A 3,000 mile test drive

by: Don T of CA

The wide open sky, the wide open road and coming soon ..... the wide open throttle!
The wide open sky, the wide open road and coming soon ..... the wide open throttle!!

It all started the morning of November 30th, I was surfing the PCA San Diego Region website and decided to check Keith V's RS America website I saw a beautiful 1993 Grand Prix White RS America for sale in North Carolina - the other side of the country! I wrote down the phone number and e-mail address and tried calling and sending an e-mail. Then I called Keith and talked to him about the car, what he thought I should look for and the history of the Porsche RS America. I think Keith was just as excited about this RS America as I was (maybe even more so).

It wasn't until Monday December 2nd that I was finally able to connect with the sellers, Paul and Cindy B of NC. We talked for a while and I asked all the usual questions about the car, mileage, modifications, service history etc. I then made Paul an offer on the car - subject to it checking out OK .... and he accepted it. I was stunned! My heart started pounding with excitement as I told Paul “I'll be there in 2 days”. That evening I called him back just to confirm that the price we had agreed was firm and he said yes.

I started making phone calls to get things arranged for the flight to North Carolina and started running all over town tying up loose ends.

I called my friend Susan T and told her about the car and she kindly offered to get me a standby flight to Charlotte NC on her American Airlines account. We got the flights arranged, San Diego to Dallas/Fort Worth and then a transfer to Charlotte NC. Then it was off to the bank to pick up a cashiers check for the RS America and back home to start packing.

I checked the weather channel for the east coast and the forecast was for a major snow and ice storm which was just getting ready to hit, oh...... boy!, but by that time I was committed to going anyway.

The next morning, December 4th a cab picked me up at 5 am for the trip to the airport. When I checked in the attendant suggested an earlier flight to Dallas/Fort Worth, that would give me a 2 hour layover instead of 45 minutes, which sounded good to me. Both flights went well, but I was glad I took the option of an earlier flight because less than 20 minutes after I landed in Charlotte, the airport closed as the ice storm had arrived.

I called Paul on my cell phone after I picked up my luggage, he had previously planned to pick me up at the airport, but due to the storm the roads were undriveable. I told him to stay at home and that I would just get a hotel room at the airport and we'd meet tomorrow. During that night I woke up at around 3 am freezing cold, to find that Charlotte and the South East had gone dark. The power was out and so were the phone lines (and the heating!), the only phones working were cell phones. The next morning I checked with the front desk, the only transportation available was a Greyhound bus. They were able to get me a ride to Greyhound and I was able to get on a bus to Thomasville to meet Paul and finally see the RS America.

The bus ride was wild; the freeways were closed, there were downed trees and power lines everywhere, and everything was covered in a thick layer of ice. As the journey was all on back roads, it took over 3 hours to go 60 miles. At one point the bus driver got confused and started driving up the off ramp on the short section of freeway that was open, everyone on the bus was yelling “Wrong Way, Wrong Way”. He finally caught on and we all calmed down as he backed down the off ramp. The rest of the bus trip was uneventful, the driver said he would stop trying to talk and drive at the same time. I called Paul again on my cell phone to let him know our expected arrival time and he was already waiting for me at the bus terminal.

Paul picked me up when I got off the bus and we headed off to see the car which was in the shop because when I told Paul that if I did decide to buy it that I intended to drive the car back to San Diego, he got the oil changed for me. When we eventually got to the shop we couldn't get in because it was closed due to having no power, so we went to Paul's home were I met his charming wife Cindy and their son. They had originally planned on putting me up in their guestroom, but as their power was out too, they decided to go over to some relatives' home that still had power and heat. There was one hotel in town that still had power, so we headed over there and, by a stroke of luck ... I got the last room. There was only one hotel and gas station in town that still had power and the line of people wanting to buy kerosene for portable heaters at the gas station was longer than the gas lines.

