The owner of the rare Porsche spotted floating above Ohio River flooding this week by AP photographers has been found. Here, Bill Musselman explains how he managed to save his one-of-a-kind car from a certain drowning. Twice. — Ed.
Bill Musselman is a man used to floods. You can hear it in his voice as he assures me my call is welcome and not too early, "this is a fine time to talk, we're still fighting the flood and trying to get ready for Derby in the same breath." By "Derby" he means the Kentucky Derby and he and his wife (along with many others in the area) are preparing for it in earnest, flood waters be damned.
When you live in a flood zone, along a river, you prepare for certain contingencies, "It was a crazy spring, we normally have a flood after the snow melts up in the West Virginia mountains and Appalachia and all that. We got through that one. I had the Porsches out in the garage and lo-and-behold we came with another big storm that was unexpected."
Unexpected is right. The National Weather Service predicted the river would crest at a height of 7m. Very high water, but nothing the area hadn't seen before. But after four days of continuous rain, the NWS was forced to adjust their calculation to a crest of 10m; a full 3m higher then what was planned for.
"That change in calculation was announced and boy everyone was scrambling. Everyone along the river was scrambling to find new ways to take care of their property and that's when my buddy Smokey came in," said Musselman.
"Smokey" is the mechanic of one of Bill's boating buddies (you probably noticed the marina right next to Bill's house in some of the earlier pictures), and he had a plan for saving Bill's 1992 Porsche America Roadster - one of only 250 built and the only "Fly Yellow" one in existence.
Bill jacked the 1992 Porsche American Roadster onto blocks giving it plenty of height and what should have been enough to manage the original predictions. As the rain continued for days on end, the river continued to rise.
Bill's house sits at the end of a point on the river in a marina community. The access road through the marina sits on much lower land than his house and consequently floods sooner. When the flood waters started lapping against the bottom of Bill's garage door Smokey suggested they might want to try something different than the blocks.
"You know, I've got a bladder that takes a 27-foot (8m) boat. Let's just put this sucker up on that," said Smokey. "So, we did that, Easter morning, 7am and there was my Easter egg basket," proclaimed Musselman.
Easter Sunday was April 24th, which means the Porsche sat on the float, tethered to the house and exposed to the flood waters, for close to two weeks. When I told Bill about the rumours his now famous Porsche had sunk and asked him to verify if she survived he said, "Oh Yeah. I'd say. I got her down and cranked her up and she's happy as a lark."
When I asked him where the 964 was now he said she was back in the garage. You mean the house wasn't damaged? "Oh no, it's got a concrete foundation that's 17 feet (5m) high and the walls are a foot and a half (0.5m) thick. The water just went into the lower level - which it's designed to do - and then you wash it out."
There was one last rumour I wanted to dispel. It had been reported that Bill was some type of boat captain, perhaps even captain of the Belle of Louisville, and that was why he was so well prepared for this event.
Explaining this to Bill and asking about his career path Bill simply laughed and said, "No, no, one of my buddies is though. I don't think many passengers would get aboard with me after seeing my car on a raft. I've been around boats all my life, but this is my first carboat."
ABOUT THE BLADDER SYSTEM
Built by AirDock, Smokey and Bill used three bladders that make up a system for supporting a boat up to 8m in length and 3400kg in weight.
With the Turbo-bodied cabriolet weighing in at less than half that amount, the bladders worked perfectly.
"Two of the three bladders in the back were in the back where the engine weight is. It was very well balanced. It was surprising."
Each bladder has ropes that tie/lash them together and then there is a separate pump going to each section (look closely at the picture above and you can see three air lines coming out of the pump housing).
With the storm over and the water receding, life is slowly returning to normal. "The water has dropped drastically, it's dropped 12 feet," said Bill. The 964 is now back safe in the garage and sits next to Bill's 2011 Porsche Carrera S. Having survived two floods (the house flooded once before in 1997) and 20 years under one roof and one owner it's pretty safe to say this very collectible Porsche is a survivor.
PorschePurist.com is the web's foremost destination for Porsche owners and automotive enthusiasts interested in the cars, products and lifestyle associated with the Porsche brand. Today's post was published with permission from the publishers.