Thursday, July 5, 2018

Getting Your Porsche Keyed . . .

The devil is in the details, as some occasionally say.

The devil was in the keys, as was the case today.

Recently, good friends of mine bought a lovely, one-owner Cayman with shockingly low mileage on it, from someone who evidently didn't have a real desire to actually drive the car. Peculiar, but good for my friends, because the price was identical to that asked for comparable age Caymans on the market that had almost 8 times the miles on them.

They enjoy driving the car, which they found to be flawless, as one might expect. However, one day I received a phone call during which I was told that there was a dilemma, or maybe a harder word to that effect, and would I participate in pursuing a solution to it. It was this: My friends intended to take a trans-continental drive with the Cayman, and after reaching a base of operation they intended to do a grand tour of the 'wilder' western US states before driving the car back home to Vermont. The problem was that one of the ignition keys to the car had become lost, and they didn't want to do such a long trip with no back-up key on hand. Recent Porsche keys can't be replaced very easily in rural Wyoming.

In its wisdom, Porsche Cars North America closed its only Porsche dealership in Vermont in recent time, because it didn't sell the volume of cars that PCNA demanded. So, my friend asked if I'd accompany him to Montreal, which has three Porsche dealerships that are all doing fine. The story wasn't as simple as this, but he needed to go to a dealer, because electronic Porsche keys obviously cannot be made at some random, corner hardware store. I was happy to go along, because my previous hands-on Cayman time was not extensive and I wanted to get a more complete sense of the car - plus it's nice to enjoy a friend's company in a cool ride.

They all look the same.

He selected the dealership that could be found with the least entanglement in Montreal traffic, because Montreal is undergoing massive infrastructure renewal right now, and the traffic is hideous - bridges, roads, interchanges, buildings, you name it. Anyway, he called the chosen dealer and was told that his key problem could be taken care of immediately and on the spot. Before the decision was made to go to Montreal, one dealer in the USA said that the key would have to be ordered from Germany. Another told him there was no problem and that it would only take a month!  Another vendor wanted an enormous price, etc. We drove to the big city in Quebec and only got lost on detours twice.

To be honest, I had never actually been in a genuine, modern Porsche dealership before. Sure, people I know bought new cars there, and had their 911s and all serviced at dealerships, but my interests have been elsewhere, because the Porsche dealerships these days have forgotten how to service air-cooled cars . . .

I thought I was on a movie set. If you like black, white, glass, thousands of lights, and shiny cars, you would be in heaven in this place.

All of those glass-walled offices, upper and lower, were empty.
The whole place is a Porsche-centric boutique. Even coffee beans are on display.
Wait here, as fast as you can.
Okay, the issue was a new key. The smiling parts and accessories guy, in a white shirt and black tie, asked to see the key to be duplicated - after my friend had produced copious documentation proving that he was the legitimate owner. A key blank appeared, and the man took both keys into another room to cut the exact copy. Of course, the cut key was hollow; did my friend want a transmitter in it? A model-specific transmitter was installed, but now that transmitter needed to be programmed for this exact car. "Kindly take your key to the Service Department to get the programming done, sir. That will be $465 for the key, please. Programming will be done at an additional charge, and it will take about 90 minutes."

Now, in Service, the question arose, "Yes, we will be happy to program your key, when is your appointment?" "Appointment?" my friend said, "I was told that I would have my key immediately if I simply came here." "You do have your key in your hand, sir, but programming it takes substantial computer time and it requires an appointment. We have a time slot available at the end of next week. Would that be convenient?" No, it would not.

Service bays photo shot through a reflective glass wall, of course. Is it always that quiet?
My friend and I had driven for hours to get here - with my friend coming from another country, no less - and it would be hours to get back home. As well, my friends were to leave for their trip in a couple of days. Kindly note in the adjacent photo exactly how busy the Service Department was. I heard an engine running in the background briefly, but I didn't see any actual human beings running around. No wonder you needed an appointment, they apparently have to bring in someone to program this key, but perhaps  he couldn't get there until late next week. Argh. As a Porsche customer you could get a free cappuccino from the barista in this dealer's 'Café Carrera', but not a key, today. We hit the road and did some thinking.

