Remembering Matt
April 1, 2012
The Historian’s Desk By Lou Scalzo
A few weeks ago on March 8th, I headed down to the Amelia Island Concourse, which is always something I look forward too. March is particularly a busy car month in Florida. There is something big going on every weekend, and everyone seems to be Spring car crazy. Gooding and Company was having their big auction on Friday, traditionally held at the beautiful Omni Amelia Island Plantation. However this March was going to be bittersweet. Sixteen of Porsche’s most important turbo race cars, all owned by the Drendel Family of Hickory, where going up for auction and I wanted to be present to see the cars that meant so much to Matt Drendel one last time.

I had the privilege to meet Matt a couple times previously. Once briefly during Rennsport Reunion at Daytona in 2007, and once again at 2008 at the Charlotte Porsche Parade when he had generously brought many of the cars in his collection to the Convention Center for public viewing. What impressed me about Matt at the ‘08 Parade was he was very approachable and enthusiastic. While I was talking with Matt’s assistant at the time, Matt made time to come over to give my friends and me a full tour of each car, spending a good amount of time to do so. It was a very special experience. But this is what I came understand about Matt from others, was his generosity of spirit and support for the Porsche Community. He was always willing to open his collection to other fellow Porsche enthusiasts.

Friday March 9th, as I made my way into the largest of the Gooding and Co. tents at the Plantation, I saw Trevor Ely, Matt’s assistant at Heritage Motorwerks. Trevor graciously agreed to help me with this article and give me more background on Matt and his Porsche’s. In the large tent, there they were. All 16. Gleaming and beautifully prepared for the auction. The first car was scheduled to appear on the bidding stage about 1pm. They are listed here as they appeared for bid:

• 1988 944 Turbo S - Just over 700 miles, as new condition.
• 1976 935/76 serial 001 - Previously driven by Rolf Stommelen, and Manfred Schurti.
• 1980 924 GTP - Driven at Le Mans by Holbert and Derek Bell.
• 1997 GT1 EVO - Weissach test car, Factory entered, Le Mans in 1997 with drivers Wolleck, Stuck, Boutsen.
• 1991 944S2 cabriolet - Exceptional original car with 18,681 miles.
• 1976 934 - Second of 31 934’s, most successful of all 934’s in international competition. Winner of Best in Class at Amelia Island and Rennsport Reunion II.
• 1987 McLaren MP4 Formula 1 - First on five MP4’s constructed, last year of TAG-Porsche engine. The only one in private hands.
• 1984 Porsche 962-103 - The winningest 962 in history. The first 962 to score a victory. Winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1986 & 1987. Contributed to 3 Championship season’s for Al Holbert. Driven by Al Holbert, Derek Bell, and Chip Robinson. Only 2 owners since new.
• 1986 944 Turbo Cup - Significant Factory Race Prepared Specifications. Ground-up restoration.
• 1974 911 RSR Turbo 2.14 - 2nd of only 4 made. In original unrestored Martini and Rossi livery, an irreplaceable piece of motorsport history.
• 1973 917/30 Can-Am Spyder - One of six. The most powerful road racing car ever built. Meticulously restored in Penske Racing livery.
• 1981 944 GTP - One of two factory built. Factory prototype and development car. Total ground up restoration.
• 1985 962 HR1 - Driven by Al Holbert, Derek Bell, Al Unser Jr. and Chip Robinson. 9 wins and 17 podium finishes over 4 years. Winner of Best in Class at the Amelia Island Concours.
• 1992 968 Turbo Cup RS - The first of four produced. Raced in the ’94 Le Mans and ’95 Sebring finishing 6th in GTS2 class. Competed in the ’94 European BPR series. Total ground-up restoration.
• 1980 Parnelli Porsche Indy Car - Porsche’s original Indy Racing project.
• 1995 911 GT2 - First in class at 1996 12 hour of Sebring, Second in class at 1997 24 Hours of Daytona. Driven by Hans Stuck, Derek Bell, Thierry Boutsen, and Bill Adam.

Some of the bid prices during the auction where the highest ever paid for turbo racing Porsche’s including $1.925 million for 962- 103, the highest for a racing 962 to date. The 917/30 sold for $4.4 million, 935/76 sold for $2.53 million [both to collector J. Seinfeld]. The 1974 911 RSR went for $3.245 million and the 1997 GT1 Evo for $1.265 million. This included a 10 percent fee to the buyer from Gooding and Company. These are very robust figures, showing that investors believe the collector car hobby to be very healthy, even during these trying times.

