” Sally intercedes. “But I was going too fast for the gravel and I froze on the gas.” Somehow, Sally managed to avoid the cliff on one side and pointed the Porsche toward the less-daunting ravine on the other. “I got caught on a small tree.” That was the only thing that prevented the 356 from plunging down the deep ditch. “I thought we were going to get divorced right there,” she admits with a chuckle now. Despite the Porsche’s precarious position, Al and a ranger were able to get it safely back onto the road, surprisingly devoid of damage save for a cracked windshield.
The car served the Citros well over the years, through a son and a daughter, moves from California back to Colorado and then several eastern states before landing in New Jersey in 1970. Along the way, it logged well over 100,000 miles. By the time the two reached New Jersey, Al had a leased car, so he didn’t drive the Porsche that much.
“I left it outside mostly,” he comments. One afternoon, a young neighbor girl let herself into the car and took it out of gear, allowing it to roll downhill into a stone retaining wall. The left front fender took the hit. “When I came home, I wasn’t too excited to see that. But it wasn’t a bad enough ding to get too excited over.”