We were recently invited along by the Porsche 356 Registry and 356 Club of Southern California for a Sunday drive out to the Chino Airport and couldn't think of any good reason to say no. Like any car club, the glue that holds these groups together are the cars they own, drive and admire. In this case it is Porsche's classic 356 and its successor, the Porsche 912. While some see these models are little more than gussied up Beetles, those in the know appreciate them for what they really are, the cars that made Porsche a household name.
Follow the jump to read more about our special day with these iconic cars and the equally legendary planes at the Planes of Fame Air Museum in Chino. And don't forget to check out the high-res gallery for your next desktop wallpaper.
Photos Copyright ©2008 Frank Filipponio/Weblogs, Inc.
The 356 was the first car to wear the Porsche badge and altogether some 80,000 examples were made between the 1948 prototype and the end of production in 1965. After the Cobra it is probably the most copied car by kit and replica makers. Coupe, convertible, speedster and roadster, Pre-A, A, B, C, SC, Super 90, 1600...there were many designations, but all were essentially similar with air-cooled flat-4s hanging behind the rear axle and that distinctive inverted bathtub shape. Fun cars with incredible handling for the day, and sprightly performance, especially with the bigger engines. In fact, some liked that flat-4 so much that Porsche decided to sell a 4-cylinder version of its newer 911 after it had moved the company upmarket. By adding the 356 engine to the 911 body, the 912 was born.
Although these cars are often underappreciated by collectors today, the owners are rabid for them, and like current Cayman and Boxster owners they want you to know they didn't really want a 911, even though they could probably afford one, thankyouverymuch.
A great group of owners who really love their cars and love to drive them hard, we had a fun morning cruising along with them out to the Chino Airport. The group gathered at Flo's for breakfast (share the chicken fried steak with a friend) before heading over to the Planes of Fame Air Museum just around the corner.
About 30 cars made it out for the day, just about evenly split between 356 and 912 models. There was even a 911 or two on hand along with the first Enzmann 506 we've ever seen. While several of the cars were near-concours level condition, many owners tinker with their rides to suit their needs. An example is the so-called "Outlaw" that can incorporate massively tuned mills, modern disc brakes and larger performance rubber. As much as we loved the cars, the air museum was truly incredible.
One of two locations (the other is located near the Grand Canyon in Arizona), Planes of Fame is open to the public for a nominal admission charge. The museum was founded way back in 1957 by Ed Maloney, who recognized the need to gather and preserve discarded military aircraft. Today the collection numbers around 150 planes, the vast majority restored to flying condition. And that's what makes this such a special place. It's not just the fact that they have some of the rarest planes in the world, it's that almost all of them fly. The museum has special events throughout the year where experts and former pilots discuss the featured craft. One lucky attendee even gets to fly along when that craft takes wing.
The museum is arranged in a series of hangars with helpful docents filling in the details when the thorough signage isn't enough. Many of the planes are displayed in diorama style with tons of scale-model craft, parts, and period memorabilia everywhere you look. There's also a great gift shop. The first hangar features a selection that includes a replica of the Wright Brothers' very first plane, one of the first mono-planes, a 1932 Boeing P-26A "Peashooter," a French 1915 Hanriot HD-1 Bi-plane, and a very early P-51A Mustang, and it just gets better from there. Around the museum visitors will see Corsairs and Zeroes, Spitfires and MiGs, Flying Wings and Phantoms. Are you a fan of Peanuts? How about a Sopwith Camel and a Fokker tri-plane side-by-side? It's really an awesome experience for anyone who likes military aircraft.
The museum is currently restoring a B-17G bomber which you can see sitting right out front. The process is time-consuming and expensive and they could use your help. Stop by if you happen to be in the area, or check it out online at planesoffame.org.