McKeel Hagerty and his tale of two Porsches
Double the Porsches, double the fun, right? We asked Hagerty CEO McKeel Hagerty to compare and contrast two of the biggest car loves in his life—a 1967 Porsche 911S that he’s had since his teens, and his daily driver, a 2013 Porsche 911 Carrera 4S with a PDK transmission.
His assessment: Both are fun to drive—they’re Porsches, after all. But they’re radically different when it comes to road feel and the potential for trouble. (More on that later.)
The ’67 has been a labor of love for McKeel since his dad, who operated a small local insurance agency at the time, found it behind a barn and bought it for 500 bucks as a fixer-upper. Father and son labored long and hard to restore the 911S to its former performance glory. In retrospect, McKeel realizes what a gem they stumbled upon.
In its day, the ’67 was the high-water mark of performance for a 2.0-liter engine. “Porsche was always trying to compete in that small displacement category back in 1967, which I would submit was a magic year for cars, and the 911 was simply the best of the best,” McKeel says.
The car is nimble, quick, and “it’s very small, very lightweight, and there’s a somewhat tinny sound when you close the door. It’s also very low. You feel kind of helpless when you’re in traffic around all these SUVs where your eye-line is about at the top of most people’s tires.”
In comparison, the 2013 feels more substantial on the road.
“Like the ’67, the modern 911 still has the engine in the rear, the same fender lines and all that stuff, but it’s 30-percent larger and weighs something like 30–40-percent more,” McKeel says. “It feels like it’s built out of a block of granite. It’s almost like my view of getting in a Mercedes—you know, heavy doors that clunk shut and it’s airtight, so there’s very little connection with the outside world.”
Yes, he takes a little ribbing from car purists for ordering the PDK (dual-clutch automatic) transmission. But this is a daily driver, and he lives in Traverse City, Michigan, where ice and snow are inescapable facts of life five or six months of the year. Porsche’s dual-clutch is arguably the best automatic in the business, and on particularly nasty days it can be a relief to focus on throttle and steering instead of shifting. “The PDK transmission does makes winter driving a heckuva lot easier.”
The magic of the more modern 911, McKeel says, is that Porsche finally worked out the demons of its early design. “It took decades of engineering and testing for Porsche to work out the idiosyncrasies of the rear-engine design. But they nailed it. The new car is nearly flawless.”
Those improvements, and what McKeel teasingly calls the car’s “nanny devices,” help “save you from yourself” while still having fun. Compared to the earlier 911’s well-documented tendency to misbehave under mid-corner lift, the modern car has a legitimate safety net.
“The challenge with the early 911s is you have to keep your foot into it. It’s a courage car. You drive a lot with the throttle—lots of throttle. If you lift the throttle in the corner in an early 911, the rear end is coming past you and all you can do is hope you don’t run into something backward.”
Has that ever happened to McKeel?
“Running into something, no, but I’ve swapped ends any number of times, and it’s shocking. The joke used to be with early 911s that the tail end will spin around so fast that you can read your own license plate, and it’s true. The first time it happened it was all of a sudden, whoosh, and I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m going backward!’”
That tendency aside, he still wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“Every time I drive it, I think of my lifetime of memories with the car,” McKeel says. “It’s still my dream machine.”