At a time when bank interest rates are at an all-time low, many people have once again turned to classic cars as a store of wealth. Sadly, this means that many beautiful cars are being locked up in air-conditioned garages, rather than being driven and enjoyed.
However, somewhere in Southern California, 1964 Porsche 356C owner Guy Newmark continues to use his pristine 50-year-old Coupe as a daily driver. This much-loved Porsche is creating its very own record-breaking value: It has traveled over 984,000 miles!
A resident of San Pedro, a suburb of Los Angeles, Guy has travelled to Manhattan Beach to meet us today. The irony is not lost on me that Manhattan Beach holds the record for the most over $1 million dollar homes sold in California in 2013, with Beverly Hills lagging at seventh and Malibu barely in the top ten!
With The Beach Boys playing on the radio, the deep blue 356 Coupe looks as at home here as it did 50 years ago, when these songs were also newly minted wonders.
In a sudden vision, a black and white image appears in my mind’s eye of Guy Newmark and his car surfing the Pacific Coast Highway between L.A. and San Diego, and then in true Hollywood style, the image slowly changes and shifts to Technicolor, as the landscape moves through time and Guy grows older.
Back in the here and now, the surf is up, the surfers are out there in the distance, and seagulls circle overhead as I admire the spotless paintwork of the blue 356C Coupe, which looks showroom fresh, at least from a distance. It’s hard to believe that in the 50 years since it left the factory, this 356 has never been allowed to rest.
From the day the car became part of the Newmark family, first the father and then the son have driven the car every day, using it for short trips, long trips and everything in between. Now it is relentlessly homing in on the million-mile mark on its 100-percent mechanical odometer.
There cannot be many other Porsches out there that have achieved such a stratospheric mileage, but frankly it does not show on a car that has been so lovingly cared for. “There is nothing better for a car than regular exercise in the dry Southern California climate,” said Guy, a bona fide voice of experience in such matters.
Guy lets his gaze wander down the beach and then back to the rear of his little Coupe. “Even after all these years, I never grow tired of looking at its soft curves and perfect proportions,” he says, pushing the cap back on his bald head.
For Guy, life with this living legend began in 1968, when his father gave him the then four-year-old 356C as a high school graduation present. “That’s the reason Dad gave at the time, but I rather suspect it was because he needed a good excuse to go out and buy a brand new Porsche 911,” said Guy with a mischievous grin.
Newmark Senior became a Porsche enthusiast after owning an Austin Healey, then a Jaguar E-Type, followed by two Mercedes SLs. When he finally succumbed to the charms of the 356, he became a Porsche customer for life.
“My Dad paid less than $5,000 for the car in 1964, taking it off the hands of its original owner who had collected it from the factory while on vacation in Europe,” explained Guy. “He drove it on the autobahn and then had it shipped back to the States. It was just eight weeks old with less than 1,000 miles on the clock when my Dad bought it, and has been in our family ever since.”
“When I inherited the car, it had only done around 40,000 miles,” said Guy, recalling his early bonding years with the Porsche. “But I started to pile on the miles very quickly from there.”
As the right-hand-man in his father’s yacht business, Guy often had to get in the Porsche and drive halfway across the country to seal a deal. “There was no e-mail, not even faxes in those days,” he said. “If you wanted to buy or sell a boat, you had to go and get the signature and the check in person.”
We climb on board and Guy heads for Highway One. The Porsche still feels tight as a drum, with nary a squeak or rattle to its name. This is an advantage of having a car made up from relatively few parts, all precision built to last and screwed together properly.
“Blue,” as Guy lovingly calls the car, has been to Scottsdale, Las Vegas and Palm Springs more times than he can remember. It has also taken him to the grocery store every week, and once even packed in six kids on their way to soccer practice. “Blue has been a stalwart and has never let me down,” he said.
Sitting here in the 356 with Guy makes me feel like the king of the coast, and people admire the car for what it is, many smiling as it passes by. Its smooth, elegant, classic profile and the rhythmic putt, putt of the four-cylinder boxer motor create a friendly character that is missing from modern machinery.
