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  (Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

 

(Peter Cheney/The Globe and Mail)

Will 'Bueller's' off day

Globe journalist's son crashes $180,000 Porsche Add to ...

First published May 19, 2010

Some moments are lived backwards. The great ones run through your mind like a favourite movie. Then there are the other kind, where you try to roll back the clock - like the afternoon my teenage son launched a brand new Porsche Turbo through our garage door.

So far, I have not managed to invent a time machine, go back, and snatch the key from his hands (and in case you were wondering, the car goes for $180,000, not including freight, tax or a new garage).

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That day began with deceptive perfection. I woke up in a sunlit bedroom next to my beautiful wife. We had celebrated 26 years of marriage just the day before. Our cherry tree was in full blossom, and in the garage, locked away like a crown jewel, was a 2010 Porsche 997 Turbo, the latest (and costliest) in a long series of test cars.

When I decided to transition into automotive journalism after more than two and a half decades of news reporting, no one was happier than my son Will. Instead of telling his friends his dad was in Afghanistan (or at a murder scene) he could bring them over to check out the latest ride.

My new trade did have its perils, which include the creeping cynicism of the professional test driver. An auto journalist's existence is like a mechanized version of Hugh Hefner's - when you are presented with an endless cavalcade of automotive beauties, you can easily become jaded.

Now I had the Turbo, the car that every driving aficionado and pension raider dreams of - 500 horsepower, leather-lined cockpit and a 330 km/h top end. Until I drove it, I'd been a little skeptical - I'd seen too many Turbos employed as male enhancement devices by hobbit-looking accountants who couldn't even drive a stick shift.

But the previous day, I had taken it to Mosport racetrack for a high-speed lapping session where it inhaled other cars like so many insects - when they saw the Turbo in their mirror, most simply pulled over to let us pass, acknowledging the Porsche as the alpha car.

I was experiencing the acme of German engineering. The Turbo had launched me up Mosport's kinked back straightaway at more than 250 km/h, then purred back to the city through rush hour traffic, as though it had been magically converted from a race car into a Honda Civic. Best of all, my Turbo was a purist's model, with a six-speed manual transmission - a factor that would play a key role in the events that were about to unfold.

It was early afternoon. Will had just returned from summer job hunting, accompanied by a friend. I was in my home office, writing and looking out at the green park in front of our house. That morning, Will and I had appeared together in a Globe Drive column called A Hockey Dad's Last Ride that commemorated his 14 years in minor hockey.

Will stuck his head into the office and asked me if he could show his buddy the Turbo. I told him to go ahead. He and his friends always checked out my cars. Their main focus seemed to be the interior and stereo systems - details I barely cared about.

I went back to my computer. My car buddies knew I'd been at the track with the Turbo, and they wanted my verdict. I told one it was like a tiger in an Armani suit - killer chassis, unbeatable power, but suave and comfortable, too.

I shut down my computer and prepared to head to the office, smiling at the thought of a few minutes in the Turbo. As I headed out the back door, I saw my son running toward the house. His eyes were the size of dinner plates. He sputtered: "Dad, the Porsche … the Porsche …"

I thought the Turbo had been stolen. Our garage has a full security system, but this is one of the most desirable cars in the world, so you never know. Will tried to speak again. "The Turbo rolled into the door…." I walked past him into the garage.

For nearly a minute, I was too dumbfounded to speak. The Turbo hadn't rolled into the door - it had launched itself through the entire structure. In a distance of approximately four feet, the Turbo had developed enough kinetic energy to blow the entire door apart. Parts of the roller mechanism were scattered through the alley. Dazed, I picked up a bent metal piece - it looked like a Crazy Bone, a toy Will had collected as a little boy.

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