WATERTOWN — Eric M. Green’s road to redemption for his late father is powered by a custom-made “quantum green” road rocket weighing just 1,680 pounds but packed with 150 horsepower and a driver with boundless willpower.
It is a vehicle that took Mr. Green, 61, more than 20 years to earn the money to create. In May, he fired it up in California for a cross-country odyssey that was fueled by his father’s legacy — or the lack of knowledge about it — and a sense of reconciliation.
A painting Mr. Green created more than four decades ago and treasured by a stranger in California provided the spark and the roadmap for the mission.
“This whole story is so bizarre, it doesn’t seem possible,” said Mr. Green, a former Watertown resident.
His coast-to-coast journey was documented for a feature-length film by Animal Studio, an award-winning, Pittsburgh-based production company.
The odyssey, Quantum Run 356, stopped in Watertown on May 18, when Mr. Green picked up a friend from his carefree days of youth for the run’s final leg to Maine.
“My father died penniless and forgotten,” Mr. Green said in a phone interview on May 21 from his home in Belfast, Maine, where his Quantum Run 356 concluded the previous day. “That’s my whole purpose here, to honor my dad’s memory and his legacy. The truth is the truth. Victors usually get to write the truth. But not in this case.”
Quantum Run 356 began May 5 in Lone Pine, Calif. Mr. Green’s wife, Amanda, accompanied him for its first half. The run was a mobile, conceptual art piece inspired by Marshall S. Green’s Porsche 356, a nimble, rear-engine sports car. Marshall, Eric’s father, revolutionized paper making, had 13 patents and was a three-time national model-airplane champion in Canada. He also raced cars, in 1952 became the first owner of a Porsche in Canada (Eric has the documentation to prove it) and, with Jack Luck, pioneered sports car racing in Canada.
“My dad has this amazing legacy that everyone has denied,” Mr. Green said. “He died with no recognition.”
Mr. Green is an artist whose creations sell for several thousands of dollars each. For his Quantum Run 356, he had a replica Porsche 356 created for his journey across the country. His father treasured his 356. The replica was assembled in Canada but the finishing touches on it, from wheels to engine, were done by two Porsche experts in California, where the “run” began.
“It was all based on my design,” Mr. Green said. “I had very specific ideas after thinking about it for 40 years. The body is almost identical to the original.”
But many pieces in the vehicle are Porsche 356 originals, from the horn button to the hood pull and the “Nurburgring Ring” badge on the vehicle’s left side, front, that was earned by Marshall at the famed track in Germany.
Mr. Green’s reproduction is a convertible, unlike his father’s 356, which was a hard-top. Apparently, not many people can tell Eric’s vehicle is a reproduction.
“Two Porsche people across the country came up and yelled at me because I was driving a car they thought should be in a museum or a climate-controlled garage,” Mr. Green said.
Mr. Green was born in Gorham, N.H., where his parents, Marshall and Elizabeth, moved from Canada. Marshall originally drove MGs in various races. He was undefeated until the 1951 hill climb race at Mount Equinox, Vt., a six-mile climb with 28 turns and hairpins. Marshall was beaten by a Porsche driven by Austrian Max Hoffman by 18.5 seconds. Mr. Hoffman would go on to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame for his racing and automotive development. After the race, Marshall decided that the Porsche brand of vehicle was the way forward for him.
Marshall contacted “Ferry” (Ferdinand) Porsche, who operated Porsche AG in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche then built Marshall a specially prepared 356 racer with advanced features. It was displayed at the Montreal car show in 1952, Mr. Green said. But Marshall found it too beautiful to race; thus began a long love affair with Porsche. The carmaker offered Marshall a Porsche dealership in Canada, but Mr. Green said that deal was “nicked” by a German millionaire.
Marshall’s love of Porsches was passed on to Eric.
“My mother told me I was conceived in a ’52 (Porsche) coupe,” Mr. Green said. “I was driven to the hospital in that car.”
His first car was a Porsche 356. He calls it superior in design for wind resistance. But there’s another allure.
“It’s this beautiful female shape, and nothing rivals that shape,” Mr. Green said. “By 1960, they began to compromise that shape to fit American laws.”
The Green family moved from Canada to New England and then to Watertown when Eric was 2 years old. The family moved back to New England when Eric was around age 10. Marshall Green, a native of St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, died alone in 1982 in Montreal at the age of 56.
