Mallett’s men­tal me­an­der­ings

Classic Porsche - - Contents -

There I was, rum­mag­ing through a long ne­glected box of pho­to­graphic prints when I stum­bled on the ac­com­pa­ny­ing pic of my first Porsche, a 1958 356A. A warm wave of nos­tal­gia swept through me and also a pang of pain for lost youth. I was then a mere 21-years old. The pho­to­graph was taken 50-years ago (only 50? – KS), long be­fore the ad­vent, even the idea, of dig­i­tal imag­ing, and the flashy speed stripes had been ap­plied with pen and ink! My first com­puter, the imac G3, in fetch­ing ʻBondi Blueʼ, lay 20-years into the fu­ture and Pho­to­shop even fur­ther away. In that ana­logue age the mil­len­niaold ar­ti­sanal skills of pen and pigment still reigned.

At the time I was work­ing in Knights­bridge, Lon­don, as an ad­ver­tis­ing art di­rec­tor and one lunchtime wit­nessed a mi­nor com­mo­tion out­side Har­rods when a Mercedes Gull­wing pulled up and a very beau­ti­ful, long legged, hot­pants-clad girl alighted from the pas­sen­ger seat. The com­bi­na­tion of car, girl and pants gob­s­macked all in the vicin­ity. Not only was it my first sight­ing of hot­pants but also of a Gull­wing. Iʼm not sure which im­pressed me most.

The Gull­wing, al­ways a crowd stop­per when the ʻwingsʼ were opened, was even more ar­rest­ing in this case as it was bright or­ange with a broad black ʻrac­ing stripeʼ along its length and curl­ing around nose and tail.

I can only spec­u­late that I re­turned to the of­fice and im­me­di­ately doo­dled on the photo of my pride and joy. Not long af­ter­wards I had the Porsche re­sprayed – youʼve guessed it: or­ange. (As fate would have it, four-years later I bought a Gull­wing as my ev­ery­day car – they were much cheaper then! – and it turned out to be the very same one, now re­painted sober sil­ver. But thatʼs a story for an­other day.)

Although the 356 now cre­ated mus­cle spasms in passers by as heads spun on ac­count of the lurid colour, I did­nʼt get around to ap­ply­ing the stripes, trad­ing it not long af­ter for a Speed­ster.

Mem­o­ries came flood­ing back, some more amus­ing than oth­ers. Of the less amus­ing, one in par­tic­u­lar is in­deli­bly seared into my mem­ory bank: the oc­ca­sion on which I dis­cov­ered the han­dling pe­cu­liar­i­ties of rear-en­gined cars and the phe­nom­e­non of high-speed lift-off over­steer.

Leav­ing Lon­don, four-up af­ter a wild night out (canʼt specif­i­cally re­mem­ber the wild bit but it was the six­ties so it must have been a lit­tle lively) I was ap­proach­ing the Hog­a­rth round­about on the A40 in Ham­mer­smith.

In those days, for those who are fa­mil­iar with it now, it was sans flyover, much smaller in size and with­out traf­fic lights. In fact so much smaller that it was pos­si­ble to ne­go­ti­ate it at very high speed. To my left was a Mar­cos and, com­ing up rapidly on my out­side, I spied a TVR Gran­tura (then a small- en­gined car un­like the later fire-breathers) all on a chicken run to a rapid­ly­nar­row­ing gap.

No doubt fired by a lit­tle too much al­co­hol (Iʼm ashamed to say) and an ex­ag­ger­ated per­cep­tion of my driv­ing abil­ity, I stuck my foot down, de­ter­mined to be first out the other side. Which I was. How­ever, af­ter a mid­corner hes­i­ta­tion on the throt­tle I was now trav­el­ling back­wards.

By an in­cred­i­ble stroke of luck I missed the dual car­riage­wayʼs cen­tre reser­va­tion and trav­elled some con­sid­er­able dis­tance up the in­com­ing lanes fac­ing the right way but pro­gress­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion, com­ing to a jud­der­ing halt with my lower limbs paral­ysed by fear. I fi­nally man­aged to muster enough leg power to de­clutch and select a for­ward gear and mo­tor home. Shaken and stirred.

I canʼt re­call the re­ac­tion of my rear seat pas­sen­gers. I sus­pect that they were so drunk they did­nʼt ac­tu­ally no­tice any­thing un­to­ward, but Iʼve of­ten won­dered how fre­quently the driv­ers of the other cars have dined out on how they hu­mil­i­ated one of those evil-han­dling Porsches?

An­other in­ci­dent, more amus­ing than dan­ger­ous, in­volved an­other late night ex­cur­sion. An af­ter work birth­day drink with an ad­ver­tis­ing col­league had ex­tended into din­ner at a nearby restau­rant, which we fi­nally left with just enough time to rush my chum to Vic­to­ria sta­tion to catch the last train home.

Hav­ing con­sumed an ab­surd num­ber of Ne­gro­nis – my friendʼs trendy ad-land tip­ple of choice – he was very much the worse for wear as we strug­gled to get him into the front seat of the Porsche. In the ex­ag­ger­ated con­cern that of­ten af­flicts a drunk, my chum was most adamant that he should push his seat as far for­ward as pos­si­ble to cre­ate legroom for my girl­friend, un­com­fort­ably crammed into the back.

As I ac­cel­er­ated to­wards Vic­to­ria I ex­plained that he had to dis­en­gage the lever at the front of the seat and pull for­wards. Un­for­tu­nately this ma­noeu­vre co­in­cided with me hav­ing to ex­e­cute an emer­gency stop due to los­ing con­cen­tra­tion while dis­tracted. The im­mutable laws of physics then ap­plied them­selves to the seat and pas­sen­ger (long be­fore seat belts) who as one con­tin­ued for­ward mo­men­tum at un­abated speed.

The seat came fully off its run­ners and my chumʼs face be­came in­ti­mate with the padded dash­board. One ben­e­fit of (his) mild al­co­hol poi­son­ing is that he ap­peared to have suf­fered no in­jury so, with time run­ning out and de­spite him be­ing jammed in the footwell, we con­tin­ued to Vic­to­ria.

In those days you could drive di­rectly onto the plat­form where, much to the amuse­ment and no doubt amaze­ment of the late-night rev­ellers, with much Fred Karno slap­stick, I man­aged to de­cant seat, drunken chum and mini-skirted girl­friend into a pile on the plat­form.

Oh, how I miss the good old days. CP


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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