I was going to start this story with some good ol’ fashioned SUV bashing because it’s 2021 and that’s the current trendy thing to do within motoring circles. Yet with the world still largely in the grips of the global COVID-19 pandemic most of us are in need of a feel good story.
Thankfully, this story about one man, his dog, and their Porsche 996 is exactly the antidote to the doom and gloom that defined 2020 and has partially shaped 2021.
Meet Brock, Lucy the Goldendoodle, and Their Porsche 911
The main character of our story is US entrepreneur Brock Keen. Along with his sidekick Lucy - a Golden Retriever/Poodle cross or a ‘Goldendoodle - and their slightly modified Atlas Grey Porsche 996, Brock has become somewhat of an accidental cult hero in Porsche and “Car Internet” circles thanks to his Instagram account called 996RoadTrip.
Oh, and the fact that Lucy’s one damned adorable dog maaaaaaay have something to do with it, too…
Combining his enthusiasm for the outdoors and a passion for the Porsche brand which stems from his childhood in Oregon, Brock’s adventures and road trips around North America show that you don’t need a huge SUV to explore the very best that nature has to offer.
In fact, 996RoadTrip demonstrates that to create a “feel good” car account, all you need is a car that’s well-loved and a healthy dose of imagination.
To get to the bottom of what makes the founder of the hugely appealing 996RoadTrip account tick, Dyler.com got the opportunity to speak to Brock through FaceTime earlier this month.
Not long after the 40 year-old Oregonian had pulled up to the side of the road to take our call and the usual formalities were exchanged, the conversation started with a shocking admission: unlike most 911 enthusiasts, Brock’s love for Porsche’s legendary sports car ironically comes from the Porsche 928; a car that was intended by Porsche’s top brass to replace the then-ageing 930 version of its 911 during the late 1970s.
“The whole Porsche thing started for me when I was about seven or eight years old,” Brock explains. “I had a school friend and her dad was a fairly wealthy local grass seed who apparently had pretty good taste!
“In the back of one of their barns was a car under a cover, and whilst I had no idea what it was, it just looked fast - it was long, and sleek and low. Anyway, one day her parents were taking us to the local theme park down here in Oregon, and her mum took us along in this car which turned out to be a Porsche 928!
“As you know, the 928 is a GT so it’s got some back seats and I just remember sitting there whilst we were hurtling down a pretty standard backroad, and the speedometer was in triple digits. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this was a really cool car, and whilst this was some 35 years ago, I can still feel the exhaust rumble and hear the noise from that V8 engine.
“So yeah, it’s a little bit strange to say, but the 928 was the ‘gateway’ Porsche for me.”
If the 928 served as his introduction to the intriguing and sometimes beguiling world of Porsche, then it was a very special 964 - again in his younger years - that saw the young Brock promise himself that one day, he would own a 911.
“I had another friend in high school, and his dad was a professional golfer so it’s fair to say he’d done pretty well in life,” he continues with a chuckle. “His dad had an RUF 964 Turbo, and this was around the time when I had a poster of a Porsche 959 on my wall, so when he offered me a short ride to the local basketball camp, I jumped at the chance. Let me tell you, man, that was when the 911 thing really struck home for me...
“Everything about that car was completely incredible from the sound, to those wide rear hips, and the smells from the engine. I knew at that point that whilst it wouldn’t happen overnight, I’d buy a 911 as soon as I could afford it, because that car had well and truly wormed its way into my soul.”
That Moment Brock Realised That a Porsche Could Match an SUV In The Snow...
Throughout his driving career, Brock has owned only German cars because “they do engineering quite well, apparently.” It all started with a 1985 Volkswagen Jetta TDi with a blown turbo charger which he describes as “having just 40bhp, sounding like a tractor, and blowing black smoke like a tractor.”
He then progressed to a 1986 Audi 4000 CS quattro to deal with harsh Oregonian climate. Whilst “amazingly capable in the snow,” the predecessor to the modern day A4 was eventually written off by a then-girlfriend.
Another 4000 CS quattro followed, albeit a 1987 model, which was then traded in for a 2001 Audi S4 at a time of Brock’s life when a business he founded started to take off.