Here was the solution: The former Porsche dealership in Vermont is still in business selling a variety of, mostly, high-end European cars. And, they still have their Porsche key programming computer! So, for my friend, this meant another trip to get his key operational, and he immediately hit the road, again. The key was programmed, on the spot, thank you very much.

It didn't work. 
Observe that the right, crested key is 1.5875 mm shorter.

The smiling guy in the white shirt and tie at the Porsche dealer in Montreal had provided  an incorrect key blank. It was 1.5875 mm too short. This key was to be used for the trunk and such only, not the ignition! Argh, again. Who's fault was this? The little guy with the tie (they all had ties). Pointed phone calls were made to the Montreal dealer, and a correct key blank was sent by overnight courier. That meant that my friend had to drive back home again, and then make yet another trip to get the key the next day. Finally, my friends left for the Wild West.

Porsche's are special. 

Oh, and did you notice that they also sell used cars in the showroom?

My wife asked me to see if they had a chocolate brown Macan. They did, damn. . .

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Porsche vs. Harley-Davidson

There are, of course, people running around out there who both ride Harleys, and drive Porsches. Mostly, though, there are two dedicated groups and they are light-years apart. Let's discuss this. I have to point out that this post, in a different way, extends the ideas found in the 'Sublime' post below.

A CNC engine cover on a Harley.
Porsche Engineering designed the V-Rod engine for Harley.
© = ?
For some time Porsche AG has claimed that the average age of a Porsche owner is around 35. I can't dispute this, but an age like that would fairly easily fit into a duality of ownership model - meaning that they could also ride a bike - but let's start with a discussion of Harley. Porsche says what it says, but I don't believe that H-D can claim an average owner who is 35 years old. Harley's poor sales numbers at this time are due, in large part, to the stern fact that Harley owners are getting old and vanishing, and aren't being replaced by younger riders. Harley will only survive if it can attract an entirely new audience. Other bike makers have a head-start in this, offering as they do, smaller and 'easier' bikes to what is a shrinking audience for them, too.

It will take a while for H-D to see big changes, but for now owners of their bikes remain fiercely loyal, and it is easy to heap stereotypes all over them. This is a bit disparaging, I admit, but we've all seen the pot-bellied guy with the beard, and no helmet but with a bandana, rumbling along as he airs his pits hanging onto ape-hanger bars, showing off rude tattoos by wearing a sleeveless tee shirt. Loud pipes save lives, and all of that. This doesn't sound like a Porsche owner's persona at all. And yet, in many ways they are remarkably similar.

To be more objective about it, not all Harley riders fit the illustration I mentioned above. Nevertheless, that type of cliché exists because so many of them actually do fit it. I'll let you judge that, because there are hackneyed notions out there that describe Porsche drivers, too. The worn out joke about the difference between a Porsche and a porcupine exists for a reason. . . When a friend recently told someone that he was a member of a Porsche club, that someone asked, "The Porsche Club? Aren't they a bunch of snobs?" My friend said, "My response was almost immediate. 'No, Ron, the people who buy Porsches and don't join PCA are the snobs!'" That's an old truism, also - too often both parts of it.

This guy doesn't get the Harley mystique at all.
"Porsche, the world's greatest automobiles," says the president of Porsche owner clubs everywhere - then those presidents go into rhapsodic swooning about why this claim is so. Greatest for what, I have to ask. Praiseworthy things can easily be said about these cars, no question, and these things are fervently believed by the faithful. Same thing over at the Harley-Davidson clubhouse.

This loyalty to one marque of machine, bike or car, makes little sense. There are too many interesting vehicles out there to be so restricted. But, it isn't fully about the Porsches, or the Harleys.

