Porsche’s “Driving Experience Centers” . . . do you know their origin?

Porsche’s latest center is coming to LA in 2016.

  • Do they have a good reason for being? Yes.
  • Should you attend such events? Absolutely.
  • Why? Because driving a car — any car — is the most dangerous thing you do on a daily basis.

“In my opinion . . .”

I had a conversation with a friend recently about the Porsche Driving Center that is coming to Los Angeles (a few years past their first projected opening date) and the genesis of factory sponsored driving schools in general. Here’s how I recall the story—which began right here in San Diego:

As we know, today most manufactures of high power cars offer driver education venues. For all intents and purposes, this kind of program started back in the early 1980’s when Porsche US was accused of selling its incredibly powerful and quick (then), and tricky handling 911 “930” Turbo to motorists who were not experienced enough to drive such a car.

The late 3.0 and early 3.3 liter Porsche Turbos had a very volatile power band (all hell broke loose after 5750 RPM) and could bite you if not prepared. As example, once years ago, a buddy and I were driving an early 930 on quiet suburban road. I misjudged the power curve on a corner exit lifted for a sec [!]), blew the apex and ended up heading off-road straight for a large round boulder. The 930 hit the rock, rolled up and over it. We came to rest with the car literally teeter tottering on top of it. You should have seen the tow truck driver’s face when he arrived. Oh, how I wish we had cell phone cameras back then.

But I digress: In the late 70′s and early 80’s it was a sign of success to own a 930. Owners were a who’s who celebrity list but they were not “drivers.” The volatile nature of the powerband coupled with the “flung hammer effect” of the rear-engine design generated several lawsuits— two involving fatal accidents. The most famous wrongful death case that brought such schools about, Garrison v. Porsche, arose out of the death of a husband and father who was a passenger in a 930 Turbo, when the driver lost control on a road here in San Diego County and went into oncoming traffic. In court case, yes, it’s was said that the driver had been drinking and was driving approximately 60 MPH in a 25 MPH zone (I know the dimishing-radius curve well–lots of fun if you know it’s coming). But that didn’t seem to matter to the jury. The jury awarded $2.5 million, which was upheld on appeal.

Then a few years later, Trent v. Porsche arose out of the death of a husband and father when the Turbo 930 oversteered and collided with a telephone pole. The case settled for a confidential amount.

The 1983 award tied the verdict to the largest wrongful death verdict in California. Following the Garrison verdict, Porsche started offering driver’s training to the purchasers of its high-performance flagship vehicle. This was an industry first. I should add that I am unclear if that was part of the settlement or an autonomous “goodwill gesture” by Porsche done while trying to defend claims that the car was inherently unsafe in the hands of an average motorist.

Image credit:
News clip, ferrari chat
Others: Porsche AG

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