Eye Candy: Porsche Lit Meet

 Photos by Bob Golfen 

Known simply as the Lit Meet among the Porsche faithful, the annual Los Angeles gathering is actually a full three days of multiple celebrations for the little rear-engine sports cars from Germany.

The events surrounding the Porsche and Vintage VW Literature, Toy and Memorablia Swap Meet at the LAX Hilton took place Feb. 28 through March 2, and included a “shop crawl” of the many terrific restoration businesses in the LA area, most focusing on the original 356 and early 911 models,  and a major swap meet in Anaheim of classic Porsche parts and accessories.  

Weather was an issue at this year’s Porsche party, with sometimes-heavy rain coming down on all three days.  But the shows went on without a worry, and thousands of devotees made the pilgrimage and shrugged off the rain.

For a full report on last weekend’s events, click on Porsche Lit Meet.

Porsche fanatics plunge into annual Lit Meet festival

Soggy Porsche fans check out a 911 S during the Sunday swap meet | Bob Golfen
Soggy Porsche fans check out a 911 S during the Sunday swap meet in Anaheim | Bob Golfen

The rain poured down in wind-driven sheets as the crowd at Carparc USA, a Porsche restoration shop in Costa Mesa, Calif., peered from under the open garage doors.

A small river rushed down the gutter past a Porsche 911 – a valuable early one – parked in the street out front. Pelted by the fat drops, the black beauty seemed emblematic of the soggy weather being dished out by the Southern California skies during the events of the Porsche and Vintage VW Literature, Toy and Memorabilia meet.

But it didn’t really matter. This was the major annual gathering of the Porsche faithful, with tens of thousands coming in from all over the country and the world to indulge their passions for the little rear-engine sports cars from Germany.

A customer considers the original posters for sale at the Porsche Lit Meet | Bob Golfen
Customer considers original posters | Bob Golfen

The shows would go on, damp but undampened.

Known simply as the Lit Meet, the Saturday literature, toy and memorabilia show has taken place at the Hilton Hotel adjacent to the airport for the past couple of decades and has spawned a collection of related social events, the “shop crawl” of open houses at the many local Porsche restoration businesses, and a big Sunday swap meet in Anaheim.

California and the Southwest have been in the grip of a vicious drought, so it was with mixed feelings that we ducked under cover as rain fell during all three days of the Porsche lovefest. But nothing was going to wreck this key Porsche weekend, and we joined all the others who shrugged off the weather to join the fun.

And it was well worth it. That quickly became obvious during our first stop Friday at Callas Rennsport in Torrance, which repairs and restores some of the rarest and most valuable Porsches in existence. One of the true exotics of the 1980s was the Porsche 959, and here were three of them parked outside, and another one on a lift. Value? Who knows.

Rare Porsche 959 coupes lined up at Callas Rennsport in Torrance | Bob Golfen
Rare Porsche 959 coupes at Callas Rennsport | Bob Golfen

A member of our group, Erik Black of Phoenix, ecstatically eyed every inch of the very first 1967 Porsche 911 R race car, which was parked in one of the bays. He pointed out the serial number: 11899001R.

“This is the number one 911 R,” Black said in a reverent tone. “It’s so significant, it’s not even funny.”

At Callas, we met a star of Pikes Peak racing, Jeff Zwart, who has pounded Porsches to the top of the mountain nine times.

“This is really a great event, the greatest gathering of Porsche people in the nation,” Zwart said of the Lit Meet weekend. “It really is a special deal.”

The actual Lit Meet was Saturday inside two large ballrooms at the hotel, so the weather was not an issue as Porsche fanatics packed in to browse, buy and carry away the myriad stuff brought by more than 250 vendors. The goodies included rare books and literature, original posters and advertising, loads of vintage models and toys, and an impressive selection of new-old stock and reproduction parts for the classic 356 and early 911 models, which have become increasingly valuable in recent years.

Porsche 911s under restoration at Carparc USA | Bob Golfen
Porsche 911s under restoration at Carparc USA | Bob Golfen

That was a major takeaway from the weekend: The rising interest in and booming values of 911s from the 1960s and early ’70s have heated up restoration efforts of the iconic sports cars because it’s now more economically feasible to turn rusted basket cases into polished gems. Some shops, such as Carparc, have become dedicated to finding and restoring early 911s.

