Sunday, December 21, 2014

The "356 Outlaw" Outlaw


The Feds.
Some may not know what an "Outlaw" 356, or other model Porsche is. It's an example of a car that has been cosmetically modified, mostly, within the confines of a currently popular restyling convention. There is some history leading to the above description, however, my view of it all might not match other views out there. That's fine, so:

The deep origins of all of this grew from the hot rod cars that were built starting in the 1920s following the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which established the Prohibition of Alcohol, and they were built in order to provide fast alcohol delivery automobiles that could outrun federal agents, until the Prohibition of alcohol was repealed with the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1933.


Crash! Filled with illicit booze.  Web photo
Prohibition may have been over then, but many didn't take well to the dictates of subsequent laws, and so illegal "Moonshine" home-made alcohol, also sold avoiding taxation, was produced for decades after repeal of the 18th Amendment's alcohol beverage ban - moonshine was made well into the 1980s - and this gave rise to 'low key' but fast hot rod cars used to deliver booze while evading government agents and the taxes that were due on that booze. Out of this culture of fast cars grew the sedan races known, still, as NASCAR.


I don't believe that any Porsche was ever raced in a NASCAR competition, but the roots of bad guy 'outlaw' car culture have their origins in the romance of illicit alcohol, but mainly the high-speed delivery of it. As with so many other things today, fashion is everything; conformity to the restrictions of a certain style take precedence over pretense of actual function. And, even though 'outlaw' cars make believe that they are outside of societal norms, they very, very strictly conform to rules of their own, some of which have evolved quite far from fast, night-time delivery requirements.


One of the best rum runners ever. 1940 Ford V-8.  Web photo
In the 1960s and thereabouts, American cars of the ~1950s were lowered in the rear in order to 'get more traction' while drag racing. More traction was evidently needed because of the skinny tires used at the time, which were overpowered by the hot rodding of engines and so on. Some brilliant good-old-boys lowered the rear of their cars by filling the trunks with cement, while others took a higher lowering technology approach, but in the end all of this became a fashion statement for the general car-culture wannabes who desired to look fast and bad.

Cement?  Probably not in this case.  Web photo
Later, cars were jacked up in the rear, so as to give the car a forward sloping 'wedge' shape. Never mind traction, it was another fashion statement. Some of the aforementioned good-old-boys got right on the case and chopped the cement out of their trunks. Then they were known to wedge 2x4 lumber between the rear axle and the underbody of the car, thereby lifting the rear to the desired height. Naturally this had the consequence of eliminating any suspension movement, but the practice was abandoned when (often) one 2x4 would break, causing the car to idiotically keel over to one side; a fashion faux pas. 

That should be enough ground clearance. . .   Web photo
In my view, most of fashion is absurd, be it clothing, cars, 'body modifications', or other means by which one can proclaim to be a rebel. Do a search for today's modified cars and you will find 'rat rods' that imitate outright junk, but cost a bundle. You will find many cars that have hilariously low ride heights that are impossible and non-functional, because they can't drive on an actual road, lest they grind to a halt. Rebels with strong rules; it's funny. Tribal belonging is its only reason.


How does the 356 fit into this picture? California is a big part of it. It's true that outlaw 356s are now built anywhere on Earth, and no doubt there are hot-rodding efforts applied to them in various ways, but according to my perspective the styling modality defining the 356 Outlaw originated somewhere in the western part of the U.S.A., with a focus on California when 'style-above-all-else' became the main operating factor.

And so an 'Outlaw' 356 is a beast of a very narrowly defined sort. It often has a (ridiculous) ride height, extra louvers on the engine lid, sometimes louvers on the sides à la the 550 Spyder Porsche - although even the 550s didn't have such louvered flanks much of the time. The car might have performance mods, too. If it falls outside of these parameters, then it isn't an outlaw. An 'outlaw' must be an oxymoron it seems, because most of the cars are fake representations of bad cars that never existed. You can't run much rum inside of a 356.


OK, it's way over the top, but you get the idea.  Dune Bodyworks project.


So, who is the 356 Outlaw, Outlaw? It is not someone who is attempting to rebuild a 356 with novel imagination, but rather he is a person who is building a conformist, outlaw 1955 356 coupe while trying to be secretive about it as if he were breaking new ground, which he isn't. It's hilarious.

Here's what happened: A friend of mine was going to a post office; he had to wait for a parking spot and he had other waiting cars in front of him, and behind. In other words, he couldn't move. A geezer, sorry to say, began to back out of the spot next to my friend, and although my immobile friend blew his car's horn as rapidly and loudly as he could, the geezer backed right into the rear door of my friend's Volvo, destroying it. The 'Old Fart' (to quote my friend, "He was an even older fart than I am!") is a WWII veteran, well known in the community and not a bad guy, but . . .



Not the car mentioned here, but the same.  Willhoit project, 1953 car.
I suggested a particular body shop nearby that I know to do excellent work, so my friend took his car there for repair. Later he called me and said that there was a 1955 356 coupe in the body shop, and that it was going through a total rebuild. I said that I would go over to take a look, which I did. In the shop I found a 356 body shell that was stripped of everything - no engine, no transmission, no suspension, no interior, no paint, etc. It was mounted on a rolling dolly.

There were additional louvers cut into the engine lid, and side louvers, possibly of fiberglass, attached to the flanks. I asked if I could take a picture of the car, for this blog. "No!" was the answer. Why not? Because I did not have the permission of the owner, and the body shop guy did not want the owner to, "Give him shit," if I took photos with no permission. He must have known something. I could photograph it on the street if it were driving around, but not in the shop. Why not?

"I'll give you the owner's phone number," the shop guy said, "and you can ask him yourself." OK, fine, but it was an obvious ploy. Just then the shop guy had to deal with a customer, but when he returned he asked me for my phone number, so that he could call me with the owner's number. "I already called him," the receptionist said, "while you were busy. He said 'NO!  No one is to photograph that car!' " Really?


Sometimes they can look pretty good.  Emory Motorsport project.
What was going on here? There are not a lot of 1955 356 model Porsches running around, but aside from that there was nothing out of the ordinary about this Outlaw in the making. Maybe it is going to be fitted with some exotic engine, or whatever, but none of that was evident at this stage of the game. So, what's the big secret? People are funny, but maybe people who do total rebuilds of elderly Porsche 356's possess a special quality of personality that sets them aside rather pointedly.

I have to admit that I'm being harsh in my ill-founded judgement of this 356's owner; maybe it's going to turn out really nice and he just wants it kept under wraps until it's finished. Fair enough, but why the bullying approach to doing so?  I'll ask my friend to snoop around when he picks up his Volvo.


EDIT: Newsflash - He just dropped by with his repaired Volvo and it looks very nice. It only took a couple of days to have the door changed. The Porsche has vanished. This suggests that this body shop did the paint work only, and that the car has now gone elsewhere for the rest of its rebirth. I'll see what I can find out. . .

