There I was, slung low in a big comfortable Muskoka chair on the side of a hill overlooking the beautiful western shores of Georgian Bay, reflecting on how fortunate I was. Blissfully unaware that my luck was about to temporarily run out.
I had just finished a long day at the inaugural Cobble Beach Concours d’Elegance in Kemble, Ont., delighting in all the vintage and rare automotive metal on display at the fabulous Cobble Beach Golf Resort. And now I was waiting for my ride back to downtown Toronto.
Except I missed it. I misunderstood the pickup time and my ride left without me. I was stuck; 200 kilometres northwest of my car parked at the Globe and Mail lot.
Enter Rob McLeese. He’s the founder and chair of the Cobble Beach concours. The big boss man. Upon being informed of my stupidity, he looked at me without hesitation and asked, “Can you drive stick?”
“Yeah. Of course.”
“Would you like to drive my car to Toronto?”
“What type of car is it?”
“A 1971 911.”
Booyah. Problem solved. Off he went and returned minutes later with his stunning canary-yellow Porsche. As he explained the details that I needed to know for the almost three-hour ride home, l learned that this car – with more than 400,000 kilometres on it – was his daily driver, and his pride and joy. Before he had time to reassess the wisdom of handing his keys over to a stranger, one who had already demonstrated an inability to grasp the simplest of instructions, I was behind the wheel, thanking him profusely and hitting the road.
The ride was unlike anything I had experienced before. Modern-day amenities were non-existent. The dash was loaded with ancient gauges, dials and levers, most of which are foreign to today’s cars. I recognized the speedometer and the tachometer.
Wind noise was boisterous, the car creaked, and the engine revved loudly, emitting a deep guttural rumble. Ventilation was by way of quarter lights, small triangular side windows that opened and closed separately from the main window. There was only one side mirror, on the driver’s side. My legs got a tremendous workout every time I hit the manual brakes or depressed the clutch. I had to pull over as the sun set, because I was unsure what position was the correct one for the funny-looking knob that turned on the headlights. On the third try, I got it right.
This car required my full attention. I was engaged, involved and enthusiastic. I was having a blast.
I hit my destination and parked the Porsche. I got in my 2012 Kia Rio, plugged my iPhone into the USB slot (have to have my tunes) and watched as the Bluetooth light came, enabling me to make voice-controlled hands-free calls on my cellphone. My Kia was everything the old-school 911 was not. I couldn’t help but take stock of my modcons: heated seats, cruise control, air conditioning, backup camera, sun roof, power everything, a steering wheel featuring more buttons than most video game controllers.
I turned the key and put my modern-day appliance in drive (yes, it’s an automatic, mainly because my shiftless son drives it, too). The first time I touched the brakes, I lurched forward like a drunk trying to go up the stairs. Otherwise, everything was as it should be. The ride was smooth, seamless, silent and sanitized. Cruise control was on for much of the final leg home along Highway 401 and the ECO fuel saving mode was giving me an impressive 6.1 litres/100 km. It was all so bland, boring and stale.
In other words, absolutely no fun at all.