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From the Archives: The First PCA Treffens to Europe

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Above: Members of the Stuttgart Porsche Club greet PCA members on arrival for the Fourth International Treffen, Oct. 1958.

Article by RJ Wilmoth

The name Treffen has been around PCA for over six years now. It simply means “meeting” or “get-together” in German. The events most associated with treffen in PCA over the years have been the trips to Europe, and more recently trips to Europe using the Treffen name are run by an outside company and not PCA. A few years ago, we started PCA Treffen North America, but for this article I want to cover the early European Treffen trips.

The first PCA trip wasn’t call Treffen, rather the first PCA Rally to Europe. The reason for the trip was to attend the 4th International Porsche Treffen, and eventually the name Treffen was used by PCA whether they were going to an international meeting or not. The International Porsche Treffen was planned by European Porsche clubs and sponsored by the Porsche factory. Starting in 1955, before PCA was chartered, the International Porsche Treffen was held in Merano, Italy. Over the next few years, it was also held in Switzerland and Germany. There weren’t many competitive events, it was mainly a three-day gathering with tours and banquets. In some years Porsche held a Drivers School for the PCA group at the Solitude racetrack before they left Stuttgart. The main competitive event was getting there. For those who wanted to run a rally to Merano, there were multiple geographically separated starting points and routes through Europe that ended at the Treffen.

Sometime in 1957 Ferry Porsche invited PCA’s founder, Bill Sholar, to attend the next Treffen. It probably never occurred to the good doctor that Bill would bring along eighty of his PCA friends!

For those of you who have planned a multi-event weekend for your local Region, you know how much work and coordination goes into it. Now think about planning a two-week event on another continent back when all you had was snail mail, telegrams, and expensive trans-Atlantic phone calls.

Among the many things to plan would be getting there, obtaining cars to drive, and planning different tours around Europe that ended at Merano. Information on passports, international health certificates, border crossing, and much more. Bill did most of this by himself.

The first problem, getting there, was solved by chartering a Lufthansa Super Constellation. That was state of the art at the time, and only 14 hours non-stop from New York to Stuttgart! The first trans-Atlantic jet service started later that year. But for Lufthansa, jets to Germany wouldn’t come until 1960.

You couldn’t fly to Germany and rent a Porsche in 1958, so 45 new cars were ordered for delivery at the airport. Only 44 made it to Merano, though. One of the new cars was probably the first pink Porsche, long before the famous 917 “pink pig.” PCA charter member June Syze from Detroit ordered her 356 in pink with whitewall tires.

The event was a huge success and the next year PCA chartered two Lufthansa Constellations. 160 PCA members picked up 101 new 356s. The two captains of the planes were Americans working for Lufthansa. They both had Porsches in Stuttgart and joined PCA on the Treffen.

There were more PCA cars at the 1958 and 1959 International Porsche Treffens than any of the European clubs. And we have the trophies to prove it!

After a few years, some PCA members questioned PCA being in the travel agency business, particularly the financial risk of chartering planes. Some, including the PCA president at the time, wanted to turn the Treffens over to a travel agency. This was put to a vote, and the membership decided to keep it as a PCA event.

Not all PCA Treffens left from New York. Some left from San Francisco, Chicago, and even Montreal. By 1969, the PCA Treffens to Europe seemed to have run their course. The 1969 event was canceled due to lack of entrants. However, there may have been some organized by PCA Regions that were not on the official calendar, as was done in 1975.

In 1975 a group of PCA members from the Central New York Region planned their own Treffen and used a travel agency from Maryland. The planner and guide for the trip was Peter Sontag, a name familiar to many in PCA.

By the next year, PCA Treffens were on again. This time Peter’s agency was running it as a PCA sanctioned event. Peter is still at it; you can see his Fast Lane Travel ads for the PCA Treffens in Porsche Panorama.

Introduction to the 1958 Treffen - Porsche Panorama - Feb. 1958

Coverage of the 1958 Treffen - Porsche Panorama - Nov. 1958

The first is the introduction and early planning. Included are the price list for 1959 Porsches, and options (all fifteen of them). The four-cam 356 Carrera GS engine was $1,275. The second is the full coverage of the event.

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