The escapades of a car guy (almost) stranded on a tropical island
My wife recently planned a family getaway to the island of Curaçao, in the Dutch Caribbean near Venezuela. While the thought of spending a week scuba diving and snorkeling with the fishies sounded fantastic, I wondered deep down if I could really survive that long without a car activity. For my sanity, I decided I’d better work something up—would I unearth the United Nations of Gearheads?
Thanks to Facebook and the proactive page administrator of the “Porsche Owners’ Club Curaçao,” I flew to the island and hustled my family to the end of our rented residence with eager automotive anticipation.
Over the hill came a sound for longing ears, and shortly, a sight for sore eyes: a caravan of Porsches from 911 through 997—plus a Volkswagen SUV, for good measure. After jubilant hand-shaking and necessary introductions were made, I picked an open passenger seat and off went the car-loving caravan for a fast-paced tour of the island.
Before long, I’m in a 997-generation Carrera S next to Carlos Sayers, the president of Curaçao’s Porsche Owners’ Club.
The car was super clean, and I was thankful for the air conditioning in the tropical heat. Carlos is retired from the Dutch Navy, and actually used to be the commander of the naval base on the island. His experience with transportation isn’t limited to cars and ships, either—he’s also an experienced submariner.
We whipped our caravan around the twisty, bouncing roads of the island, which is only 40 miles long and 8 miles wide. I discovered that, though there are speed cameras that flash at you on the major roads of Caraçao, Carlos says you’re free to ignore them; they never actually send out any violations. Is this heaven?
The fear of being busted by the law doesn’t exactly hang heavy in the air; but, even without speeding tickets, Carlos’ automotive hobby has lightened his wallet. He’s recently replaced all his suspension components… which is very common here. It’s paradise full of potholes.
The sun had set, and after running the island’s perimeter roads, the caravan went right through the center of the largest city, Willemstad. Locals and tourists alike were loving the parade, flashing phones and cameras.
Over dinner and drinks, I was thrilled with the stories of active car enthusiasm on this little island. One club member, Brian Mezas, had the oldest car in the club: a 356 B. Robert van Heulen, the managing director of a large shipping company based on the island, was in the process of having the 3.0-liter rebuilt in his modified ’73 911T that he runs in hillclimb events. He lamented that, even with the Internet, it takes forever to get parts to the island—sometimes months for an item that you or I could have in a matter of days. The engine was actually shipped to Holland to be rebuilt, as there are no machining tools available on the island to do a proper rebuild.
Brett Ruiz, in addition to having a very nice Carrera 4, was in the middle of a restoration on a 1965 396 Corvette that had been owned by his father since 1971. He showed me photos of the bodywork being completed under semi-outdoor conditions—and frankly, the car looked fantastic. The engine is going back together as we speak, and, when finished, the ’Vette will be another great car running around on the island.
We also heard more tales of other cars on the island, and saw videos of the various autocrosses, drag races, and hill climb events the club participates in. There is a Lamborghini Gallardo that shows up at some events, and a brand new GT2 RS. We wrapped up dinner and traded a lot of contact information.
Cars are fun, but it’s the people you meet that change your experience for the better. The Porsche Owners’ Club of Caraçao hasn’t rebranded itself the United Nations of Gearheads—yet. Maybe I’ll suggest that next time.