Tate Askew, a restorer and collector visiting from Atlanta, was checking out a pristine 911 at Willhoit Auto Restoration in Long Beach. He said these cars are his focus. “I have five ’65s that I’m building right now.”

Askew, who has been a regular at Lit Meet events for many years, noted that California is the center of the universe for Porsche enthusiasts, with some of the best work coming out of the So Cal restoration shops.

“California is Porsche Mecca,” he said. “Back East, when we see a great paint job on a Porsche, we call it a ‘California paint job’.”

The immaculate Willhoit shop, one of the premiere Porsche restoration facilities in the nation, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Visitors at Willhoit’s shop eye a Speedster body stripped of paint | Bob Golfen
Visitors at Willhoit’s shop eye a Speedster body | Bob Golfen

“Porsches are my passion and I’ve been lucky enough to have it work for me,” the affable John Willhoit said as he chatted with his many visitors.

Nearby, people gazed up at a red 1964 356 Carrera 2 that was held high on a lift to display its underside, including its exotic four-cam engine. Prices for these very-special performance cars have climbed into the high six figures. This one was the best of show winner at the Dana Point Concours d’Elegance

One of the most fascinating stops on our shop-crawl tour was Steve Hogue Enterprises, where metal craftsmen create steel and aluminum bodies and parts for restoration efforts. The shop is famous for its intricate reconstruction of the 1951 Glockler Porsche, crafting the aluminum body over a handmade wooden buck.

Among several current projects, the metal men are creating the body for an early Porsche race car, the RS61 Spyder.

A 911 race car was fitted with new rear sheet metal with flares | Bob Golfen
911 racer at Hogue’s fitted with flared rear bodywork | Bob Golfen

“We have the (original) frame and we’re making the body for it,” Hogue said, pointing out that the reconstructed front section of the body that came with the frame was not up to snuff and would be discarded. Perfection rules at this shop.

Sunday’s big swap meet on the grounds of the Phoenix Club in Anaheim harkened to the days before the Internet when one of the few ways to locate rare parts involved everyone toting their collections of bits and pieces to events like this to buy, sell and trade.

Of course, the social aspect to the swap meet is critical, with the annual gathering providing an opportunity to meet and greet old Porsche buddies. The occasional cloudburst hampered some of the activities, although the attendance was pretty strong.

Or as one vendor noted when asked how he was doing, “Not bad. It would be better if the weather was cooperating.”

A rainbow arcs over Porsches at European Collectibles | Bob Golfen
A rainbow arcs over Porsches at European Collectibles | Bob Golfen

With much of the swap meet contained in a large tent, the only real downer regarding the weather was that it reduced the number of local Porsche owners who brought their cars out to display. Usually, the grassy field adjacent to the swap meet is filled with personal Porsches. There was a good number of them scattered around the grounds, just not the usual horde.

A meaningful moment happened Saturday at European Collectibles, a Costa Mesa restoration complex that throws one of the biggest parties of the weekend. Dozens of gorgeously restored 356 and 911 models were lined up outside in the rain, water beading up on their gleaming finishes, while hundreds of visitors were huddled in the open-sided shop, eating barbecue and sipping beers.

Gradually, the rain stopped and, to the delight of everyone, a rainbow arced overhead, rising above the beautiful old Porsches. These cars were a true pot of gold.

See ClassicCars.com on Saturday for an Eye candy gallery

from the Porsche Lit Meet weekend.

Max’d-out Porsches to be featured at Griot’s Garage Caffeine & Gasoline

Photos courtesy Griot's Garage
Photos courtesy Griot’s Garage

Griot’s Garage is known for meeting the car care needs of classic and contemporary car owners. But it meets some of those folks’ other needs the first Saturday of each month when it hosts Caffeine & Gasoline at its workshop in Tacoma, Wash.

On March 1, Griot’s will provide the coffee and Hagerty Insurance will sponsor the free donuts as the monthly cruise-in.

