The following article was written by Debbie Cooper to commemorate Riesentöter's 35th anniversary:
Let's all rallye through memory lane.
It was in February of 1957 when seven Porsche enthusiasts met at the Bull Tavern to discuss chartering a Pennsylvania region of PCA. They included: Charles and Helen Beidler, Jack and Ginny Case, Phil Cowen, Lee Kauffman, and Bob Sacks. The successful result of this meeting was the chartering of Eastern Pennsylvania Region of PCA on August 24th, which included all of Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. The membership totaled 15 and Jack Case was elected the first president.
By the end of 1958, the membership had more than doubled to 35, which then led to the first publication of Der Gasser in February of 1959, the first editor was Harry Nowak. It consisted of a folded single sheet, with a bold German letterhead and six paragraphs of information, including the results of The Rose Tree All Night Rally, some personal notes, tech tips and the following question; "Does anyone know of a hill, preferably on private property, the club could use for a hill climb?" Also in 1959, the Riesentöter Award was created to recognize the competitive skills and outstanding contribution to the club of a member. The inscription on the 12" pewter bowl reads:
Porsche Club of America
Eastern Penna Region
Der Beste Riesentöter Des Jahres
The first recipient was none other than Charles Beidler. Many types of competitive events were held such as rallies, gymkhanas, drag racing at Vineland, ice racing in the Poconos, a driver's school at Baker's acres. Eastern Pennsylvania Region members Beidler, Grimm, Holbert, Ott, price, Stover, and Watt drove to many victories in these early days. Other events included an engine "teardown" at the local Porsche dealer's shop or picnics at Tohicken State Park.
During the 1960's there was much discussion concerning "Normal" vs "Super" Porsches in all types of competition, even including the annual picnic softball game. The following was an ad which appeared in a 1962 issue of Der Gasser: "Porsche Super 90 Special, space frame, all aluminum body, super 90 engine mounts in front of reversed transmission...Has terrific acceleration and is set up perfect for hillclimbing, short course racing and stop light drags. The nearest thing you will ever come to a push rod Spyder. Complete car and trailer...$2,700, Charles Beidler, Jr."
Many members of the region attained recognition for their victories in SCCA events, including Bridwell, Everett, Frey, Kresge, Scarborough, and Stover. Bill Mayberry helped prepare Donohue/Penske cars along with others. Charles Beidler covered races at Sebring and Watkins Glen for WFIL films. Bob Holbert was asked to drive at Le Mans for the Porsche factory team, finishing in 5th place with Masten Gregory and was named Sports Illustrated Sports Car Driver of the Year in 1961.
The national spotlight was focused on Eastern Pennsylvania Region in the summer of 1963, which hosted the 8th Annual Porsche Parade at Split Rock Lodge in the Poconos. This was the largest parade ever with over 300 of the approximately 2,000 PCA members attending the parade. Eastern Pennsylvania received the region of the year award in 1964 for the outstanding efforts in organizing a very successful parade.
The mid-sixties saw the introduction of the 911 and 912. There was concern and reservation with these new designs - how could they really replace the 356's. In November of 1965, Bill Singer with his new 911 entered a fun gymkhana that "turned a time which would have been good for about 5th in E production (the 356 class) but after much discussion by the officials, he was placed in his proper class of C/D production, which was good for 1st place! Needless to say this caused much consternation among the MGB and TR-4 drivers..." Also in 1965, the first "autosprint" was held at Christmas Village go-kart track. Dick Sweigert, later known as "King Gymkhana" turned the fastest time of the day with a 100.2 (3 laps), unfortunately Paul Sweigert had blown his engine in the morning practice session.
In 1968 the nickname Riesentöter, which loosely translated means "Giant Killer", was adopted by the regional membership, as was the checkered flag and Speedster insignia. Under this symbol, the members had many successes in national SCCA racing, Pennsylvania Hillclimb Association and other competitive events. The official change to Riesentöter came in 1973.
Bringing this decade to a close saw the formation of the Delaware Valley Sprint Association, with Riesentöter being one of the nine member clubs. Events were held nearly every weekend from March to November. The hillclimbs were still very popular, the 1969 team consisted of 14 drivers including: Charles Beidler, George Fowle, Jim Haas, Jess Holshouser (who is still active hillclimber today), Charlie Keller, Dick Merriman, Bob Pethick, Russ Poole, Jan and Fred Remick, and Paul and Dick Sweigert.
