When American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown this past spring, the news media went bonkers. Wahoo! Three in a row! Can I get a high five? But, unless you’re a loyal fan of Porsche, something even more special passed under the radar of the general news media—a 60-year winning streak of successful and exciting Porsche Club of America (PCA) member gatherings. Of course I’m talking about the PCA Parade.
Some say “Parade” and others, such as myself, say “The Parade.” No matter what you call it, though, this annual event is the PCA’s premier get-together for the marque’s most ardent and loyal fans. It’s a seven-day, totally car-crazy, neck-deep, full immersion Porsche extravaganza. And once again, Excellence was there.
The 2015 Parade was held in the heart of the Midwest, namely French Lick, Indiana. Okay, it isn’t Boston, Washington D.C. or even Pocono, Pennsylvania (all places that have held PCA Parades in the past), but it proved to be a warm (temperature and hospitality wise) and inviting place, filled with just about everything a destination vacation area needed.
My co-pilot, George Beuselinck—George B. of 944 Ecology fame—and I arrived on the Saturday before the official start and were greeted in town and along the way by roadside signs at gas stations, restaurants and convenience stores with welcoming messages like “Porsche Fans – We have 93 Octane” and “Welcome Porsche Club of America.” You can bet I never saw that in Washington D.C.!
The stylish, some might say extravagant, French Lick Resort was this year’s Parade headquarters. Situated on acres of manicured lawns and flower gardens and adjacent to a casino, the staff threw open their doors, parking lots, tennis courts and garages to the enormous PCA crowd. Everyone I met from the hotel was friendly and helpful—nice work all around.
Our ride to Indiana from New Jersey saw us drive through hundreds of miles of steady and heavy rain, but by the time we unpacked in our home away from home, the sun was shining and stayed that way for most of the week. Unfortunately, the deluge flooded some local roads and the resort’s golf course fairway where the Parade Concours was to take place. This turn of events forced the event planners to scramble for a new place to hold the premier Porsche Concours d’Elegance in the world. And scramble they did. The resort and casino has acres of covered garage parking so, thinking quickly, the concours prep was moved inside.
With clear signage and ample space to make logical model groupings, everyone was accommodated in time to allow participants to get their cars ready for Monday’s judging. The people with historic display cars and members who brought their cars to be a part of the “60-4-60” show—a display of one Porsche from every year of Parade—were allowed to park and prep inside a huge, air conditioned tennis court. None of these changes seemed to affect the members who went about their job of cleaning with remarkable focus.
The Show Must Go On
I saw Tom Roos, the owner of a neat Sand Beige rally-look 912, fussing with his car. Since I have a soft spot for 912s, I stopped to ask him about it. Tom said he bought the car about three years ago and decided to give it the rally treatment, “I did it to look cool,” he admitted. “A guy my age has to spend too much time trying to look cool!” His car stopped me in my tracks, so I guess he’s on to something.
Jerry Door was putting the finishing touches on his brightly colored 911 as I walked by. His license plate read, “FLYYELO” so I strolled over to ask the logical question: “Does it really attract flies?” He smiled and admitted, “Oh yeah!” and then he went back to work, presumably to wipe off persistent bugs. As I walked away however, he shouted back, “Hey, you better write that it’s not a concours car, it’s a driver!” Roger that!
I spotted a familiar red 911 Carrera 3.2 with an owner crawling around underneath with a cordless droplight, so I stopped over to watch. The man with the light and cleaning rag was fellow New Jersey PCA member, Bob Knapik. He was working hard to undo the effects of the rain on his undercarriage during the 900-mile trip to Indiana. He said that he had completed a lot of prep work at home but felt that every mile he drove in the downpour added another hour of cleaning. His efforts earned a second place in the Preservation Full class.
Outside, over in the dark, covered garage, I saw someone working on his 2003 Carrera Targa wearing a flashlight on his head. The owner, Steve Kuk, said, “It’s like working in a salt mine. But the pay’s better,” adding after a laugh, “in the salt mine!”
