By Mark Vaughn, Crain News Service
LOS ANGELES (Oct. 17, 2013) — Sure, the Porsche Experience Center, opening in Los Angeles in a little over a year, will feature a variety of exciting track configurations from road courses to a drag strip-looking thing, as well as varying surface conditions on which Porsche road cars can be flung to the delight of their occupants.
But what about the iconic muffler man? That's what most people want to know, isn't it?
The muffler man stands about 19 or 20 feet tall by our estimate and has stood guard over the facility behind him for as long as we can remember—and we grew up not far away. He smiled down on passing traffic with a grin that was benign, almost beatific, and never the least bit creepy or terrifying at all.
Previously the man guarded a par 3 pitch-n-putt golf course that was so easy to play that if you needed anything more than a 3 iron and a putter to make par you should have stayed on the mini golf course across the freeway. But when the Porsche Experience bulldozers came and tore out the links that edged the arterially clogged Route 405 just east of the 110, muffler man fans across Southern California worried that their fiberglass friend would be toppled.
Well rest easy, muffler minions.
Porsche knows the importance of heritage, and in its infinite wisdom has not only preserved the still-standing sentinel, it has given him a genuine Porsche driving suit to replace the drab golf shirt and faux-polyester slacks he wore for the last half-century. Placed in his enormous palms—left palm facing down, right up—instead of a wooden driver is a checkered flag on a stick.
"He now proudly wears a Porsche racing suit and serves as gatekeeper for the Experience Center site," reads a Porsche press release.
While it may over-itemize the options on its new cars until you can't get into a Boxster without a leather rosette ignition surround, and while the intermediate shaft issue continues to dog it, and while Hurley Haywood may be the rudest "friendship ambassador" any car maker has ever hired, when it comes to the really important stuff, Porsche at least knows to do the right thing.
Construction continues apace on the new complex behind and under the man. In addition to all that track surface, it will feature the Porsche Human Performance Center and sports science lab offering, according to the car maker, "customized programs to maximize personal fitness and wellness for race car drivers and endurance athletes." There will also be a business and conference center, two restaurants, and trackside viewing, dining and conference spaces that will be available for car clubs and corporate clients to reserve for events.
The complex will be home to Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA), which sells production-based race car models to customer teams in North America and provides them with parts, service and expertise in between races and at the track. For the first time ever, Porsche will also be able to provide factory-backed classic-car restoration and maintenance services at the new facility.
Maybe teams can bring the muffler man to races to intimidate the opposition.
This piece appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.