Palm Springs, California (and nearby areas)
The 993 was dropped off at Porsche Palm Springs the Monday morning after we arrived. 30 minutes later it was in the air and team of people who know what they are doing set about fixing our highly flammable leak. I also asked them look at the air conditioning and see it anything could be done.
The quality of the global Porsche network has been evident the last few days with excellent service in both Albuquerque and here. They are owned by different local franchises yet have seen us at a moment’s notice, squeezed us in, patched us up and ordered parts in advance. I know they will fix the gasoline leak here, I’m hopeful they can make the air conditioning cold.
Palm Springs in a Porsche Panamera
The Porsche Centre in Palm Springs kindly gave us a Panamera with less than 1,000 miles on it to use while the 993 was being worked on. I’ve long wanted one of these beasts but have always dismissed it on grounds that it’s too big for London. There is no way it will squeeze through the back streets of Greenwich. Being five meters long I’d have zero chance of finding a parking space in Dalston to eat chops at Mangal. Navigating one through narrow Cornish lanes would involve a lot of reversing. Out here it’s a different story, the Panamera is big even by American standards, but it works as the roads are designed for big cars and the parking spaces generous.
Sitting in this car fresh from the 993, the Panamera is a world apart. Over two decades newer, it has four proper seats and a turbocharged engine up front. There is a large telly in the middle of the dashboard and a lot of buttons that do things. It is a very, very nice car, well finished and it feels expensive, possibly even more so than it is. I’m a fan of the way this car looks and can’t understand why some call it ugly. Recently I saw something suggesting the roofline was higher than the designer intended because one of the bosses at Porsche (who is well over six feet tall) insisted on being able to sit comfortably in the back. This resulted in it being made even bigger – a good bit of creative direction. It has huge presence.
Sports exhaust permanently on, suspension always set low and stiff, PSM off, we took it everywhere. Coffee every morning at Ernest, In-N-Out and other posh eateries, old roadside attractions, a cable car ride up a mountain, Idyllwild. Everywhere except Los Angeles which we waited on the 993 for but were scuppered by unexpected extra parts being needed.
We drove it hard up a section of the Palms to Pines Scenic Highway (Highway 74) to find out how much of a Porsche it really is. It’s no 911, but for a big car it’s got an impressive chassis, plenty of power and is a lot of fun.
Filling up at a gas station (and I did this a lot in this car), a guy in a pick-up truck asked me questions about it, telling me how his wife had said “what’s the point in a sedan Porsche?” The point is this, if you need to transport four people, in comfort, quickly, in a car that’s engaging to drive, I doubt there is anything better. He said he’d tell his wife it’s for the man who has kids but still wants a Porsche. Same thing.
Palm Springs in a Porsche 993. Finally
Towards the end of our time in Palm Springs, the 993 was ready to be collected. The Official Porsche Centre have been wonderful. The problem with these old cars is when you dismantle them, other issues often show up, which in turn leads to ordering parts, which usually need shipping from elsewhere. We suffered some of this but eventually got there. The car no longer leaks fuel directly into the engine bay, and much to my surprise it has cold A/C. Refrigerator cold. Even the Panamera was not this cold.
I’ve heard much about air conditioning in 993s over the years, most of it being it is not all that great even when working properly. However, there is always one guy (who likely lives in Scotland) swearing it is ice cold. That guy up in the Highlands is right, if there is nothing wrong with the A/C components in a 993 it will blow so cold will your nipples will resemble a fighter pilot’s thumbs. Even in the Californian desert.
With little time left here, I desperately wanted to do some canyon driving. Leaving Renée behind at the pool to catch up with one of her friends, I saved her husband from the girl talk and we headed out for a boy’s day out armed with a camera and drone.
Highway 74, Palms to Pines (in a 993)
This road is world famous if you are a petrol head. When I asked at Porsche about the best roads in the area I was told this was all I needed. As the name suggests, the complete route begins out by the coast and palm trees, but for us it started just outside Palm Springs (also with palm trees), rising through the desert canyon until the mountains are cool enough for pine trees to grow. It is a challenging road, fast in places, breathtakingly beautiful almost everywhere. Some of it is twisty with hairpin switchbacks and some of it straight enough to pass anything in your way. For me what’s great about this road is that it resembles nothing else I’ve driven anywhere. The company I work for has been talking about opening a US office for a few years now. If/when it happens I hope it is close to roads like this.
About halfway up is a bar called the Paradise Valley Café. Stopping here for a small tub Ben and Jerry’s and a chance to thaw out in the hot sun, we parked next to another 993, this one with Colorado plates, and across from it was a Boxster GTS. The owners RocketJohn and Uberyoyo were on a ‘make-it-up-as-they-go-along’ road trip, and about to head up to the Palomar Observatory in San Diego County, another decent road. The invite was accepted and we set about playing catch up after the ice cream was eaten.
Catching them was easy enough but passing these two was never going to happen. A pair of loud 993s trying to drown out the factory artillery fire Boxster sports exhaust with old fashioned decibels. Palms were sweaty and the tyres hot – fast driving at its finest. It was a proper workout hanging off the back of them for a couple of hours. Once we made it to the observatory there was a lot of Porsche talk. Right hand drive cars are a novelty in this part of the world and there appeared to be as much fascination at the non-symmetrical mirrors being on the other side of the car as the steering wheel position. No side repeaters on the US cars, no bumperettes on the UK car, and so on. It gets no nerdier. Even those Pokemon Go players I see going up and down my street every weekend can’t compete with this. I’d hoped to fit in an American cars and coffee event into the trip but was unable to find anything with aligning locations and dates, however my two new Porsche friends more than made up for it with their local knowledge, radar detectors and walkie-talkies. Much fun was had.
Close to the end of the Palms to Pines on our return home, there is an overlook where people were stopped in anticipation of the sunset. Time to get the Whirlybird up! Now that I’d discovered the drone returns to where it takes off, I happily handed it over to my co-driver of the afternoon. He’d never flown a drone before so I kept the return to home and the obstacle avoidance features to myself and told him not to lose it in the canyon or crash it. Despite the pressure, he got some super shots.
It was dark before we got back, our mobiles lighting up when cell signal returned with missed calls and texts from worried and hungry partners. We’d not intended to be out this long and I only had prescription sunglasses with me giving no choice but to drive back through Palm Springs wearing them, looking like I think I’m cool. With the windows down, sunroof open and warm air blowing in, baseball cap on, Palm Springs illuminated by lights and neon, the noise of the flat-six engine pushing through the traffic, I certainly felt far cooler than the Porsche geek I’d been up in the hills a couple of hours earlier. Days like this are exactly why I shipped this car to America. Awesome with a capital F.