Richard Lofthouse joins the queue - and the largest ever gathering of the German icon - at Brands Hatch

Someone brought a black Pontiac Trans Am, which was impossibly cool and shortly to be immortalised by Burt Reynolds in 1981's The Cannonball Run. But the rest were utterly hopeless.

True, there was the odd Triumph Dolomite hero and the occasional Jag for good cheer, but even at the time I was struck by the special enclosure of Robin Reliants fiddled with by obscenely grumpy old men, a wildlife pen stuffed with horrible British Leyland Marinas and a viewing platform devoted to a flying potato-wedge, otherwise known as an Austin Ambassador. Those products somehow defined - with the benefit of hindsight - post-1970s Britain at the absolute nadir of its fortunes.

How things have changed. Porsche Club Great Britain threw its annual jamboree at Brands Hatch over the recent bank holiday weekend, and not only did the sun shine brightly for three straight days, but the event basked in well-being premised on English wealth, yet a German icon.

Now, there were no doubt very fine cultural nuances and historic ironies to be observed from this post-Thatcher, pre-Angela Merkel moment in time, especially given that the Porsche 911 became the defining symbol of 1980's Yuppiedom. But, if so, they paled into insignificance besides the speed yellow Porsche Boxster S leant to me for the occasion. Not the iconic 911, of course, but a suitably seductive car to blow deep thinking right out of the electrically operated roof, accompanied by hundreds of other fully grown men all intent on doing the same. The objective: to break the (admittedly rather specific) world record for the "greatest number of moving Porsches on a 2km track". The perfect excuse for Boy Scout shenanigans on a vast scale.

Led round the track three abreast by a pace-tractor at five miles an hour at the crack of dawn on the Monday (little known fact: Porsche made tractors), last year's record of 257 cars was broken - just - by four, and despite the traffic, drivers still diced with each other in first gear on the steep ascent to Druid's Bend.

Porsche Club GB is powerful and well organised, and, with 16,000 members, it is the second largest such club in the world, after America. Its prestige and standing were symbolised earlier this year, when it agreed to formally co-operate with Dr Ing hcF Porsche AG.

Thus, this year, Porsche GB lent the club rare, exotic and historic machinery worth almost £35m. The result was, as the programme announced: "The UK's largest ever gathering of Porsche cars: historic, modern, rally, 4x4, road, race, turbo, cabriolet, 356, 911, 968, 914, 964, and more."

Interestingly, that list doesn't mention the Cayenne SUV, one of the most profitable and popular vehicles the company has made. Its very existence still rankles with the faithful, and wasn't, apparently, at the Porsche festival.

Highlights among the cars were many and varied, but it was impossible to miss several in particular. First, the iconic, rally-spec 911 RS's from the early 1970s, being driven spectacularly around a brutal off-road course - thank you Peter Lythell for allowing me to experience the full-Monty. The other rally star on display was the Group B 959 that won the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1984 and 1986. Equally remarkable were the several 917 circuit racing cars that gave Porsche seven of its 13 Le Mans race victories.

The festival was defined, as one would expect, by the 911, whose iconic shape has undergone an almost unbelievable number of permutations during its 42-year life. The situation is best described by the recent appearance of Total 911, a magazine that displays 56 different incarnations of the car in its "data section", yet concedes defeat in the face of an even greater number of special editions of those incarnations. If you want to go deeper and holier than that, all you need to do is talk to the Porsche Club GB racing car secretary Eoin Sloan, whose knowledge is very extensive.

Needless to say, there were some very rare 911s on display, including Vic Cohen's 1996 (993) GT2, uniquely painted by the factory in Audi RS blue and enhanced to 550bhp. Thanks Vic for a superb ride on a busy track, surrounded by other rarities and yet still getting to the front of the field twice.

Perhaps the nicest thing about the event is its remarkable informality. Everyone has access to everywhere, including the pit lane, garages and the grid, and despite being men of means, club members and owners don't take themselves too seriously. Very sociable - as long as you want to talk Porsches all day long.

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