“You can probably tell I’ve got a bit of a thing for Audis, because they taught me that you don’t need a big 4x4 to get to some really beautiful places off the beaten track, which is probably one of the reasons I am where I am today with the 996.
“I bought a 2004 Audi S4, which I tuned to send 400bhp across all four wheels. That car was a lot of fun, and I did almost 200,000 miles in it.”
“Again, though, a girlfriend of my now-wife wrecked it, which seems to be a bit of a theme here, doesn’t it?” he laughs.
Despite buying another S4 identical to the one that now lay in bits, Brock recognised that he still needed to quench his Porsche-shaped thirst that had needed quenching since childhood.
Business was doing well, and it was only the couple and Lucy the Goldendoodle who were the immediate family unit. What’s more, years of Audi quattro ownership had shown Brock that an all-wheel-drive performance car could - without issue - get the three of them to locations in Oregon where they enjoyed their home state’s abundance of mountain ranges and national parks.
To paraphrase Brock himself, if he didn’t start looking for a Porsche now, he probably never would.
Finding the Perfect Porsche 911 Through a Friend at Mercedes
What happened next was sort of like a barn find, albeit one that happened in the back of a Mercedes-Benz dealership.
When Brock first started trawling the ads for a Porsche 911, he set out to buy a 964; the air-cooled, turbocharged car that had left such an indelible imprint on his psyche around a decade prior. However, a chance call from a friend working in a local Mercedes showroom saw Brock take on the 996 which he has become synonymous with in recent years.
“When I turned up to look at the car at the Mercedes place, it had been there for about six or seven months and was in a bit of a bad way,” he reveals. “It had two flat tyres, a flat battery, and I don’t think anyone really cared about it - the 996 was known as the ‘unloved 911’ at that time, and I think the dealership just wanted to offload it.
“It was even listed wrong, to be honest. It was in the ad as a black car, but it’s actually Atlas Grey, and it’s a Carrera 4S with sports seats and the carbon fibre package inside. In short, it was everything I wanted - it was a Porsche 911, it was all-wheel-drive, and it was around the price of a new Toyota Camry!”
A few weeks after purchasing the 996 and restoring the once-neglected Porsche back to health, Brock bought the car’s Yakima two-man roof tent which has now become synonymous with him and Lucy.
Originally purchased for the classic Range Rover also owned by Brock and his wife, the roof tent did not marry up with the roof bars of the old SUV. However, the device fitted perfectly to the 996 which he used when picking up the tent from a local Yakima retailer.
Discovering That a Roof Tent Is No Problem for a Porsche 911… Or a Goldendoodle
“I already had the racks on the 996 for our mountain bikes, so I fitted the tent to it,” says Brock. The people working at the store said I was crazy and that I’d wreck my car, but I was only a few miles from home so I figured that if I drove slowly, it’d be okay.
“On the way back, I had a bunch of people waving their arms, shrugging, and mouthing things that I can’t really repeat here, because let’s face it, it’s not often that you see a Porsche 911 with a roof rack on the top, is it?!
“At home, I opened the tent up, and I thought to myself ‘man, that looks really cool’ although I don’t think my wife was massively convinced at the time! Anyway, I found Lucy and put in there and then showed my wife - that kind of sealed the deal.”
The decisive moment of turning the 996 into a full-time camping vehicle followed a few weeks later, when the couple (and Lucy!) were attending a local open-air concert with the Porsche.
After taking a photo of Lucy in the tent at the gig and posting it on Instagram with a Yakima Racks tag, the tentmaker - whilst excited to see their product used in an unusual way on an unusual car - was concerned that the 996 was not strong enough to handle the stresses exerted on the car by the tent’s weight. Through Direct Message, Yakima invited Brock’s Porsche along to its HQ for a stress test to ensure it was able to handle the additional weight.
Given the hardy nature of the 911, it’s no surprise that the first-generation of watercooled 911 passed with flying colours. Whilst Brock has lowered the lowered 996’s suspension, added a cold air intake, and rally lamps to help cope with the rough and tumble nature of his adventures, not one structural modification has been made to the car.
