Mal­lett’s men­tal me­an­der­ings

Classic Porsche - - Contents -


After weeks and weeks of blis­ter­ing sun a dra­matic change in the weather al­most de­terred me/us (I was pas­sen­ger­ing a chum) from at­tend­ing the Luft­gekühlt event at Bices­ter Her­itage, where all day rain was fore­cast. How Bri­tish is that, red hot to mon­soon, must have con­founded the Cal­i­for­nia-based or­gan­is­ers. Hav­ing agreed not to go, opin­ing that it was only go­ing to be the same Porsches that we had seen many times be­fore just ar­ranged in a dif­fer­ent or­der, a late evening call from my chauf­feur changed the plan. ʻWeʼre Brits and rain does not stop our play – weʼre go­ing, Iʼll or­der some tick­ets,ʼ said he. And we were both so glad that we ig­nored the fore­cast and braved the rain, as did an amaz­ing num­ber of fel­low air-cooled Porsche-push­ers.

It was pleas­ing to see that three or four 356 Speed­ster own­ers also ig­nored the down­pour – given that the Speed­ster, even with the roof up, is ex­traor­di­nar­ily hy­gro­scopic. With the in­ten­sity of the morn­ingʼs rain and the cur­rent value of their immaculately re­stored cars, this was an act of ex­treme valour.

But where have all the 356 own­ers gone? Whether it was the threat of rain or the fact that 356s are now in the pos­ses­sion of fair weather driv­ers itʼs hard to know, but of the hun­dreds of Porsches present, both old and new, barely a dozen were of the 356 va­ri­ety.

As ex­pected, and in­evitably for an oldie like me who has been look­ing at Porsches for half a cen­tury, it was a case of (mostly) the same old Porsches re­ar­ranged – but what an ar­range­ment it turned out to be. The whole event felt like a mas­sive art project, cu­rated by some­one with a de­signer ʼs eye for a good im­age. A num­ber of se­lected cars were strate­gi­cally placed against fea­tures of the World War II RAF bomber base, iso­lated from dis­tract­ing back­ground clut­ter to gift us vis­i­tors with ready made ʻnice shotsʼ.

Photo op­por­tu­ni­ties abounded and as the rain eased the day was largely spent trip­ping over crouch­ing snap­pers seek­ing a good an­gle while do­ing oneʼs best try­ing to avoid an­other snap­per ʼs sight line. Luft­gekült con­firms, if con­fir­ma­tion was in­deed re­quired, that the au­to­mo­bile is firmly es­tab­lished as an art ob­ject and in­deed in this case an ob­ject from which to cre­ate art.

I have never par­tic­i­pated in one of those am­a­teur pho­tog­ra­phy events where a cam­era club hires a ʻglam­our ʼ model to pose for a spe­cial evening of ʻArt Pho­tog­ra­phyʼ (hon­est, I havenʼt). Iʼm sure that the in­ten­sity that the Bices­ter boys dis­played in their ef­forts to get the per­fect an­gle on the erotic curves of a 911ʼs der­riere could not have been much dif­fer­ent to chaps jostling for po­si­tion around a scant­ily clad model. Sig­nif­i­cantly I canʼt re­call see­ing any women snap­ping away. Is it purely a man thing?

Iʼve been a bit of a cam­era freak since my teenage years in the 1960s when few fam­i­lies rarely possessed more than a Box Brownie for the oc­ca­sional hol­i­day snap of their an­nual two-week hol­i­day. Film of­ten stayed in the cam­era for weeks, some­times months, be­fore ev­ery pre­cious frame was used up and even­tu­ally pro­cessed. In­deed, I have one friend who re­cently re­moved a film from his old cam­era and judg­ing by the snaps of his daugh­ters who are now in their 20s cal­cu­lated that it had been in there for 19-years! But thatʼs ex­treme. Even en­thu­si­asts would rarely take more than a frame or two of a car un­less it was some­thing very, very spe­cial.

Now, with pix­els ef­fec­tively free, I rarely end up with fewer than hun­dreds of shots. I re­mem­ber talk­ing to a well known mo­tor rac­ing pho­tog­ra­pher who started his ca­reer as a Fleet Street ʻs­mudger ʼ in the early 1950s, and who, on his first as­sign­ment to the Le Mans 24 Hours for his pa­per, was is­sued with a cum­ber­some plate cam­era and 12 glass plates – twelve! – thatʼs one pic ev­ery two hours if you spread them out. At this year ʼs Le Mans Classic, ed­i­tor Seume ad­mits to taking over 1000 shots – yet pub­lished a lit­tle over 20…

The fru­gal use of film or plates in those days ex­plains why one largely sees the same shots of early races re­pro­duced time after time in mod­ern mag­a­zines.

Look­ing back through my old neg­a­tives, I can see that in the ʼ60s I rarely used an en­tire film at a race meet­ing. How I en­vied the track­side pros with their mo­tor-drive Nikon Fs pump­ing film through as if it was free – which I guess it was to them.

In 1972, and work­ing in ad­ver­tis­ing, I fi­nally bought a Nikon – an F2 – and joined the mo­tor-drive club. The fol­low­ing years ab­sorbed a ridicu­lous amount of money as I tried to em­u­late the pro­fes­sion­als by squirt­ing Ko­dachrome II through the Nikon with ma­chine gun ra­pid­ity.

At only 25 ASA (a re­ally, re­ally slow speed for non-photo-savvy read­ers) my suc­cess rate was fre­quently out­stripped by fail­ures. Whole 36 ex­po­sure rolls some­times re­sulted in only two or three good shots. I still have boxes of blurred slides – a few ac­tu­ally pos­sess­ing an un­in­ten­tional ʻar­tyʼ semi­ab­stract qual­ity.

To­dayʼs dig­i­tal age has democra­tised pho­tog­ra­phy. With the cam­era and, in­cred­i­bly and in­creas­ingly the phone, do­ing the com­pli­cated ex­po­sure stuff, ev­ery­one has the op­por­tu­nity to take great pho­tos, and many do. The Luft­gekühlt for­mula of choos­ing a pho­to­genic en­vi­ron­ment in which to stage the event has given the or­di­nary Joe the chance to shoot car im­ages more nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with pro­fes­sion­als.

All in all, it was great stuff and I canʼt wait for next year ʼs event – come rain or come shine. CP

With cars care­fully posed be­fore a suit­able back­ground, Luft­gekühlt gave bud­ding pho­tog­ra­phers the per­fect op­portrunity to get ʻthatʼ shot…

Many would de­scribe Del­wyn Mal­lett as a se­rial car col­lec­tor – one with eclec­tic tastes at that. His Porsche trea­sures in­clude a pair of 356 Speed­sters, a Le Mansin­spired Pre-a coupé and a 1973 Car­rera RS. Some of them even work…

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