Even among the luminaries of Porsche enthusiasts, Dr. Jack Gish stands out. Over a 40-year period, he has amassed a collection of more than two dozen of the marque’s most significant vehicles, with a particular emphasis on the landmark 911 series.
Gish’s first Porsche was a 914 that he owned while in dental school in the 1970s. But that car did not slake his thirst for a 911, the model that seduced him years earlier.
“My 911 collection starts with the 1966 model, because it was the first one imported for sale in the U.S.,” Gish explained, noting that the model had been revealed three years earlier in Germany. “It was also the only 911 to come with a real wood dash.”
Gish admits that those early 911s were not the best-handling cars, partly due to their short wheelbase. Stretching the wheelbase, starting with the 1969 models, improved the handling. (He gave a tip of the cap to Zora Arkus-Duntov, the genius Chevrolet Corvette engineer, who was consulted for improvements.)
Lustier engines – output has almost quadrupled from the first 911’s 128 horsepower – along with targa top and convertible models, turbocharging and other advances may have helped flesh out the model range, but Gish is still an ardent admirer of basic 911s. His appreciation is unabashedly subjective: “I am no engineer.”
For instance, he said that he much preferred the exhaust note of the original air-cooled models over that of the water-cooled versions.
But which, he was asked, is the better car? His answer: “That is a tough call. I’m not a driver – I mean, not on the track. I think they are all great; their DNA is still the same. As much as the 911 has changed, it has stayed the same to me. Trying to choose between them is like trying to differentiate between your children.”
He added, “It was never just about the car – which, by the way, to me always looked great, felt great, handled great. I fell in love with the history of the car, the history of the family that created the car.”
In referring to “the family,” Gish is talking about more than its lineage from founder Ferdinand Porsche to his son Ferry and to grandson Butzi, who designed the original 911 in 1959. “To know the story behind it is to know the passion that Porsche has for the 911,” he added.
Gish related a favorite story about Peter Schutz, who made a bold decision shortly after being hired 1981 as the company’s chief executive.
“He looked at a chart that showed the projected lives of the various Porsche models,” Gish recalled.” When he got to the 911, which was supposed to be killed off after 1981, he said, ‘No.’ And he picked up a marker and extended the life line of the 911 all the way off the chart, around the walls of the whole room, and out the door. And then he said, ‘Do you know what I mean now?’”
Gish says he believes, as many Porsche fans do, that the 911 is the bedrock of the Porsche brand, and will forever remain so. Saving the 911, he added, saved the company.
“It is what Porsche engineering is all about,” he said.
As Gish acquired one model after another, he saw that things were quickly getting “out of control,” he said, laughing. “So my wife, Alice, said, ‘Why don’t you make it into a purposeful collection, with influential examples?’ So I started trying to find the most significant ones, the ones that followed the evolution of the brand.”
Now, the collection includes everything from the 356, the 911’s progenitor, to examples of the 914, 928, 944 and even the largely unloved 924.
Gish said he believed he could clearly and easily see the original 911 in today’s versions of it.
“The DNA has never changed,” he explained. “Something is carried over from one model year to the next that keeps them related to each other, whether it is a mirror, or a wheel, or the bulge of the hood, or whatever. There is no mistaking any 911 as a member of the family.”