'Dad, it's your 914': 26 years after he sold it, man reunited with his Porsche
If the unannounced arrival of his oldest daughter and his granddaughter weren't a clue, the red "Porsche" cap he was handed about 11 a.m. Monday was a pretty clear hint.
But the real surprise came a short time later.
Richard Lotesta, a longtime Porsche Club of America racer and instructor, sold his pride-and-joy ride in 1992 and long has regretted it.
On Monday, he got his car back as an early Christmas gift.
Lotesta's oldest daughter, Lorren Lotesta of California, had wanted to surprise her father by reuniting him with a car like the 1976 Porsche 914 he so loved. A Wisconsin man helped her do one better.
Lorren had found a Porsche 914 club on Facebook and posted a message seeking one of the sporty two-seaters for her dad.
David Bobb's reply said his girlfriend had a 914 she might be willing to sell. That was nice, but Liz Merner's reply provided the real bombshell.
Not only would she part with her 914, but as she reviewed its maintenance records, she also determined her car and the one Lotesta once owned were one and the same.
Thus came the tractor-trailer on the curves of Circle Avenue near downtown Wheaton, the Porsche hat, the cellphone cameras rolling as Lotesta and his family stepped outside, and the reveal of the silver car the 73-year-old retired salesman never had wanted to let go.
"Dad, it's your 914," Lorren, 45, said as classic-vehicle transporter Gary Straight pulled down a ramp to reveal the 42-year-old car.
"No way," her father replied.
"The one you sold 20 years ago is back in the family," Lorren said.
"I don't believe it," he said.
But his tears said otherwise, as did his immediate concern about getting it into the garage.
"Who would have ever thought," Richard said, crying and smiling. "The same car. This is terrific."
Lotesta was in his 30s when he saw the used silver 914 at a dealer in 1978 at a price he could afford, even though it was only two years old.
Lotesta said he was interested in racing, so he joined the Porsche Club and attended his first Autocross event, essentially a sports car race in a parking lot. He said he paid dues of about $35 and was hooked, even taking his daughter to races across the Midwest and Northeast, staying at motels and enjoying the racing culture. Divorced from Lorren's mother, Lotesta rented a garage to shelter his 914 on Addison Street in Wrigleyville. The woman who would become his second wife, Brenda Lotesta, was renting the first-floor apartment in the same building.
"We met over this car, and he taught me to drive," she said.
And not just to drive around the block, but also to circle safely at high speeds.
"When we sold it, it was like getting rid of a child," Brenda said.
But sell the 914 the Lotestas did in the 1990s, when the family lived in Downers Grove and Brenda was starting a sales and marketing business.
They needed the cash to get the startup going, and selling the Porsche helped. The business now is part of a national firm with 800 employees, Brenda said.
But the 914, and the hobby racing it allowed, stayed in the family's minds. So this year for Christmas, Lorren decided she wanted to get back more than the memory.
By the time the vehicle arrived, she'd already gotten it insured and talked with the mechanic who had been maintaining it in Wisconsin. She knew it had a new transmission and engine, and the paint was refreshed five years ago.
"It's been souped up," she told her father. "It runs, Dad. It's in perfect condition. It is rust-free. It's been completely babied -- just like you took care of it."
With a racing ride back in his possession, Richard said he might just preserve it. Or he could use it for a return to instructing others how to race.
"It needs to be driven," he said.
Forty-two years after it was manufactured, Lorren said, the 914 has a minor ding on its left rear fender, now covered with a sticker, and a detailed list of maintenance.
"It might not be the fanciest Porsche out there," she said, "but it's part of our family."