Marshall Green, who battled alcoholism, was an engineer. Among his inventions was the Vertiformer, which made newsprint at three times the speed of a normal machine, thanks to “ultrasonic foil” technology. Mr. Green said a version of the machine, which revolutionized the way all paper is made across the world, was created and used at Black Clawson in Watertown. But Marshall earned no money from the patent or machine, his son said.
Mr. Green inherited his father’s adventurous spirit. He went to the Rhode Island School of Design on a full scholarship at the age of 16. His father provided the $5,200 tuition with a caveat: Eric was told, “This is the last money I will ever give you. Use it wisely!”
But after attending the school for a week and one art project completed (a Styrofoam egg), he left to ride freight trains across the country, spending four years on the rails and roads. At the age of 18, using money from his artwork, he bought a used 1956 356A 1600S Porsche for $1,400 — a purchase he felt was predestined.
He has worked in a frame shop, assembled pulp testers, traveled with a carnival, restored houses and painted industrial buildings from a hanging scaffold. He’s written four novels and is an award-winning newspaper columnist. He’s even designed beer labels.
Mr. Green makes a living as an artist whose paintings have been exhibited across the country. On his website, he has a quote about his work from the late Gerrit Henry, an art critic for the New York Times, Art in America magazine and other publications: “We can ask no more of a contemporary artist, at the same time wondering why so few of them — exhibiting this kind of basal aesthetic integrity — grace our galleries today.”
It was a painting, “Open Road,” by Mr. Green that provided the original fuel for Quantum Run 356. The painting depicts a view from the driver’s seat of his Porsche 356.
Mr. Green started painting at age 7. By the age of 16, he was selling his artwork for between $200 and $800.
His father would borrow money from him for his car habit.
“He had no money,” Mr. Green said. “Alcoholics drink up a lot of money.”
One painting in particular by Eric attracted Marshall’s attention. In 1976, at the age of 19, Eric painted a view of the open road from his “weathered” Porsche 356. Eric’s father convinced him to spend $2,000 to have 200 prints made of the scene. A small advertisement about them was run in the July 1977 edition of Porsche Panorama magazine. Only one print sold. Mr. Green trashed all but 80 of the prints and toted that package of the prints around on his travels over the years.
Mr. Green said the original “Open Road” painting was “long sold to someone in Germany.” He recently tried to buy it back for $50,000, but was denied.
A few years ago, mechanical engineer, Porsche enthusiast and restorer David Kroesen of Los Angeles bought the second “Open Road” print — a result of happenstance.
Mr. Kroesen said that a friend of his who is an expert Porsche restorer and who treasures his anonymity (but is known as “QC”) was thumbing through old magazines around 1980 when he came across the advertisement for Mr. Green’s print. QC called the phone number listed, but the number had been disconnected.
“There was no way to track down who painted this very haunting, captivating image,” Mr. Kroesen said in a phone interview. “So my friend cut the page out of the magazine, blew it up as big as he possibly could on a printer, framed it and put it on his wall.”
Mr. Kroesen said he was helping his friend QC, a Porsche-specific upholster, move in 2016 when he noticed the image on his wall.
“I go, ‘What’s the story behind that?’” Mr. Kroesen said. “He told me and asked if I liked it. I said, ‘I love it!’ and he gave it to me.’”
Mr. Kroesen took the image, about 8 by 11 inches, home.
“With the internet being what it is today, I did about a five-minute search and found that the artist’s name was Eric Green,” he said.
He also found a gallery that was selling the image and ordered a print.
“That weekend, I get a phone call from Eric,” Mr. Kroesen said. “I was shocked. He’s like, ‘Nobody has ever ordered any of those.’”
Mr. Green then told Mr. Kroesen about his replica Porsche 356 he was having made. Along with QC, they devised a plan to finish the vehicle.
“I wouldn’t have crossed paths with them without this ‘Open Road’ painting,” Mr. Green said. “If David hadn’t researched online and found me, the whole project wouldn’t have happened. The builder in Canada couldn’t have done what I wanted.”
As the plan evolved, Mr. Green’s art career found greater success.
“It’s realism to a different level,” Mr. Kroesen said of the artist’s works. “You think you’re staring at a photograph.”
“My career has gone crazy in the last few years,” Mr. Green said. “I couldn’t give my work away five years ago and now my drawings sell in the $30,000 range.”
The revival of his art career began in 2012 when his wife, Amanda, requested that he draw a bird for her. By that time, he had lost hope of seeing success with his art.
