grace: (def) unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration…
Every time I have doubts about being able to continue CC in the face of other demands, something happens to change my mind: an unexpected e-mail, a guest submission, a comment, or a highly unexpected car (or two) in a particularly fortuitous location. Yes, there are a few 911s about, and I’ve shot some, but this was something very special indeed; only grace could account for it: a perfectly orchestrated pairing of two of the most compelling, distinctive and yet similar sports cars of their era. Any era, actually. Nothing like running into the angels of Ferry Porsche and Soichiro Honda to spark some regeneration.
The little red CRX Si is going to get second billing today. Well, it was more than a bit inspired by the Porsche. And it’s a familiar friend that has posed for me at least once, and will get its own full CC, when we catch up on our ongoing Honda chronology. But here it is, across the street from a stranger, who just happened to drop by while I did. And we had a little three-way-love photography session.
If you’re expecting a comprehensive history of the 911 today, I’m sorry; no can do. The 911 is like the VW Beetle (doh!) in that I can only take little bites of its massive legacy. And what will that be today? Just the sheer brilliance of its design. Maybe the unusual sunshine of the day had me delirious, but I was all over this butter-yellow Porsche, like a bee drawn to a butter-cup.
The nectar of a classic 911 is sweet indeed. It’s origins go back to 1959, when Ferry Porsche’s son Ferdinand Alexander rightfully got the chance to design the the second generation Porsche to succeed the 356. Long time Porsche protege Erwin Kommenda, who rightfully designed the Beetle’s final shape as well as the 356, also had a hand in the 911; the exact amount is the subject of some dispute. But “Butzi” Porsche clearly deserves the credit for the 911’s basic lines. And have there ever been clearer ones?
I know I’m getting old and the past looks buttery-golden, but good luck getting me to give a new Porsche more than a dismissive glance. When the same basic lines are endlessly regurgitated, it really is a sign that the the automotive design language has become stuck. Icons are great and all, but I give credit to Ferrari for not falling in that trap. I stumbled on a 458 Italia parked on the Champs-Élysées last fall, and was totally seduced. A new 911 wouldn’t have even broken my stride.
I’ve shot a couple of other 911 of this vintage, but something about this one really got my juices going. The way that hood just drops so steeply between the front fenders is utterly amazing. No wonder the Porsches and Kommenda argued about the 911’s luggage capacity. Guess who won? Not the luggage.
This 911 SC is what I call the second classic 911 era (of two), the first being the small-bumpered chrome-trimmed original versions from 1963 through 1973. I’ve got one of those in the can to rhapsodize over another time. The US-mandated 5 mph bumpers absolutely destroyed so many cars designed before it came into existence, but the 911 made the transition remarkably successful.
Sure, it’s not the same feminine chin it once had. The 911’s testosterone kicked in in about 1974 (it was almost a teenager by then), and the resulting masculine jutting jaw works with the otherwise more weighty and buff iteration of the eleven. The classic Fuchs wheels got wider, the motor got bigger and was now a more of an alto than a soprano. The 911 grew up, especially with the SC version of 1978 and its much more solid 3.0 non-magnesium liter engine.
It and the Carrera 3.2 define this high-classic era, from 1978 through 1989, a dozen years of the finest almost-dozen. A car that will never look any more or less out of date or style than it does now or did twenty years ago: graced with automotive design immortality.
As promised, the CRX will have its own love fest soon. Yes, the similarities between the 911 and CRX are not noticed here for the first time. And that extends beyond certain all-too obvious styling kinship. Both of these cars represent an ideal: the re-arranging prosaic automotive components and body elements for a higher calling: sheer stripped-down essential sport coupes inspired by the best engines and other components.
Of course, the CRX is more typically compared to the Porsche 356, given its origin of a cut down Civic. And what car more capably carried the VW Beetle’s banner than the little Honda?
Soichiro Honda and Ferry Porsche; I’m truly graced to meet you both here on Charnelton Street. And thank you and all the other angels that have graced me of late.