Both of them have baggage, by which I mean there is no way that H-D can easily get rid of it's V-twins and general styling, and Porsche isn't about to dump the 'iconic' shape of the 911 or rear engines, either. Porsches keep getting faster and more gadget laden, while Harleys keep getting blacker, and/or just the same, having a challenge to extend their personality. For Harley, the state of affairs is already dire, and Porsches can't keep going preposterously faster forever - there are rational limits, even on the Autobahn.

Porsche, or Harley? © Swedzi Wojownika (?)
It's tribalism. There are other marques of cars and bikes that do things marvelously, but they don't have the personas built on decades of consistent identity. This is not only about Porsches and Harleys, as I've mentioned. You might say that Leica cameras have a similar cult following. Sure, they are good in most regards, but as with cars and bikes, there are other excellent products to be had, too. Tribalism again, which drives prices and loyalty: people latch onto a product/political idea/sports team/etc. and devote great, staunch allegiance to it, rationality be damned (this part seldom is admitted).

When I recently listened to a German auto commentator, who's remarks were recorded while he drove a Porsche at 300 kph on the Autobahn, he pointed out that the Germans cannot understand why people who do not live in Germany buy 400+ horsepower Porsches - or other cars - because they can never legally (or sanely) drive 300 kph in them anywhere, other than on the German Autobahn. That's true, so what is the point of ever more powerful, and faster cars, that have to be festooned with nanny devices to prevent those fast (in their minds) drivers from killing themselves, or others, due to their exuberant incompetence? In fairness, naturally, this can also be said of other drivers of fast vehicles, but the Porsche Club of America is the world's largest single-marque automobile club. . . Anyway, I drove a Porsche for eight years and I often drove too fast, too.

Then there is Harley. I rode a Harley for a number of years, also. However, I never joined the club, so to speak. No all-black clothing, no loud pipes, no 'colors', no $5 helmet for a $5 head, never went helmetless, either. But, I came to understand the loyalties, by association and osmosis. Many of those dedicated guys torture themselves. They go deaf, ride in extreme discomfort, get killed by various means, and often butcher their pricey bikes with goofy, but rigidly observed modifications. Why? Tribalism. They like to belong, and they like to convince themselves that they are having an ultimate experience in the process. Just like the Porsche guys.

Analogue racing. This I can appreciate.  © = ?

This is not a totally exhaustive list of people who do silly things in the name of wanting to be included and feel 'special'. I have also ignored those Porsche types who race, or who collect interesting ($$) Porsches - but never drive them, and the like. They have their unique worlds to live in. I'm writing about my own experiences.

And, naturally, this is not a broad and fair examination of all Harley owners, nor all commonplace Porsche owners, either. Such people come in many flavours, some wonderful and fascinating (in a good way), others, not so much. That's life. At the same time, stereotypes and clichés exist because there is a measure of truth to them, as I have said. Better to avoid those pitfalls. What you read here is a suggestion to be a decent and balanced human being, rather than one who wallows in a fiercely narrow, or haughty mindset for no good reason.   

In the end, I am in favour of genuine, analogue Porsches. Old ones that make you do the driving. Porsches that are (relatively) slow; that you have to shift for yourself; that have no power operated gadgetry of any kind, at all. I like them raw, and I have no interest in the latest digital whatever. Possibly my tribe isn't fully fledged yet, but I don't care about that. All Porsches are interesting cars.

Go for a drive, or ride; that's all you need, and don't worry about your image. Never be a snob just because you have a Porsche, please. But, if you are reading this, you are likely not one of those. Good. 