Willhoit, again.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Porsche People


Many of you will realize that this car, the Mercedes-Benz SSK, 'Count Trossi' model (Carlo Trossi was a Grand-Prix racer and bon vivant in the 1930s, and this car is named for him) was the last car engineered by Ferdinand Porsche for Mercedes, before he quit M-B in order to form his own company in 1931, called 'Dr. Ing. h. c. F. Porsche GmbH, Konstruktionen und Beratungen für Motoren und Fahrzeugbau' (designs and consulting services for engines and vehicles).  Of course the engine and chassis of this car originated in the 1920's, but the engine produces 300 bph at 3400 rpm, and 507 ft pounds of torque at 2000 rpm. It has drum brakes made of copper.

Herr Willie White, a relatively unknown coachbuilder, fabricated this body on the chassis Trossi provided to him (which Trossi purchased after its racing career was finished), and he built it to Trossi's design. The exotic teardrop rear fenders and additional features were already used on various other cars of the era but they are well executed here, although it is not known if certain accompanying details were Trossi's ideas, or White's. 

This car has little to do with modern-day 'Porsche People', except that many would not be enthusiasts today if it were not for earlier, high-performance efforts on Ferdinand's part, such as this car. Anyway, it's a nice Web-sourced picture with which to begin this post, and it fits in with some of the Porsche People ideas that are discussed below. 


































If you own a Porsche, you meet people; it goes with the territory. This doesn't happen so much with newer Porsches, I don't think, but if you own a 'classic' Porsche, you are somehow more approachable at gas stations or just about any roadside stop you might make. And so people have no hesitation to step over and ask about the car, make a silly remark - "Such a little car - and you're so big!" - or say something like, "I used to have one of those, a 1963, and I sold it for $250! Man, was that a mistake." No matter that that would have been a different beast entirely, but all older air-cooled Porsche cars are hot-rodded VWs according to many people who can remember air-cooled Porsches to begin with. This is why those cheerful questioners make references to their long-gone '67 Beetle, as if it were all but identical to a Porsche of the era. Among those that do remember air-cooled Porsches, some are not aware that no Porsche has been air-cooled for decades now but, never mind, an old Porsche is an approachable car to the average person who takes notice of it in the first place. It's less intimidating, it seems.

Once I entered a small post office in northern Vermont - I keep a box there because it's faster and cheaper than the mail service at home in Canada - and when I emerged from the building there were a man and a woman standing next to my 911 and their shabby pick-up truck was parked in the next space beyond. Oh god, I thought, what have they done? Is the other side of my car in shreds? They didn't look very friendly.

"We love your car!", they said in unison, "Is it for sale?" Whoops, I read this situation improperly. The usual questions flowed forth, but then they added the unexpected detail that they had taken their recent honeymoon trip in a Porsche, but not just any Porsche. This one had been loaned to them - they were married in Germany - by her uncle, Alois Ruf! Yikes, would they have been surprised if they were to drive my car expecting it to go like a Ruf . . . I said, politely, that my car was not for sale and I thanked them for their enthusiastic interest.

Most people ask, "What year is that car?" or "What is that stuff you are adding to your gas?" (an anti-ethanol additive). These are always openings so that they can chat further about the car, and ask additional questions. I never mind this. The newlywed gave me her card and said to call if I changed my mind. Oh, and he is the Canadian distributor for Ruf's parts, he said. And they wanted my car? Maybe they would have paid a Ruf price for it . . .

You really meet actual Porsche people when you join a Porsche club of some kind. I joined PCA. I say elsewhere on this blog that, basically, the local chapter of such a club is only as good as the people who run it; this is obvious. They are all volunteers, of course, so what demands can you make? Problems arise when people offer their services but then are inclined to ignore what the club needs to run well, but this is another topic for another day. This post will focus on people you find in car clubs, not club functions.


A normal PCA day, on the islands.

I've met plenty of friendly, decent, interesting, generous people at PCA events; like any other affinity group, there is a cross-section of the population on offer, with every personality type, and aberration thereof, present and accounted for. I 'talk Porsche' with some of them, while with others this subject seldom comes up, just real-life adventures.

Some brag, some are modest, some have bundles of cash, while plenty of others do not; they are all just ordinary folks. The DIY types trade notes and advice, some others may trade stock tips for all I know, but the main idea is to gain friends and have fun, most often centered around a car that you know, love, and enjoy. A fair number even claim that the Porsche car is superior to every other in some enigmatic way, while others complain about the difficulty they have getting quality service in the region, if they can't do it themselves. In the end they are just a bunch of standard-issue people.


Doggies are always welcome, too.
I was tempted to say that these 'Porsche People' are gear-heads on various levels, but that is not true across the board. Some have near zero technical knowledge of their Porsches, and have a similar level of capability when driving them. They enjoy something about owning a Porsche(s), and that's all you know about them up front.

One guy, who frequently points out the expanse of his wealth, said that he enjoys the Porsche club, but that he likes the Ferrari club, too. Therefore, he says that he keeps both a Porsche, and a Ferrari, at each of his homes, one in (a New England state), and the other in Florida. I have never seen any of these four cars, but that is what he says he owns - along with a collection of additional vehicles, and a lot of guns. I haven't any idea if he has more homes, too, but he is a matter-of-fact guy who just tells it as it is. He's not alone.


Evidence!
There are some abundantly friendly people that I like a lot who appear at events with elderly and inexpensive Porsches that they have attempted to fix up by themselves and these cars vary substantially in the success of this effort. The poor car runs, the people showed up, so there is no problem with this. It's nice to see their smiling faces. No one needs to be a billionaire to own some sort of Porsche, but if the car is decades old and marginal, it is automatic that the owner will have dirt under his fingernails. They are welcome in my book.

One man, a doctor, tells a story on himself about a time when his wife became absolutely unhinged when he carried a Lotus engine into the house and laid it on the kitchen table to do some surgery on it. She had objections to this idea for some reason and now he does not do engine surgery any more, but I don't know if these two facts are connected. He's a nice man, her I don't know personally.

Tilt. I had an awkward time getting out of my car at the far left. PCA rally.

My car is somewhat doddery and it needs its hand held often. Many times the issues are due to aging plastic pieces, but as often aging rubber, electrical gizmos, and tiny metal parts - the big parts are mostly okay. That, and don't forget constant adjustments to every conceivable thing. Another club guy has offered to exchange parts from his car to mine as a diagnostic methodology. If using his part fixes what has gone 'off' on my car, then he will help me to find and install a good used, new, or better part to replace the offending one that has been slowing me down.  And, he knows what he is talking about; his car runs like a top.
He's not the only guy I know who will go to great lengths to help solve problems. It's an amazing community. You start with Porsches, but you extend to much else. I imagine that this is true in other car clubs, but I don't know, so I'll blame it on owning a Porsche.

