A short walk that inspired a lifelong journey
When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles, my dad would take me along whenever he would visit one of his friends who lived in Hermosa Beach. I loved making that trip with him – and for one reason in particular. Every time we made that journey, I would inevitably take a walk down the street to a place that always got my attention – as well as that of every other budding local car enthusiast’s. That place was Vasek Polak’s famed Porsche dealership and race shop on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Vasek Polak lived an incredible life. He was a Prague-born former motorcycling champion who escaped communist Czechoslovakia for the US in the late 1940s. After a period as a car mechanic in New York City, he eventually ended up opening the first ever standalone Porsche dealership in the United States at Manhattan Beach, California, in the 1950s. The company moved just down the way to Hermosa Beach the following decade.
As well as the dealership, the racing arm of Vasek Polak was one of the most successful outside of the Porsche works team. The plain black, block-lettered Vasek Polak text was applied to the fenders, hoods and wings of some of the greatest Porsche sportscars in history – from 935 to 917, 911 to 356. These Porsche racecars would be on display in Vasek Polak dealerships, sitting alongside Porsche road cars, in an ingenious bit of marketing now used by every manufacturer with a race team these days.
Building a classic Porsche ‘family’
It was here, wandering around this famed dealership, that the Porsche bug bit me. I was an obsessed 13-year-old – and it didn’t stop there. I bought my first Porsche not that long after I had learned to drive, at the age of 18 – a 1970 911T. My Porsche life had well and truly begun. After owning the 911T and enjoying it for half a decade, I sold it to my cousin. It felt important to keep it in the family. From there, I formed an automotive ‘family’ of my own, which grew and grew. A succession of Porsche sportscars has passed through my hands over the years. By my reckoning, I’ve now owned over 35 of them.
Currently, I have nine in my collection – and my black 2005 Porsche 996 GT3 has rapidly become a favourite. The 996 generation has polarised opinion over the years, but I sense that’s now changing. A car that marked the beginning of the new water-cooled generation of Porsche sportscars, as a 911, it’s part of a unique and special mythology. There’s a lot that’s been said and still left to say about these cars, but I always like to put it very simply – it just does everything well.