Werks Reunion Monterey, 2017

This year I was fortunate enough to not only attend the Werks Reunion in Monterey, but also participate as an entrant, and as a judge. I must admit that this was an amazing and fun day full of new experiences and new people. The turnout was incredible, the people were great, and the cars were simply mind-blowing. It was truly one of the best car days of my life… but, it’s not without criticism.

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On Friday morning, 18 August, I woke up at a time I normally went to bed in my younger years; 4:30 AM. I was smart enough to have prepped the night before so, in true old-man fashion, my clothes were laid out, food prepared, and everything else I thought I might need for the day such as sunscreen, collapsable chair, hat, etc., were ready to go. I didn’t have to think in the morning, I just got dressed and grabbed all the things, then left. I was on the road at 5:00 AM and made it to Werks by 6:30 AM. Registration opened at 7:00 AM, but since I was a judge, I was allowed entry when I arrived. I honestly didn’t know if I would be allowed entry earlier than 7:00 AM as no prior communication noted anything of the sort.

I almost missed the entrance to the Corral de Tierra Country Club (where the Werks Reunion was being held) as it wasn’t marked in any way, and my GPS told me I had “reached my destination” about half a mile back where there were no driveways in sight. Fortunately, there was a young lady with a bright orange flag who saw me approaching and rightly assumed I was there for the show. Had it not been for her, I would have driven straight past the entrance since there was no line at 6:30 AM. Once in, I drove down the extra wide sidewalks usually reserved for golf carts, but there was no one to guide me, so I just followed the path the only direction it went. That path lead me straight into a section of port-a-potties. I had to turn around (not easy) and go exploring again. Finally, I saw someone and asked them were I should go. He had no idea, but, he did recommend someone else and pointed in their direction. I drove to that person, and he guided me to the correct spot.

While that bit was rather annoying and slightly frustrating, I won’t hold that against the Werks Reunion organizers. First of all, I was there earlier than most other entrants and, second, because this was the first time the Werks Reunion was held at this venue. Any time a car event is held at a new venue, there will always be a bit of disorganization and minor confusion. It’s normal. Although, with the multiple emails sent out to judges prior to the event, clear direction as to what we should do when we arrive would have been very beneficial.

After parking my car, I got out and polished it up a bit, just to get anything off that had dirtied the car on the drive down. I was smart enough to have taken my car to Deep Reflections the day before and had it “refreshed” since it had just been detailed only a couple of months ago. All I had to do on the field was very minor polishing. The 996 looked great. Afterwards, I met a few other entrants and judges, and walked around watching the cars file in and park in their class sections. Getting to watch the other cars come in and take their place on the field is one of the best things about arriving early at these car shows.

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My 996 just after the “refresh” at Deep Reflections in Los Gatos, CA, the day before Werks.

It was getting close to the time for the judges meeting to go over the judging criteria for the event. The big problem here was that an email sent prior to the event told us to check-in at the Volunteer tent prior to 8:30 AM. Of course, I have no idea where the Volunteer tent is located. After a few minutes of wandering around, I saw someone wearing a Werks Reunion shirt that said “Judge” on it, so I introduced myself to him and explained that I’m a judge as well and had no idea where to go. This kind gentleman pointed me in the right direction. There was a small, unmarked tent next to the PCA tent. At that tent were a couple of people wearing PCA shirts (just like the folks at the PCA tent). I just assumed this was part of the PCA tent, not the Volunteer tent! I checked-in, was given a shirt, and headed to the judges meeting.

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Here’s a handful of judges at he judges meeting.

The Werks Reunion website states:  This is not a contest of who has removed dust from the deepest crevices in their Porsche but rather a judged show that rewards a Porsche that has been lovingly maintained and presents itself well on the field.

This is the very reason I entered my car to be judged. It truly is one of the nicest examples of a 996 you’ll find anywhere. I can say this with utmost confidence as a 996 can be had for a price that most people can afford. But, years ago, just like with the original 911, or the G-bodied cars, 964s, and even the 993, when a 911 is priced that low just about anybody buys one. This means people who don’t really know or understand the car are buying them, therefore proper maintenance isn’t performed, hacks are done, and just about any other “cost saving” measure is taken until the owner realizes the car just isn’t a Honda, Toyota, or Nissan. It gets really hard—near impossible—to find a good, stock example of one, especially if you’re looking for one that runs and drives. However, this is what I have with my 996, one that has been lovingly maintained and it presents itself well no matter where it’s viewed. And even though I have, to the best of my ability, removed dust from the deepest crevices, that should have no impact at the Werks Reunion.

During the judges meeting, that was the message that was spread. The criteria was simple, yet highly subjective. We were to judge four categories: Interior, Exterior, Engine/Storage Compartment, and Overall Presentation of the vehicle. There was no point system like most concours level events have, but rather we were to select one of five values for each category: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. Again, highly subjective.  Instead of a clear point system, something to look at and see that car “A” has 98 points and car “B” only has 92 points, the final “score” for each judged entry was left solely up to the opinion of the judges. I kind of like that, but it also leaves plenty of room for bias.

We were told it’s not about originality either, the car does not have to be 100% stock, it does not have to be an original color. It can be customized, or not. It can be modified, or not. Porsche owners love their cars, they love to drive them and talk about them. That’s what owning a Porsche is about! We’re not going to penalize the owner for driving their car. We were reminded that this is not a contest of who has removed dust from the deepest crevices in their Porsche but rather a judged show that rewards a Porsche that has been lovingly maintained and presents itself well on the field. The whole objective this year, as noted in an email communication and on the Werks Reunion website, was to “keep things comfortable and FUN to avoid the normal stress associated with typical concours events.”

