The 911 Junior

Many many years ago, back when I was still in what the Dutch call 'base school', the school you go to before you enter high school, I was just an average, introverted, definitely-not-popular-but-not-terribly-picked-on-either kid. Until one day my dad got this:

This little Porsche 911 Junior was a 'proper' car in so far as that it had a petrol engine, clutch and gearbox with 2 gears forward and 1 reverse. I've seen it being displayed online as a '911 go-kart' but it was definitely a lot slower than your average go-kart. It's in this vehicle that I learned for the first time how to shift gears and use a clutch. Although, years later, when I first drove a real car, it made me realize just how much the clutch (and the brakes!) were worn out in that little Porsche, and barely working at all. Little young me did not know that and thought that it was normal for the gears to clink and hardly press into gear even with the clutch fully depressed. I distinctly remember breaking a headlight on a car's tow ball simply because I was rolling out from very slow speed and the damn thing just wouldn't stop. It was a very un-epic accident. I somehow managed to hide it from my dad for weeks and felt very guilty afterwards until he finally found out..

This go-kart was way too slow and unsafe to be allowed on the public road, of course. Normally in the Netherlands electric children's vehicles get to go on the sidewalk and drive anywhere they like, but since the Porsche Junior was just a little too big and too fast (and too petrol-engined) for that, the only place I could drive it was in our own backyard. This would be a good time to mention that my backyard happened to be a large gravel/paved area full of garages, since part of my dad's business was to rent out garage boxes for storage and cars. Another situational fact: right behind our area was a wire fence with a hole in it, and behind that was my school. After going through the hole in the fence the school was just at the other side of a footpath.

So it was inevitable that, after school, I would be driving around in our backyard making lots of noise, attracting the attention of whoever was at the school playground after school. It didn't take long for everyone in my class to learn about the car, the hole in the fence and that I didn't mind letting people sit next to me while I was driving around. Eventually it got to a point where I was so popular that people would line up to get in the car with me. It was ridiculous really, and very out-of-character for the introvert little me, but it was my first taste of popularity so I didn't want to resist. I lost my popularity as quickly as I gained it though. A base-schooler's attention span is short, and there are many rainy days in the Netherlands during which I couldn't drive. It was probably for the best. Popularity doesn't suit me.

My most vivid 911 memory is when I scared the shit out of my dad. So at this gravelly backyard, right at the end of the backyard was a strip of grass with dirt soil underneath, about one car-length wide. Immediately next to it was the wire fence, so you definitely wouldn't want to brake too late when going in that direction. I found out that, even though the 911 Junior was way too slow to do any kind of exciting driving, especially in a small-ish area such as my backyard, you could get the rear to slide out if you made a turn right at the end of the yard, getting the car onto that patch of grass, centimeters away from the fence. It worked especially well after the rain when the grass was all wet and muddy.

Obviously my dad wanted me to drive carefully with it, as he told me many, many times. For some reason I believed that, if I only drove the car in first gear when we was around, that would convince him that I was driving carefully. Even though, as soon as he was out of visual range, I would rev it up and switch to second gear, which entirely changes (and loudens) the sound of the engine. There's no possible way he could not have heard that, but at the time I just assumed I got away with it.

One day, I found out that he knew. My dad was in the backyard with some customers and I happened to be driving around as well, going slowly in first gear to show him what a good boy I was. My dad saw me driving up and, with a smile on his face, made the gesture to 'speed the crap up'. I suddenly realized that he knew how I had been driving and that he was okay with it, so I sped up to full speed, raced to end of the backyard, steered in, slammed the handbrake and executed a beautiful drift over the muddy grass. I then drove back at a decent speed towards my dad, who was making faces and gesturing wildly for me to stop. I don't quite remember what he said at this moment, but I believe it was something along the lines of "Don't, EVER, do that again". Lesson learned: going a bit faster is okay, sliding cars around near fences is not.

Soon, right around the time high school began, I had a growth spurt and no longer fit in the car, although by then I had already grown tired of it. I  didn't want to get my dad angry again so I drove a lot more carefully after that incident. That, combined with the fact that the backyard really wasn't that exciting after a while, really ended my career in backyard driving. Still, those were some amazing times. I had been obsessed with cars during my early childhood, mostly thanks to my dad, but kind of lost interest in them during high school. The interest remained dormant though, occasionally triggered via go-karting, getting my first car, watching Formula 1 and later watching Initial D. I'm now at the point where I own my first rear-wheel-drive car, paid for by my own hard work. Technically it's my second real car, but I'd like to think of it as my third, because that 911 Junior was just awesome.

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