Member Profile: John Forbes - A Passion for Porsche
November 1, 2011
The Historian’s Desk By Lou Scalzo
John Forbes with his “Green and Orange” car
For this month’s article I had the opportunity to meet with John Forbes, a long time Porsche shop owner, driver, and all around nice guy, at his shop, Black Forest Racing off of Hwy 16 in Denver N.C.

Every time I have met John, I have always been impressed by the enthusiasm that he has, his passion of the Porsche Marque, and what is going on at his shop which is a real beehive of activity. This past visit was no exception and he was eager to share his story with all of us in the region. In his own words, here is John’s story.

It all started right after high school when I was working as an automotive apprentice in a gas station in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. My job was to tune cars and pump gas. A regular customer of mine was a man who owned a 1958 Corvette with a “fuelie” motor. The car was black with red scallops and it was my dream car.

One afternoon the same customer drove into the station with a 1969 911S. He opened the front hood and handed me 2 shop manuals and told me to start reading because he had sold the Corvette and I would now be working on this car. I wanted to kill him for trading in the Corvette, but he assured me I would like this car even better. This is how my career and love affair with Porsches began.

About a year later, I left my job to go to work for a Porsche dealership and receive factory certified training. This started at the age of 21, right in Cherry Hill; I became the engine and transmission specialist. In 1974 Porsche introduced the IRO C [International Race of Champions] series using Penske prepared Porsche RSRs with 3 liter engines. Each dealership was given one these cars to maintain, and as the engine man, it was turned over to me. I quickly found that my passion was racing and preparing fast Porsches!

Our dealership’s car was driven by Mark Donohue, and when the series ended the car was sold for around $50k, to a local doctor, Dr. Graveneack, who hired me to continue to maintain the car. One weekend I had transported the car to Summit Point, WV so the doctor could attend a driver’s school. He was called back to the hospital to perform emergency heart surgery. He told me to take his place in the school and I have never been the same. My racing career had begun.

I left the dealership to go out on my own and started Black Forest Racing in Delray Beach, Florida. One of my first customers was Jimmy Trindade. I built him a 1975 RSR clone, in which he went on to win 4 consecutive SCCA championships in the GT 2 class - 1984, ‘85, ‘86, and ‘87.

My first racecar was a European 914-6 Porsche Hill Climb car, prepared by the famed Kremer Brothers. It had won several championships at the Luxembourg Hill Climb in Belgium before it came to the USA. Vintage racing had just begun here and the car was just what I wanted because I had always dreamed of racing a 914-6. I thought they were better balanced for racing than the 911’s.

A recently built replica of the 1970 Monte Carlo Rally winning 914-6

John tries on a Porsche 962 from IMSA’s GTP era.
In my early racing days my friend and rival was Bob Snodgrass with Brumos Porsche- Audi in Jacksonville. He was my best friend and racing buddy until I beat him in the 1989 St. Petersburg Grand Prix. He was driving the 914-6 GT , formerly driven by Peter Gregg, which had won the first IMSA GT Championship. Before the race he told me my racing shoes where not tied right, he then tied my shoes for me with the Velcro over the top of the shoelaces. After the race, which I had won, he stated “John I will never tie your shoes again!” After the race we became “bitter rivals” because Bob felt I had dishonored Peter Gregg’s memory by beating his car.

hired Hurley Haywood as the lead driver of the car, to be sure the car would not lose again. (At the time Hurley was the sports car endurance world champion and I figured that was a fair match up - NOT !) I did not beat Hurley that weekend, but I did beat Skip Barber, who was driving his 427 Ford Cobra, in which he had won a world championship. People were upset with that as well, because he blew up his motor in the last lap in our battle for the lead!

I was driving the 914-6 in South Florida SCCA vintage races, as well as the HSR series and the CARE series. In SCCA in 1990 the car was known by all as “The Green and Orange car # 57” That year I set the vintage track records at Moroso Motorsports Park, Road Atlanta, and Roebling Road. When the season ended, I received the SCCA Driver of the Year award. Receiving that award was one of the proudest moments of my life!

In 1995 I took a break from racing to focus on building my business and satisfied my love for the racing world by preparing the race cars for my customers. In 2000 I received a call from Chip Vance, a racer from Texas. They where planning a 2.5 liter GT Championship race. My 914-6 was a 2.5 liter car and he wanted to see which Porsche race shop could build the fastest 2.5 liter car. Brumos Porsche-Audi brought the Peter Gregg’s car along with a second 914-6, driven by Paul Newman, plus a third 914-6 driven by Joe Cogbill. Chip brought his 914-6 from Texas, hoping to claim that he had the fastest 2.5 ltr car. The 901 Shop from Florida brought 3 911’s and Dave White Racing brought 3 cars. Total cars entered in 2.5 ltr class was 60 total, everyone wanted to win the title. I was able to qualify 12th on the first day, and on the 2nd day I qualified 7th. Come race day, I was able to take the lead, and with 3 laps remaining, and hold off Hurley Haywood for the win and finally beat him!

championship cars, helping customers to fulfill their racing dreams. We have just completed a 914-6 rally car that is an exact replica of the car that won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1970. This car owned by Italian Rally driver Carlo Falcone was built as a clone approved by the Porsche factory and the FIA. Our replica is now in Europe and will be driven by the original winning driver, Björn Waldegård, in this fall’s vintage Monte Carlo Rally.

Visiting with John at his shop you really sense the man has passion for what he does and for the Porsche Marque. It’s contagious, but don’t take my word for it, visit him for yourself and see.

Till next month, Your Historian.