My first ride in a 356

Another excerpt from upcoming book Hacking The Core

For me, the Porsche 356 has been a magical car since I was 11. It’s hard to say when I first saw or heard one, there were so many around Los Angeles when I was growing up. You know how that goes, you see something a few times before it makes an imprint and you want to know more, especially as a child.

My first ride in one was when I was about 11. My friend’s father had a faded yellow (official color Condorgelb or Ivory) 356A, a 1960 coupe. I had seen it in front of their house many times on Wilton Drive, just off Wilton Place where those famous curves are (at least famous to locals) in Hancock Park of L.A. It didn’t make an impression on me at the time, just a funny little car, nothing like the sleek new 911, at least to my conscious mind. It was always parked on the street, usually a little dusty with leaves falling on it. Also, I was a devoted muscle car guy — Mustangs, Corvettes, Camaro, 440 six pack Mopars, etc. V-8 engines were like works of industrial art to me.

Then one day as I was leaving my friend Tony’s house after doing some homework with him, he said his dad could give me a ride home. I replied no thanks, as I was only about a mile away, and didn’t want to trouble him. He said “It’s fun, riding in my dad’s car, the engine sounds cool. You can sit in the back so you can hear it better.” I thought it would probably sound like a Volkswagen, but hey, why pass up an opportunity for a ride in a sports car?

Suddenly, as I walked up to it this time, it looked completely different. It glowed, I felt connected to it. I now saw a purpose built race car for the street — that I was about to ride in! Pretty cool for an 11-year-old.

Before I climbed into the back area, they had to move some things out of the way and unfold one of the seats for me. I thought that was pretty cool too; the seats folded in this tiny car to make more room for storage, just like a Volkswagen. The seats were covered in worn brown leather, enhancing the experience. Most Chevys didn’t have leather seats.

Tony’s dad fired up the engine and I instantly understood what I was supposed to feel. It felt like we were starting a ride at Disneyland for the first time.

Instead of taking me straight home we drove around the neighborhood for a little while. As we went through the curves on Wilton Place a little too fast, I could feel an exhilaration from a leaning sports car that I learned to crave from then on. The engine seemed to roar with happiness as it wound up through the gears. It didn’t sound like a VW, it sounded like a Porsche. Then we cruised down Larchmont Blvd., very slowly past the Baskin Robbins, so all the people could see us. And indeed, heads turned.

That experience led to several other 356 experiences throughout my life that now seem to be connected to each other.

The Porsche 356 has an amazing story line and history as a product evolution. It was kind of a hack of the Volkswagen Beetle, although the chassis was a completely new design. It was a marvel of engineering, design, reliability and beauty in its time and is even more so today. Iconic in it’s shape, sound and image as it travels down the street — you cannot let a 356 go by without looking at it.

Why is this story in a book about launching startups?

Simple, you need to tap into the things in your life that give you exhilaration, make you smile, bring back memories of times you felt like anything is possible. That’s how awesome companies get started.

Inspiring design and engineering creates emotional reactions.

I eventually acquired my own 356, many years later, an India Red 1964 356 SC.

I named her Rhonda.

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