In 1970, Der Gasser changed its format from the two page mimeographed flyer to a pamphlet, complete with photographs and advertisements. During 1971, membership nearly doubled, due to the efforts of Wayne Flegler as activities chairman. In this same year, the first driver's school (one day event) was held at Pocono International Raceway, with nearly 100 cars attending in spite of the rain. The success produced a two-day event including a driver's school and competition event in 1972. This was also the year that the Bill Schmidt Broken Crankshaft Award came into existence, the first recipient being Rocky Williams. During this time the 914's were introduced and Howard Reed received the first Battered (at some later unknown date became Tattered) Helmet Award for buying the first 914 in the region.
In 1973, the interest of the members was changing form competition to social events and the social chairman's position was created to bring a new dimension the club's activities. Functions including dinner meetings, wine tastings and tours as well as brunches were primary interests.
Once again Riesentöter was in the national spotlight with Northern New Jersey, hosting the 19th Annual Porsche Parade in the Poconos. Over 500 cars were in attendance and it was a huge success even with the gas crisis. The organizers agonized as to whether to hold the driving event, but gas or no gas, the roar of the engines was heard around the race track. Another highlight of 1974 was the guest speaker for the April meeting and only honorary member of Riesentöter - none other than Mark Donohue. For those of you who were there, I'm sure it is a meeting you will always remember.
Later in the 1970's the first front engine Porsche was introduced, the 924 which was underpowered and in many minds couldn't really be a Porsche, since true Porsches were rear engine cars. (Note: the winner of the Manhattan Trophy for best of show at Porsche Parade in 1987 was a Martini and Rossi 1977 924).
The 1980's brought many changes to the club, probably due to the growth form under 300 members in 1980 to over 600 members by 1987. In 1981, Vern and Melody Lyle added a new annual award, the "Mighty Nitto" award. They bought their 911T complete with Mighty spark plugs and Nitto tires on Saturday and Sunday they autocrossed the car and both took first place trophies home. This award is given to a member who makes the best of a bad situation and as owners of Porsches those situations arise more often than we like.
We had a direct line to PCA National when Bob Holland was elected Zone 2 representative in 1982 and was re-elected in 1984. During 1982, Porsche introduced the 944, which was more powerful than the 924, with the flared fenders allowed more tread on the road, and was "affordable" base priced under $20,000. August brought the 25th Anniversary celebration and we were fortunate enough to have Bruce Jennings join us.
The competition events became important in terms of involvement of the members as well as terrific revenue generating source. Many members have been infected with a disease known as "TRACK FEVER". Bill Scott, owner of summit Point was a guest speaker late in 1982 and gave us a great deal on a three-day track event in 1983. Ever since then, we've endured the dust and the excessive heat of summer events at Summit Point. (We really must be sick!) A spin off from this track enthusiasm was PATTS (Porsche Atlantic Tim Trial Series) conceived by Bob Russo to stimulate driver participation at the various tracks along the East Coast. The regions involved were Riesentöter, Potomac, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut Valley, Metro New York, and Schattenbaum. Perhaps some of this enthusiasm was due to Al Holbert being one of the 959 drivers winning at Le Mans. In 1984, Al Anderson was the first recipient of the High Speed Driver of the Year award, created to recognize the most improved driver on the track.
In 1983 a new event was introduced (with some skepticism) at the annual picnic by yours truly - a Top Only Concours, which drew a total field of seven. Jim and Jan Jandrlich took home the first place award. In 1987, we had over 20 entries, two sets of judges and awarded an overall trophy.
Although autocross may have taken a back seat to the track events, we were not without our national stars. In 1987, Vern and Melody Lyle placed fourth and fifth at the SCCA Solo II (Autocross) Finals in Salina, Kansas. This year also saw the gala 30th Anniversary celebration orchestrated by Bill and Ms. Vicki O'Connell. The highlights of Saturday included a magnificent car show and banquet at Radnor Hunt Club and Sunday brought our annual picnic. We received outstanding sponsorship and many door prizes. How many of you still can find the 30th Anniversary lapel pins or car decals?
In the late 1980's, the club saw a resurgence of hillclimb interest led primarily by Jess Holschouser who challenged Bill O'Connell and Al Anderson to "do a hill". We continued to sponsor the Charity Car Wash for Children's Hospital and tried something new - a 944 charity car raffle. This was arranged in conjunction with Jimmy Hanna at YBH Porsche who provided a 944 to us at dealer cost. We raised over $5,000 for St. Christopher's Hospital and the lucky winner was one of the Risentter's members Frank Pilotti. One of our more imaginative members rose to royalty after running at Road Hawaii, yes you guessed it, the Pineapple Princess was born. On the last day of September, 1988, we had to say good bye to Al Holbert; a very sad day for us all.
