Cool Car Stories from Famous Porsche Fans: Spike Feresten
He’s penned some of TV’s funniest moments and made a fortune in the process. But when it comes to his greatest passion, Porsche rules.
Whether or not you immediately recognize his name, odds are good that multiple-Emmy nominated writer Spike Feresten has made you laugh out loud at one time or another. As the talented scribe behind some of TV’s most memorable comedy moments, including the 1995 “Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld as well as episodes of The Simpsons and Late Night with David Letterman, Feresten has carved an indelible name for himself in Hollywood.
Despite his enviable A-List role, Ferensten is still one of us: a lifelong car enthusiast whose biggest joy seems to be all about discovering and driving cool cars. It’s an obsession that Feresten turned into a side career in 2014 as host of the Esquire network’s Car Matchmaker with Spike Feresten. The reality show featured the multi-talented entertainer helping famous folks like former pro baseball pitcher C.J. Wilson (pictured with Feresten, right) and Keanu Reeves find their fantasy vehicles.
Nowadays, he’s tapped into another outlet to talk cars as the host of the podcast Spike’s Car Radio on the PodcastOne network.
And when it comes to Ferensten’s personal preference, he’s a Porsche fanatic through and through. In fact, as he revealed recently during a panel discussion at L.A.’s Petersen Automotive Museum, he has amassed quite an impressive personal collection of rare and ridiculously-cool Porsches after being turned on to the enviable vehicles by his former boss, fellow funnyman David Letterman.
‘We went to Santa Monica Airport and [David Letterman] opened up this hangar door, where, by the way, he was sleeping on a cot. He didn’t want to go to a hotel. He wanted to sleep with his cars. And I understand that now, but I didn’t understand it back then.’
“I grew up in a dairy town in Massachusetts, and we didn’t really have Porsches there,” Feresten told fellow Porsche fans at the recent opening night reception for the Petersen’s “The Porsche Effect” exhibit. “So, my introduction to the Porsche brand is a movie called Caddyshack. There’s a scene where Judge Smails’ nephew, Spaulding, is drunk and he comes out of the country club and he throws up in the sunroof of a Porsche Turbo. Well, all my family [while watching the movie] were like, ‘Oh my god, gross!’ And I was like, ‘Wow, what is that car?!? I’ve never seen anything like that before!’ So that was my introduction to the brand.”
‘Porsche’ Panel: Tommy Kendall, Chad McQueen, Hurley Haywood, Patrick Dempsey, Jeff Zwart, Spike Feresten & Klaus Zellmer.
During the Petersen’s special VIP event last month, Feresten was joined on stage by a half-dozen fellow famous Porsche enthusiasts, including actor Patrick Dempsey; race drivers Hurley Haywood and Tommy Kendall; director and racer Jeff Zwart; Karate Kid actor Chad McQueen, whose dad is late Hollywood icon and Porsche collector Steve McQueen; and Klaus Zellmer, CEO of Porsche Cars North America.
Each of the men shared their personal stories of how they were introduced to the Porsche brand, and while they were all very compelling experiences, it was Feresten’s humor and fascinating Hollywood stories that stole the show. However, his fascination with fast expensive cars didn’t start off so great.
“It wasn’t until I was in New York writing for David Letterman, who is an avid collector as well and owns a lot of racing teams, that I used all the money that I was making to buy a wonderful car called a Maserati Biturbo — and it was a spectacular piece of crap,” he revealed. “No lie: Every weekend, to drive it, I had to put two grand into it on a Monday just to be able to drive it on the weekends.
‘When I made some money, I replicated [Letterman’s] collection… and I’ve never been happier. They feel like my favorite pair of pants or sneakers whenever I get into them.’
“And when we came out to L.A. for the Emmys, Dave said, ‘Look, I think I know you as a driver. I want you to come drive the cars in my collection,’” continued Feresten. “And on Saturday morning, we went out to Santa Monica Airport and he opened up this hangar door, where, by the way, he was sleeping on a cot. He didn’t want to go to a hotel. He wanted to sleep with his cars. He had a toilet and a shower and a phone. And I understand that now, but I didn’t understand it back then. I just thought there was some Howard Hughes stuff going on in that hangar.
“I drove a 356 C, and I drove a 914/6 that day,” he recalled. “And I drove a 4-cam Speedster. These were all things that I didn’t know existed. And then I drove his 1980 911. Everything I thought I knew about this brand just completely evaporated in that moment. And he was exactly right: There was nothing extra – no power steering, no power brakes. Everything had a function in the car, and I felt like this thing had been designed for me, and I was gone.”
Sure, we’ve all been there, completely awestruck the first time we’d seen these beautiful machines. So, of course, Feresten and his colleagues’ memories of discovering the Porsche brand were very relatable to their audience, with one exception: He turned a Porsche fanatic’s fantasy into reality, right down to starting his own collection of some of the most desired and exclusive Porsches in history.
“When against all reasonable explanation I made some money in this ridiculous [entertainment] business of ours,” he continued, “I replicated [Letterman’s] collection. I bought every — well, not the 4-cam Speedster, yet. I can’t afford that. But I bought those cars, and I’ve never been happier. They feel like my favorite pair of pants or my favorite pair of sneakers whenever I get into them.”
“The Porsche Effect” exhibit runs through January 2019 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.