History of the Porsche Club of America
Bill Sholar was a commercial artist in the Washington, D.C. area in the early 1950s. He also was an admirer of well designed automobiles, and thus purchased his first Porsche, a 1953 356 Coupe. As time passed, Bill met other Porsches on the road, always blinking his headlights in silent greeting. By late 1954, Bill was convinced that a more personal meeting would be appropriate with other Porsche owners to discuss the positive and, the well, ah, not-so-positive aspects of driving the infrequently encountered marque. Following a first gathering February 8, 1955 at the Sholar house, several Porsche owners occasionally got together that spring and summer to share knowledge about the unique cars they drove. Eventually they decided to start a club. A brief paragraph in the August 1955 issue of Sports Car Illustrated informed readers that a Porsche club was being formed in the United States; all inquiries were directed to Bill Sholar's attention. Additionally, the Porsche factory was petitioned for recognition of the proposed club. Unofficially referring to themselves as “the gripe group”, they officially titled the new organization the Porsche Club of America, and held their first business meeting on September 13, 1955, at Blackie's Grille in Washington, D.C. Thirteen prospective members showed up, but one had to reluctantly be asked to leave when she revealed that she owned not a Porsche, but a Volkswagen, which didn't qualify under the Club Bylaws, which remain in effect today. Those in attendance at that first meeting were Bill Sholar, Karl Grimm, Peter Pearman, Ken Twigg, Frank Beckett, Gamble Mann, Fred Schulenburg, Bob Flick, Bob Elliott, Ray Pitts, Harvey Brown, and Don Carr. Sholar was elected President and a press release was sent to the factory magazine, Christophorus, introducing the Porsche Club of America to other Porsche enthusiasts. Word spread, and the 189 Porsche drivers who joined by January 31, 1956 were designated as “charter members” of the Porsche Club of America.
As more and more members joined outside the Washington, D.C. area, Regions were formed in other communities. The original Washington, D.C. group eventually became Potomac Region, which remained the hub of activities. First appearing in December 1955, the Club's monthly magazine Porsche Panorama, kept all members, nearby and remote, appraised of the latest technical information, factory news and events planned.
Early in 1956, Potomac Region arranged the first “Porsche Parade” as a gathering of all PCA members, and a blanket invitation was extended to all PCAers. Held at the Washingtonian Motel in Gaithersburg, Maryland from August 29 through September 1, 1956, this first national convention drew 64 PCA members. Apart from a rally, a gymkhana and technical tips from the factory service reps present, there was plenty of time for socializing and pit talk. Living up to its name, several Parades later actually featured a parade of Porsches through the streets.
By the time of the second Parade, there were 550 members in 21 Regions, mostly in the eastern U.S. Besides including a Concours d'Elegance for the first time, this 1957 Parade saw the first national officers elected from outside the founding Region, starting a trend that developed the club into a truly nationwide and, later, international organization.
These early days always saw a group of PCA members at local and national sports car races. Many PCAers who spent weekends racing their Porsches came out as winners; Such drivers as Art Bunker, Bob Holbert, Lake Underwood and Charlie Wallace were beginning to develop Porsche's “giant killer” reputation in this country.
With Max Bunnell as President, the 1958 Parade moved to New York State. That year also saw Sholar come up with something new for PCA members: a trip to the Porsche factory in Stuttgart. Eighty-one members made that first “Treffen” (the German word for “meeting”) aboard a prop-driven Lufthansa Super Constellation, arriving to a welcome from not only the factory, but also many of the German Porsche Clubs. The Treffen® presented the attractive option of taking delivery of a new Porsche at the factory, a tradition that is still available today. In October of that same year, Sholar was appointed PCA's Executive Secretary, a job he held until 1962, running the day-to-day operations of the Club with the help of a part-time secretary.
The Parade moved west for the first time when Rocky Mountain Region hosted the 1960 Parade in Aspen, Colorado. This event featured Dr. Ferry Porsche's first appearance at a Parade. Early in 1961 PCA appointed its first committee chairman to develop the Club's activities even further and to coordinate activities at the Parade. This proved to be a great asset to the club, as over 250 PCAers attended the Sixth Parade. After only six years, PCA had earned the reputation as one of the best sports car clubs in the world.
In 1963 Sholar moved to a new position with Porsche of America Corporation, the U. S. importer. Before he did so, PCA's founder recommended his secretary, Jane Nestlerode, as his replacement as Executive Secretary. Until her retirement in 1980, Jane became synonymous with PCA National, running the office out of her home and serving the needs of a membership that grew over 800% during her tenure. Charter PCAer Ken Twigg was elected President in 1963 and PCA membership reached 2000 for the first time. The 1963 Treffen saw 40 PCAers take delivery of a car at the factory. Through the mid-1960s PCA racers continued to provide Porsche with SCCA victories, as Bruce Jennings, charter PCAer Don Wester, Bert Everett, Joe Buzzetta and others carried the Porsche banner into winners' circles across America in cars ranging from the ever-competitive Speedster to the more exotic Spyders, 904, and 906. Regions were not confined to the continental U.S. as Hawaii Region formed in 1959, and Germany Region in 1963. In 1980, Jane Nestlerode transferred the Executive Secretary position to her assistant, Ruth Harte, who continued to run the Club superbly from the basement of her Alexandria, Virginia home, until a year before her retirement, when PCA relocated to a business address in Springfield, Virginia.
Although each Region held a wide variety of events and meetings, the Parade became the pinnacle of PCA activity and the focal point for friendships among far-flung Porsche enthusiasts. By the late 1960's, a typical Porsche Parade kept 500 entrants busy for an entire week, not to mention time spent in preparation and travel. Classes in speed events and Concours were expanded as the Club's focus shifted to include new Porsche types such as the 911 and its many derivatives. The Parade rally offered classes for both equipped and unequipped cars.
Fifty-eight years after its creation, PCA found over 2,000 Porsche people at the 58th Parade, in Traverse City, Michigan, where attendees were able to view 200 Porsches at the Concours and see a 911 under restoration by Porsche Classic.
PCA has experienced an unparalleled growth, not only in members, but in the quality of its events and services. In early 2013, PCA serves more than 63,000 families, with over 107,000 members, in 140 local Regions, making it the largest single marque club in the world. PCA Concours standards are second to none. Multiple national committees help members with technical problems, insurance valuations, event safety, Region management and newsletters.
Today, activities range from autocrossing, rallying, Concours, and socializing, to growing interests in Touring, restoration, Porsche history, and PCA Club Racing. A revised “Treffen®” now allows PCA members to visit the factory, the new Porsche Museum, the area around Stuttgart, Germany, and the R&D unit at Weissach. A professional staff, headed by Executive Director Vu Nguyen, operates the National Office in Columbia, Maryland, where a growing historical section is also housed. The Club functions like a finely-tuned, high performance Porsche. One of the objectives stated in PCA's Bylaws is to promote the enjoyment and sharing of goodwill and fellowship engendered by owning a Porsche.
As the saying goes, “It's not the cars, it's the people…” .