September 30, 2023

These 911 friends from St. Moritz share a love of the Porsche 996

Underestimated, unloved, misunderstood – the 996-generation Porsche 911 has had a hard time with purists for a long time. But the “fried egg” suddenly feels hip! A summit meeting of four Swiss enthusiasts and an increasingly popular young classic.

The Porsche 911 is the iconic sports car that almost everyone can agree on. Porsche managed to win people over only once with the 911: When the fifth generation with a water-cooled boxer engine and fried egg-design headlights hit the streets in 1997, Porsche supporters briefly turned their heads. And although the 996 generation sold brilliantly and put the company back on the road to success, the criticism resonated in the collective consciousness. This is how the prices of the classic, air-cooled 993 generation of the 911 have risen over the past 10 years, while the water-cooled successor, the 996, has remained affordable – making it a treat for young fans between the ages of 30 and 40. Enthusiasts like Andrea and Nico Silvano and Ted.

If you want to feel the pulse of car culture and the latest avant-garde trends in Switzerland, you’re often not looking for it in Basel, Geneva or Zurich – but in St. Moritz. After all, the international elite with the latest touring and off-road vehicles have been showing up in the sophisticated Alpine town for decades, while the rarest sports cars cruise the fairways of the Engadin Alpine. The latest classic trends are often born in St. Moritz. And so recently, between the lanes of Albula and Julier, one increasingly sees the characteristic headlights of the Porsche 996 with Graubünden license plates in the rear-view mirror. In the evenings or on weekends, the local Porsche community gathers here to tour the Alpine region in groups with their young classic cars from Zuffenhausen. But why are 911s that were so polarizing so popular with the young creative minds in St. Moritz? Meeting four friends and their sports cars at Bernina Pass should clear things up.

Andrea Klainguti laughs, “I’ve always had a soft spot with underdogs.” “Two years ago I finally made my dream of owning a Porsche 911 come true.” The creative director and photographer was born in Engadine and his father instilled in him a passion for fast cars at an early age. He earned his racing license at the wheel of a 1982 Porsche 911 SC at the Hockenheimring. During the day Andrea works at a communications agency in St. Moritz, but after work he prefers to drive his black 1997 Porsche 911 Carrera with green sport seats over Bernina Lane. “My Carrera already had over 200,000 km on the clock and was sitting in a garage covered in dust, but the sound of an open exhaust convinced me. Since then, I’ve enjoyed every day behind the wheel – no matter if I’m driving a Porsche to go shopping, with my son To preschool, on family vacations or snowboarding.”

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As a version of the first year of production, the 911 only has simple traction control. At the same time, the pure Carrera is 30 kilograms lighter than the GT3 of the 996 generation. “In theory, my Porsche drives like it’s on rails, but 300 hp on the rear wheels has to be mastered. For a 25-year-old car It really is amazingly fast!” It’s the combination of analog driving experience and just the right dose of modern technology that appeals to Andrea. “My favorite design detail is the lights that Pinky Lai designed at the time, which some purists resented. They set the 996 apart from all previous and subsequent generations of the 911—that’s what makes it so great in my opinion.” Rose since its 25th anniversary, Andrea doesn’t see his Carrera as an investment. “I’m not thinking of selling. I’d rather drive it till the wheels drop!”

Ted Gucho, Instagram editor-in-chief of Type 7 magazine, also had a passion for the Porsches in his family. The American spent his childhood in the back seat of a 1976 Model G that had been in the family since the early 1990s. At his adopted home in St. Moritz, Ted can usually be seen behind the wheel of his Porsche 911 Turbo with the X50 Performance Package. “I never understood why the 911 attracted people so much. When it came out I was a teenager and I adored it. The Porsche 996 Turbo from the video game Need for Speed: Porsche Unleashed was the object of my desire. When I finally could afford it, I was happy with how cheap it was.”

Ted’s Turbo was built in 2001 and is painted in Seal Gray Metallic, and the interior is upholstered in black leather – just like the first Carrera GT. “I love this color combination—it really flatters the lines,” Ted explains. “I especially like the air intakes in front of the rear wheels: they are incredibly elegant and concise.”

In the end, however, the combination of aesthetic understatement and almost unlimited power convinced him of the turbo: “The car is a cruise missile – especially with the X50 performance package. You’re flying along the German autobahn at 250 km/h and you’re just happy.” In the Swiss mountains, he travels Journalist, editor and photographer a little more slowly. Still, he was intrigued by the mods around St. Moritz: “These are simply the best roads in the world. But the weather can change in a flash here in the mountains – so you need a car you can rely on in all conditions.” A car like the four-wheel-drive Porsche 911 Turbo Quadruple.

Silvano Vitalini also trusts the turbo trump card. The tailor, sportsman and businessman grew up in the Engadine and lives in St. Moritz. He also fell in love with the car culture of his home country at an early age. His manual transmission Porsche 911 Turbo rolled off the assembly line in 2002 and is painted in an elegant dark blue color. Cream colored leather seats. “The mid-30s is exactly the right age to afford a Porsche 911 Turbo,” Silvano says with a wink. “I just couldn’t resist those hips and air intakes. Isn’t this color combination perfect?”

Equipment, performance and design won the best 911s from the early 2000s. Today Porsche is used on a daily basis. “The 996 Turbo delivers amazing value for money. And for a car that is 20 years old, it is modern and amazingly reliable. You can get it out of the garage in any weather.” When Silvano isn’t downhill skiing, he likes to drive his Porsche on the pistes of Bernina, Albula or Maloja. 911 seconds are often added to traffic rounds. What could be more beautiful than following careless curves and a hairpin-back bend on the perfect line?

It’s as if young 911-friends from St. Moritz have captured their passion for the 996. For Nico Kamenech, who grew up in St. Moritz and runs a workshop in Pontresina as a mechanic and auto-diagnostic technician, it’s even the third of its kind. “I’ve always dreamed of a Porsche 911. The 996 was simply the only classic 911 I could afford as a young man. The more I got in touch with it, the more I enjoyed it.”

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After the Carrera 4 and Carrera 4S, he now drives a black 2002 Porsche 911 GT3. “The car actually came from the factory with the name Carrera,” Nico explains. But later, Porsche switched key components to the GT3 at the request of the customer. Compared to the “original” GT3, the cabin remained relatively comfortable. There are no racing seats, and no roll cage. I also like the subtle shape. It’s kind of an early GT3 with a touring package.”

Nico’s Porsche 911s were all manual. After a couple of all-wheel drive 911s, he had to get used to driving a rear-wheel drive 911. “It’s noticeably lighter and less forgiving when you push it to its athletic limits.” The GT3 wants to master, especially on its favorite road, the steep and winding Maloja Pass. However, Niko gets out of his 911 all year long, even in the snow or on a hunting trip – a passion he shares with Andrea and Silvano. “As Ferdinand Porsche said: You can use a Porsche 911 for everything.”

In fact, the reasons for the Porsche Alpine community are clear: while in Zurich, Milan or Paris people meet for an aperitif in the bar after work, in St. Moritz they just do a quick rollercoaster before dinner. And the agile, light, analog and affordable Porsche 996 is simply the perfect sports car for this. “After all, here in Engadin we have the most beautiful trails on our doorstep, and we meet all the time to ride them. Next work in his workshop. After all, who said you have to be home for dinner? After all, Albergo Cambrena on Bernina Pass is said to have the best pizzas for a stopover. Or maybe you prefer rosti with a fried egg?

Photos: Fabrizio D’Aloisio