Modern cars are fantastic. And modern sports cars are glorious triumphs of science and engineering. The pages of Excellence are filled with the merits of these modern marvels, with spectacular new car introduction after new car introduction. And the modern technology these machines contain is spectacular. Air bags, anti-lock brakes, stability control, Bluetooth, parking sensors, active aerodynamics, and on and on. Do some of these technologies prevent accidents? Certainly. Do some of them save lives? Without a doubt! So I concede that all of this technological progress is immensely positive.
But when we see manufacturers working hard on their computer-controlled electric power steering algorithms to introduce some greater semblance of “road feel” back into the driving experience, or we see Jaguar and others implementing a computer-synthesized artificial burble into the exhaust note on deceleration, what is that telling us?
And when we see some well-educated consumers shunning Porsche’s excellent PDK semi-automatic transmission for a three-pedal manual gearbox car when any purely rational reading of datasheets tells you that PDK is, without question, the faster and more efficient way to shift gears, what is that telling us as well? What are these manufacturers trying to do? What are these buyers of three-pedal sports cars searching for?
The answer: The immensely satisfying grin-inducing experience of driving a purist, minimalist sports car. The reason there remains a desire for this experience among some enthusiasts became clear to me as I was hustling Tom van Overbeek’s restored 914-6 up a winding mountain road in the hills near San Jose, California.
I should clear up some potential name-related confusion: Yes, Tom van Overbeek is the successful northern California amateur Porsche racer. His blue #02 Spec 911 race car (which was featured in the August 2016 issue, #238) is likely one of the winningest amateur 911 race cars on the West Coast (and perhaps in the whole country). And yes, Tom is also the father of professional racer and regular Excellence contributor Johannes van Overbeek. But Tom’s interest in Porsches doesn’t end at ones built for the race track.
The beautiful black 1970 914-6 you see on these pages is the fourth 914-6 that Tom van Overbeek has owned. Coincidently, his first one was also a black 1970 914-6. He recently shared an amusing father/son story with me about that first one and how, one evening, it came to be totaled. The story involves the young, not-yet-licensed-to-drive Johannes.
There they were one evening, driving in the hills behind their Oakland home, young Johannes behind the wheel, father teaching son how to drive. They crested a small rise and were immediately engulfed in what appeared to be smoke or fog or dust. A large dead tree had just fallen across the road an instant before! Dust and tree limbs were everywhere.