The next day, after he had been able to get hold of the shop owner, Paul picked me up and we went to see the car. I had planned on getting the car checked out on a scope and having some other tests done before finally agreeing to buy it, but there was still no power anywhere due to the ice storm. The RSA was in excellent overall condition and looked beautiful sitting over the inspection pit. All I could really do was start the car, give her a visual inspection, and do some basic system checks. It was not long before I had seen enough to know that I wanted to buy it.

The first time I set eyes on the car.
The first time I set eyes on the car.

Paul and I then headed to the bank to take care of the payment and left the owner of the shop to try and get the electric doors open so we could actually get the car out.

When we got to the bank, they of course had no power either, we soon found the only things still working were cell phones. We talked with the bank manager about the cashiers check and called my bank to enable Paul to confirm the funds were available. Despite the weather the bank had one drive up lane open so the clerks were running out into the freezing cold to the customers (who were sitting in their warm cars), taking their paper work, running back inside the bank, writing up the receipts and then running back out to the cars. Once my check cleared Paul and I finalized the deal by signing the title transfer documents in his car.

When we got back to the shop to pick up the RS America the shop owner had disconnected the electric drive for the doors, pushed one door up and jammed a ladder under it to keep it open while I drove the car out. By then the temperature was up to about 39 degrees and ice was beginning to melt and was falling from the power lines and trees. On the drive back to the hotel Paul and I were both trying to dodge falling ice. We made it safely back and I parked the car away from any power lines or trees. Instead of packing up and starting the trip home I decided to stay another day and give the ice and roads an extra day to clear up.

I spent the rest of the day sitting in the car, reading the owners manual and playing with the knobs and controls. At some point, I inadvertently set the alarm while I was still sitting in her. When I opened the door, it went off and of course I had no idea how to turn it off .....I hadn't got to that section in the manual yet!

I tried calling Paul but couldn't get him on the cell phone, the alarm still kept going until I finally found the “Alarm” section in the owners manual and turned it off. I was laughing and so were some of the people in the hotel that had seen me sitting in the car and were watching me panic as I tried to figure out how to shut the alarm off.

Dinner with the seller Paul B and his lovely wife Cindy.
Dinner with the sellers - Paul B and his lovely wife Cindy.

That night Paul was able to find a restaurant that still had power so Paul, Cindy, and I all went out to dinner. During dinner I invited them both out to San Diego and they agreed so they're starting to make plans to come out next summer when Paul wants to drive my other Porsche - the 914-6.

The next morning when I checked out of the hotel and went out to the car, she was covered in ice. It was 23 degrees out, I put the key in the ignition and she started right up. I loaded her up and got directions to the local Wal-Mart, where I was told they had their own generator, would be sure to have power and still be open. It turned out that Wal-Mart had stayed open 24 hours a day to give people a place to go that still had heat.

23 degrees a blanket of sheet ice and she started first turn of the key!
23 degrees, a blanket of sheet ice (see windshield and lights) and she started first turn of the key!

I bought some baby diapers for use as cleaning cloths and got directions to a car wash that still had power so I could wash all the ice off the car. After I got her cleaned, I fitted the Porsche factory bra that Paul had included in the price of the car I headed off down the road. I gave Paul and Cindy a final call and thanked them for their hospitality and also for selling me the car.

I'd decided to head straight south out of the cold. I'd brought my laptop with Microsoft Streets and Trips software so I just entered where I wanted to go and it told me how to get there, it was neat. I didn't take any scenic routes on the trip back. I finally got out of the cold and ice around Atlanta where all systems on the car were running great, including the heater!

I noticed that the car was putting out a little blue smoke during acceleration, so somewhere south of Atlanta when I was the only one on the freeway, I dropped down to about 30mph and then accelerated through the gears. She smoked pretty good the first 4 or 5 times but then started to clear up. After about 6-7 times there was no smoke, and no smoke at all any time after that. She needed the long drive back to San Diego to blow out the cobwebs.