Since then, the 996 has been all across the United States. On the 996RoadTrip account, you’ll see a photo of the 996 parked up under a clear sky adorned by millions of stars, or by the side of the road looking down over the City of Angels at 1am. Scroll further, and you’ll see the car caked in WRC-levels of snow and filth after it’s been taken up an Oregonian mountain pass. It’s the stuff of dreams and you can’t help but think “well done”. v
Oh, and the account also has plenty of photos of Lucy, so if you’re there mostly for the Goldendoodle content, you’ll be all set!
Will The Extra Weight From The Tent Make The 911 Handle Like an SUV and Not a Porsche?
On the back of finding out about the Yakima stress test, it seems appropriate to ask Brock whether the addition of what he describes as “a massive great brick” atop the dainty looking Porsche takes anything away from its awesome driving experience.
As a quick history lesson, it’s worth noting that when the 996 was launched in 1997, its looks - especially with the fried egg headlights and an interior shared with the smaller Boxster - were divisive to say the least.
Yet whatever you may think about the love ‘em or hate ‘em looks, anyone who knows anything about Porsche’s most famous car will know that the 996 is widely considered to be one of the best ever iterations of 911 when it comes to driving thrills.
“To be honest, I feel the weight a little and it makes some noise because at the end of the day, I’m essentially driving around with a 52 kilogram brick on top of my car,” Brock admits with a laugh. “That said, it doesn’t take much away from the drive.
“At the Porsche Experience Centre down in California, I managed to take a corner flat with the tent up, and I had the car up on three wheels. That was really impressive and shows just how good the 996 is as a driver’s car and something you can use every day. What made that moment even more special, was that I still went camping in it that night - that’s just not going to happen with a Ferrari, is it?” he asks rhetorically.
Over the 30 minutes I spent with Brock, he showed himself to be the easy going type you could crack a beer with in a bar without any introductions. You know the type - easy going, unpretentious, and blessed with a good sense of humour. After all, it’s not often you meet a Porsche driving Oregonian whose 996 has a tent on the roof and a Goldendoodle in the passenger seat, is it?
Brock on Why All Modern Classic Cars Such as The Porsche 996 Should Still Be Enjoyed Today
Despite a handful of successful business ventures and having a following of almost 100k the Instagram account, Brock’s groundedness comes through with his admission that 996RoadTrip came from a simple love for driving and a desire to share adventures with the world instead of trying to have the most pristine, well-restored 911 around or in car speak - “a garage queen.”
The 996 is a car that went out of production in 2004, which is 17 years ago in today’s money. With a production run of 175,000 cars, it’s also one of the most produced 911s in the car’s 60 year history. Yet despite not being particularly rare, the most important thing is that Brock and Lucy are showing the car world that classic cars, or at least modern classic cars, can - and most importantly, SHOULD - still be enjoyed today, because it’s more than possible to do so.
“When I look at my 996, I view it as a ‘modern’ Porsche,” he concludes. “It was the first watercooled 911 which was a break from tradition, and they produced hundreds of thousands of them. I think with any car though - classic or whatever - you’re doing it a disservice if you don’t use it because at the end of the day, they were made to be driven and enjoyed.
“I think cars like this are an inspirational thing, too. When I was a young kid and I got to ride in the 928 and the 924 we spoke about earlier, they inspired me to get out there, work hard, and try and make something of myself. I’m sure that if those cars were kept under wraps, then I wouldn’t have been as motivated to own one of these fantastic cars.
“If I can get out there and inspire a few people by driving my car and hopefully motivate them into going out there and achieving the car they’ve always wanted, that’s a win for me. It’s even better if they stick a tent on then even better! In fact, I’ve seen it done to a new Beetle, and there’s someone who has put a roof tent on a first-generation Honda NSX...”
In a world wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and questions about whether we’ll be able to travel at any time in the near future, Brock, Lucy, and the 996RoadTrip account are there to remind us that there is hope, and with a little bit of creative thinking and a healthy dose of positivity, we have the power to make things as good as we possibly can for ourselves.
To follow Brock and Lucy and their Porsche 996-based adventures, click here to follow the 996RoadTrip account!
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