              W. under his car.                                                                  W. under my car, in the barn.

Obviously, I am of a certain sort, willing to get my hands dirty now and then, and this winter I'm going to do some body work, along with myriad adjustments. I'll talk to various of my friends when I get puzzled over something. One good, Porsche 'buddy' has even offered me various free parts if I want, and what he offered is worth $$$. Cool.

C.P. under my car in my new shop. R and P needed repair.
It's normal that there are jerks to be found in a Porsche club, too. Some of them could be helped by counselling, while others are probably not curable. No need to waste time on them here.

Nuts and bolts are one thing, but it is the more personal, human connections that I have developed that are most important. I don't think of my Porsche friends in terms of their cars, I think of them as personalities that are valuable and important to me. The Porsche Club of America has the clunky slogan on its website, "It's not the cars, it's the people." Previously the slogan was stated differently as, "It's not just the cars, it's the people." Either way, clunky or not, I finally have to admit that the sentiment is correct. PCA seems to be abandoning this slogan since it is now hard to find in any current PCA publication, but maybe they are working on a better one that expresses the same idea.

Some joke that the slogan should be, "It's just the cars, not the people." They have it wrong. It's not about PCA, either, it's about people connecting because of shared interests, and that's good. Everybody needs as many friends as they can get, and these aren't virtual, they are real. Life is good.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Momentary Mothballs

The oil has finished draining; now to clean and make everything tidy down here.

Possibly mothballs are always meant to be momentary, relatively speaking and if you have actual moths, but in this case storage of my Porsche for the winter is implied. Nevertheless, this present, temporary storage is even more of a stopgap, because it is to last only until some remodeling of the premises is completed, and so the Porsche is tucked into that corner so that it not be in the way, and to protect it from getting bumped or damaged while that work is going on.

Consequently, I drained the engine oil when hot, removed the battery and put it on an automatic maintainer that keeps the voltage topped up, the gas is dosed with Stabil™, and I checked over everything else in a cursory way, and put it under a cover and up on dollies. It will remain this way until Christmas, at the latest I hope, before I get myself into trouble again trying to 'fix' things on the car.


A red dolly goes under each wheel.
Much of what I want to do is light bodywork, mainly painting in the engine room, and touching up of stone chips on the lower portion of the car, and on the front. But, if I get literally serious, it could turn into a major production if I decide to change the possibly cracked CIS airbox, and look into the problem I have with the number two cylinder fouling its spark plug. In this case I hope that taking off the cylinder head from that side of the engine isn't involved, as I will certainly get into all kinds of grief with a project of that scope.

A leakdown test is called for to learn what is going on in the engine, and hopefully it will simply indicate that the fuel distributor needs cleaning, rather than the presence of a mechanical problem in the engine, or something like a leaking valve oil seal. I may have to buy a leakdown tester and learn how to use it, though. Possibly I should borrow one from a person who knows how to interpret the test results before I begin to panic too much, because I do suspect an oil leak, although not past the rings. Or, I could put in a hotter plug to help burn away the crud in that cylinder and forget about it for the time being.


I tipped the front up and down to drain out every last drop of oil. 
It dripped for 4.5 days.
I said above that I drained the oil, but I didn't mention filling with new oil. There is some discussion on this topic with credentialed 'experts' on both sides of the issue. Old Porsche engines typically leak some oil since there are many, many places where oil can seep out of them. Some say that if your air-cooled Porsche isn't leaking oil, you are out of oil. One sure-fire way to prevent oil from leaking over the winter storage period is to not have any oil in the engine. It can't leak then, and your garage floor will remain nice and neat. However, there is some residual dirty oil in the engine if you take this route. The quantity of that oil is very small, and there are contaminants in it, but if the oil has been changed every 5,000 kms the amount of these contaminants is too small to worry about. At least that's my view. Also, my workshop is heated and dry, so no condensation will develop in the engine.

Those dollies are quite useful things. However, the ones you see in my pictures are not the most premium examples to be found. When I first put my car onto these dollies I could not move it at all. The main point of the dollies is that you should be able to move the car around - sideways, on a diagonal, etc. - in order to place it in a location that it could not be driven into for any reason. I had to take the car off of the dollies, then completely disassemble the rollers and bearings, where I found that the things were manufactured with no lubricant of any kind in them. The axles are simple rod-through-a-tube affairs and they were totally dry. The ball bearings in the swivel part of the casters were assembled with no lubricant whatever. Ridiculous. When you buy these devices you have to assemble them, but I didn't take every component apart when I did this (why would I ?), so I had to undo my work to discover the reason that I couldn't roll the car. Simple, no grease, or even oil inside. None. How were they supposed to work?


Lot's of space with the car tucked into the corner, in disguise.

I buttered everything liberally with a good grease, reassembled the whole business, and put the car back onto the newly greasy dollies and, amazingly, I could roll the car around the way I should have been able to do in the first place. The brand name =  ATD, model # ATD-7466, made in China. I don't blame the Chinese, unless there was some deceit involved; rather I blame the money grubbing sellers of the product who asked to cut costs to the bone (perhaps eliminating lubricant), thereby foisting a nonfunctional gadget onto the buyer, me, who was then stuck with rectifying the defect. Ridiculous.

Actually, dropping the engine to tend to that problem I mentioned in one cylinder, and also the air box, might be a useful idea, because my clutch release fork is suspect, too, so it all would have to come out, regardless. Then again, the car will run if none of these are addressed, but I'd simply be postponing the inevitable. Maybe I'll begin with adjusting the cold start hand throttle lever between the seats. It should cause 3,800 rpm when pulled all the way up, but mine goes way over that, so my starting mixture isn't accurate and I might not have air leaks in the air box after all when the engine occasionally backfires on start-up. Luckily I have a pop-off valve installed. Anyway, the simplest scenario is my wish. Not too unique there.

Maybe this post will be continued as work on the car resumes at a later date; stay tuned.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Quantum Mechanics All Over the Place

There are plenty of large hardware stores in my general vicinity if I drive far enough to reach them, but naturally I frequent those few where informed people are available to help me find what I want, and to offer general advice, needed, or not.  I'll get back to this central topic later.

The other day I decided to adjust the shift tube coupler in my 911 - for the 350th time - in my eternal quest for the smoother shifting that I imagine must be obtainable if only I would adjust the coupler (and clutch cable, etc.) for the 351st time, thereby finding gear-change nirvana. It's elusive, but can I stop questing? The transmission has been rebuilt and the bushings renewed, so I don't think they are the issue, I hope. The published advice offered on this adjustment process flippantly dismisses the procedure as being a five minute job. I may be a little slow; it took me two days. . .

A shift coupler like mine. Web.
You see, the coupler tuning business itself can be done in five minutes if you have done it before, and remember how to do it; in fact, that's the easy part. If your car is assembled, with seats in it and all, you have to get into a contortion that would cause a yogi to go pale, so that you can adequately reach what you need to reach, and get apart everything that is in the way of the intended piece of work. 

