I remember driving my first Porsche to this day. It is a bit like learning to ride a bicycle, passing your driving test or going solo piloting a plane for the first time, something you just never forget!
Dickie and I were at Thruxton for a race meeting, once again as spectators, not that Dickie was ever that, limping around on his gammy leg, pocking his nose in to other folks business and gathering data on the latest innovations and fads in motor racing!
On the way home Dickie asked me, “Did you want to have a drive?” I was very hesitant at first and told him that I did not have a license as I was still only 16 years old, but he said we could go on the back roads and farm tracks for a while. So I took the wheel driving MAA 911F, his mustard yellow 1968 Porsche 911L Sportomatic and we drove down muddy lanes and bumpy farm tracks in the wilds of Hampshire. After around 10 miles I was over the moon at my first drive in a Porsche 911 and a brand new one at that.
Upon inspection back at his house the next day, we noticed I had bent the Hoffman electrical aerial as it would not retract properly and I had slightly scratched the paintwork down on one side from scraping a hedgerow. Dickie did not care too much about this and said he would take it into AFN who would sort it all out without any bother.
The 911L Sportomatic transmission did not have a clutch pedal to depress, so the driver just took the gear lever and selected the next gear you wanted. Behind the scenes, when the gear level was moved, an electric solenoid and servo attached to a mini clutch system worked in conjunction with a torque converter to operate the clutch automatically. The driver just took the gear lever and changed gears mechanically without the need for a conventional clutch. Dickie explained that no driver could beat the Sportomatic system and he showed me constantly just how well it worked and how quickly he could change gear and drive his car. However, if you accidentally touched the gear lever whilst driving, you lost the drive. So for people who had a bad habit of keeping their hand on the gear lever whilst they drove, the Sportomatic was not for them.
Dickie loved the Sportomatic transmission and he could really drive his car very quickly on the public roads but he always did so in an extremely safe manner.