Text by Marc Graser
Images courtesy of Porsche
Mulholland Drive has long been a car enthusiast’s dream — a road that snakes its way for 50 miles from the Hollywood sign in the east to the vast Pacific Ocean in the west, winding through the Hollywood Hills and Santa Monica Mountains to Malibu.
The views are some of the best of LA: overlooking the Hollywood Sign, the city’s downtown skyline, Burbank and the San Fernando Valley. On a clear day, you can even spot Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios’ theme park.
It’s a cinematic road of tight bends and exhilarating switchbacks that’s been celebrated over the years on film, including in David Lynch’s surrealist neo noir mystery “Mulholland Drive,” in 2001. “It’s a beautiful road … a mysterious road with many curves. It’s really dark at night and, unlike so many other spots in Los Angeles, it has remained pretty much the same over the years.”
It’s also a favorite of Jeff Zwart, a Long Beach native who has spent three decades immortalizing Porsche cars in commercials and short films for the brand, and raced them professionally, winning the Pikes Peak hill climb eight times, and driving the punishing Baja 1000 and TransSyberian Rally.
“People like Steve McQueen and James Dean, they all came up here — often in their Porsches. There was a bit of folklore about it.”Jeff Zwart
“As a kid, my dad would say we should go up on Mulholland and see what’s up there,” says Zwart, who learned to drive his father’s 1964 Porsche 901 and saved up enough money to buy a yellow Porsche 914/6 in high school. “People like Steve McQueen and James Dean, they all came up here — often in their Porsches. There was a bit of folklore about it.”
First opened in 1924, and named after William Mulholland, who engineered Los Angeles’ reservoirs and aqueducts, Mulholland is where many drivers really learned to drive, and street racers flirted with disaster from the 1950s to the 1970s.
“It starts confined, with a lot of buildings and congestion,” Zwart says. “But then it opens up — a car can really flow here. High-speed sweepers and first-gear hairpins — there’s every combination of turns.”
“Driving an electric car on gravel is like a dream come true — there’s such instant power.”Jeff Zwart
In the middle, Mulholland is interrupted by an 8-mile stretch of gravel, along the northern ridge of the “Big Wild” conservation area, that leads to an old Cold War missile control site. It’s here that Zwart, was recently able to exerience the all-electric power of a Taycan 4S Cross Turismo.
With its Gravel mode that raises the Cross Turismo’s ride height, the Taycan was designed for the rough terrain of Mulholland, leaving behind a cloud of dust in the rearview mirror.
“Driving an electric car on gravel is like a dream come true — there’s such instant power,” Zwart says. “The capability of the car, and the trust you can put in it is really fun to explore.”
“Within a city as populous as LA, to have almost 80 kilometers of winding road, that’s a pretty cool thing,” Zwart adds. “And it literally stops at the Pacific Ocean. The road just ends there — it’s your final destination.”
Planning the Perfect Drive:
“A good road trip will last forever in your brain,” says Stefan Bogner, the creative director of Curves magazine, and a frequent planner of road trips, including one up the entire west coast of the United States in a rare Porsche 906. “It’s a bit like the music that was playing during your first kiss — it stays with you for life.” Here are his tips for planning the perfect drive:
- Choose Your Destination
- I suggest picking somewhere relatively nearby for your first road trip. Get in touch with locally-based friends, or use forums, Instagram and Facebook to learn about where you’re going and ask people for advice.
- Pick the Right Passenger
- Consider who you want to have with you. My best friend joins me on every trip but sometimes we travel in convoy with other cars. Eight cars is the maximum for me: With too many people involved it becomes hard work keeping everyone together
- Prepare Your Vehicle
- Making sure the car is prepared is vital, especially if it’s an old one. Check the brakes, the lights, the liquids … basically, check everything.
- Pack Light
- Think about what to pack in your bag. It depends on the country and time of year but I always take a few very lightweight coats to keep off the rain and wind. A water bottle is essential, as is a multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife, and I’ll normally take a pair of trail running shoes as they’re light, comfortable and I can get out of the car to hike a short way for a photo.
- Don’t Over Plan
- Have a rough idea of how far you want to drive each day but make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the trip, rather than running a tight schedule and insisting on being in a certain place by a precise time. Savour the scenery and enjoy the driving.
- Minimize the Distractions
- Switch off your phone and don’t constantly post where you are on social media. When you get to your hotel in the evening, then you can switch back on and collate all your pictures. It’s much more fun and you’ll get to re-live the day again.