It's staggering how things sometimes work out, though. Three weeks later, I was in Houston, sitting outside the house of a guy named Brian Southwell, who owns a small chain of restaurants called Southwell's Hamburger Grill. He's a big-time Porsche nut too and is friends with every other Porsche nut in Houston. Almost every evening they congregate at his place in the 102-degree heat, open up lawn chairs, pop open some cold ones, and talk about all the Porsches arrayed in front of them, ranging from late-'60s 911s to the most modern ones, costing well over $100,000. Brian himself owns eight Porsches, including, until just a few moments ago, a bright blue 912E. That car is now mine. We'd been corresponding about it for several months, ever since he first put it on the market, for $26,000. It was a beauty, one of the best, most original, most decked-out 912Es in the country and far beyond my means, and I told him that. He commiserated, then put it up on eBay. It received a high closing bid of $17,100, but the reserve wasn't met, so it didn't sell. Southwell was fine with that, because those eBay guys were crazy; one fellow showed up to look over the car and wanted to trade it, right then and there, for a Tiffany lamp. This really ticked him off, so he wrote me an e-mail telling me to name any price I wanted for his car, and it'd be mine, to hell with eBay. I offered him $15,000. Even though that was more than twice my original budgeted amount, I couldn't insult the man – I'd done enough insulting as it was. My karma was in trouble, and it was time to start making amends, and I thought I'd start by throwing a reasonable amount of money Southwell's way. He took it. And here I was, sitting with him and his Porsche-owning boys, now one of the boys myself, happy and hoping it would last.
Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang
Several months have passed, and the thing has begun eating me alive. It needed a valve adjustment, new shocks, an oil change, new spark plugs, new spark-plug wires, a new distributor cap, a new air filter. The pedal cluster had rust and needed to be restored and rebuilt. The shift tower and linkage had to be rebuilt too, with new bushings installed all around. The bill came to $3,737, meaning that so far I had sunk $18,737 into the car, which was, in fact, $737 more than my girlfriend earned last year. I kept that to myself, however, and marched blindly forward. I bought some steel wheels, for $375, to get that cool retro look I wanted, but then realized that I'd bought the wrong steel wheels, so I stacked them up in a dark corner and bought another set of steel wheels for $425. Sometimes I wondered what the heck I was doing, but mostly I tried not to think about it. I'm pretty good at that. It's a talent I have. I love my car. I'll love it a long time.