“I drew a robin and it came out very well,” he said.
It inspired a drawing of a cardinal and of other birds. Jake Dowling of the Dowling/Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine, invited Mr. Green to display the drawings at the gallery.
“In the 20 minutes we were standing around, he sold four of them for $2,700 each and wrote me a check,” Mr. Green said. “As we drove off with it, my wife and I looked at each other and I said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go back to making art.’”
Mr. Dowling also began selling Mr. Green’s creations from the 1970s.
“In two years, we made half a million dollars, which, being poor all my life, was a bizarre shock,” Mr. Green said.
Mr. Green has hitchhiked across the United States, with many of those road adventures — on foot and in car — shared by Watertown resident Kris D. Marsala, son of Charles J. and Edith E. Ouderkirk Marsala Jr. The family lived on Broadway Avenue.
“Kris is the only real road partner I’ve ever had,” Mr. Green said (his wife being the exception.) “He knows the addiction of the road. It can break you pretty quickly.”
They’ve been friends since Mr. Green’s family moved to Watertown. Mr. Green was 2 at that time and Mr. Marsala was 4. But after Mr. Green’s family moved back to New England, he would often visit Watertown.
“Everybody thought he was a little strange at first because he’s a brilliant artist, a great conversationalist and a different kind of animal,” Mr. Marsala said.
“Edie was like a second mom to me,” Mr. Green said. “I used to stay in the basement of the Marsala house, coming off the road. It was lovely for me to have kind of a second home. I was on the road for years and would hole up somewhere for a while, do my laundry and get a few home-cooked meals.”
But when he pulled into Watertown, he was sure not to park too close to the Marsala residence.
“Chuck, (Charles, who died in 2010) who was very pro-American, refused to let me park my 356 within two blocks of the house,” Mr. Green said.
He also became friends with Kris’s brother, Gregory A. Marsala, who died in 2012 at the age of 61.
“He was almost like a saint to me,” Mr. Green said. “He was one of the funniest, sweetest people I’ve ever known.”
Mr. Green said a character in some of his novels is based on Gregory Marsala, who battled addiction.
Mrs. Marsala was co-founder and administrator for Credo Foundation Inc. Gregory had a longstanding problem with drugs, and it was the search to find help for him that revealed the inadequacy of the community’s resources for such issues and was the catalyst for Credo. She turned 90 in April.
Mr. Green left with Mr. Marsala on May 18 for the final leg of Quantum Run to Mr. Green’s home in Belfast, Maine.
The replica Porsche 356 may look like an original, but the vehicle, with its engine crafted at CB Performance in Farmersville, Calif., and heavily modified by Mr. Kroesen, is much faster, especially its acceleration.
On May 20, Mr. Green and Mr. Marsala traveled through Gorham, N.H., the hometown of Mr. Green.
“Just to have Kris beside me, my old faithful road partner, was amazing,” he said.
The two looked over old photographs of their days on the road.
“I go, ‘God, we were pretty cool back then,’” Mr. Green said. “But we had no awareness of that. We never thought of it. We were just driving around in an old car. As Jack Kerouac said about (his novel) ‘On the Road’: ‘It’s about two Catholic boys driving across America looking for God.’ But we were looking for really cute girls.”
“It brought back a lot of memories and good feelings,” Mr. Marsala said of his leg of the trip from Watertown to Maine. “It was just like we’d done it the week before.”
But it may have been the last journey the two will share. Mr. Marsala was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease seven years ago. It was a bit difficult for him to get into the 356’s passenger seat.
“I’m glad we pushed the envelope,” Mr. Marsala said. “Then and now.”
With his replica, Mr. Green now pushes that envelope with a much faster 356.
“It’s three times as fast as the old 356,” Mr. Green said. “This thing flies. I’ve never driven anything faster. It shocks me every time I accelerate it.”
Its exhaust system is straight pipes, with no mufflers.
“It has this deep, beautiful, throaty roar,” Mr. Green said.
A special highlight of the vehicle is a reproduction of Marshall Green’s signature, which Eric, with his expert touch, wrote across the dashboard with a Sharpie in Lone Pine as he began the trip. It’s almost identical to his father’s signature, complementing his open-road view from the driver’s seat. And as he looks in his 356’s rear-view mirror as to what has passed, a new appreciation for his dad has opened up, which he can now see for miles and miles.