Porsche Pilgrimage: Day 3 – Odessa to Austin

Texas is a really big state, but it's worth the drive.

I got a much later start than I’d planned for, mostly because my night was much later than I’d planned for. My first stop was only about 20 minutes away, however. I’d already driven all the way past Odessa, so the hop over to Midland to check out a museum I’d always wanted to see was an easy one. I was giddy, ecstatic, excited to be in the presence of a set of legendary cars. 

Anyone who has heard of the Petroleum Museum in Midland likely already knows which cars I’m excited about. In case you have not, the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum is a remarkable place. Inside, you can learn a lot of things about a lot of things, mostly having to do with oil and oil production and what we use oil for. There are a variety of side-exhibits that are tangentially related to oil, like a collection of paintings depicting the life of an oil producing family, a huge collection of large gems and minerals, and dozens of children’s educational exhibits.

Bradley Brownell

In the very back of the museum, however, there is a collection of automobiles. They’re all white, save one, and they are all hugely advanced concepts in aerodynamics and racecraft back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Jim Hall’s Chaparral racing cars originally operated out of Midland, and used high-tech concepts to make inroads against huge international racing teams. Where Porsche used brute force and terrifying power levels to win in Can Am, Chaparral used ingenuity and finesse. Well, as much finesse as you can have with a Chevrolet big-block V8 in the back of your cars. From the automatic-transmission Chaparral 2 to the active-aero stilt-wing 2E and 2F up to the famed 2J ‘sucker car’. I could feel the history waft over me as I walked through the exhibit. Sure, I’m a huge Porsche nut, but seeing their contemporary competitors get their due made me happy. 

I spent just an hour at the museum, and I likely could have spent an hour with each of those cars without absorbing all of their details. It was well worth the $12 admission. I parked the 912E out front of the museum for a photo opportunity. A museum employee rode over on a golf cart, I assumed to tell me I couldn’t park there, but instead to compliment the car. Compared to the thousands of horsepower shared among the Chaparral, I didn’t figure my 88 horsepower would find much merit, especially here in Texas where everything is bigger, but it keeps getting compliments. Back on the road I’ve got more Texas to cover. Pointed East-ish, I head to Austin. Today’s drive is shorter, the terrain is more flat, and the video game-esque mountains on the horizon are gone. Big open Texas.

I arrive to Austin and am immediately thrust into car world again. It’s the IMSA weekend in town, and one of the local teams, Moorespeed, is hosting an open house. There is food and booze to be had, and cars to be ogled. Everything from twin-turbo Ferrari Testarossa street cars to a brand new McLaren 570S GT4 to prior Le Mans entered Porsche 997 RSRs, this place has it all. I don’t usually picture race shops to be quite this large, but they must be doing something right. I snag a couple tacos and a couple photos, but I got very little sleep and I’m fading fast. I pick my contact, Patrick, out of the crowd, and I head back to crash on his couch. It’s nice to have friends.