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Road Trip: 500 Miles in a Classic Porsche

The Porsche 914 50th Anniversary Celebration at Werks Reunion Amelia Island provided the perfect opportunity for a 500-mile road trip in a 50-year old (ok, actually 47-year old) air-cooled Porsche.

I had never driven this type of distance in my 1973 Porsche 914 2.0. The fast way from Asheville to Amelia Island is freeways I-26 to I-95. Five hours of cars, trucks and traffic passing and dwarfing the little 914. You don’t realize how small and vulnerable one feels in a 50-year old car until you re sandwiched between a semi and a giant SUV.

There are no safety features in a 1973 Porsche 914 except seat belts. Crumble zones are non-existent and when the door is shut the sound is “ting” not “thud” as the thinnest, least strong metal construction reminds you of the light weight construction of the 914.

The decision was made to “go for fun” instead of speed. It would be back roads most of the way. A study of a real map and then Google maps helped to identify a route that was direct but with two-lane roads that would provide a little view of southern American as we traveled the highways of South Carolina to reach the Georgia border.

My usual travel partners, Linda and our dog Cody decided to pass on a 500-mile trip in a 50-year old Classic Porsche so I was on my own on this one.

Friends, Mark and Amy were also driving their Porsche 914 to Amelia Island from Asheville, but they were planning on leaving a day later than I. I had a reservation for the Brumos Collection so I didn’t have the luxury of leaving on the same day.

Instead I dangled the allure of a 914 Caravan road trip along the highways and byways of the American South. It would be safer and more enjoyable for both of us as we drove nose to tail across the roads of old America travel instead of zooming down the freeway being dwarfed by the behemoths on the road today. It sounded great to Mark and Amy and since they are regular Air Brigade tour drivers they knew the drive would be fun and interesting.

The weather was forecast as 55-degrees, clear and cloudy so it was ideal for a drive down the two-lanes in heat and air challenged Classic Porsches.

At our Asheville meet-up we confirmed the beauty of the two 914s that were shined for the show at Amelia. We knew they would need a touch up upon arrival on the show field but they shone with new-car beauty in the Hardee’s parking lot. A quick radio check to be sure the walkie-talkies in each Porsche were on the same frequency and we were off.

I had programed the route in my Garmin Drive Smart and started to listen as “Karen” (the Garmin Voice) methodically guided me to the roads of South Carolina as we zipped down I-26 from Asheville. The first hour was freeway, but was necessary to get us to our start.

The radio crackled with Mark asking “how much further?” as cars, trucks and every vehicle imaginable passed the two-914 caravan of orange and green jelly bean cars in a whoosh of modern machinery.

Finally, exit 54 and we were exiting the freeway and starting the fun as we drove the Main Street of Clinton, South Carolina as we started our journey as crossed South Carolina diagonally from the upstate to the low country and the Georgia border in our quest to see the roads of a bygone era.

Not long into the drive and rain drops started to fall. The idea of a quick cleanup on the show field was out the window as the drops turned to a downpour.

As we gobbled up mile after mile of blacktop passing one hundred year old Southern Baptist Church after another, with an old General Store here and here I noticed that Mark was rarely using his windshield wipers. Odd, I thought, he must have used Rain-X on his windshield and was fighting for visibility. Mark is an old HSR Porsche 914 vintage racer and this is a racer trick for rain visibility so I thought: “What great foresight on his part.”

At our first stop I was enlightened, it turns out Mark’s passenger side wiper wasn’t staying connected so he was fighting a wiper mechanical problem. A quick pit-stop with a wrench and the passenger side wiper arm was off to avoid possibly scratching the windshield. It made for a long 3-hour drive for Amy as the rain pelted her side of the windshield without any chance of clearing the rain to see.

The rain just kept coming and Mark soon asked: “Great roads, but what are we doing driving through a South Carolina hurricane?” The rain was slamming down faster than the roads could drain the water so the game became there is standing water how do we straddle it driving over it to maintain Porsche control as the skinny tires hydro-planed through the puddles.

As we approached Revolutionary War Trail Road the radio again crackled from the other 914 to “pull-over” as it passed me with the horn blaring. That was odd. A side-of-the-road meet-up indicated that the horn was stuck from a day-prior repair that apparently didn’t go so well on wiring the horn. A quick rain-soaked repair of pulling the fuse solved that problem and we were off.

We were 90-minutes from our Savannah hotel but we were now ready to be there. Blinding rain and a ball of mist and low visibility that was created as we approached trucks on the road turned the romantic-nature of a 500-mile drive in a 50-year old Porsche through the back roads of the America South into a high-intensity drive of limited visibility in hydroplaning old cars.

As the rain continued to pound we continued to share over the radios our progress as the miles and minutes were being counted off. The road ditches were filling quickly as the rain swelled them with floodwaters. I was on the lookout for gators coming out of the low country swamps as the swamps were being flooded but missed any wildlife sightings.

The on-ramp for I-95 for the final 10-miles to Savannah looked pretty good as it signaled the end was near. Climbing out the 50-year old Porsches that are akin to go-karts reminded us how cars had progressed from a comfort, safety and driving standpoint. The back was aching and fatigue was present with the high attention driving required for the last four hours.

Mark summed it up right: “it was an epic drive! We had rain, we had great roads, some fast driving, great curves, history as we passed old southern churches and viewed unique geographic sights.”

Next year, same route, but hopefully we experience it in the sun.

See you in Amelia!

Tags: Classic Porsche road trip, driving air-cooled Porsches cross-country

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