A 2014 Porsche Cayman S and the Blue Ridge Parkway Equal Perfection
Beyond that, Porsche also seems to demonstrate a peculiar, un-German ability to create cars that are very pretty. Not the sensual beauty the Italians have mastered, but still pretty.
Late last year the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh decided that Porsche had done so much in the field of design, that it deserved to be recognized. They then began the laborious task of collecting an eclectic assortment of metal from the brand’s storied history; from the Type 64 of 1938 up to the 911 GTS R Hybrid race car.
As a man with a slight fetish for German autos, the exhibit intrigued me. The NCMA is only a six-hour drive from my house, through some of the most beautiful roads and scenery in the U.S., and I had just been granted the keys to a 2014 Porsche Cayman S.
It was a recipe that sounded like a Porsche enthusiast’s perfect weekend.
Read on to find out more about my journey, the Cayman S and the NCMA exhibit.
Aside from a stint in a fairly base 1998 Boxster a friend owns, this Cayman was to become my first experience with a Porsche that is younger than myself. With the cacophony of hype that surrounds the wares of Stuttgart, I mentally prepared myself to experience the disappointment that comes with meeting your heroes. Then a terrible, terrible thing happened; I fell in love with a machine.
Cars like the M3 and GT-R are fantastic things, but they will never quite live up to the hype put inside your brain by the likes of Jeremy Clarkson, but this Cayman was different. It took less than 10 miles for me to really feel connected, and although it was far from the fastest thing I had ever driven, nothing else with four wheels ever felt so… perfect. In a phrase, I drank the Kool-aid; faster than a party of frat kids floating kegs.
Over the next 7 hours, and two back road detours, I wound my through the changing leaves of the forests that cover the Eastern mountains until I arrived in Raleigh.
The exhibit itself features a few milestone cars like the 901 prototype and the 959, as well as a few celebrity machines like Steve McQueen’s Speedster, but the vast majority of the cars on display focus on Porsche’s incredible racing history.
A car so rare and valuable they didn't even dust it
The exhibit was laid out in a mostly chronological fashion with certain areas cordoned of for types of cars. You start at Genesis with the 1938 Type 64. A car so rare and valuable the team at NCMA didn’t even dust it. So while every other car in the exhibit looked immaculate, this piece of history looked aged, almost like it was sleeping in a quiet barn waiting to be forgotten. The most intriguing area of the exhibit is in the back. One large room houses five of Porsche’s greatest racing achievements.
In the center of the room sits the 908K Prototype, with the 917K racer, 917 16-cylinder prototype and “Baby” the 935 Racer occupying the wall behind it. On the right end of the room you will find one of the more modern endurance racers, a 962C from 1990.
Look for a full rundown of every car on display with facts and photos to come soon
For an extra touch of awesome in the center of the entire exhibit hall sits a few chairs under a suspended speaker. Coming from the white sphere is a deep voice and lots of noise. As you sit, you are greeted with a spoken name of a car followed by that cars respective exhaust note. While not technically a piece of design in the traditional sense, the aural sensation of a car can be more important than visual presentation, so I enjoyed seeing the extra thought go into this. Plus sitting and watching as a young boy’s eyes light up at every raucous noise that came out of the speaker was extra entertainment.
After a few hours at the museum, I packed up my camera gear and headed back to the Cayman, where a small crowd of curious onlookers greeted me. I had only been in possession of the Cayman S for about 36 hours, but one thing was clear to me; it demanded attention, and not all of it good. Every moment spent driving the Cayman is filled with one of two things; people smiling, waving, and asking questions or people cutting you off, trying to race, and giving you the finger. There is no middle ground.
After a quick round of questions and a few revs of the engine in the parking lot, I was on my way back to hotel for my last night in North Carolina. It was early enough that I debated just making the drive back, but decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to just relax for a night before I headed back. It would turn out to be the best decision I had ever made.
When I made my trek towards NCMA, it was during the government shutdown, meaning that the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed. When I awoke from my slumber in Raleigh I was greeted with the news that the shutdown had ended. It was as if fate had shined down upon me.
The roads I took to get to Raleigh were great, but the Blue Ridge is one of those spectacular pieces of asphalt for which there is no substitute. Most of the time you spend on Blue Ridge is going to be 8 cars deep in a slow moving convoy as every one enjoys the phenomenal views, but with the road freshly opened, I found myself mostly alone as I wound across the peaks.
Watch my journey in time-lapse form here
I pushed harder and harder, but the Cayman didn’t care. It was the world's greatest “yes man.”
It was in this moment, that the Porsche truly came alive. When you put the car in Sport Plus mode, you get rev-matched shifts that are perfect and lighting-fast. It makes the system in the 370Z seem clunky and unrefined. As I twisted my way up and over the Appalachian Mountains, I pushed harder and harder, but the Cayman didn’t care. It was the world’s greatest “yes man.” I commanded and it obeyed with no drama or fuss. Every downshift was perfect, every turn in was immediate and precise. As I raced down that ribbon of tarmac propelled by the Cayman’s exhaust bellow, the sun began to set, seemingly lighting the valley below on fire.
What started as a simple trip to visit some cool old cars turned into a perception-altering journey into automotive nirvana. As I finally arrived home under the cloudless sky, I turned the car off and sat there, listening to the flat-six tick itself cool from the workout.
I came to a realization that Porsche designs more than things that are fast, or pretty or exciting. They have this ability to design certain emotions and experiences into what they create. The way the steering feels, the pressure it takes to actuate the clutch, the noise the shifter makes as it slides into its gate; all of these where chosen and designed.
It may be German, but damn is it beautiful.