Another stopped-me-in-my-tracks Porsche was Donald Schmidt’s Euro-spec 1976 911 Turbo (930)—an unrestored time capsule built in November of 1975 with the 260-hp 930/50-engine. Like many interesting cars these days, this Porsche spent 18 years “in a barn.” Schmidt, a proud member of the Wyandotte Indian tribe, said he found the car about six years ago, saying, “The hood and deck were up and there was straw, acorns and hay on the roof.”
Looking carefully, I could still see the marks that they left in the 930’s nearly 40-year-old paint. Despite the 18-year snooze, Schmidt said they only had to do relatively simple, basic maintenance to get it running. “I was told, do an oil change and don’t paint it!” he said. While the rejuvenation took a little more effort than that, in the end, the car was simply stunning and proudly displayed. I loved it—especially that red plaid interior!
The cool thing about the Parade concours, is that entrants are willing to share knowledge, cleaning tips and even potions, lotions and polishing rags. I saw the owner of a red 944 struggling to get an ugly white residue off his door seals. He was parked near concours guru John Paterek, so I asked him if he needed any advice. Not only did John have advice, he brought over one of his favorite “secret” cleaning products (Shh! Wurth Citrus De-Greaser) and then proceeded to clean the gasket himself. Nice!
We can’t list every winner in every class, but the PCA website has a complete list for the curious. However, some cars pull you in and let you know they are serious. One such Porsche was a real showstopper entered by Pete Archibald. His 1951 pre-A 356, with only 31 miles driven since its stunning restoration, looked to have a good shot at a first in the very competitive 356 class. The near-perfect 296 points given by the Judges on Monday proved that to be the case. His car also earned a Zuffenhausen award for scoring over 295 points in the Restoration Group—truly a special car!
Following the tried and true Parade playbook, the rally followed Monday’s beauty contest. Tuesday dawned bright and clear and participants, some fresh from wins on the concours field, were lining up to spend several hours driving the country roads surrounding French Lick.
We didn’t enter the rally (we were driving George B.’s 280,000 mile Audi A6, alas, not a Porsche) because we didn’t have the official route instructions. Our plan, however, was simple—look over the competitors and pick one to follow through the first checkpoint. I spotted Jeff McFadyen’s 356 Outlaw and asked if we could tailgate. He’s a Jersey boy and he and his wife are an experienced rally team, so he gave us a thumbs up. He also had just won a first in class in the Concours d’Elegance, so it’s always smart to go with a winner.
The rally route quickly got the drivers out of the center of town and onto the winding two lane roads that Porsches were made to drive. The pace was brisk so staying on time while catching all the route tricks and traps was going to be a challenge for both the driver and navigator. It was fun watching McFadyen’s 356 squirt through the twisties with Indiana’s countryside going by in a soft green blur.
After the first checkpoint, there was an “enjoy the ride” section that led competitors to the parking lot of a local church. Parishioners from the Paoli Wesleyan Church in Paoli, Indiana were there to meet and greet the rally teams with cold water, iced tea, lemonade, snacks, fruit, cookies and, more important, clean bathrooms. Of course, since this is the friendly Midwest, everything was free!
As it turns out, we picked the right team to follow. McFadyen and his wife finished tenth in the Unequipped Class with 300 penalty points (that’s three minutes late). They could have easily finished first except for a two-minute delay on the first of the rally’s five checkpoints caused by missing a hard-to-see turn. Maybe next year…
A Trip to Indy
If you are a car guy or gal, a visit to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway is probably on your bucket list. Naturally, since French Lick is only about an hour drive from the famed oval, clever event planners scheduled a ride to Indy as just about the coolest side trip ever. Dozens of Porsches lined up for a caravan to the palace of speed for a tour of the facility, a visit to the famed museum and, be still my heart, a chance to drive a paced lap around the 2.5-mile “Brickyard.”
Sadly, since we were not driving a Porsche, the track experience was not going to happen. And another gotcha was (so we were told) the track would not allow “outside” photographers to accompany the tour. Instead, the track’s staff would have images for sale should anyone wish to buy them. Hmm…
Because it’s Indy and we were so close, George and I decided to go to the track on our own. Being a big tourist at heart, I sprung for the $8, 15-minute guided bus tour around the track as well as the similarly priced museum admission. Both experiences, not surprisingly, were fantastic and highly recommended. The Porsche folks who signed up for the official package were, for the most part, equally pleased but a few were slightly disappointed when they learned that the speed limit on the speedway was 45 mph. As we say in Jersey: go figyah!