The flat-four’s 75hp is sufficient in moving the 2,059-pound Coupe along at a brisk clip on its tall tires and supple, long travel torsion bar suspension, but Guy takes the run from Manhattan Beach to Long Beach at a leisurely pace. “There are far too many cops with radar guns around these days, and I don’t need to get places quite so urgently as I did back then,” he says. Nevertheless, at the right time, on the right country road, the driver in him will always be there, hence the two pairs of perforated driving gloves hung in the footwell.
In town traffic, Guy visibly takes extra care, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles and making sure no one gets too close to us. The good thing is that most other drivers respect and admire a classic car. Even in urban traffic, everyone greets our progress with a smile and politely lets us fit in.
This is one of the reasons why Guy has no aspirations to drive a more modern car, or even another car. The only exception is Blue’s sibling, a red 1962 356B Convertible with a rare factory hardtop, which has shared the garage since 1971.
Other than a small fender bender Guy’s father had the one and only time he asked to drive his old car again, Blue has thankfully remained free of physical contact with other cars or fixed parts of the scenery.
Guy did have one close shave the nineties, but Blue was in the workshop and he was driving a rental. In a freak accident, he was sandwiched between two trucks when one rolled back and the other pushed him forwards under the flatbed of the first. Luckily, Guy emerged without a scratch, but the rental car was written off.
While Blue is in unbelievably good condition considering its age and mileage, it’s not totally original. The paint has been renewed twice and the interior once. The former shows a few fade marks on close inspection, while the chrome on the hubcaps has worn a bit thin from five decades of cleaning and polishing. Blue is no potential Concours d’Elegance winner, but there is a good chance of scoring full marks for originality and mileage in use.
The carburetor-fed 1.6-liter flat-four motor runs like a Swiss watch, probably better than new, as it has long since fully loosened up and is treated with maximum mechanical sympathy. Guy’s strict maintenance regime, which involves religiously changing the engine oil every 3,000 miles, and stripping and rebuilding the motor every decade or so, three times so far, is no doubt a contributing factor here.
“The only major mechanical drama was at 800,000 miles, when the crankshaft gave up the ghost with the engine turning at quite high revs,” Guy explained. “And, in late 2013, my mechanic of 40 years had to fettle the transmission with three new bearings. Other than that I have never had a mechanical problem,” he said, patting the motor.
With just 16,000 miles to go before Blue reaches the magic million-mile mark, Guy is debating just how and where he will hit the big one. “I could drive over to New York or up to Seattle, but I would like to cross the millionth mile doing something far more special and meaningful,” he tells me with a thoughtful expression on his face.
As Blue approaches its 50th anniversary, which falls on October 1st this year, Guy is planning a big birthday bash for his star car. “I’ve rented a car museum and will throw a party there, he said. “The booking has already been made, and just a small group of friends will be invited. The only thing I don’t know is exactly what the mileage will be by then.”
Late last year, Guy had a big scare that he thought was going to ruin his plans, when Blue suddenly disappeared from his garage. He had visions of his car in a container on its way to some far-flung continent, or in a chop shop somewhere. A massive internet campaign to find Blue ensued, and sympathetic car buffs all over the world went on the lookout for the missing Porsche.
The irony was that Blue had never even left the neighborhood. The kids who broke into Guy’s garage did not succeed in hot-wiring the car, and then tried to bump start it by simply pushing it down the hill.
That did not work, either, and Blue ended up in some thickets on the edge of a neighbor’s garden. When the car was discovered a few days later, his neighbor alerted Guy, who said he literally started breathing again. Luckily, no damage was done to the car and the wiring was quickly repaired, but woe betide those teenagers if their identity is ever discovered.
“I would really like to bring the car back to Germany and see the millionth mile click over on the Nürburgring Nordschleife,” he says with conviction. Now that would be a fitting present for the car that has been Guy Newmark’s constant companion for nearly 50 years.