Sitting on the frozen, broken earth of the Bathurst cemetery, the ticking of the Porsche’s boxer engine slicing the frigid air as it cools, my mind slips back.
Suddenly it’s 1995, I’m eight years old and I’m clinging to my father’s shoulders as he meanders through the crowd at the Toohey’s Bathurst 1000.
Touring car fans jostle us as they pass, the bulge of a promo girl’s butt catches my wide-eyed stare, petrol fumes flare my nostrils. Even the rotting smell of the mud under our feet, comes back, turned to a sticky mess by the morning’s rain.
Then, unexpectedly, dad stops. “Here you go mate,” he says pressing a small white box into my hand. “This is all I can give you, until you can buy your own.”
The box, bought from a track-side stall, is rectangular, with seven silver letters emblazoned across the top: PORSCHE.
Inside nestles a leather key ring, a perfect Porsche logo shining in gold and silver from its centre. It is, at that moment, the most precious thing in the world to me.
It’s rare to be able to pinpoint the exact moment your life changes. But there, in a dirty merchandise tent on Pit Straight, my feet an inch deep in rotting mud, my future was laid out before me.
Suddenly the single idea of driving, and possibly owning, a Porsche was all that mattered.
“I’ll own one Dad, I promise,” I beamed.
Flash forward 10 years and it’s an even colder memory. My ass is wet, my socks covered in frost as the blue and red lights of an ambulance scream past, missing the skinny, half-naked boy.
I flag them down, screaming: “He’s here! Help him!” They’ve come for my Dad, and he won’t be coming back.
Later, huddled together under the hospital’s harsh lights, my family looks like a flock of lost sheep. I can see through the narrow windows of the operating room, and I watch as an army of doctors inject, pump and squeeze. “It’ll be okay,” I whisper. “He’ll be okay.”
Four hours later, in a stark white room, sitting on a hard wooden stool, I find out he won’t be. A faceless doctor comes in and delivers the bad news: “It was an aneurism…”
Suddenly my Porsche key ring doesn’t seem so important.
Cars, I’ve discovered, are much more than simply collections of metal, plastic and wiring. They transport memories. Emotions.
Ones I couldn’t escape when I tagged along on Wheels’ ultimate Porsche comparison. Following the three Porsches in a support car, memories kept invading my mind; snapshots of my Dad. Sock-sliding competitions to the mumbled words of Bruce Springsteen (the only man who could eat a burger and sing at the same time, according to Dad), transforming our old trampoline into a soccer goal, sitting on his knee to steer the family car. The fact we were driving to Bathurst, my old home town, only made the memories sharper.
Then the moment came. I’d been told I was no chance of even sitting in the Porsches, but after telling the tale of my keyring to editor Corby, a set of Boxster S keys flew across the table.
“Go and see your Dad.”
Turning the key and hearing the Boxster’s engine fire, then, was an emotional experience, the fulfilment of a 13-year dream. Driving the topless Boxster through the frozen streets of Bathurst at dawn, I realised cars don’t just transport memories. They create them.
But now, sitting on the frozen earth of my Dad’s grave, none of that matters. Inside I’m still an excited eight-year-old boy, running towards my Dad, yelling at the top of my lungs.
The fact that the keys to this Porsche won’t sit on my treasured keyring doesn’t matter. I don’t think Dad would mind.
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