In 1976, I had saved up enough money for a two-week driving vacation in Europe behind the wheel of a rented Porsche turbocharged 911 with a top speed of more than 150 miles per hour.
In Germany, with miles and miles of no speed limit Autobahn available, I enjoyed cruising at about 241 kilometers per hour (150 mph) in the left lane, flicking my lights when needed to get slower vehicles out of the way.
Call it an “uber-macho” time behind the wheel of a fast car, driving legal at just under three times the legal limit of 55 back in the states and loving every second of it.
Or at least I did until a shrieking high-pitched horn tone and bright piecing high beam lights of a rapidly approaching Lamborghini Countach appeared in the rearview mirror to say “get your ass out of the way and let a really fast automobile go by.”
I moved over to let the yellow Italian speed monster flash by. With a top speed of more than 180, the Lambo was not a car I could catch in the Porsche.
“No matter how fast you drive in Germany,” says actor Tom Hanks, “someone is driving faster than you.”
Interesting moment of humility at a time when one is free to drive as fast as he or she wants on the fastest no-speed limit public road in the world.
The 1975 Porsche 930 topped out at somewhere between 155-and-160 miles per hour. The rental agency that provided the one I rented said it was a little faster because of “some special tweaking.” I did hit 165 (265.542 kmh) at one point the autobahn but 150 seemed a more “comfortable speed.”
Ironically, wife Amy’s John Cooper Works Mini has a top speed, according to Car & Driver magazine, of about 144 miles per hour. We’ve taken the magazine’s word for it since no road near here allows such speeds legally. Amy already has one speeding ticket on her record since owning the car.
That vacation in Europe in 1976 came to mind this past week after reading about a debate in Germany now on whether or not to impose speed limits on the Autobahn.
It seemed like a no-brainer: Lower Germany’s embarrassingly high carbon emissions at no cost, and save some lives in the process.
But when a government-appointed commission in January dared to float the idea of a speed limit on the autobahn, the country’s storied highway network, it almost caused rioting.
Irate drivers took to the airwaves. Union leaders menacingly put on their yellow vests, hinting at street protests. And the far-right opposition used the opportunity to rage against the “stranglehold” of the state.
A highway speed limit was “contrary to every common sense,” the transport minister, Andreas Scheuer, swiftly declared, contradicting his own experts.
And that was that.
In Germany, you don’t mess with the right to drive as fast as your vehicle allows on most of the 8,000 miles of Autobahn.
Adds the Times: ” This is Germany, the self-declared “auto nation,” where Karl Benz built the first automobile and where cars are not only the proudest export item but also a symbol of national identity. Call it Germany’s Wild West: The autobahn is the one place in a highly regulated society where no rule is the rule — and that place is sacred.”
Another freedom on the “auto nation.” It is legal to drive naked in Germany, but one faces a $45 fine is you get out of the car without clothes on.
Sunbathing totally naked in public places is also legal.
I know. I have lots of photos to prove that from that vacation and from other trips to Germany.