A day or two later I figured out that I could skip the following process and adjust the coupler without what I describe in this paragraph. Never mind, you may want to know what you face if you want to actually change the coupler entirely, or rebuild it, so here goes: You will face tasks such as removing the two rubber boots that cover the coupler, one coming from the front and the other from the back. There is a stainless steel band that holds the two boots in place, thereby helping to keep dirt out of the coupler.  The boot from the rear fits over a flared collar that is found protruding from the lower part of the fire wall. The rubber of this boot turns back over itself, and one half of the resulting double layer is the part that goes over the collar. The front boot then stretches over the rear's rubber layer, and at the same time over the collar. The steel band next goes over the two layers of rubber in order to hold them in place. All of this is easier said than done because tight rubber doesn't slide over other rubber, but rather sticks to it, and it takes more time and effort than the actual 'five minute' adjustment; all of it is awkward to do as any yogi will tell you. Typical. This car isn't designed with ease of maintenance as a primary consideration.

In my car, at an earlier moment in its rebuild. The steel band is off of the boots and collar. Easy access here.

Although I didn't have this in mind when I bought my car, the elaborate servicing that it requires has become a therapeutic, calming, and cooling influence on me, never mind all of the cussing I do from under the car, and complaining that I spout once I'm back out from in or under it. A good and levelheaded mechanic works methodically, confident in his experience and training (I haven't bumped into a female mechanic yet, but a small number of them are out there somewhere), so that the tasks at hand are approached rationally and without apprehension, or confusion. I work in constant fear that my ignorance will result in disaster.

Rubber boots removed. Web.
So, after doing the 5 minute coupler movement 'improvement' exercise I got the rubber boots reinstalled, but the stainless steel band wouldn't fit because the end of it was broken off and it was too short. How I got it into place the last time is a complete mystery, but this time I certainly needed a new one. Basically, it's just a big, 100 mm hose clamp +/-. Naturally, I headed to the nearest large hardware store, where they unwittingly sell Porsche parts; I went to the plumbing department for a hose clamp. "Hi there! Can I help you?" said the informed-person lurking among the pipes and flush mechanisms, but this greeting was a big shock. I was in Quebec, and for a store clerk to greet me in the English language is an offense punishable by law. I'm not kidding; there are 'Language Police' here and they can levy serious fines, and worse. Quebec is a very special place in this regard, and there's more to it also, such as a recent proposal to require a certain dress code for large numbers of people that would prohibit any form of religious symbol. And recently a high official in the Quebec government said that he wished to entrench the status of the French language in Quebec, as if that had not already been achieved for 400 years now, duh . . .

"Quebec, all in French and in French only!" CBC.ca
Never mind that idiocy for the time being, I just wanted a hose clamp and the friendly greeter steered me in their direction.  "What size pipe are you using?" asked the clerk. I had the broken clamp in hand for comparison and finding a replacement didn't take long. "Well, actually it's for use in an old car I'm working on," I said. "Oh, are you adjusting the shift coupler in your Porsche?" said the clerk. Did I have this printed on my forehead!?  

I thought he looked vaguely familiar, but I didn't know why. "You can also adjust shifting by moving the shifter's top plate in the front," he added, "but it's fussier to do. Here's the clamp you want. Use an 8 mm nut driver on that, and don't forget to adjust the clutch cable so that you have about an inch (2.5 cm) of free play at the pedal." "Okay, thanks," I said. "I worked for a few years on those cars while I was a mechanic in Germany," he also added. I expressed appreciation for this information and we chatted briefly about valve adjustment and other routine servicing required for my car. He knew what model of Porsche I had, and I had no idea who he was.  There aren't many vintage Porsches in my extended neighbourhood; my car can't be that famous.

"Pasta" is not a French word. A small Italian restaurant got busted; for real. Web.
But, this kind of thing has happened in Vermont, USA, too. Another informed-greeter type of hardware store there carries a large selection of metric nuts and bolts, and other random fasteners useful in non-concours Porsche restoration. I needed some funny fasteners, so I went there, in the Porsche. This time I didn't even get into the store before I was accosted by one of the friendly, helpful staff.

"Lookin' good! What year is that Porsche? I used to be a mechanic working on those cars, but down in Connecticut some years back. Sounds as if you have one valve a little bit loose." "Thanks, and you're probably right," I said, "but I think I'm less worried about a slightly loose valve than one that is too tight. I'll get to it eventually." I didn't know this guy either. 

I'm going to drive a little farther to an additional informed-greeter hardware store to see if I can find another Porsche mechanic. I'll start some kind of club. Evidently there is an attractive quality about hardware stores if you are a former mechanic who worked on vintage Porsches, but I can't speculate about these guy's lives. However, my theory is that being there offers them an opportunity to practice creative, qualitative problem solving; just what is required when servicing an old Porsche. Porsche questions may address parts bigger than quarks, but then the whole realm can be just as confusing, almost like string theory.

By the way, after that 351st coupler adjustment my car shifts much more nicely than before. Success.         

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Perpetual Porsche Electrical Idiopathy

On a delicious sunny day I was driving along, minding my own business, when all of a sudden the windshield wipers turned themselves on to maximum speed, thereby smearing the windshield's bug collection all over the place. No frenzied, animated manipulation of the windshield wiper switch would shut them off, although the speed did vary somewhat now and then, but they kept on going. I had to come to a halt at the side of the road, shut off the car, open the trunk, and pull out the fuse for the wiper circuit so that I could drive home in peace. Grrr.


What's that missing wire? The functions of all the others are obvious.


The first thing I did was to begin some research online, and I found many references to similar problems, with an equal number of references to suspicious windshield wiper switches as being the probable culprits. Getting the switch out was a straightforward operation once the steering wheel was off, along with sundry other bits of the steering column, and when I removed it a piece fell out from the middle of the switch. Aha!

A small bit had broken off (plastic . . .) from the portion of the wiper switch mechanism that controlled the windshield washer function. That little piece coaxed the switch to stop squirting when you released the lever, which you pull toward you to pump washer fluid onto the windshield and its bugs. Why should this have anything to do with the wipers turning themselves on? Well, it was broken and not all there anymore, so I figured I had to replace the switch in any case, whether or not this had an influence on the wipers turning themselves on, so I went back online to order a new one.

My car is a '74. Evidently, the switches for the 1974 and '75 cars differed in some way from all other such switches, whether before, or after those years. A switch for the '74 model is NLA. Things that are no-longer-available immediately skyrocket in price if anyone has a new-old-stock example in their possession, because even an odd part like this has a market for it somewhere in the world. But, the prices didn't go up, because there simply weren't any to be had, so there was nothing to raise the price on. Grrr, again.

