Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Australian Adventure

Porsche AG had decided to get all the Middle and Far East Importers together and invited us all to attend a joint meeting in Melbourne, Australia. I got a call from Herbert Layda, who was our contact at the factory, and worked under Philip Kaes, saying that I was the only person from the Middle East agreeing to attend. He asked me if I could chase up some of the other Gulf Importers to come along so I agreed to do what I could.
I called Ali Bebehani in Kuwait and he said he could not be bothered to fly all the way to Australia to listen to Porsche harp on about motorcars. Ali’s family were multi-millionaires and had many businesses including jewellery, watches, general trading, construction as well as VW Audi, GM etc; so they saw Porsche as some kind of icing on their corporate cake, but not a serious business.
To us at PCB, Porsche was our business, so I made a point of going to all events no matter what they were about or where they were located.
After we chatted for a while, Ali told me he would be in Bahrain later that week and could we meet up for dinner? I agreed and he duly flew in but we met up for lunch, as I could not make our dinner arrangement at the last minute. Eventually I got him to come along as I told him there would be lots of ladies in Melbourne and Ali being a bachelor, immediately decided to come along as females did it for him.
I convinced a couple of our other local Gulf Importers to come along despite a bit of arm-twisting so I felt I had done my bit for Herbert Layda.
Porsche was well established in Australia and the Hamilton family were the Importer and they had a long association with motorcars and motor sport, rather like the Aldington family had with AFN and Porsche in Great Britain.
I flew in to Melbourne on 6 April 1982, as planned and met up with everyone in the hotel lobby on the first evening for drinks. I had previously met some of the staff from the Porsche Importers from Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand in Stuttgart, so there were a lot of familiar faces to catch up with. Besides the Hamilton contingent, Trevor Hudson and Colin Giltrap from New Zealand was the nearest local visitor but he had flow over fifteen hundred kilometres to be here.
Dr Ernst Fuhrman, the engineering Director of Porsche was the guest of honour and we had a day at Hamilton’s the Porsche Importer viewing their premises and Porsche racecars. There was about forty of us in total and I think around fifteen people were from Porsche in Germany including; Ed Peter, Herbert Layda and my old friend Rolf Frey.
Porsche had arranged for all the delegates to receive a book on Australia with their name printed inside along with a real Boomerang each!
The following day we went to the Gold Mining town of Ballarat and had lunch and a tour of the recreated town. This dress was very casual as the weather was hot and I had bought a number of our own designed Porsche T-Shirts with me from Bahrain. I was wearing one of these and Dr Fuhrman called out to me to, “Come over and show me your shirt”. On the front of our T-Shirt, we had the Porsche logo and crest all very neatly printed in colour, saying, “We make cars……….” in discreet black text and on the back it said in massive black wording, “But Not for Everyone”! Dr Fuhrman asked me about these T Shirts and I told them him that when some of our Sheikhs came in to buy a car they were disappointed that we did not carry stock. After explaining that each car was specially ordered and it was unique to that customer, they loved it. I also told him that we told our customers that we did not sell Porsche cars to just anyone. He was impressed and asked to have one T-Shirt to take back to Germany, so I gave him a couple.
In the afternoon, we went on to a winery, which was owned and run by one of Hamilton’s Porsche customers.
After a long journey on the bus from Ballarat, we all went for a walk to stretch our legs. I was eager to try out my Boomerang and this large field area provided a few of us with the opportunity to throw them. We all had just about enough and were due to go back to the winery, when one of the two guys from Japan threw one of their Boomerangs. He then turned around to talk to his colleague, when the boomerang came back and hit him hard on the head and knocked him down! He recovered later but the winery owner told us it was, “It’s the Flying Doctor in this part of Australia if you need to go to hospital.”
We had a magnificent meal and each of us was presented with a pack of two bottles of wine, one red and one white, from the winery to take home with us.
On the bus home we were all a bit tired and chatting quietly when all of a sudden there was this powerful voice that drowned us all out. We all stopped and Rolf Frey was singing Opera for most of the journey back to Melbourne. Rolf was a wonderful opera singer but he was very modest and said, “You should hear my wife as she is a professional opera singer.”
The following day we went to visit Hamilton’s again to look around their facilities and see the racing Porsche cars followed by a meeting.
Dr Fuhrman was the man subsequently who tried to discontinue Porsche 911 production in favour of the Porsche 928 model he was instrumental in. This subsequently became a complete miscalculation by him as the petrol crisis loomed and he retired from Porsche as a way out and the 911 series remained in production to become what it is today, an icon in automotive history. 

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