Cover image for The gold-plated Porsche : how I sank a small fortune into a used car, and other misadventures
The gold-plated Porsche : how I sank a small fortune into a used car, and other misadventures
Wilkinson, Stephan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
ix, 213 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TL215.P75 W55 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Just as life is often described as a road one takes through the aging process, Wilkinson's experience rebuilding a Porsche is the exit ramp that leads straight into his garage to a world of wires, leather trimmings, and memory pit stops with each turn of the 911 manuscript. Quirky, cool, entertaining, and opinionated, Wilkinson's rebuilding project leads to inspired digressions on his life. Learning about the inner workings of a car is also a lesson in tracing the thought streams of the human mind. While rebuilding his car, Wilkinson waxes eloquent on the history of Porsche, American engineering and culture, personal status, his unfulfilling stint as editor of Car and Driver, his love of flying and all things mechanical, not to mention the integrity of wedding dress silk when it's woven amidst engine pistons. According to Wilkinson, Most of the work that my Porsche required, I was confident I could do myself. Turning nuts and bolts, replacing pieces and parts, disassembling and reassembling, rewiring and renovating were within my basic-competence envelope. Anybody who can overhaul a lawnmower knows how a car engine works.Anybody who can drive a vacuum cleaner or polish shoes can redo a car interior. Anybody who can read a home-wiring diagram can at least begin to fiddle with a car's electrical system. He makes it all sound so easy. Yet, the expensive misadventures he had while rebuilding the German masterpiece were like mirrors of a life experience; the eventual purr of the redone motor felt like a long-awaited jaunt upon a road temporarily closed, and the travelling sure was sweet.

Author Notes

Stephan Wilkinson claims to have majored in sports cars at Harvard, which did not amuse the administration. His unlikely magazine career includes stints at Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Holiday, and Flying. He is currently automotive editor of Conde Nast Traveler

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Wilkinson?s spunky and entertaining memoir is a yarn-spinning and wise-cracking romp over the author?s many occupations, hobbies, blunders and idiosyncrasies. Bored after finishing an addition on his house and building an airplane, Wilkinson, automotive editor at Conde Naste Traveler, turns his antsy, irrepressible need to tinker on a well-used 1983 Porsche 911?and two years and $60,000 later, he has a car worth far more in hard-earned experience than blue-book value. Among other misadventures, Wilkinson recounts how he spent his undergraduate years at Harvard under the hood of a 1936 Ford Phaeton; his ill-fated tenure as the editor of Car and Driver magazine; his small-plane reconnaissance missions over Kansas for the leader of the American Indian Movement; and a stint as a teenage merchant marine in South Asia, where he survived two typhoons, helmed a 10,000-ton freighter and witnessed a drowning off the docks in Saigon. The author also offers up philosophical musings on the manias of car aficionados, the weirdness of German engineering and the importance of crankshaft-to-bearing clearances and proper torquing technique. Although there is a good deal of shop talk and automotive jargon, it is a testament to Wilkinson?s writing skills that he can make his description of the unbolting of a transaxle as engaging as his stories about crashing test cars and absconding with the company jet to visit his girlfriend. The author?s nerdy enthusiasm and sassy wit will be irresistible to both the technically disinclined and the die-hard gear head. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Library Journal Review

A memoir wrapped in a book about auto repair is the best description for this fascinating work. The author, a longtime automotive writer, buys a 20-year-old Porsche and completely restores it all by himself. At the same time, he ruminates about life, the human condition, families, and culture. There are interesting stories from his past: Harvard education, auto repairman, pilot, journalist, and father. Also, there is an appraisal of just how one restores a car but in the process spends three times its value while doing all the work oneself. It's an interesting conundrum that many without such compulsive loves will not understand. But that isn't the point. Finding the meaning of life with a Craftsman wrench is the idea behind this book, but that doesn't get across just how entertaining it is. The writing is crisp, the narrative stays lively with a series of deliberate digressions and blended segues, and there's plenty here for everyone. Recommended for all libraries.-Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Excerpt: Ultimately, I found my car just 60 miles from home, in Long Island City, a shabby New York neighborhood near LaGuardia Airport, amid sidewalks littered with broken bottles, bodegas on the corners and stripped cars perched on milk crates at every other curb. The dealer was an Indian, perhaps a Pakistani, and his wares, though advertised in Hemmings as "exoticars," were a motley collection of dreadful Jaguar Marks, ugly mass-market Ferraris, Cobra kit cars, shabby Royces and Bentleys, poseur Panteras, ratty Porsches-yeah, a lot of Targas-and phony fiberglass MGs. They were packed grill to bumper, fender to dusty fender in a dim, foul warehouse. The mechanical expertise of the place seemed limited to recharging dead batteries. "Hiya. I'm here to look at the red Porsche coupe? The '83 that you're advertising for ten five?" I said to Mr. Patel. "Oh, dear me, sir" he grimaced, "It is a very nice car, but it is $11,500 and not a penny less." I had planned to start at $9,000 and maybe end up at $10,000-an excellent deal for a year and model that sold for twice that in perfect condition. "Gee, you faxed me that it was $10,500, and I made the trip all the way down here on that basis," I said. "I would certainly like to see that fax," he countered. See it he did, since I'd brought it with me. "Huh," he grunted. The car was a sad little rat. The mechanic started it, and it idled smokily at a warm-up setting, the haphazard Porsche threshing-machine clatter a sound that brought back memories. The interior was shabby, the driver's leather seat split, the carpeting bunched and filthy, the glareshield terminally cracked, the rear-bulkhead paneling waterlogged and crumbling, loose wires showing the harsh removal of an aftermarket amplifier and a boombox speaker rig that had been parked crudely on the jump-seat cushions, the engine compartment slick with spilled oil, the air conditioner hoses dangling loose, the Guards Red paint cracked and faded where the Neanderthal PO (previous owner, in Porschespeak) had rigged a nose-protecting bra and then never removed it. The driver's door sagged half an inch when opened, so he was probably fat as well, accustomed to using the door as a crutch. pard Perfect. Excerpted from The Gold-Plated Porsche: How I Sank a Small Fortune into a Used Car, and Other Misadventures by Stephan Wilkinson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
1 Getting Upside-Downp. 1
2 The Christmas Presentp. 5
3 In Pursuit of Purityp. 11
4 Due Diligencep. 19
5 Project Carp. 23
6 No Warranty, No Nothingp. 27
7 What Larry Rivers Never Knewp. 31
8 When Ferdinand Came to Cornwallp. 37
9 Track Timep. 41
10 Creative Cursingp. 49
11 Acres of Carsp. 55
12 Paul the Newfiep. 59
13 Black & Decker Timep. 65
14 She Falls to Piecesp. 71
15 Falcop. 75
16 "That Ain't a Porsche, it's a Ferrari"p. 81
17 Porsche People Are Like Magpiesp. 87
18 Gimme a Brakep. 93
19 Ambulance Guyp. 101
20 Porsche Imperfectp. 111
21 Gearboxp. 117
22 Car and Driver Daysp. 123
23 The Stripperp. 133
24 Merchant Marinerp. 139
25 "I Hope Great Tragedy Befalls You"p. 153
26 Crankyp. 159
27 "Silk Thread Is Very Strong"p. 165
28 "It'll Rip Your Lips Off"p. 169
29 The AIM Air Forcep. 173
30 Detonationp. 179
31 Stoichiometryp. 185
32 Light My Firep. 191
33 Free At Lastp. 195
34 The Mongolian Dazzlerp. 201
35 Big Enoughp. 205