Patrick Dempsey, Adam Carolla Toast Porsche at Petersen Automotive Museum

Courtesy of Kahn Media
Dempsey, center, spoke on a panel at the VIP preview of the Petersen Automotive Museum's "The Porsche Effect."

At a VIP event to launch the yearlong exhibit featuring 50 prized and vintage models, Hollywood insiders and car aficionados shared their love of the California favorite: "It's iconic in a way few things are."

At the Petersen Automotive Museum’s “The Porsche Effect” VIP opening event — where for those lucky enough to score one of the 50 VIP tickets (priced at, of course, $911), added treats included a limited-run poster and a book about the marque — guests including star Patrick Dempsey, car guru Spike Feresten and CAA's Hans Schiff dined on Celestino Drago’s small bites and watched the sun set over Wilshire Boulevard from the museum’s Penthouse.

Bruce Meyer, chairman of the Petersen’s board of directors, has been a Porsche owner for the last 60 years — his love of the brand was the impetus for the yearlong show, which opens to the public Feb. 3. “Wolfgang Porsche [son of the brand’s founder] came to visit the museum last year. We’re about the same age and have the same passions, we had an hour-and-a-half long talk — people were wondering what we were doing — and that’s how the show came together,” said Meyers with a laugh.

“When I talk about Porsche in California, I always use two words: love affair,” said Klaus Zellmer, president and CEO of Porsche Cars North America, of Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with the brand. “If you go way back in our history, starting with the 356, part of our worldwide success is driven by having such a deep relationship with California. Even today, if you would take California as its own country, it would be Porsche’s fifth-largest market.” He added that in 2017, 50,000 people visited the $60 million Porsche Experience Center, which opened in Carson in November 2016.

Adam Corolla — who in 2016 spent $4.4 million on the 1979 Porsche 935 that Paul Newman drove in the 24 Hours of Le Mans — and Facebook’s Matt Jacobson were among those present to celebrate the show.  Jacobsen has a small but highly curated collection of the brand’s cars, including two recent additions, both acquired the Friday before Thanksgiving. “Two years ago, I found a 1955 365 Pre-A in a garage in Compton and a year to the day later, I found a 1956 Speedster in a garage in Malibu — one family, one owner.”

The show includes some historic oddballs scattered among the 50-plus cars on display, including the once-vilified 928 H50 Study, the 1987 concept car on loan from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The H50 — basically a stretch four-door version of the 928, the car featured in Risky Business — is regarded as an early precursor to the modern Panamera. 

The crowd favorite aside from the classic 1985 959 “PARIS-DAKAR” Rally car — Zellmer’s favorite in the exhibit — was the perfectly restored red 1979 911 Turbo. With its massive “tea tray” rear spoiler and muscular stance, the 911 Turbo crystallized the iconographic silhouette of the modern Porsche era.  

“I think it's iconic in a way few things are and the way they build the car is second to none,” said CAA’s Hans Schiff of the 911. “Even though you see a lot around town, they are still aspirational. You can make some money and drive a Ferrari or Lamborghini to show off, but you drive a Porsche when you don't want to peacock your success.”

For the purists, though, it all comes down to the early 356 Speedsters. During a panel discussion with Feresten and other aficionados, Dempsey recalled how he got first into collecting and then racing for the brand, going as far as placing second in his class at 2015’s Le Mans endurance race in France. “I was shooting my first movie — Can’t Buy Me Love — and I saw this amazing 356 Speedster for sale. I called the number, the woman selling the car had used it in ADR for Top Gun. I got into the car, turned over the engine and that was it. I spent my entire paycheck for the movie on that car and still have it today.”