The good conscience
The problem is: once Marco Marinello starts telling stories, the day is done. And his stories are good, funny, charming, such as how he already owned a Porsche 356 at the age of 17, but didn’t have a driving licence yet. Of course, he still drove this 356 across Zurich to his apprenticeship as a businessman, he laughs, “the thing was already pretty rusty. But it had the VDM steering wheel from a Carrera GT, that alone would be worth 10,000 Swiss francs today”. And what had he paid for this vehicle? “Two summers mowing my brother-in-law’s lawn.”
And then he tells of all the Porsche 356s he was able to buy from farmers as a young man, sometimes for 50 francs, sometimes just for a coffee and a croissant, because the cars had been standing around in the pasture for years, rusting away, completely finished. From 1975 onwards, it was forbidden to park these rust buckets on unpaved ground in Switzerland; the farmers had to get rid of these old loads: “I don’t know how many 356s I cannibalised, probably about 50,” he continues, “you never get to know a vehicle better than when you completely dismantle it for spare parts that are still usable.”
Marco Marinello’s story then takes a few detours via the vegetable trade and Canada and Mexico, where he meets his future wife Carol, until he becomes one of the most important places to go for classic Porsches with “ElevenParts”. It’s the early, mid-1970s. Marinello takes over the European representation of the American Porsche parts dealer Stoddard in addition to his job in the family business. Chuck Stoddard is then to set up a classic car department for Porsche, PSP, Porsche Special Parts. Marinello, who speaks half a dozen languages, is also in the thick of it, with very close contact to the founding families. The project is taking shape, but Marinello is already too involved to want to return to his traditional profession. A passion becomes a vocation. Fortunately for the Porsche community, because so much of what is in stock at “ElevenParts” is only available there.
It is also 1975 when Marinello goes to the Oldtimer Grand Prix at the Nürburgring for the first time. There he meets a Swedish journalist (of course he can remember the name) who is wandering around with a folder under his arm. They start talking, the Swede wants to sell Porsche brochures and literature. They do business – and Marinello is infected. “Collecting is an addiction,” he says in his office, where there are hundreds, maybe even a few thousand Porsche books. One is amazed that there can be so many books on just one brand. Plus a few linear metres of sales and technical literature. And hundreds of models, in every conceivable scale. Photos, posters, art.
And then, of course, there is his collection of “Christophorus” magazines. The Porsche customer magazine is currently celebrating its 70th birthday and 400th issue. Marinello has them all: “The worst thing about this addiction are these magazines. Because they are neatly numbered. If an issue is missing, then you know exactly: I have a problem.
It took him about 15 years to complete his collection. Of course, the first four issues were the most difficult and cost the most money. Or effort in barter. “The rarest is probably issue 3,” Marinello explains. “The first two issues were still diligently distributed free of charge to customers by Porsche dealers back then. But hardly anyone realised at the time that from the third issue onwards a paid subscription was required. That’s why this number then went down a bit. Porsche must have had to throw away a few thousand copies at some point because nobody wanted them, because at that time only very few people understood that a subscription was needed for the magazine”.
Of course Marco Marinello also has number 3, neatly bound together with the other early editions into an impressive book, thread stitching, leather binding, gold embossing: “I had it made to measure in a Ticino penitentiary”. He can even remember what he paid for it. In 1962, “Christophorus” changed format, Marinello needed new bindings; from issue 236/1992 onwards, the booklets are kept in Porsche’s official slipcases. “Only the German issues, anything else would be going too far,” he says. He sees things differently with the brochures, especially the early copies (preferably from Gmünd, another of Marinello’s specialities), where he wants to have everything, every language, every print version, every engine variant. Addiction is just one of those things.
And of course Marinello can also remember the early makers of “Christophorus”, Huschke von Hanstein, who was head of public relations (and racing director) at Porsche between 1952 and 1968, and Richard von Frankenberg, the real brains behind “Christophorus”, editor-in-chief from 1952 to 1973. “You can sense that in the early issues, the two gentlemen had created a wonderful playing field for their passions with the magazine.” Marinello has not always looked forward to the next issue, “there have been weak years”, but lately he is satisfied again, he also feels the country issues are an enrichment.
Marinello is not so much an organising fanatic, more a walking encyclopaedia. He knows exactly which book is where, which model he still wants to praise, in which edition of “Christophorus” there is that picture he would still like to show. The Swiss could certainly also appear on “Wetten, dass…”, his memory is phenomenal. But that also makes Marinello something like a good conscience when it comes to Porsche history – he knows the unusual vehicles, the chassis numbers anyway, and usually also the racing successes and the corresponding drivers. And of course he usually knows how to prove these facts. Although Marinello is a true gentleman, very reserved despite his original southern origins, he is not only admired but also feared for his incredible knowledge. Discussions with him about exactly this or that vehicle do not get out of hand; he knows exactly what is going on. He is not a know-it-all, but a know-it-all.
And so hour after hour passes, there is still this anecdote, there is still that story. Marco Marinello has scaled back a little, but his “ElevenParts” is of course still the central point of contact when it comes to Porsche spare parts, especially when it comes to particularly rare pieces. He should definitely write his memoirs, his knowledge is incredibly vast, it must not be lost.
Text: Peter Ruch, Photos: Vesa Eskola. This article first appeared in “Christophorus”.