Of course there are used switches to be found from the Porsche recyclers, but why would I want another 40 year old plastic switch that was likely to self-destruct several minutes after I installed it? One guy I sometimes communicate with, who lives a few hours away as the Porsche flies, has been rebuilding old Porsches for 25 years, and he told me that he has more than twenty old switches like this on hand, but he was too busy to sort through all of them to see if any of their part numbers matched mine. Hmm, it would take a full day to drive there and back, what with chatting and all, only to find, possibly, that he had no matching switch, and all of them were ~40 years old, so I didn't take that drive. 


The new switch is the fatter one with a picture, not text.
I admit, this is a First World type of problem; a perfectly matching wiper switch for my Porsche was challenging to find. Boohoo. Nevertheless, you need wipers if you want to drive and it starts to rain, because you don't want to be blinded by the sprinkling and have this cause you to bump into an incautious moose at the roadside, rudely plopping him into the mud. Naturally I contacted another (once upon a time) Porsche restorer, but he lives just around the corner, only 15 minutes away. He said he had a solution. Get a new switch, he said, one for a newer car, and he could make it work.

He knows plenty of stuff about old Porsches, but he won't tell you all of it, because what he knows equals his bread and butter, so I had to discover the following on my own:  The difference between a 1974 switch and a 1976+ switch is the fact that there is a different picture on the end of the stalk, and the stalk is made of plastic (!) instead of metal. Otherwise, the wiring is identical. I further discovered that my turn signal switch/arm had already been replaced at an earlier date, and it matched the design and material of the new wiper switch that I bought. Serendipity. I now have two matching switch stalks. Is that all there is to the difference between the NLA '74-'75 switch stalk and a newer one? In a word, yes. That, and they threw in an extra brown ground wire with the new switch, one that has female spade connectors on the ends of it, because the later switches have intermittent wiper function for which this is required, whereas the intermittent function was optional with the earlier models.



One of a number of ground clusters on my car.
Porsche went crazy with the wiring on these earlier cars as we see at the top of this post, and they especially liked redundant grounds in many circuits. I don't know where that disused brown ground wire mentioned above went, but I could have connected it to just about anything and the car probably would run better simply as a point of correct Porsche protocol. For example, Porsche calls for a ground wire to be attached to part of the bracket that holds these switches in place, and the wire then is to attach to the dashboard which is an integral part of the car. What? That bracket is bolted or welded to the dashboard of the car, so why does it also need a little skinny brown ground wire connecting the two? Seems kind of anal retentive. Bad grounds can be blamed for a variety of electrical ills, but there must have been a simpler way.

In another feat of engineering brilliance, Porsche built these midyear cars with the relay controlling the wiper motor positioned inside of the dashboard, instead of adjacent to the block of fuses in the trunk. You can't get at those relays if they fail, unless you remove all the heating and ventilation ducts and controls from the trunk, along with the air plenum, and other bits. Never mind that simple business, on my car the relay is built into the wiper motor itself, so it's necessary to remove the instruments, reach your arms through the resultant holes in the dash, and fiddle with the relay blindly, no tools allowed. You can't get the relay out this way, you can just fiddle with it, but that's what it took to get my wipers working again (courtesy of my Porsche guy), not the replacement of the switch, so I didn't need to buy it in the first place, but now it matches the turn signal lever at least. How long the relay will continue to work is anybody's guess, and it will be necessary to take half of the car apart when it fails again and sends my wipers into a frenzy.



The wiper motor as seen through the speedo hole.
Odd electrical gremlins are routine with these cars. Many discussions on the Porsche online forums focus on electrical circuit peculiarities, and in my experience some reasons for this are a lack of fuses to protect some inaccessible circuits (fire!), plain old rotting wire insulation in a car of this age, connector corrosion, as well as maddeningly complex attachments that could be simpler than they are.

To be continued if I figure out what the missing wire is in the picture at the top. I'll need to consume extra protein to do it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

I Need a New Pair of Shoes

This post will explore an excellent, favorite, and eternal question: Is it possible to take part in a Porsche road rally, remain competitive in it, and still find time (somewhere along the rally route) to shop for a new pair of shoes? That question came up during the recent rally I drove, when the accidental cellphone photo seen here - taken by my navigator while trying to view the phone's on-screen controls in bright sunlight, which causes many accidental photos like this - presented three feet, shod in less than splendid, more or less functional ordinary shoes, certainly not proper driving moccasins. In a Porsche, in a sanctioned Porsche Club of America rally, you need legitimate driving shoes, or at least reasonable facsimiles that look the part.


Suddenly we discovered that our shoes were too gauche.
I am not Imelda Marcos. According to some reports she had 7,500 pairs of shoes when she and Ferdinand were kicked out of the Philippines due to the massive corruption of the Marcos regime, but later Time Magazine set the final count at only 1,060 pairs abandoned then, plus 1,000 purses and similar quantities of other haute couture artifacts. I just need one pair of shoes that are dedicated to my Porsche so that the fashionistas don't point at my ancient brogues any more and giggle.


A new blue beauty. It didn't participate in the rally.
For me, with ordinary size 11 feet (45), proper driving shoes (in an old 911) are those that actually fit onto the pedals without getting tangled up in the wiring and sundry controls found under the dashboard. More than once I have had a white-knuckle experience when I couldn't extract my feet fast enough to get them onto the clutch and brake in an over-heated driving moment without undoing several of those wires and my shoelaces in the bargain. I survived those episodes, but my substandard fashion statement drives me to look at new shoes, rather than my need to continue to exist. There is nothing rational about this.

It's not easy finding suitable driving shoes. I mentioned moccasins above, but most of those are fashion above function, but then there are dedicated competition driving shoes that are fireproof, etc., and beyond my needs as a casual, scoot-around driver. So, 'driving' moccasins paired with casual slacks, or over-the-ankle, SFI 3.3/5 specification competition boots along with a full Nomex fireproof suit; there's your choice. There is little in between, at least in my search so far.


Maybe it was more than the inadvertent shoe photo, shown above, that got me thinking about both style and function. At the rally staging area I witnessed a 'look' beyond any pretense of actual purpose aside from styling, but I also saw raw purpose there that really looked gorgeous, however, in this case I'm not talking about shoes, but cars. Well, it was a rally and a Concours d'Elegance, so my shoes really didn't have much import at the time; I could have gone barefoot and nothing would have come to a grinding halt, except that I would have gotten my feet cold and muddy.



An example of the gorgeous is found in this car. Function and form, elegantly done in grey.
There is one thing that I have learned in my limited rally experience. Before the start everyone is told that this is not a speed contest. We are not to break any speed limit, ever, along the course of the rally route. We will obey all other traffic laws, and so forth. This means that no one should ever finish the rally early, because that would mean that they drove too fast somewhere along the prescribed route. This is not the World Rally Championship, after all.