In 1989, drag racing returned and the event was held at Atco Dragway. New enthusiastic members Catherine (Calwell) and Bruce Ferreti graciously hosted the first of three Spring Socials at their magnificent home surrounded by beautiful gardens and lawns. This year also brought the club into the computer age - the membership list was transformed from 3" x 5" index cards to an on-line access for all club mailings. Dave Reiter introduced many of us to Vintage car racing. He wrote articles for Der Gasser and he also spoke at one of our monthly meetings. He competes in Vintage (V) SCCA events with other marques. To be eligible for VSCCA competition, the cars had to be manufactured in 1959 or earlier. After 14 years, Bob Russo was re-elected to the Riesentöter oval office.
In January 1990, we held Track Clinic I and if you've forgotten the time and the place, it was 12:30 PM at Johnston Enterprises, Ltd. The Naval Air Development Center was secured with the help of Ken Helmsin as our new autocross site; we are still using the site in 1992. Team Malibu Grand Prix was born and if you remember the rules, each team was supposed to have one woman driver. I'm not sure which one of the winning team members of Paul Schwartz, Mike Murphy and Tom Cross and Ron Lego, played the role of the leading female driver. The first Holbert Memorial SCCA Autocross was held on May 6, 1989 and won by Vern Lyle in "Split Second", a 1972 911S, with an engine borrowed form Bob Russo. In May, we had to say goodbye to one of our active and enthusiastic members, Dick Sweigart, We all miss you very much King Gymkhana. The design queen herself - the Silver Streak, the Pineapple Princess, Dusty Roads, legal name - Janet Long Weger, presented the first official "Riesentöter Fossil" t-shirts to Bob Russo and Vern Lyle at NTW. To receive a Fossil t-shirt, you must be a member of the club for at least 20 years and now we recognize these Riesentöter enthusiasts at the Holiday Banquet. John Williamson, our Membership Chairman organized a membership drive and we topped the 800 mark. The 800th member was Mark Terlecky, our current Goodie Store proprietor. Fall brought Oktoberfest and we rallied in search of the Great Pumpkins. We never found all those pumpkins - did you? The end of the year banquet at The Bay Pony Inn was hosted by Paul and Sybil Margaritis, a gala event to end a great year for the club. All attendees received wine glasses etched with the club logo. I hope everyone enjoys glasses as much I do.
In 1991, Bob Lamb became the official Riesentöter male model. At nearly every event he was featuring his "Fashion Track Wear" collection - from jackets to hats to shirts - but remember never buy a shirt with pleats in the back! The "Dirty Dozen" took on Road Atlanta in April and a "Vette" encountered a Porsche for the first time at a RTR driver education event. (This year we welcomed all Marques - my how things change over the years!) Our editor John Williamson held the "First Full Color Cover Photo Contest of winner color cover the Modern Riesentöter era", winner Vern Lyle. We saw the first envelope to the editor Sender: Silver Streak Racing; Recipient: Margaritas Used Car Lot and Dump. It was stamped, "RETURN TO SENDER".
After a rocky start and only a car show in 1990, the 1991 Vintage Car Festival was held on a hot day in Fairmont Park. Fortunately for me, Joe "Squirrel Cage" Johnston and Harry Nowak (first newsletter editor for Der Gasser in 1959) arrived at the Riesentöter hospitality suite. They entertained me with stories form the old days of the club with special tales of Charlie Beidler's escapades. For me it was a special tour down Riesentöter memory lane. The last picnic was held at our "official" site at Camp Hideaway. We all moaned and complained about the long walk up to the hill to the softball field, the bees, but I think deep down inside, we all will miss that quaint setting. The fall brought the election of our first woman president in the 34-year history of the club - Lisa Carle.
Alan Friedman introduced us to the new concept of the PCA Race Program; the first races were held in 1992. Riesentöter sponsored the third PCA race event a Pocono and it was a great success. The participants had a great time and we raised a lot of money for the club. Congratulations Paul Johnston! A "new" model was introduced by Porsche the 1993 RS America $53,900 - only door pulls, no back seats and a great handling package. After driving one, I was almost ready to sell Annie, then I came back to my senses. A true wine tasting encouraged attendance at the Spring Social held at the Pearl S. Buck estate. What Betsi Lyle found out was most Riesentöter wine drinkers don't like a true oaky Chardonnay, the Kendall Jackson and the Australian entrants were not among the favorites.
Trying to capture the highlights of so many years is very difficult with so many memorable events. I'm sure all of you can think of important names and events that I haven't mentioned and if I have erred, forgive me. Please help me as historian to gather the facts and fill in the missing data, because without this information, we are the losers.
I owe a great deal of thanks to Melody Lyle whose hard work back in 1982 provided a great deal of information from the early days. Since I cannot say it better than Melody did, I'll end this article with her words. "True membership and common bond, motivated by a demand for integrity, the drive of competition, and the love for this German car and the people who are so devoted -- a quality of spirit so few can understand".