Book Review:
Gold-Plated Porsche

This book review appeared in the March 2004 Falco Builder Letter.

For more information on the car, see Steve's Flat-Six article.

Book Review:
The Gold-Plated Porsche

How I Sank a Small Fortune into a Used Car, and Other Misadventures

by Stephan Wilkinson
The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-59228-256-3. $21.95 Hardback, 224 pages.

Susan Crandell gives great Christmas presents. Some years ago, she gave husband Steve Wilkinson permission to build a Falco. As he worked on it, she gave him the seats-and-hardware kit, fuel tanks, engine baffling kit, and others. After he sold it, she gave him a copy of Hemmings Motor News.

"You look bored," she said. "You finished the addition to our home. You built an airplane. Buy yourself a car to restore. A Ferrari. An Aston Martin. A Corvette, a Cobra."

"Wow." said Steve. " I'd always wanted to restore a car, and my unfailingly perceptive partner, always game for anything, was encouraging me to start at the top. Husbands who feel that permission to watch the Super Bowl is marital bliss don't know what they're missing."

Wow is right. Steve bought an old, rundown Porsche 911SC, and spent the next two years tearing it apart and installing every top-of-the line Porsche after-market accessory, high-compression pistons, Weber carburetors, consulting with a Porsche engine expert in Oregon, visiting Porsche chatrooms on the Internet while working on it in the barn behind his house.

In The Gold-Plated Porsche, Steve takes you inside the barn, down into the engine and recounts his own personal history, of dropping out of Harvard to tour the world as a merchant seaman, driving an ambulance, working at Flying magazine, a brief tour at Car & Driver as editor, fired, then back to Flying where he was soon fired again. Lord knows they had reasons: his brief association with a Canadian marijuana smuggler who needed a pilot, then as chief pilot for Dennis Banks, one of the leaders of the controversial American Indian Movement, for a week or so at least, and long enough to attract the attention of the F.B.I.

The Falco is all through the book, so Falcophiles going through withdrawals from Steve's articles can get their replacement therapy with a copy of this wonderful book. It is classic Steve. After tearing the transmission apart and finding a bent mainshaft, worn bushings and other evidence of a few hard knocks, he notes "Wondering what your car has been through is like thinking about how your wife lost her virginity. On the one hand you don't want to know, on the other you can't help daydreaming the worst." (And this from a guy who is still hiding his First Flight/Kim Basinger article from his wife.)

From the preface: "I took to explaining that I was simply spending two years and $70,000 to make a brand-new 1983 Porsche that would never in my lifetime be worth more than twenty grand, tops. It was like the MasterCard commercials: 'Car, $10,500. Parts, $59,000. Experience, priceless.' A few people got it, most didn't. This book is for the people who Get It."

Do get it. Lately I've been working my way through Edmund Morris's Theodore Rex, William Manchester's The Last Lion, and H.W. Brands T.R. at a pace of a few pages a night, but when I cracked open The Gold-Plated Porsche, I read until after midnight, then woke up early to finish it the next morning. It's just a wonderful book, but then, has Steve ever written anything that wasn't?

The Gold-Plated Porsche, a two-year auto rebuild account wrapped around a life story, will be published in June 2004. It's available on Amazon now for preorders, and in bookstores.