A tuner car. Meh. What function? Plastic stylin' kit.
Bunk. People who arrive too soon, but are close to the correct time, do win prizes. In order to get close to the proper elapsed time, you not only can make no errors of navigation, but you must also make up for all the time you lose in traffic, at stop signs, waiting for school buses, or buying shoes. Which is to say that the winners drive like mad and everybody winks at the award ceremony. In a past rally, I have had another competitor blast past me going 85 (near 140 kph) in a 65 (105 kph) zone. That guy won. So much for precision average driving times.

So, next time I will put my foot to the floor and ignore boring speed limits, have time to buy some shoes, and win the rally. I won't tell you what country I plan to do this in, however. Oh, and the shoes I'm considering are made of bison hide - they will fit the bill, I think. Ironic. Well, this whole post is silly - or is it? The subtexts aren't terribly complex.



Now this is sweet, and it's the real thing. I like grey cars, most of the time.


How did we do in the Rally? We missed a turn, and although we tried to make up for it, we still came in over 4 minutes late because of not driving aggressively enough; but it was almost a podium finish. This doesn't mean that speeding was truly called for, but harder acceleration would help, along with heavier deceleration, and some luck with traffic, school buses, and very fast shoe shopping - too bad we didn't actually see a shoe store. . .


Would these do?





Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Magdalen Boxster

When driving your Porsche on a certain archipelago . . .


There are places on Earth where it's a genuine challenge to find a Porsche automobile. Say, for example, Antarctica, or most of the countries in Africa, or a fair number in South America. Then, add in New Guinea and a majority of the small islands around the globe, and you will find that Porsches are extremely scarce. 

That's where this story takes place, on a small island archipelago with no evident resident Porsches. This is not to say that none showed up, however.


You can get to Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec (Magdalen Islands, in English, as I will refer to them), by way of ferryboat, or by air, or with your yacht, although it's not really a popular yacht-stop. We went by air; the landing strip is big enough to handle a twin-engine turboprop and we arrived on one of those. The Magdalen Islands are located in, roughly, the middle of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the world's largest estuary, a semi-enclosed sea covering an area of about 236,000 square kilometres (91,000 sq. mi.). This makes the gulf substantially greater in size than England, Scotland, and Wales combined, so as a body of water it's to be taken seriously.


Part of that seriousness is reflected in the fact that the Magdalens furnish the second most abundant collection of shipwrecks on the eastern rim of North America. Although there are around 400 documented wrecks around the Magdalen archipelago, estimates suggest that there are perhaps 1,000 if the undocumented ones are included.


A fair percentage of the 'homegrown' population's ancestors were shipwreck survivors who, upon finding themselves here, decided that they had had enough of travel by ship, so they stayed. They became fishermen. In greater antiquity, certain aboriginal hunters would show up seasonally to kill walrus, and these efforts contributed to the extinction of those animals on the Magdalens by 1799, but aided by white men's guns. Ribs of wrecked ancient wooden ships appear and disappear with the shifting sands and tides. One day there, the next, vanished again.



The Magdalen Islands
The map at left may give you an impression that the islands consist of very little substance, strung together with skinny strips of sand. This is correct. But the main road, if driven from one end of the place to the other is 100 kms long. Cars, and sport bikes especially, really open it up insanely on that long straightaway. The archipelago has 385 kms of shoreline, and 60% of that is sandy beaches. Going off the road almost anywhere guarantees a face-plant in the sand if you are riding a bike.

Three hundred million years ago, when Pangaea was the only place to go shopping for anything, a sequence of events caused what was to become the Gulf of St. Lawrence to collect an enormous precipitation of salt. The bottom of the gulf is now lined with a 5 km thick layer of salt, the entire gulf. The Magdalens are on top of bulges in that salt, and when some clever person poked a hole down there the Magdalen salt mine was born. It's not table salt (there's some clay in it), so this mine supplies all the winter road salt for Quebec, other maritime provinces of Canada, and parts of New England in the States.


So, your rusty Porsche, if you live up here somewhere, can be linked directly to the Magdalen Islands. They ship out millions of tons of salt, consistently, and of course it does its job in a variety of ways.


The economy of the Magdalens consists of fishing, salt mining, and tourists. There is no significant enterprise in fourth place. 


Then a couple of Porsches showed up. The first was a grey Boxster, standard issue, some years old, and parked at a tourist trap; I'm sure it came over on the ferry boat from elsewhere in Quebec. Nothing special, except to its owners, but it was our first sighting of such an unexpected vehicle on these fishing islands. The winter is brutal here and you otherwise see small SUVs running around, along with random sedans and such (there are new car dealers for 5 or 6 marques), but no sports cars regardless of manufacturer. So, the Magdalen Porsche was an ephemeral thing, something nobody recognized or cared much for; another tourist, hopefully spending money. What agony.


To survive, the enterprising residents of the Magdalens treat tourists to a broad variety of services and local products, as well as entertainment. Above all else, I preferred the fish smoking barns with their extravagantly complex 'rafters' upon which thousands of salted fish are hung for a fume-induced metamorphosis into pungent and preserved, and mainly brown, chewy morsels that taste now more like smoke than fish, but they retain enough fishiness to remind you of what they are. On the earthen floors of the barns, hardwood fires are set, quite simply, and sawdust and/or wood shavings are poured over the fires to cause them to turn smouldering and smoky, and the barns become filled with tangy toxins. There are 'cold' and also 'hot' smoking methods and consequently a variety of resulting products - more than you would think.



Note the blue circle.
One of the Magdalen islands is named île du Corps Mort.  "Corps Mort" means 'dead body'. You would think this an odd name for a beer, but I have consumed it, and I have a bottle of the stuff in my fridge. I'm not sure who's body is being referred to, but the beer is flavoured with smoked herring and other similarly 'wild' ingredients, so says its maker. This is not a weak-kneed beer; its flavour is robust (to say the least) and it is 11% alcohol. Expensive, too, and the brewery produces a broad palette of products.

In a rather isolated location there is a popular nightspot that is packed with mainly local revellers on the weekends. We joined them to listen to the fiddle music - and a great deal more, they were really jamming - and at this place you could get a 'sampler' of a half-dozen flavours produced by the brewery responsible for "Corps Mort". I ordered one.


I don't recall if it was the second to the last, or that last sample that struck me as noteworthy, but it wasn't Corps Mort. I said to my significant other that it smelled like cat pee. She appeared to be personally offended, as if she had some close connection to the brewery, but I was being as accurate as I could. Then I tasted it. It tasted like cat pee, as far as I could guess. As it happens it is not available anywhere off the islands, so you are safe.


When it was time to fly home from this magical place, we didn't. The airplane was broken, and the rules required that a certain type of technician was needed to examine the problem, but there wasn't such a technician to be had. After waiting for many hours we were informed that the airline would have to fly in a technician from Halifax, Nova Scotia, another province of Canada! We were offered hotel rooms, because it would be during the night that the tech would arrive to patch the plane, and we were told to be ready for pick-up at the hotel at 4:45 the following morning. Groan. . . I was not aware that there was an actual hotel on the islands, but there you have it.


