When I was a kid, I hung posters of Porsche 911s over my bedpost and in my locker where most girls my age would have magazine clippings of the Backstreet Boys or a young Leonardo DiCaprio.
My parents drove me home from the hospital as a newborn in a 911. My mom and dad always tell me stories about how their manual 911 was such a nightmare to drive, with its finicky, tall clutch resulting in many left leg cramps during their time with it. They love telling me, and I love listening.
The Porsche 911 is an automotive icon. As one of the most desired and universally respected sports cars in the world, it has decades of lore, fandom, and history surrounding it. For people who can afford one, it’s a statement of how you’ve made it and how much taste you have. For others, it might represent something aspirational to ogle. For me, the 911 represents so much more.
Years in the Making
There are many reasons why I put this car on such a high pedestal, but my parents are my heroes, so they’re probably the biggest reason. I’ve been dreaming about driving a manual 911 GT3 for as long as I can remember. It had to be a manual, too, but why? I’m exhausted from people being surprised that a “person who looks like me” can drive stick.
When I first started in my career, it was incredible how many men looked me up and down and asked, “Do you even know how to drive stick?” Allow me to make this clear: you don’t need to know how to drive stick to call yourself a car enthusiast. You just need to love cars – that’s literally it. I get stuck sometimes trying to prove myself, but I’ve realized that I don’t need the external validation anymore, and this 911 helped me get there.
I speak about my obsession with 911s ad nauseum. I’ve probably told everyone I know about how it was the first car I ever experienced as a newborn. The 911 has always been a part of my life and probably a small reason why I got into my career in automotive journalism to begin with. In the background, being a child of Chinese immigrant parents, we’re not typically the type of family to have deep conversations about feelings or philosophy, so cars were always something that connected me to them. They’re big gearheads, and that had a huge influence on me growing up.
The other side of dreams, however, are all the roadblocks that prevent you from getting there or the people who make you feel like you’re simply not worthy of achieving them. There are car bros who will tell me I’m not a “true car enthusiast” because I didn’t memorize the engine codes for some obscure car from the ’90s or because I can’t quote every Fast & Furious movie.
I remember a particularly cutting moment as a teen where I was talking about my dream of driving a 911 one day, and someone said in a fake Chinese accent that we don’t know how to drive, so it would be a waste. More than a decade would pass before I was able to articulate why that remark was so devastating and harmful. And while I had buried that comment deep within me and it stayed there for years, pressurized by other racist and sexist aggressions hurled at me throughout my life and career, it has, to my surprise, unconsciously helped steer me to where I am today – a Chinese woman at the top of her game, comfortable in her own skin, living her dream, and sitting in a brand new, manual Porsche 911 GT3. Proving people wrong is a helluva drug.
A Dream Come True
Being in my line of work, I’m fortunate to get to drive all sorts of cars, from the humble Mitsubishi Mirage or Honda Civic all the way up to the McLaren 720S or Lamborghini Huracan. Every car I get to drive, no matter how cheap and pedestrian or expensive and rare, teaches me something new or makes me think about something in a way I’ve never considered before.
I’ve driven 911s before and probably hundreds of other cars, but nothing I’ve ever driven hit me as hard as this Porsche 911 GT3 Touring. It’s essentially a street-legal race car. The Touring package removes the enormous rear wing so it looks slightly more subtle, but the performance remains the same. It’s available with a razor-sharp dual-clutch automatic transmission, but the fact that you can still get a six-speed manual elicits joy in giddy, impractical automotive enthusiasts like a richer version of me. A manual transmission is slower to shift, takes more effort from the driver, is less efficient, and, in a car and setting where milliseconds matter, the automatic simply makes more sense.
But as I get into this gleaming blue, deceptively subtle 911 GT3 Touring, its carbon fibre bucket seats hugging my small frame like it was made for me, its shifter feeling weighty and perfect in my right hand, I realize I’m a bit afraid. My whole life and career seem to have led up to this moment. The weight of my parents’ stories about their 911, all those posters I had in my room, and all those people who implied I couldn’t or shouldn’t be here; it all comes crashing down on me. Why am I so afraid, I ask myself. Maybe it’s because you’re not supposed to meet your heroes. Maybe those people were right. What if I crash it? Maybe I don’t deserve this.
Isn’t it wild how someone can be convinced that they don’t deserve to achieve their dreams?
But I’m done questioning. I’m not an imposter. I’ve worked hard for this, so I bury my doubts.
I depress the clutch and the brake, and turn the ignition to the left of the steering wheel. The GT3 roars to life, the six-cylinder engine behind me filling my ears with audible proof that this is actually happening. I have shivers; my toes are tingling; the vibrations of the engine idling travel up my spine. I take a deep breath and roll out of the parking lot. Immediately, I floor the throttle, shift into second, then third (I’m already breaking several laws), then get onto the highway and drive to work, downshifting often for no reason other than because it’s fun. The GT3’s automatic rev-matching downshifts make me feel like Lewis Hamilton, just the coolest, most swaggy person to ever race a car. The laser focus required to pilot this machine is all encompassing. I feel like this car, in this moment, was tailor-made just for me. Someone on the highway is honking and waving at me – like I have my own dream-achieving welcoming committee.
As I’m driving, I feel like my parents would be proud of me. It takes a lot for a Chinese parent to tell you that they’re proud of you (I think I’ve personally only heard it once in my life, and I took a screengrab so I have proof), but I know how happy they’d be to see me following in their footsteps and living out this moment that I’ve been dreaming of for basically my entire life.
I pull into the AutoTrader parking lot and stop the car. I burst into tears. I was trying to make a TikTok about driving the GT3 and then was flooded with all my feelings. The video is basically 30 seconds of me hysterically laugh-crying. The power of achieving your dreams is a religious experience. It makes me feel so blessed to be able to have the capability to achieve my dreams, even though sometimes it feels impossible. The Porsche 911 GT3 is powerful, but I didn’t know how empowering it could be.