Guest blog – why people don’t get the 911

A guest blog from car photographer Neill Watson:

Some people look at me in a very strange manner when 911’s are mentioned. There’s actually a very large slice of people out there who just don’t ‘get it’. I know good drivers, experienced people, who’ve driven Porsche 911’s and just don’t like them, can’t see what all the fuss is about, “engine’s in the wrong bloody place, prefer my Ferrari any day…”I sympathise and try and explain, recalling my own first 911 experience.

Way back in 1991, in my previous life, I was a sales manager at a Toyota dealership and took a 911 Super Sport as a trade-in against, of all things, a Landcruiser. I delivered the Toyota in January on a horrid wet day, sleet and rain outside, but still looking forward to my first ever shot in the Nautic blue car with the wide arches and teatray wing.

I jumped into the 911 thinking, “This’ll be good…” Fumble with the seats, find a decent position that will do for now but still felt odd and managed to get past that old style Porsche immobiliser after a couple of tries. Fire it into life and by now, the windscreen is well and truly fogged up. Heater and demist… Erm…

The dash layout looks like someone just threw switches at the panel and where they stuck they stayed. Found a switch under the dash, that’ll be it. Wrong answer as the electric sunroof opens, letting all the rain in. Not funny. Close it up and keep fumbling with the sliders and find the rotary fan heater speed thingy between the seats before giving up and using the back of my hand and trundling off through the industrial estate and onto the main road. The steering feels light, but the bloody three spoke wheel won’t stop moving in my hands. Holding it more firmly just seems to make it worse. Sodding thing, stop it.. We hit standing water and it makes a dive for the road edge as the kerbside wheel aquaplanes. And it’s fogging up again. This is shit. Where’s the 911 magic? What about that great handling and traction. I complete my drive, happy just to get back.

The following day dawns to bright sunshine and I have to deliver the Porsche to the trader who’d underwritten the deal. And as I drive down my favourite A Road to York, a strange thing happens. I seem to find it much easier and less alien today. The steering isn’t fighting me, I’m relaxing my shoulders and now I find that actually, it’s just chatting away, telling me what’s happening at the front tyres in a way I’d never felt before, not even in my favourite Mk1 MR2. A lovely set of my favourite fast bends gets me driving the car harder and harder through the corners, in slow, fast out, slingshotting out and down the straights, the corners of my mouth turning ever upwards until I arrive with a big grin. Now I get it….

I’ve often heard that you need to drive a 911 more than once and that the first time you just don’t ‘get it’. Once you’ve developed the 911 feel, though, it never leaves you. Even after a year between drives, it only takes me a few hundred metres for that smile to come back. I don’t own a 911 right now but I won’t rest until I own another.

Would you like to be a Total 911 guest blogger? Get in touch!

Comments (9)

  • Pietro Ranieri

    I have a 997 turbo and would love to guest blog…I recently hit the autobahn on a work trip, maybe I could write about that?


  • Sounds good. Please email me

  • Salim Khoury

    I purchased my 911S last summer – an upgrade to a Boxster that I had. I’d love to write about my experience adapting from mid to rear engine driving. As wonderful a machine the Boxster is, i’d never go back after the 911.

  • Great, do get in touch.

  • Great blog post, Neil.

    I will admit to being one of those that ‘don’t get it’.

    My first experience driving a 911 was a white 997 (phase1) Turbo cabriolet with the tiptronic. This car had absolutely every option box ticked and listed at over £130,000.00

    I was told by those that owned the car (supercar club) that I would love it and that it was easily one of their favourite cars of the bunch, which included – GTC, AM V8V, Gallardo, LP640 & F430 – it was “easy to live with”, or something like that.

    My first impressions were much like yours however; I had just come from the Gallardo Spyder and hopped straight into the 997. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that somebody would be willing to pay £130,000.00 for it; the interior was drab, the gearbox useless (that’s saying something having just used e-gear for 3 days), it didn’t sound very nice nor look great as a cabriolet and as an entirety, it felt about as special as my 10 year old Audi S3.

    I often kept the supercars for 3 days, but the 997 I handed back after 24hrs. There was no denying the performance, it was really very, savagely quick and the way the car communicates with the driver is fabulous. I just couldn’t get on with the ‘box, the fidgety steering (I know, contradiction), how boring the interior was and the front end which skipped half a lane and almost and had me in serious trouble.

    Step forward a month or two later and I have a 1989 930 Carerra 3.2 on the driveway, again for a few days; needless to say that after the 997 I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. But something funny happened, as I was walking to the car I couldn’t help but let out a wry smile…what a fantastic looking car!

    After 5 minutes of trying to figure out which buttons do what, I set off. I came home that night and started perusing the classifieds looking for a 930! It was so comfortable, easy to use and it had bags, and I mean BAGS of character, what a charming car (only had 11,000 miles on the clock!). Okay, performance wise it would only keep up with a reasonably warm modern hatch but it just doesn’t matter, you’d have way more fun driving the 930!

    After this experience with the 930 I blamed not liking the 997 on my lack of sleep and the fact that an F430 Spider was waiting for me in its place. However, I had the chance very recently to borrow a 996 Turbo for the weekend. My verdict: Performance was great but other than that: Awful. I hated it. It just didn’t feel special enough at all.

    But then I looked at the price of a 996 Turbo and it changed my opinion towards the car dramatically.

    See, that’s where I’ve been going wrong. As a second-hand purchase I don’t think you can beat a 911.

    Until R8’s have depreciated to reasonable level, that is!

  • I had to drive around in a white Turbo Cabriolet – not a good colour combination for a Cab! Car looks much better in black.

  • Absolutely, Phil. I think that had it of been black, or this lovely new brown that they have now it would look a lot more desirable and less ‘look at me’.

    here’s the car in question:

  • Good to hear Dean’s seen the light 🙂
    Later cars probably have a less overt character than the aircooled cars, as Porsche tried to broaden the appeal of the brand.
    For a great watercooled 911 drive, you need to get yourself into a GT3 of some sort. Try Googling or YouTubing for GT3 RS & Marc Duez:

    Turn up the speakers….

  • Ray

    Air-cooled 911’s are something special and unique. They offer thrilling driving experiences which can’t be found in modern sports cars.