An afterthought: This post is dated March 27; today's date is April 24, so I reread what I said.  Some comments might be flippant, in some people's opinion. I don't have a reason to annoy anyone, but if you were annoyed, try to think more broadly about where you stand relative to all of this. It's just a car, and it's just a bike.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Downright Sublime Driving Experience

1. of high moral, aesthetic, intellectual, or spiritual value; noble; exalted
2. inspiring deep veneration, awe, or uplifting emotion because of its beauty, nobility, grandeur, or immensity
3. unparalleled; supreme: a sublime compliment.
4. poetic of proud bearing or aspect
5. archaic raised up
6. something that is sublime
7. the ultimate degree or perfect example: the sublime of folly.

What is this post about? It's an analysis of how a person relates to their car (or cars), without making any assumptions about what the relationship is 'supposed' to be. What is your car to you? This is not your ordinary car blog post.

A blog like this implies that Porsche cars are being venerated here on some level, or, at least, enthused about on occasion. True. In this blog I do admit to having had considerable fun over the years behind the wheel of my 911, when it was running, and for that reason I expressed appreciation for its character and capabilities. That, and the concomitant car-owner camaraderie to be had, especially if you join a Porsche club of some kind.

There are other approaches to this realm of fun, too. I am acquainted with an individual (about whom I will give no identifying information), but I will explore a point of view that this car owner holds. It simply is this: There are a variety of ways in which a car enthusiast can experience a sublime driving experience. True enough, but, it doesn't always have to do with actual driving. [This last sentence involves what I will try to introduce.] (Also, full disclosure, the person who owns these cars is an excellent friend of mine. Many people own multiple vehicles; it's pretty common, but this collection provides a good example for what I want to talk about.) 

Okay, Porsche content:  Our hero owns a varied selection of automobiles, and one of them is a Porsche Cayman. The image here isn't that car, but it looks comparable to this, though it is not an 'S' like this one:

A Cayman is not an ultra light and flickable car, like the new, French, Alpine A110, but it is fun, and the ones that I've driven or ridden in oozed Porscheness to the hilt. This was a good thing, mostly.

In several ways, one must pay a multi-faceted price of admission for the experience that this car offers. It costs Porsche $, it's tight inside - to me a bit claustrophobic (I'm long), and it leaves out day-to-day functional practicality - especially compared to my late 911. But, it is a delight to drive and, therefore, it exists and is enjoyed by many. So, you might say that it provides a sublime driving experience, no question. It is, after all, a quick and nimble car. Really, it's über-cool.
To be honest, I wouldn't mind owning a Cayman myself, given the right context.
But then, moving on from this to consider something more practical, something that can brave the elements in this region (blizzards, unpaved roads, subzero temperatures, spring 'mud season', etc.), an all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive vehicle is the ticket. But it ought to be sublime.

Hummer H-3
So, enter the Hummer. Of course, the 'car person' in question does not want to drive the Cayman in a blizzard, or for some reason in deep mud, and since those are the only environments in which a Hummer makes a lot of sense, an H-3 got added to the fleet.

Now we are getting into the subtle nuances of defining 'sublime'. How can a blunt tool like an H-3 be sublime? If it does what it does with great, bludgeoning effectiveness, doesn't that put this vehicle into a sublime realm (if you sort of ignore the bludgeon part)? After all, you don't have to plow the snow from the drive with this machine, you just stomp on the gas and go through it. That powerful benefit weighs in if you want to vote for this Hummer as being sublime, right? Genteel doesn't fit into the 'sublime' equation in this case, and since nobody confuses this with a sports car, everybody wins.

Well, not quite. Yes, the Hummer is capable in its way, but is it the most comfortable long distance, interstate cruiser? Maybe not so much. A person needs a bit of sumptuousness on occasion, too.

But, there is the occasional slippery road, at the same time. What to do? How about a nice, sleek, luxurious, quiet saloon car? Something with a bit of class, but a car that cannot be upended due to the occasional, pesky snow flurry? Okay, why not a Mercedes-Benz 4Matic, all-wheel drive sedan? Yes, there is one of these in this collection.

