So why do those who cling to artifacts from the past continue their quest for experiential freedom? Well, for one there is a considerable amount of “feel” connected to these arguably archaic hobbies of vintage sports cars, film and vinyl. The pursuit of these involvements is more art than science. It’s not pure instrumentation and technology that will get you all the way there. Intuition and a willingness to be open to a non-black and white world are often necessary to achieve that elusive bliss these fans strive for. The pay off is a feeling of satisfaction when the visceral pleasure of playing a great LP, using a mechanical rangefinder, or driving an early Porsche 911 well is truly experienced. Even ordinary tasks become part of the appeal of caretaking something so old, unique and inherently valuable.

Some would say that it is in the actual use of the vintage Porsche where the largest differences become apparent. The mechanical fuel injection of a ’72 911S allows for throttle response that a drive-by-wire modern day Porsche can only dream of. Want to rotate the car mid-corner? Simply lift off the accelerator pedal and the back end comes around. Then it’s back on the throttle for a power slide that’s not inhibited by a computer chip that thinks it’s smarter than you are. With the latest offerings from Porsche, there are so many automated drivers aids that the pilot is left with little to do except ponder grand touring and the accompanying modern day conveniences – like GPS systems and cup holders. In reality, these current day “sports cars” are so capable it’s hard to notice that they weigh over 3,000 pounds! In contrast, an Early 911 allows one to revel in its handling limit while still remaining under the speed limit. A new GT3 needs to be taken to the track to experience what is possible with that car, but if the driver’s skill is not up to the task and they run out of grip… well the car will probably be traveling too fast to stop a major off.

In the vinyl world much of the above rings true. A high-end turntable allows for many performance advantages and upgrades over even the best CD players. LPs continue to be the high-res medium of choice for many audiophiles. For them, there is a warmth, richness, and presence to vinyl playback that eludes most 16-bit CD mastering. Feel like tweaking a CD player? Not that easy I’m afraid. How about viewing the album’s artwork? Bring your magnifying glasses out if you want to read a disc’s booklet. In my experience, the visceral experiences of analog are simply lacking in the digital realm. When you consider the focus required to properly set up a table, research the best sounding vinyl and really extract all that’s hidden in the grooves of a well crafted LP, the subtle variations of this hobby are simply amazing.

Extraordinary in their flexibility, simple in design and execution, yet incredibly rich in potential – vintage cars, rangefinder film cameras and analog playback are actually closer to one another than you might imagine. Temporal mediums all, these old-school pursuits have a tangible “in-the-moment” charm that’s undeniable. It’s not surprising then that many developers of the best turntables available today favor older sports cars. These folks believe that retro designs are simply more organic and reward the senses in a way that newer technologies cannot quite approach. Debating whether this viewpoint is right or wrong is missing the point. While exploring these leisure time pleasures can be challenging, it’s hard to argue that the experiences lived along the way can bring a joy and fulfillment that’s unmatched by more convenient paths. For some it still remains the journey that counts. Maybe you too have found that getting there can be half the fun – heck for some it’s the only thing that matters. Enjoy a blast from the past if you can!

Randy Wells

This article appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of the enthusiast magazine ESSES. For more on the early Porsche 911, you can visit their site: