A visit to the holy land...
05.21.2008 - 05.22.2008 75 °F
I am a car addict. There, I said it. Most of you who are reading this blog know me and are likely shaking your head from side to side knowing what a “problem” cars are for me. I’ve been a car addict since I was a very young boy (my mom and dad can attest to this), subscribing to hot rod magazine, making my own car wall art, collecting “Hot Wheels” by the score, building models, and drawing my favorites over and over again. As an adult, my garage has become evidence of my addiction, even stacking them on top of each other just to squeeze in one more. Problem? What problem? They say that admitting you have an addiction is the first step of curing it, but in this case, I have found that facing my addiction has only made me a very “self aware” car junkie.
I left the family in Zurich like any self respecting car junkie would, and made my pilgrimage to Stuttgart, a short 2.5 hour train trip, to pay homage to my favorite badge – Porsche. Stuttgart is where they build the Porsche 911, and I wanted to see it being made. As luck would have it, I was able to book a tour in the 911 factory with 10 other English speakers (mostly Americans) who were also religious followers of the Porsche.
I’m sure the Porsche factory is just a proud place to show up for work for most of the technicians, and St. Peters Basilica is only an office for the Pope, if you know what I mean. I was in awe. I saw a 911 turbo engine being assembled. I saw cow hides being cut into 911 body panels, and saw them being sewn. I saw 911 bodies drifting from the ceiling to meet their interiors. I saw those bodies being “wedded” to chassis and power plants, and I saw that all of this was being done with the most precious of instruments. Human hands. All of this stuff is hand assembled. The only thing in the factory that isn’t, is the windscreen. Factory technicians build 160 cars a day here, and every color and model of 911 can be seen interspersed on the line. It was a religious event for me (as much so as seeing St. Peters) but this witnessing didn’t require faith. I met some very nice people on the tour, and one fellow addict, Steve Potter, who is actually a Porsche Salesman in South Carolina, was doing the tour for fun on his vacation. I guess that’s the equivalent of me going to a data center in Eastern Washington for my vacation. We all asked a lot of questions of our young tour guide who spoke great clipped English, and was rarely stumped. “Yah. Thank you very much. Your tour is over now.” Unfortunately, they made us relinquish our cameras and phones before taking the tour so we didn’t expose any manufacturing trade secrets, so no photos of the tour. :-(
While in Stuttgart, I also visited the Porsche Museum, and the Mercedes Museum. The Porsche museum is tiny, but holds many significant cars, highlighting their racing heritage, while the Mercedes Museum is huge and other-worldly, showing their first cars, the plane engines they built for Nazi Germany, trucks and buses, as well as their entire racing fleet. My 24 hours in Stuttgart fed my addiction, and made me pine for home, just to get behind the wheel of my 911, while prepping the garage for a new one . After Italy and some time with Ferrari in Maranello, I had begun to wonder what sports car held the keys to my heart. After a 24 hour visit to Stuttgart and 2 hours or so in the Porsche Factory, it’s no longer a question.