But Griot’s gatherings are more than just the typical cruise-in. Each has a theme, and each includes some sort of demonstration or educational experience that includes a significant amount of noise. For example, here’s a video from a recent Caffeine & Gasoline gathering:

The theme this month is Porsche, well, not only Porsche but Porsche (and other marques) as tweaked by MaxRPM, the motorsports and high-performance tuning shop from Bremerton, Wash. MaxRPM will bring several cars it has enhanced and also will do a tuning tech session to share some of its secrets.DSC_0158

Also featured will be several of Richard Griot’s own Porsches, including a 1973 911S.

Griot hosts Caffeine & Gasoline the first Saturday of each month. The theme for April will be Ford Mustang as it celebrates its 50th anniversary. In May, the gathering will be a showcase for vintage police, fire and military vehicles.

LA Lit Meet lights up Porsche fanatics

Vintage Porsche toys, posters and parts are among the LA Lit Meet’s offerings. (Illustration: LA Lit and Toy Show)
Vintage Porsche toys, posters and parts are among the LA Lit Meet’s offerings. (Illustration: LA Lit and Toy Show)

For Porsche fanatics, it’s known simply as the LA Lit Meet. That serves to sum up the unbridled Porsche frenzy that hits the Los Angeles area next week.

The main event is the 31th annual Los Angeles Porsche and Vintage VW Literature, Toy and Memorabilia Show, which takes place March 1 at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton hotel. Hundreds of vendors spread a sweeping collection of primarily Porsche items – advertising and press materials, toys and models, books and technical literature, original factory documents, steering wheels and trim pieces, and a wide variety of collector’s items.

It’s massive and it attracts passionate Porsche people from around the world, so the social aspect becomes almost as engaging as the event itself. The emphasis is on early Porsche sports cars and competition models, and there’s quite a contingent questing for 356 and early 911 artifacts as well as racing posters and other pieces from the 1950s-’70s glory days of Porsche racing .

Admission is $10, but savvy shoppers pony up $30 for an early-bird ticket that gets you in the door and at the goodies just as the dealers are setting up. For more information, see www.lalitandtoyshow.com.

Porsche shops, such as AutoKennel in Costa Mesa, will host open houses. (Photo: AutoKennel)
Porsche shops, such as AutoKennel in Costa Mesa, will host open houses. (Photo: AutoKennel)

But that’s only part of the multi-day extravaganza. The experience includes a series of informal open houses at Porsche restoration shops stretching from San Diego to north of Los Angeles from Thursday through Saturday after the Lit Show, including such famed venues (to Porsche folk) as Wilhoit Auto Restorations, Sierra Madre Collection, AutoKennel, Callas Rennsport, Steve Hogue Enterprises, European Collectibles, Liberty Motorsports and Carparc USA.

Another major happening occurs Sunday with the All-Porsche Swap and Car Display presented by the 356 Club of Southern California. For adherents of the classic tubs, this is the main draw of the schedule.

Located at the Phoenix Club in Anaheim, the swap meet harkens to the days before the Internet when hobbyists and restorers trolled through acres of parts and pieces for just the right original bit. It also serves as a gathering place for the Porsche faithful to meet and greet.

There’s an 11,500-square-foot indoor area for swap tables as well as some two acres of adjacent swap-meet area. There also is a large soccer field to display cars for sale. All in all, a mad jumble of stuff that celebrates the booming interest in early Porsches.

For the run of Porsche-shop open houses and more information about the Sunday swap meet, see related events.

Ferdinand Porsche’s first car, built in 1898, ready for museum unveiling

 

The 1898 P1, displayed on a metal stand, will be unveiled Friday. (Photo: Porsche Museum)
The 1898 P1, displayed on a metal stand, will be unveiled Friday. (Photo: Porsche Museum)

The first automobile designed by Ferdinand Porsche when he was 22 years old was nothing like the iconic sports cars most associated with his name. His initial vehicle, branded by the young inventor as P1 to designate his No. 1 design, was an electric carriage that debuted on the streets of Vienna, Austria, on June 26, 1898.

The P1 was recently recovered from a warehouse where it had been untouched since 1902. On Friday, January 31, it will be unveiled in original condition at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, where it will be put on permanent display.

