FORTY-FIVE YEARS OF SOUTHEASTERN MICHIGAN REGION PORSCHE CLUB OF AMERICA
(This article was written for the 45th Anniversary Dinner held at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Aug 9, 2003. The list of Presidents has been updated – webmaster)
On February 26th, 1958, ten Michigan members of the Porsche Club of America signed a petition to obtain recognition as the 8th region of the National Club. The region was, at that time, identified as the Detroit Region, although this was to change before the charter was granted. These were the eccentric Porschephiles of the Nifty Fifties who got things moving to form what was to be known as Southeastern Michigan Region with original boundaries extending out in a forty mile radius around downtown Detroit.
On April 2nd, 1958, election of regional officers took place at the home of June and Jim Syze. The procedures were a bit less complicated in those early years in as much as a mere six weeks elapsed before Southeastern Michigan Region was granted its charter on May 16th, 1958. The membership of the newly chartered region consisted of the twenty-six members whose names have been listed for all to see.
So began Southeastern Michigan Region in May of 1958. The early records reveal some remarkable accomplishments, perhaps the most note worthy of which was the meeting of November 15th, 1958. This event was marked by the presence of honored dinner guests Ferry Porsche and his son, Butzi, along with Erich Filius and Wolfgang Raether of Porsche of America Corporation. Earlier in the year, the Region was also distinguished by having the best representation on the first “Treffen” to Stuttgart.
The Region’s second year was no less auspicious, being marked by the election to National PCA office of two of the Region’s charter members; Earl Kirschbaum was elected President and June Syze was elected Vice-President. At Nippersing Manor, site of the 1959 Parade, the Region was out in force and was recognized with the “President’s Trophy” won by the Region. Following the Parade, those enthusiasts who made up the Region hadn’t yet had their fill and went on to host the PCA Tent and Porsche Park at the Elkhart Lake Weekend which followed the Parade Week. On November 29th, 1959, a “Christmas Communiqué” was sent out to all
members by Don Johnson who was then Secretary, announcing the Region’s First Annual Christmas Party. It certainly hadn’t taken those PCAer’s of yore long to provide an excuse for a party! The Annual Holiday Party has been the Region’s most popular event every year since.
Southeastern Michigan Region began publishing its first regular monthly newsletter in January of 1960. It was named PORSCHE PUSHERS PRIVATE PAPERS, though it is now known to many of us as the P4. While the first issue was only one page, it described election results of the January meeting, announced plans for the February meeting at the Botsford Inn and promoted attendance at the 5th Annual Parade in Aspen, Colorado. The April 1960 issue of P4 listed what was described as “Good news for the N.W. Detroit area.” It seems that a chap by the name of Erhard Dahm had decided to go into business for himself and had acquired a gas station with a three car bay located at the corner of Mansfield and Schoolcraft. The “Grand” opening was set for May 2nd, 1960. Little did we know what a major impact this gentleman would later have on the growth of PCA in the Detroit area.
Several annual events have been added to the Region’s calendar during the years since the early sixties. What was probably the Region’s first autocross was time, autocross activities have increased to include an Annual Waterford Hills Weekend which began in 1970 and has continued annually. During the intervening years, PCAer’s distinguished themselves in the Detroit area gymkhana series sanctioned by the Detroit Council of Sports Car Clubs of which SMR was a member. Porsche Pushers were frequent class winners and often posted best time of day to put the 356’s of the period out in front as the superlative machine for these events.
SMR’s tenth year brought a number of activities and accomplishments. Membership had increased to the three digit category for the first time in the Region’s history. In April, the Fifth Annual Sports Car Spectacular was held at Cobo Hall. The all sports car show included a PCA exhibit put together by the Region and featured a black and silver Speedster campaigned by Ray and Paula Kempton. June featured a special entry at the Classic Car Club of America annual meet held on the grounds of the Ford Engineering Center. The pristine silver 912 of Howard and Linda Cole took the honors when the judging was completed.