That night I was west of Mobile keeping up with traffic, when everyone started passing me doing over 100 mph. I was still cruising along wondering where everyone was going in such a hurry when it hit me. It was a Saturday night and New Orleans was only about 50 miles ahead, it all made sense after that. I just kept cruising and then stopped for the night in Gonzales, Louisiana.

Early morning on the road.
Early morning out on the road.

I woke up the next morning and checked the weather channel; it said there was a 150-200 mile wide rainstorm in Texas. I hit the road again and just continued cruising through the Bayous, which were very beautiful, but I must admit, for about 30-40 miles they smelled like someone had a really bad gas attack.

The beauty of the Louisiana bayous .... is best enjoyed with the windows closed.
The beauty of the Louisiana bayous .... is best enjoyed with the windows closed.

When I entered Texas I was still cruising along just keeping up with traffic when an old beat up Chevy Suburban and a couple of M3 BMW's passed me doing at least 120 mph. Insanity struck and I gave chase. I quickly caught up with them and cruised with them for awhile, then sanity slowly returned and I realized that I could go to jail for this, so I headed back down to the speed limit. The RS America responded beautifully and was very smooth at speed.

I arrived in San Antonio where they have a freeway system that would make a great race track. It was 2-3 levels high with several 360 banked turns spaced with ¾ to 1 mile straights. By the time I got on the other side of town I wasn't sure what direction I was going. I tried looking out the window for the sun, but there was no sun visible as it was overcast. I hit the predicted rain and fog west of San Antonio only to find it wasn't 150-200 miles wide, but more like 600-700 miles wide and lasted all the way to El Paso. This was the longest day of the journey and by the time I stopped for the night in Las Cruces, New Mexico I had driven 1100 miles that day.

Sunlight at the OK corral.
“Sunlight at the OK corral”.

The next morning I woke up to a clear blue sky, found a car wash and cleaned her up. I got back on the road after breakfast just taking it easy and thankful to be out of the bad weather. I saw a sign for Tombstone AZ, which is somewhere I'd always wanted to go. So ...... off I went to the OK Corral, where I saw the re-enactment of the infamous gun fight. I also visited the “Shoppe's”, the graveyard, and watched a comedy gunfighter show at the Oriental Saloon, where the village idiots were playing gunfighters. The audience cheered when the good guys came out and booed the bad guys, it was all pretty good fun. I left Tombstone in the late afternoon heading towards Sedona, but I actually stopped for the night just north of Phoenix, AZ.

A new day dawns - en route to Sedona.
A new day dawns - en route to Sedona.

I woke up early as I was still on east coast time, so I got on the road to Sedona. As I drove I watched the sun come up and it was so beautiful that I stopped a couple of times to take some pictures. When I got to Sedona I had a great breakfast and spent the day relaxing and just walking around more “Shoppe's”. I even found a car wash and had the washed once again. After that, I decided it was time to head home.

A brief halt for breakfast and to browse the famous Sedona craft shops.
A brief halt for breakfast and to browse the famous Sedona craft shops.

Just west of Phoenix, when another driver cut me off, I realized just how good the RS America brakes are; she'll stand on her nose when you want her to. Other than that, the rest of the drive home was pretty uneventful. When I got home and parked in the driveway, I realized that the total journey was 24 miles short of 3,000 - now that's the way to break in a newly acquired RS America!

I talked to my next-door neighbor Brian and when I told him about the RS America he very generously agreed to rent me his garage ...... way cool. All in all, everything had worked out remarkably well. It seemed that despite some significant setbacks - such as the worst ice storm in NC for over 30 years; airports closing; hotels closing, and nearly 3 million people being without power for several days, I was somehow meant to buy this car from the other side of the USA.

Special thanks to Paul & Cindy B, Susan T, Keith Verlaque, and Brian G next door for helping make this 3,000 mile adventure come true.

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