It seems some judges had a hard time letting go of old habits. You see, this was the first time I’ve ever acted as a judge at a car show. Many of the other judges were seasoned pros who had judged concours events in the past. These judges were used to point systems, and it showed. They were looking at cars and knocking them down a notch or two if there were minor signs of wear in the trunk. Or a little bit of dirt and oil on the inside of a wheel or engine compartment. Grass in the tread of a tire. This was exactly the opposite of how they wanted the cars judged.

The featured model this year was the Boxster, of which there were 20 to be judged. That included all variations of the 986, 987, 918 and 718. My car fell into a different class, of which there were 18 cars to be judged. This class included all variations of the 996 and 997, yet, strangely, not the 991 (even though the most current Boxster was included in the Boxster class). That’s a big inconsistency amongst classes. For these classes (and others with large numbers), the judges were split into two teams for each class, and each team had three judges, with a designated member of each team being the head judge. This was done for every class that had a large number of entries in effort to keep each team of judges looking at a small number of vehicles.

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My 996 looking at the Boxsters across the way.

I was judging Boxsters. This means I only got to look at half the Boxsters on the field, the second team looked at the other half. We were to pick four cars total (first, second, third, and an alternate for a potential corporate sponsor award). After we judged our half we then selected our top four, and the other team in our class did the same. After both teams in were done, the head judges got together and essentially chose the top two from each team. That’s a problem. Not all the entrants were judged by all the judges. It’s highly possible that the best four Boxsters were the ones my team judged, or the ones the other team judged. Or, maybe the top three came from the other team and only one from my team. There’s endless possibilities. But that’s not the way they did it. The same thing played out for the class in which my car was entered, as well as all other “split” classes.

Aside from the highly subjective judging criteria, and the way the judges executed it, some classes were too big. My car had no business being in the same class as a 997—the cars are completely different. Of the 18 cars in my category, only six (including mine) were 996 models. Three were 996 Carreras (one being mine), two were 996 Turbos, and there was one GT2. Mine was the only 996 that wasn’t black or silver, and mine was easily the best example of a 996 there. Yet, I was up against those five 996s and 12 examples of the 997. The same goes for the Boxster class.

Needless to say, I didn’t win any award. In fact, no 996 won anything. Coincidentally, neither did any 986 Boxster. The 997s took all the awards in their class, and 981 Boxsters took all the awards in their class, except for one 987 Boxster. Funny how the “newest” vehicles in each class won, even though in a judges email prior to the event we were asked: “Please don’t gravitate to the newest cars in each class with all the bells and whistles.” I guess some judges missed that email.

It was also telling how many people stopped and talked to me about my 996 at the show. Almost every spectator I encountered was shocked at how beautiful my car is, and its condition. It was the only Porsche on the field in Orient Red Metallic, and of all the cars in its class, it was the only car that had any color to it at all (except for one blue car). It would seem all 996 and 997 models were only made in black, silver, gray, or white! Many of the folks I spoke with simply couldn’t believe it was a 16 year old car, they thought it looked brand new. A number of people mentioned they were going to buy a 996 after seeing mine, or at least seriously look for one. I’m not saying my car was the “hit” of the show (indeed, it wasn’t), but I do think it was something very unexpected when spectators came across it.

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Let me be clear, I didn’t enter this event with any expectation of winning anything. I did it for fun, bottom line. And I had a lot of fun, and I’ll definitely be doing this again next year! However, based on the words from the Werks Reunion website, the instruction given at the judges meeting, the criteria by which we were to judge, and the other 996s on the field (aka, “the competition”)… well, I should have easily come home with First in Class. But I didn’t.

I think it really boils down to two problems with the whole thing. One was the classes were too big and too mixed. 996 should have been its own class, and 997 should have been its own class. They should not have been mixed. There were a total of six 996s, which was large enough to be its own class as there were other classes on the field that had six or less cars entered. The same holds true for the 986 and 987 Boxsters, they each should have been in their own class and the 918 and 718 could have been in the same class, or separate. Second, the seasoned judges need to drop their old habits of looking for the smallest, most microscopic imperfection. That’s not what this Werks Reunion was about, and it’s not what Porsche is about!

There could, however, be a third problem. That is, the 996 itself (not mine specifically, but rather the entire model designation). The 996 is still the “unloved” 911, despite being a better performance car than any air-cooled model that came before it. It’s also a historically significant car in the history of Porsche, even if it’s not the “history” that Porsche elitists want to admit. The problem is it’s a 996, and there’s still a lot of prejudice against that car within the Porsche community. I’m not saying that was a factor in the judging, I would have no way of knowing that, but, our judging criteria was highly subjective. It’s time for people to recognize the 996 for what it is: A truly remarkable and grounbreaking 911 that very much deserves its place in the ranks of great 911s. And to find a 996, the unloved 911, in a very-much-loved condition such as mine, makes for a truly rare and special car.

Porsches are made to be driven, and they should be driven. Any signs of wear, or anything that may be a bit dirty is simply a sign that the owner drives their car, and in my opinion, a sign of the owner’s enthusiasm. The stories the owners had to tell were often more interesting than the cars themselves—and that, along with how the owners used their car, was what swayed my judging decisions more than anything (but that really didn’t matter as I wasn’t the head judge). A garage queen should be prefect, but it appalls me when a beautiful car just sits in a garage, tucked away from sight and never driven. Why own it? Why waste a car that way? A daily driver should not be perfect, it should be driven, and there should be signs of use. Sometimes, it’s the imperfections that make these cars truly beautiful.

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