I drove this car, and it behaves admirably, handling well in composed quiet, unfettered by rude annoyances that the road throws into the way when you don't expect them. It's quick enough, and you can actually have a civilized conversation with a passenger in the back seat, and the only yelling necessary is at the behest of the editorial point that you are trying to make. I don't know for sure, but this member of this present automotive family might just accumulate the most miles of the bunch.

There is more to the bunch.

Each of these vehicles fits into a certain niche, each excelling in its individual way, but they are almost all one-trick ponies. I don't want to suggest that this is meant as a negative criticism, because the attractiveness of them all is certain, specific, and clear. However, none of them 'does it all'. Well, what does it all? Nothing, probably. That said, the additional machine in this 100% daily-driver collection takes a pretty good stab at doing it all. It's big, it's heavy, it's big, but there is a genuine sophistication about it, and that is why it is the latest addition to this private group.


A Land Rover Range Rover HSE Lux. Quite a name, but you may call it an 'RR' if you like. This creation is larger, so I'm told, than the Hummer, and it has more electronic aids in its drive train than that H-3. Plus, its level of luxury is second to none here, and it's pretty sporting, too. Hmmm. A winner? Hard to say.

The question for me has become; what are the dimensions of 'sublime'? It appears that this does not depend so much on the vehicle itself, nor fully on the driving of it, either. Rather, 'sublime' defines your state of mind while experiencing that which you prefer to experience, as far as motoring is concerned, at least. In other words, for special reasons of your own, riding a bicycle could offer the most sublime experience in your world; ignore the motor part in this case.

Another idea enters. Quality. The author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Persig, almost went insane trying to define quality. He says so in that book, if I remember it properly. Anyway, define 'quality' for yourself, but how can it not be intertwined with 'sublime'? A thing has a certain quality, therefore, it is sublime. And, every automobile being examined here exudes specific quality(ies). It's complicated. 

There is a wonderful quote from Mr. Persig, though: "The only Zen you can find on the top of mountains is the Zen you bring up there." Somehow, Mindfulness, it appears to me, needs to be kept in your back pocket, most of the time.

One concept within Zen is that enlightenment (partly) is reachable via considering paradoxical ideas in order to transcend rational thought. So, possibly, quality + you + sublime + good tires = Porsche(?) You are now enlightened.

So, this opens up a whole new universe. No one can impose sublimeness onto you, because it is not entirely an objective thing, nor quality (by itself). It's personal, and a reflection of your own values, self image, expectations, desires, environment, which is to say; your personality in your world. Sublime car experience does not necessarily mean going fast, nor handling well, nor drowning in opulence, although it could. What do you really enjoy as you move through your life? That's what it means.

Does a Porsche have to do with all of this? Is it sublime? To those who think so, yes, of course. On the other hand, nothing is intrinsically sublime about any car, until the driver's input comes into play to complete the enlightened equation. So the answer is yes, or no.

I owned a Porsche 911 for eight years, and during that time I often skinned my knuckles while 'adjusting' it, but I grinned from ear to ear on those occasions when everything about that car was singing a proper song. At long last the time came for me to let go of it. I miss my 911 on occasion, but I do not regret that I now have new opportunities before me. Happiness is not always having what you want, it is wanting what you have. That is a modest thought, but Porsches don't really involve a lot of modesty. Live in your own moment, not anyone else's

Porsche is known for its sport cars. Keep in mind, though, that Porsche is abandoning what has been nearly its most successful racing enterprise - there will be no more 24 hours of LeMans or top-tier World Endurance Championship (WEC) for Porsche - at least with the high-end cars. It's going electric instead, in specialized competition. In future years you will drive an electric Porsche, or else drive an antique gas powered one, if you can still find gasoline.  Maybe kilowatts can be sublime.