Officially named the Egger-Lohner electric C.2 vehicle, the car was designed and built by Porsche as a vehicle powered by a compact electric motor ranging from 3 and 5 horsepower that could reach speeds as fast as 21 mph. Porsche used an innovative Lohner alternating vehicle body system that allowed a coupe-style or open Phaeton design to be mounted on the wooden chassis.

The electric driveline produces 3-5 horsepower. (Photo: Porsche Museum)
The electric driveline produces 3-5 horsepower. (Photo: Porsche Museum)

Speed was regulated by a 12-speed control unit, and the range was approximately 49 miles between recharges of its 44-cell battery.

The P1 marked not only the first car for Ferdinand Porsche, but his first racing victory. A 24-mile race for electric vehicles was announced in Berlin in conjunction with an international motor-vehicle exhibition in September 1899.  Porsche, racing the P1 with three passengers on board, crossed the finish line 18 minutes ahead of the next competitor. More than half of the cars failed to finish due to technical problems.

The P1 also won the efficiency competition, recording the least amount of energy consumed during the race.

The unveiling of the P1 will be hosted  by Dr. Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of the supervisory board of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, Stuttgart, and by Matthias Müller, president and CEO of Porsche AG, with an audience of invited guests. The following weekend, February 1-2, the P1 can be viewed free of charge as part of the celebrations to mark the fifth anniversary of the Porsche Museum.

For more information about the Porsche Museum, see www.porsche.com/museum.

Technical Data, Egger-Lohner C.2 electric vehicle

Model year:  1898
Wheelbase:  63 inches
Gross weight:  2,977 pounds
Battery weight:  1,103 pounds
Motor weight:  287 pounds
Production:  approximately four units built
Power: continuous  3 hp,  overloaded to 5 hp (40–80 volts)
Battery: “Tudor system” 44-cell accumulator battery, 120 amp hours
Steering: stub axle front wheel
Driveline: rear wheel drive with differential gear
Brakes: Mechanical band and electrical short circuit
Wheels: Wooden spoke with pneumatic tires
Speed control:  12-speed controller
Top speed:  21 mph
Travelling speed:  15 mph

Vehicle Profile: Porsche 356

Porshe

The 1964-1965 Porsche 356C was the last generation for the model 356 production run (with four generations during its run, model “356” from 1948 to 1955, “356A” from 1956 to 1959, “356B” from 1960 to 1963).  Spanning from 1948 to 1965, it remained basically unchanged by looks, but made dramatic evolutionary and technological changes underneath that curvy exterior.

The 356 model is also the first, full-production vehicle, offered by Porsche. The Porsche 356 model was created by Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche, the son of the founder of the company, Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. It featured flat, 4-cylinder, air-cooled, rear-mounted engine, rear-wheel drive configuration in a lightweight sporty package with quick-handling, sure-footed suspension.

It quickly became very popular on the racing scenes all around the world. The pan style chassis was attached to the body making a sturdy unitized construction design. Most of the original mechanicals were borrowed from the Volkswagen Beetle (designed by Dr. Ferdinand Porsche himself), and improved over the years to enhance performance and make it more Porsche-like.

Initially and throughout its 18 year run, it took some time to build enough numbers to supply the demand it had created and by the time it had run its course, the little 356 had quite a reputation for driving pleasure, quality of build and racing prowess. It is believed, that over half of the 76,000 units produced, are still in existence today.

The 356 was offered in both coupe and convertible (or cabriolet) models and were about 50/50 split as far as production numbers go. The 356C’s were built with disc brakes at all four corners, the most horsepower (1582 cc and 88 hp in stock form, 95 hp with “SC” model) of all the pushrod pancake Porsche motors and many upgrades in both suspension and creature comfort areas. The 356C, which remained almost completely and painstakingly, hand-built, was certainly the most refined and therefore most desirable of all the 356 models.

In fact, in a 2004 article, Sports Car International ranked the 356C as the 10th position of Top Sports Cars of the 1960’s. Certain limited production models, like the 356 Carrera, can bring over $300,000 at auction and almost any 356 model will bring from $20,000 to over $150,000.

Find a classic Porsche 356 that you love!