No Parade is complete without a high-speed driving event. Some Parades, like the Milwaukee and Mont Tremblant events, were blessed with nearby world-class racecourses to run both the autocross and a formal Driver’s Education (DE) event. French Lick lacked such luxuries. The organizers did, however, lay out a very challenging, high-speed circuit on a local private airport.
Cars entered the course through a central taxiway and, tripping the timing light, turned right onto the runway, speeding through a sea of cones toward a U-turn at the far end. To the course designer’s credit, this turn-around, although tight, wasn’t a tire destroyer—well done! From there, the cars headed back through the opposite side of the tarmac, past the taxiway, now on the left, and on down to the opposite end of the runway and, finally, through the timing light.
Because of the number of cones and the “up and back” nature of a long, narrow airport circuit, if the driver didn’t walk the course a few times to imprint the line, chances were good that you would be off course a lot (recorded for no obvious reason in the official results as a DNF). Again, go figyah…
In the old days when the event had an overall winner, you saw some autocrossers for whom the Parade event was their only attempt at the pylons. These days, there are still a few newbies or once-a-year drivers, but the majority of the competitors did very well with tight times across many classes.
It was encouraging to see the great times posted by the Boxsters and Caymans, demonstrating, once again, the benefit of a mid-engine layout. Fast Time of the Day (FTD), however, was posted by Dave Montgomery from Allegheny Region driving a—wait for it—1972 914-6. The car not only looked planted as he sped through the course, Dave was able to rotate the car with proper use of brake and gas without getting too sideways. His runs were a joy to watch.
One last speed event was the radio-controlled car competition. I grew up when these things were slow, noisy, unreliable, hard to drive and expensive. These days, only that last characteristic is still true. To my great surprise, most of the “drivers” were adults and the competition was fierce, fast and exciting. I enjoyed watching the races, as did a room full of members—young and old.
Toward the end of the week there were two more events that are a Parade essential—Tech Quiz and Tech Presentations. If you want to know what the Tech Quiz is like, ruminate back to when you took the SATs. Think NSA-level security, sharp number two pencils, examination books and lots of determined faces. To my surprise, this year’s questions included information from the pages of Excellence. I think that’s pretty special!
Another fun thing that every Parade has is a day devoted to technical presentations. Experts do hour-long talks about features of the new cars, benefits of different types of alloy wheels, instructions on how to detail a car and help caring for the aging 944/968 and much more.
Along with the driving events, the Parade offers many fun things to do during the week. There is, of course, the Goodie Store where you can buy your favorite event tchotchkes. Smart shoppers got there early to ensure the best selection. (That’s an insider tip, by the way…) Porsche Cars North America stepped up big time, too, with car displays, a well-stocked accessory store and lots of freebies, such as genuine Porsche shop towels, car wash sponges, pens, pins and some fantastic books.
The 60-4-60 car show was a very exciting touch since it offered members a close up look at a diverse collection of cars, some made before many of them were born. The Historic Car display was similarly blessed. I approached one member who was clearly enthralled by what he was seeing and asked him his thoughts, The member, Tom Scott, said he thought this year’s historic display was, “The best I’ve ever seen. The variety and quality…yeah, the best.” Personally, I fell in love with the GT1 and the Paris–Dakar rally car—rare and stunning!
For many people the most important parts of every Parade are the awards banquets where winners get their praise and receive their trophies. But I think the most coveted event is the volunteers-only Worker Party, because you can’t go unless you worked to make the Parade happen. Being part of a successful event, surrounded by like-minded volunteers is truly special. If you ever go to a Parade, consider pitching in—it’s a very rewarding experience.
Parade 2015 was a well-organized, well-executed and well-attended happening. It was my tenth Parade and I think the folks in charge can hold their heads up and be proud as they successfully upheld the 60 year tradition. Next year’s Parade will be an east-coast affair, held in “almost Canada” Jay, Vermont. I hope to see you there. Once again, I’ll be the guy with the camera!