It was twilight and the view from the hotel was spare, but agreeable. I'm a 'visual person', so I look at everything, but it was a sound that caught my attention. A snarling, throaty, resonant rumbling came rolling down a small valley to the north. An honest-to-god Porsche Carrera Turbo, in yellow! It was winding its way up a little road through an area of neat, modest, brightly coloured houses - which describes almost all of the houses here - with the driver dutifully rowing through the gears, carrying on into the sunset.  



From the Web, sorry, but it looked exactly like this. Image slightly adjusted.

I would be very surprised if the owner of that car lives on the Magdalen Islands. The car surely must have arrived by ferry, because, from what I was told nobody makes enough money on the islands to buy such a thing (nor would it make any sense to own one on the islands), but it could belong to the owner of an upscale 'getaway' vacation house, since those are starting to pop up on the islands, making real estate prices climb. Not a wonderful investment in my view. With global warming the weather is changing, the sandstone cliffs and other parts of the islands are eroding at the rate of one meter per year in certain areas. In mere moments, geologically speaking, the whole place will have vanished. 


The Magdalen Islands are not a place where you can enjoy driving your Porsche in a spirited way, lest you wind up in salt water, but if you enjoy walking for endless kilometre after kilometre on broad sand beaches with no other people on them, pack your bags.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Cruising Chittenden's Back-Side

The Green Mountain Region of the Porsche Club of America did a drive/eat a while ago and it was my first 'event' of 2014. Aside from previous tentative excursions in my extended neighborhood it was something of a test for my car's functions, because the drive was 300 miles (483 kms), which was enough to get all the car's juices working and the kinks identified, if not sorted out. As an example, one on-going issue that has not been sorted out, because I don't know what I'm doing, is the matter of gear shifting not being as smooth as in a modern car. Maybe my car shifts similarly to other Porsches of its era, but I am uncertain of that possibility due to lack of experience with comparable vintage 911s. Regardless, I'm working on it, and my changes to the position of the clutch release lever and such might have made some small improvement. But, this post isn't about that sort of business.  (Later a Porsche mechanic remarked about how smoothly my car shifts, as compared to other 911s of its era. So, there you go.)

Rather, it's about new people, old friends, new to me cars, roads I haven't driven before, decent food in a place owned by a PCA member, and agreeable chat with interesting folks. These are the reasons that I belong to the PCA and I've said this more than once before on this blog, so it might be close to the truth. It was a cool day, and my windows were up causing the interior of the car to be limousine quite - vintage Porsche style, which probably means 100dB - Porsche music, some say. Bunk. I wear ear plugs. 



Still cool, 58 years later
At least the temperature was nice in my mobile 911 terrarium, and I only got lost once or twice along the way, because I had looked up the destination on Google Maps owing to the fact that my GPS couldn't find the place, and Google's route suggested its own logic over sanity. That, or there is a sense of humor built into that Google function. I know someone who invents programs for Google; I'm going to ask, but I don't expect an answer. I'm too lazy to use a paper map any more unless I have to, so perhaps I'm an easy mark for the joke.


Since I left home late, wasted time crossing the US/Canada border, got lost twice, and had to drive more slowly than I would have preferred, I was the first car there. I get ridiculed by people who have a looser notion of time for my fervently sincere need to be punctual, but when people say 9:30 a.m., I believe they actually mean 9:30 a.m., so I show up then and become the butt of jokes for it. I'm on the wrong planet, but at least when I'm late for something, I can always say it truly isn't my fault. The other guy who arrived within moments of me drove the oldest and slowest car to appear at the activity; being prompt in this context doesn't mean crazy speeding, it means crazy something else. 


Once, very long ago, a woman asked me to come over to her place for dinner. "Come over at 7:00," she said. I showed up at 7:00. She was in her underwear, and not for some seductive reason, either. She was ironing her clothes for the evening, and she asked me what the Hell I was doing showing up at 7:00. "Nobody shows up on time!" she said, "you are supposed to be fashionably late." That relationship didn't last very long. I'm still out of fashion, evidently. Wrong planet. Everybody's crazy here.

Eventually 15 or 16 cars showed up containing around 30 people; I didn't properly count. The usual greetings were made between known faces and cars, and the new ones were treated as equals, under suspicion. With maps and written driving instructions distributed - neither of which would do me much good since I was alone and couldn't refer to them while steering my car - we set off into the hinterlands of the back-side of Chittenden county.


The customary group photo

One of the organizers of this event had gone to a lot of trouble to scout out Chittenden's obscure rural roads, and I honestly appreciated that effort. I didn't know that there were any rural roads in the place...  Chittenden contains Vermont's most urban collection of towns and cities and has the state's greatest population density, but somebody from Philadelphia, or similar, would imagine that they were in the Gobi Desert for all the space to be found there. But, no, this was [sub]urban Vermont and its rural roads mainly have a speed limit of 35 mph (56 kph). The countryside was lovely, however, in your hot Porsche, along with this type of activity's proneness for actually using that hotness, 35 mph was the equivalent of simply parking the car. It turned out that parking the cars at the end of our drive was one of the event's most entertaining operations. Some people got lost (in the parking garage!), others were abused by road-raging Prius drivers spewing sanctimonious proclamations that were way too rude for tree huggers to spew (in the parking garage!), while we were all called upon to park on the roof where our cars' colors faded from the fierce sun as we ate lunch. We parked up there because nobody else did, they being in their right minds and more prudent.

But the lunch was nice. The food was good, the setting was comfortable, and conversations of some depth were actually possible although too brief for some, while others left early to tend to real life. . .


All That Jazz
It was a peculiar business to drive across the state in order to then drive around it some more, to be followed by driving home again. "You're a crazy person," my significant other said, then she found that she unfortunately had another engagement that day and couldn't attend. Crazy, as a concept, seemed to fit in from a variety of perspectives, and driving my 40+ year-old Porsche all over the place was one of them. But, what else are you going to do with it?    
      

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Ultimate Porsche Enthusiast

You already know that there are many ways to define such a creature, and I will add my view to the mix, because, well, the more the merrier. If you think I get it wrong, let me know.

To begin, here is a quote from an article about the 1984 Porsche Carrera that appeared in the February, 1984, issue of Car and Driver magazine. It is a bit over the top, but it's a start:


"It is the evil weevil, the rock-solid, steely-eyed grim reaper of sporting cars, the para­gon of knife-edged incisiveness and buttoned-down insanity. More than any other factory-fresh passenger car available here today, the Porsche 911 Carrera is the abso­lute embodiment of clench-jawed, tight­fisted, slit-eyed enthusiasm run amok, a car for making the landscape pass with explosive fluidity. Strange that a car so serious can bring such unadulterated joy, but there you are, sporting an enormous, cheek-splitting leer when you unstrap and step out. You devil, you."

