Great roads, great cars, great views with great people, describes the July 17, 2019 Air Brigade drive for air-cooled Porsches to Mt Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi (6,683’).
This Porsche drive was the largest yet with 13 cars and 21 participants. Three new members experienced their first Air Brigade air-cooled Porsche drive. They included Tim in his 1969 Porsche 912 Targa, with his navigator Bob, Larry in his 1997 Porsche 993 Cabriolet and Henry in his 1970 Porsche 914-6.
In addition there was a selection of Porsche 911’s including an early 911, several Carreras, a 964’s, another Porsche 912, a couple Porsche 914’s and a Porsche 356.
The start and the driver’s meeting in Bat Cave, NC was not at our usual fine coffee establishment due to the route, but a large parking lot provided room for this great selection of cars, drivers and navigators to convent.
Jim led the group off in his Phoenix Red Porsche 914 with Allen and Beverly driving sweep in their 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera Cab. Beverly was a great sweep on the radio keeping the lead well informed about the progress of the entire line. Keeping 13 Porsches together is like herding cats. Thanks Allen and Bev for sweep duties.
The warm-up drive was north on NC-9, the Black Mountain Rag NC Scenic Byway. All cars were performing and drivers were smooth on the gas and brakes as the group headed to the Old Fort Bypass, the first series of twists and turns with elevation gains and descents. This spread the line out more, but everyone drove to their ability and got a taste of what was to come with the Devil’s Whip.
A coffee break at the Dos Mundos Coffee Shop gave a chance for everyone to stretch their legs and for Keith and Donna to join us with their black Porsche 964 before the real drive began. Many hoods popped open also as members inspected each other’s cars.
After the pit stop, the Air Brigade headed north on NC-80 past Lake Tahoma and onto the Devil’s Whip providing 1,200’ of elevation gain with over 50 turns. The small four-cylinder air-cooled Porsches were working hard with the drive but the driver’s enjoyment and skills navigated the roads superbly. The lead 914 had a fuel starvation issue at one point that gave the line a wake-up call as we came to a halt at a steep corner but everyone was on their toes and navigated the issue. The strong flat-sixes of the 911’s pulled strong and climbed the mountain without an issue.
A turn onto the Blue Ridge Parkway was one of the few turns we had to navigate and we all welcomed the smoothness and beauty of this great road. It was a last minute decision because of the beautiful weather to stop at the Mt Mitchell overlook for a photo op. This stop hadn’t been scouted and sure enough the turn was missed and the line had to swing through the next overlook and backtrack. It was worth it though as the photos of 13 classic air-cooled Porsches lined up in front of the Black Mountain range and Mt Mitchell was a million dollar photo opportunity. Or as someone said “At least a million dollars worth of air-cooled Porsches.”
After a short drive down the road, we were at Mt Mitchell and our stop for lunch at the Mt Mitchell restaurant. We split up into tables of six and enjoyed meeting, talking and eating.
After lunch, some chose to walk the final steps to the summit while others headed for home down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The biggest excitement for my small group of cars that I witnessed in my rear-view mirror was a big old bear jumping a guardrail and lumbering across the Parkway in front of Henry and his Porsche 914-6. Henry was bear-aware and had a safe encounter and great view of a Blue Ridge Mountain black bear before he was on his way home too.
Other than this bear encounter, the drive home down the Blue Ridge Parkway was uneventful, just enjoyable in spite of the light drizzle that forced the targa and cabriolet tops to go back on and up.
Overall, we can call the Assault on Mitchell in classic air-cooled Porsches a success as we drove from an elevation of 1,480’ in Bat Cave to the heights of Mt Mitchell at 6,683’ for a gain of over 5,000 feet in 50 miles in 25 -55 year old classic air-cooled Porsches.
Jim Moore, July 2019
Jim Moore is the founder and Commander of the Air Brigade an organization for Air-Cooled Porsches. The Air Brigade started as friends getting together in Asheville, NC to drive their classic Porsches but is now expanding to a nationwide air-cooled Porsche community based around the web site AirBrigade.com featuring a members Brag Board™, online garage, the Luft Zeitung™ news and talk and a drive meet-up platform.