It’s a one in a million drive as Porsche takes on Scotland in celebration of 911 production
Edinburgh. My hometown. Growing up here as a kid I never truly appreciated how beautiful it is. And it is, sensationally so, though today I’m back home not to see friends, family or enjoy the sights, but to take part in something very special indeed. A few weeks ago, the millionth Porsche 911 rolled off the Zuffenhausen production line in Germany.
Think about that for a moment: one million 911s – and counting – that’s an incredible feat for any car, let alone a premium sports car. Since its introduction the 911 has become a sports car icon, defining the marketplace, dominating race circuits and being symbolic and relevant in every decade it’s existed. That’s as true today as it was when it was introduced back in 1963; the 911 might be something of a freak, a quirk of Porsche’s engineering determination, and against the odds it’s proved wildly successful.
Even so, 1 million of them, that’s absolutely extraordinary. That millionth car is here too, in my hometown, to start a celebratory tour taking in some of Scotland’s most sensational roads. It’s not journalistic licence when I say that this moment means more to me than anyone else here. My city, my country, in a green Porsche 911. Had you told the car-mad seven-year old me at primary school just a few miles away from here that I’d drive the latest version of the model 911 (coincidentally green, too) that was in my schoolbag some 36 years later, I wouldn’t have believed you. But that’s exactly what I’ll be doing, taking part in a convoy of 911s, spanning all decades and types, from a super-rare 911 GT1, a ’67 soft window Targa, new Gen2 GT3 and everything in between.
It’s the stuff of schoolboy fantasy. That’s tomorrow, though. First dinner, in Edinburgh Castle no less, after that Millionth 911 is piped and drummed into the dream line-up on the castle’s esplanade. It’s quite a sight seeing the Irish green Millionth car arrive. Pictures do not really do it justice: it a beautifully executed example of the Porsche Exclusive department’s work. It’s as rich in its detail as it is subtle in its execution, the Millionth car correctly simple, a mix of contemporary modernity with retrospective reverence and being utterly representative of what the 911 is, was and can be. The gold-badged Millionth car takes its place in a line of 911s, parked neatly alongside a 959 and that GT1 Straßenversion. Food, as you’d expect, is introduced with haggis, Porsche’s GT model line director Andreas Preuninger doing the honours and stabbing the tasty beast during a traditional ‘address’. Like that Millionth car outside, at dinner I’m sat parked between Simon and Andrew, the owners respectively of the 959 and GT1, their conversation as interesting as their choice in cars, their company something I’ll be experiencing more of again tomorrow. A walk up to the castle in the morning reveals last night wasn’t a rear-engined 911-shaped dream, the line up of Porsches very real indeed.
To them there’s the addition of some police motorcyclists, who’ll ease the Porsche convoy through Edinburgh’s streets and out of the city. I’m given the keys to an old friend for the first leg – ‘Heebee’, the grey and gold 997 GT3 RS that’s gained its affectionate nickname among the many journalists who’ve driven it thanks to the HBY on its number-plate. It’s been lovingly tidied up, new paint up front, as well as a new steering wheel and gearknob, though slipping into the sports bucket seat feels so familiar. There’s a new 991 Gen2 GT3 in front of me, and in front of that is Andrew’s GT1, though everywhere I look there are 911s of differing vintages and historical significance, it feeling like every one of the 70 per cent of the million 911s are here, if not in actuality, but in spirit. What follows is a drive through Edinburgh, the like of which I’ll never experience again. The roadsides are lined by the many tourists stopping to take pictures, the traffic halted by those police motorcyclists.
The 911 convoy is eased through traffic like automotive royalty, traffic lights ignored, the city streets resonating to the sound of many flat sixes as they escape the city’s limits and head out in search of more interesting roads. Best laid plans and all that quickly dissipate as soon as those police outriders leave us to our own devices, the convoy taking a wrong turn, it split down the middle. I stick with the Millionth car, some hasty phone calls and radio chatter suggesting reconvening part way up the route at one of the car change points at Spean Bridge. Before then our splinter group stops, Heebee replaced by its successor, the Lava Orange legend that is Porsche UK’s ‘XLG’ 991 GT3 RS press car.