The above euphoric POV is action-packed, sure enough, but that's good, because whatever I say following it will seem sober and believable.

No matter what, the whole point of owning and feeding a classic, air-cooled Porsche is to have fun with it. How and why you have fun is the matter in question here, and when I provide my stance on the question you may have another view, which you are free to offer and I hope that you do. 



The first mid-engined race car, of which Ferdinand Porsche was a co-designer. 1923  © Porsche (?)



When I mention feeding, of course I am speaking of Do-It-Yourself repair, maintenance, modification, massage, and activities of a similar kind; not only gas, and oil, and insurance, and the like. Plus, for me, I being a DIYer, 'checkbook restoration' - using the term in a widely inclusive way - excludes Enthusiasts. Sorry, but unless you occasionally get your hands dirty, your checkbook Porsche is a pampered artifact of another stripe entirely. Some will say that plopping down a check is okay; after all, some people are very excited about their elderly Porsche but simply have no manual skills, or no place to perform work. I respect that, but for me they are once-removed from being hard-core enthusiasts, otherwise they would find a way to approach the beast in a hands-on fashion, because there is no other way to gain the real depth of requisite knowledge and appreciation necessary to become an Ultimate Porsche Enthusiast.

Some people race, some prefer auto-cross competition, others rally, or compete in a concours d'élégance now and then, but the majority simply enjoy driving their 30 or 40 year-old cars on sunny summer days when it isn't raining. They often visit fellow Porsche owners to share chat and something to eat, while others are more daring and drive in the snow, but they exist in very small numbers because their cars are all rusting to dust from the road salt. I guess there are some who really enjoy just working on their cars. I hope they have a lot of fun doing this, because the main reason Porsches exist is for driving, not anything else. I've said this before, in an earlier post.

I used to know some builders of Experimental (home-built) aircraft who could actually fly, but didn't because their true passion was crafting airplanes. There is room for everybody. 


Nevertheless, it is rewarding to creatively address problems and equipment issues, even design shortcomings, with novel solutions that tread new ground. Which is to say that I don't consider a Porsche to be a sacred object to worship - keeping it all as the factory intended - rather, it's a car, that's all. A car that is perfect need not evolve; Porsches evolve. Darwin knew cars.


I'm not into hot-rod Porsches. For me there are too many of them, and too often they follow a dogma that rigidly dictates the genre's parameters. Many are nicely crafted and all; I just don't want to do this to my car.



Type 64  © Porsche


The notion of a sports car predates Porsche's sports cars by many decades. Ferdinand Porsche began in the last years of the 19th century by designing electric and hybrid cars for practical use, as an employee of the Lohner coach works in Vienna. They were, in essence, rough horse wagons with novel propulsion devices, and not very sporty. That said, though, the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid set an Austrian Land Speed record for the time, of almost 60 kilometres per hour (~37 miles per hour), plus with Ferdinand driving the front-wheel-drive model, the car won a rally. It was easy to add two more electric motors to the rear wheels, thereby making a four-wheel-drive version - so much for Porsche selling out when it introduced the Cayenne.


Ja, sehr gut


F. Porsche joined Austro-Daimler in 1906, but his subsequent career was dizzyingly convoluted, although he did noteworthy work for Mercedes-Benz (the SSK, and others). Briefly unemployed during the Great Depression, he formed his own company in 1931 at the age of ~56. During all of this time he was a great race car designer, even designing and constructing race cars when he had no customer for the car - he was an Enthusiast. You Porsche types know all of this, but I'm trying to make a case. . .

Sure, today's Porsche AG is in business to make money, but they do so with cars that possess tremendous capability, plus they continue to build and field top-tier race cars. That's their thing. Porsche is not a company that attempts to sell econo-boxes that are cheap enough for the masses; others do that. Porsche builds exciting cars.



Beetle prototype, 1937, Ferdinand looking on.  © Porsche
I'm going to skip the part involving Hitler being an automobile aficionado, and Porsche stealing - essentially, and it was proven in court - the idea for a rear-engined, four cylinder air-cooled people's car from Hans Ledwinka of the Czech company Tatra (and others). That car became the Volkswagen Beetle, and later Porsche sports cars sold to ordinary citizens throughout the 1950s and into the '60s were pretty much hot rodded VWs. As of the model 911 they very much were not VW hot rods any more, at all. 

This is not a detailed Porsche automobile history lesson; it's a simplistic overview meant to establish the idea that enthusiasm and invention have always been at the core of Porsche production and ownership. I believe that the majority of Porsche's sports cars that have vanished from the face of the Earth have done so because they were wrecked while being driven beyond their limits (or the driver's) in competition. Not all, obviously, but a substantial percentage. Anyway, that's my theory. The rest are still on the road. Competition = hard use = inventive involvement to keep them going. There are many ways to be an enthusiast. 


So, how and why do you have fun with your classic 911? My 911 is a hot car. I mean it is hot in there when summer arrives; it doesn't have air conditioning. The car is like a terrarium, all windows and a small top with no sunroof, and inside I'm sweating and there is flora growing. With the windows all the way down it is cooler, but of course it is also much louder that way, and the aerodynamics are such that not a lot of air blows on me. My car lacks central dashboard air vents and the rest of its complicated 'ventilation' system doesn't take up the slack.


As I said, it's just a car, not a sacred object, so I scare off purists when I experiment with solutions to problems, sometimes. This is not a big thing, but I'm playing around,  building a silly gadget to duct more cooling air onto my perspiring carcass as I drive. It does nothing to cool me when I stop, but neither does the car. My first prototype, proof-of-concept version blasts me with welcome air, which is better than no air, but I want to make it smaller and less obtrusive, and maybe more efficient, too. 



My first prototype air snorkel  © Me
This simple gadget is often the subject of dumb jokes and the like when Porsche types see it, but, really it's a useful concept. The idea is to enjoy the car through the act of creatively seeking solutions to its assorted problems, thereby making the car more agreeable to use. In other words, it's not necessary to bow down to a tightly focused Porsche dogma in order to have fun with the car.

The above project is only an illustration of an attitude; it's not meant to be some sort of central focus of this post, since I invent things continuously. However, any other car as uncomfortable as mine (noise, heat, complex and obsolete maintenance, bumpy, harsh, et al) I would get rid of. I put up with the raw nature and hard edges of my car because it isn't like other cars. It doesn't sound like them, doesn't drive like them. It's a Porsche. It's got a heritage, and it has a unique history of real enthusiasm on the part of its builders.


Notice that a central snorkel air intake, for cooling the driver, was fine on this '70s Grand Prix racer.


So, I enthuse over all of it, warts and all. Air cooled. DIY. Dirty hands. Don't be shy about being creative, because it's a lot of fun and it sometimes works.