Back at home the following week in the Carolinas, I was able to contact Trevor. Although he and the shop where somber to see much of Matt’s collection move on, he was gracious enough to give me a little more information on Matt, his life and how his love of the had marque developed. After graduating college at Western Carolina, he enrolled in driving schools to develop and hone his skills. He started crewing on the Lotus Sport team in the Supercar Championship, which was using the competitive Esprit X180R at the time and being piloted by the likes of Doc Bundy and David Murray. After finishing the driving schools he became involved in the Ferrari Challenge series with a 355 Challenge for a full season, and then went on to compete in the Grand-Am series from 1999 to 2001.

In 1999 Matt competed in 5 races with the Bell Motorsports Team in a BMW M3, including the 24 hour Daytona with co drivers Terry Borcheller, Tony Kester, Scott Nuemann, and James Kenton, placing 17th overall. A few months later in March at Sebring, he raced again with Kester, Nueman, and Hayner. In 2000 Matt competed in 5 races in Grand-Am with 4 different teams including The Racer’s Group, Bell Motorsports, Safina Racing, and Orbit Racing at Watkins Glen. What Matt noticed in the first several years of his racing career was the common thread of Porsche as a consistent winner. He wanted to make the change to drive and race exclusively in Porsches. So after consulting with his dad, Frank, Matt retained G&W in 2001 to campaign a 911 GT3RS with co-drivers Darren Law, David Murray and Cort Wagner, and to run a complete 11 race season. They ran well, with a season high 2nd place at GP Trois-Rivières. The team’s consistent results earned them the GT Team Class Championship, with Matt earning 2nd Place in the GT Driver’s Championship and teammate Darren Law taking 1st Place in GT Driver’s Championship.

"The Vault"

As Lou describes in his article, Matt Drendel’s presence will be sorely missed in the Porsche community. He was very generous with, and proud to show, his collection. And living near his hometown of Hickory allowed the locals extra opportunities to see these fantastic cars.

Back in December of 2008, I was lucky enough to be part of a small group given a tour of Matt’s collection. We started out at their hanger at the Hickory Airport where some of the cars were stored and worked on. Then we caravaned across town to the family home where the most prized cars were kept in “The Vault”, a location deserving of the name. Only accessible through a massive locking door in the house’s basement, there stood many of the cars recently sold at auction. For security reasons, nothing could be driven in or out of the room. A lift brought cars down from the ground level above. Another interesting feature was the ventilation system that allowed the cars to be run inside the windowless room.

It was a once in a lifetime event that I was glad to be a part of. Thanks Matt!

– Tom Morgan

Reflecting on his racing accomplishments, and with plans of starting a family with his wife Shana, Matt decided once again to make a change. This time he would be a Collector of the Marque. He started with a 1984 930, which Matt either worked on himself or at Porsche of Hickory, where he developed a good working relationship with the Master Mechanic Bobby Stikeleather, and Trevor Ely. Matt had a particular interest in the turbocharged models, and had the means and ability to develop his collection. And over time what a collection it became! Matt sought to acquire cars that carried a special pedigree – factory team cars, prototype and developmental models, and some of the most successful customer racecars Porsche ever sold. Some of particular note worthiness included three 935’s – the first 935 (935/76), the last 935, (Akin Fabcar), and the ‘79 Sebring winner that took the top award at the Rennsport Reunion. Both of the Lowenbrau sponsored Holbert 962s were also part of the collection – chassis 962- HR1 and 961-103, which he was the only owner other than the Holbert family. His collection was so renowned that the Porsche factory would contact him occasionally to use cars in several TV commercials, including the Panamera “Family Tree” spot and shows including the NYC Auto Show using GT1-004.

Today Matt’s legacy lives on. The shop he founded at the Hickory Airport, the original site for his personal collection, known as Heritage Motorwerks remains open and committed to serving the needs of the local Porsche community. The staff is made up of Bobby Stikeleather, a Porsche Trained Technician with over 32 years of experience, Trevor Ely handling sales and special needs including a search network for finding specific cars, and Eric Bailey, with 20 years of experience in hauling and handling of specialty cars. HMW are specialist’s in late model Porsche, mainly the 964 model and newer, featuring the latest computer diagnostics, pre-purchase inspection and general maintenance work done with the same care Matt’s collection received. Also available are off-site paint and body, high performance wheel alignments, interior and top upholstery work. So please do give these enthusiastic guys a try if you are located in this area.

Till next month,
Your friendly historian