Turbo Charged


photography by MARCUS HOLMAN

     Dickie Burke never dreamed of owning a Porsche.

     “You know,” he says, “I was always a Corvette guy, for years.”

     But the car beside him is a murdered-out 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS, a 620-horsepower sports car that reaches 60 mph in 3.4 seconds on its way to its top speed of 205 mph. It’s a supercar car, one you might think of as a reward for a successful career.

     But for Burke, 69, it’s old news. This isn’t his first turbocharged Porsche. It’s his 29th.

     “It’s really hard to drive like an everyday car,” he admits. “Every clapped-out Mustang in town wants to take a shot at it. It’s a no-eye-contact car. You look straight ahead.”

    The car, No. 455 of 500 made, is stripped of unnecessary weight: pull straps replace interior door handles, bike rack attachment points are left off the roof, sound insulation and sunroofs are left on the factory floor. The hood and fenders are made of carbon fiber. It weighs in at a mere 3,075 pounds. With its bi-plane spoiler and minimal ground clearance, this car’s mission is clear.

     “It’s a racecar,” he says, proudly. “It’s made for the track.”‘

     As with all great love affairs, Burke, a former airline pilot, remembers the first Porsche turbo he drove. It was a 1976, new, driven while he visited his sister in San Francisco. Today, he still has a Corvette – a 1954 – but it’s Porsche that has his heart.“I like to drive something that you know will hurt you. If you don’t pay attention, you’re going to be in the bushes. I like that.”

Dickie Burke with his 2011 Porsche 911 GT2 RS

Burke’s love of speed came naturally.

     He grew up in Warrenton, Virginia. His father was a car dealer, selling Fords, Edsels, Packards and Studebakers, “everything that failed,” Burke says, laughing. “I was working on cars in my dad’s garage when I was 5 years old.” His stint in the Navy brought him to Virginia Beach. A short time later, he started a career as a pilot with United Airlines that lasted three decades. He still flies for a select list of clients.

     Over the years, he’s owned his share of fast cars, including a Ferrari Daytona and two Shelby Cobras. But he always wanted a 1932 Ford. “I’ve always liked ’32 Fords. It’s the epitome of a hot rod.”

     That explains the 1932 Ford, one he rebuilt himself, that resides alongside his Porsche in his garage in Virginia Beach. “It’s the classic little deuce coupe: a three-window, two-door Ford with a Chevrolet Corvette motor and two four-barrel carburetors. Like all of his cars, this one comes with a story.

     He spotted the car at the annual moonshine festival in Dawsonville, Georgia, and approached the owner about buying it. The man said it wasn’t for sale. “Now he’s with his buddies, his cronies and his wife,” recalls Burke, “and I saw he winked at them. He said, ‘I’ll give you one shot at my car.’ I said, ‘What’s that?’ He said, ‘$50,000.’ I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ He said, ‘What?’ ’ I said, ‘I’ll take it.’ He said, ‘I’m talking cash.’ I said, ‘Me too.’ He said, ‘I mean right now.’ I said, ‘I got it with me.’ And that’s the truth. He said, ‘God damn!’ But a deal’s a deal.”

Like his Porsche, he drives the Ford. A lot.

     “I’ve put 25,000 miles on it,” he says matter-of-factly.

     It has plenty of power in its own right, even if it can’t quite keep pace with the Porsche. After all, that’s a Corvette mill up front; it brings its own set of problems. “It sounds good, doesn’t it?” asks Burke as we cruise along the Oceanfront. He shifts the column-mounted three-speed manual transmission like an old friend. The engine’s solid lifters emit a mechanical symphony lacking in modern cars.  “This car will run 70 mph all day easily, but it has antique brakes. It’s a little crude. You don’t tailgate in this car.”

     Its friendly demeanor belies its speed. The Ford’s short hood is capped by a leaping greyhound hood ornament. The rear window has its original shade. And let’s not forget the rumble seat in the back. It’s almost … cute. Only the old school bias-ply tires give away its true abilities.

     The Porsche, in contrast, wears its heart on its sleeve.

    Climbing aboard this mobile missile brings about a different sensation of speed. This car rumbles and whistles with menace, like a thoroughbred straining at the gate. Accelerating brings up 60 mph quickly. You start counting and you’re there; you don’t get to 2. Its personality is fierce, its suspension taut. Its cabin fills with road, engine and tire noise as G-forces reshape your skin.

     It’s a four-wheel amusement park ride, one that ends all too soon as Burke carefully pulls the car into his garage, shuts it off and gets out.

     “I’ll be 70 years old in another year. How long can you drive these things?”

     He doesn’t answer his own question. “If the car goes, I’ll keep the hood,” he says, lifting it up to reveal various signatures. There, among names such as legendary Porsche driver Hurley Haywood, is that of Andreas Preuninger, the GT2 RS’s chief engineer.

     “I’m glad,” he wrote, “you like my beast.”



  1. d ellis says

    Larry, you only got half the story on Dickie Burke. He’s the guy who’s been there and done that. Deserves to get a write up.