With the entry into the 70’s the Region became incorporated in the State of Michigan in keeping with its increased size and activity. By 1973 the Region’s pursuit of an identity continued with the creation of four unique designs for a Region badge to emblazon the backs of the Region’s Porsches. A design competition announced with the cover of the April P4 resulted in the Kronk “mitten” design which is by now familiar to all SMR members. That same month, the second edition of “Panel Beaters Pandemonium,” a tech session sometimes confused with an eating and drinking fest was held at the home of Sports Car Collision and PCAer Larry Rehwoldt, known to all who’ve had the misfortune of bashing their Porsche. In the same year, SMR held its first Progressive Dinner, featuring haute cuisine between brief stints in the Porsche. The Region had grown to a full two hundred members and for a while, just fining spots to hold dinner meetings had become a bit difficult due to the number of members attending.
The year 1975 brought the first of a continuing inter-regional autocross series which was designated “I.R.A.C.” The series brought SMR together with several of the mid-western regions on a regular basis, not only for competitive purposes, but also to provide a fine reason for socializing in the manner know only to PCAer’s. All of the attendant correspondence prompted the design of Regional stationary which was put to good use during the year.
SMR held an elaborate party on Sunday, May 21, 1978 to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. The site was the elegant and historic Dearborn Inn. The highlight of the afternoon-Southeastern Michigan’s “Porsches in Review” a magnificent display of Porsches old and new, street and competition, dating from as early as 1950! The Porsche display occupied the bulk of the afternoon, and followed immediately by a Champagne reception for the guest of honor, the distinguished author of Porsche: Excellence Was Expected, Karl Ludvigsen. After dinner a slide presentation was given depicting some of the more interesting Porsche material that Karl had obtained while researching for his book. The slides showed some of the early
Porsche drawings and projects, and gave us a far better insight into the tremendous engineering acumen that existed, and still exists, in the House of Porsche. The anniversary celebration gave SMR members a true feeling of Porsche spirit and comradery.
The membership gathered en mass again in May of 1983 to celebrate twenty-five years of SMR. For the second time, “Porsches in Review” was the theme for this assembly of cars at the Henry Ford Greenfield Village as over on hundred Porsches, from 1949 to 1983, were represented on the Village green. The honored guests for the evening were Juergen Barth, director of Porsche Racing Department and past winner of Le Mans, and Charles A. Stoddard, past president of the National PCA and noted concours competitor and Porsche collector.
SMR also started, in 1958, to participate in the Ohio Region’s Oktoberfest, a multi-club event weekend series. We were the first to have the Maifest Weekend to initiate our joining of the group and in 1988, hosted Oktoberfest for the first time at Historic Greenmead in Livonia.
In 1988, membership in SMR surpassed 450 for the first time. The ever growing membership also marked the Thirtieth Anniversary of SMR. We celebrated that milestone with a gala event at the Shotwell-Gustafson Pavilion at the Meadow-brook Conference Center. There were over 100 Porsches in attendance for this edition of “Porsches in Review” (along with their owners) and our honored guest speaker after dinner was Bob Carlson from Porsche Motor Sport.
Porsche was also the featured marque at the 1988 Meadow Brook Historic Races at Waterford Hills Race Track, held in conjunction with the world class Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance. Along with some great racing of historic Porsches at the track, the Concours had some very fine examples of our favorite car on display. General Motors even brought one of their rumored tow (in the U.S.) 959’s for a rare public appearance. In the display SMR was represented by Neil Goldberg’s 1974 914 2.0 Limited Edition and Ted Stanek’s 1955 956 Speedster. Don Heth had his 1974 911 Carrera, Fred Leydorf brought his 1960 Abarth Carrera and Bill Lovett showed his beautiful 1966 911 coupe.
SMR hosted the National Parade at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme, Michigan in 1989. Great Lakes ’89, as it turned out, was perhaps one of the best Parades ever put on. We had over 750 members registered and in attendance. This may also have been the last of the single region Parades put on as there were a few multi-regional Parades before ours and all since have been joint efforts. Even the weather was cooperative!
Since our Parade, SMR has continued to grow with more new members becoming familiar faces at many events. We have surpassed the 600 mark in membership on a few occasions and are just below that mark at this time. Waterford Weekday driver’s schools and the annual weekend event continue to be sell-outs; and the ever popular Concours d’Elegance and picnic live on, with the Progressive Dinner, Color Tour, Holiday Party and all of the other events that celebrate good friends and our favorite marque continue to be the backbone of active SMR.