On a somewhat related topic; this is a curious transitional moment right now, because Porsche is caught up in the same quagmire as many other automobile manufacturers, which means making ever more powerful and bleeding-edge fast 'supercars' that can be driven, where? Not legally on public roads at anywhere near their actual capability. Race tracks? Porsche has begun to go electric, and, anyway, a vanishingly small percent of Porsches find themselves on actual race tracks. Put another way, ultra high performance will mean, in the not too distant future, things such as hyper efficiency and the like - this is not news. A good thing that 'sublime' is a flexible concept, because today's supercars are already an anachronism considering emerging realities and, anyway, near obsolete before they hit the road since the next model will be even faster. Nevertheless, not sublime to me at this point, and there is no long-term future for most of these cars. The 'fun' of such cars, and honestly most super-fast Porsches is, in a palpable way, entirely vicarious.  At least for most ordinary mortals.

We need to reconsider what the definition of a sports car actually is, and not only that. A new reality is upon us. But for now, drive what you enjoy, and enjoy what you drive. Nobody can contradict your preferences, because nobody is identical to you. I've been looking at Morgans, and Mahindras (not really seriously), but then, frankly, all such toys are fair game. Anything has the potential to put a smile on your face, Porsche, or not.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The (slight, but real-ish) Connection Between Ferdinand Porsche and Quebec

I live in Quebec, therefore, this little story gave me a momentary warm tingle, and it proves that 'six degrees of separation' is absolutely real. Below I speculate about various connections, but I think that what I have written is not that far off.

First, you should read this post - link: The Ultimate Porsche Enthusiast, because in it I discuss a subject that is central to the story that follows. In one way, I confess, this story is an extension of part of that story.

Since you have an interest in Porsches, and you read the post I asked you to read above, you already know that Ferdinand Porsche, at the age of 24 in the year 1900, developed and built a functional hybrid-electric automobile, called the Lohner-Porsche Semper Vivus Mixte Hybrid. Quite a name. Prior to this Ferdinand was responsible for non-hybrid electric cars at Lohner, with those cars appearing in 1898.

Here is a small summary of details of this period: Ferdinand was not responsible for the world's first electric car (in various forms they had been around for many decades before our hero was even born); but he built the first hybrid-electric car; the first car with an electric starter; the world's first four wheel drive car; the world's first car with four wheel brakes - and the world's first car with the Porsche name associated with it (partly), plus, maybe, the world's first front wheel drive car, but I'm not certain of this last point. This is not shabby when you remember that Ferdinand had virtually no engineering education; he started working at Lohner as a very young man, and already his cars were way too expensive. Clever boy, though.

An early, front-drive Lohner-Porsche electric. © Porsche (?)

But, the hybrid cars won various races and set speed records (with Ferdinand driving, but also at the hands of E.W.Hart, in England - Hart was the first customer for Porsche's efforts), and Ferd had a rollicking good time.

However, here is an important aside: The aforementioned customer, the English coachbuilder Mr. Hart, in England, after expressing his interest in purchasing a Lohner-Porsche electric car, required significant modifications to it. His vehicle was to be capable of running on gasoline plus electricity, it needed to carry four passengers (the cars pictured above and down below appear to have a solitary driver in the center, in front), and Hart demanded four-wheel drive. Oh? Modern Porsche AG, and everybody else seem to make the claim that Ferdinand invented the hybrid-electric car, and all else mentioned above. But whose ideas were these anyway? Doesn't it appear that Hart played a big hand in defining the hybrid car, while Porsche dutifully carried out the execution of Hart's concepts?

Additional refinements worked their way into the Lohner-Porsche Mixte-Hybrid as it was constructed, but from evidence generally available the basic and original hybrid idea does not appear to have popped out of Ferdinand's head 100% by itself.

Anyway, that first hybrid vehicle weighed 4 tonnes, it had primitive balloon tires that blew out as a result of that weight, and it broke down a lot. Plus, it cost 15,000 Austrian Crowns, which translates into US$193,467 as of 2017. Value for the dollar involves an abstract discussion here, but it was a start.

Moving to an unrelated but somehow comparable subject, many years later Porsche was sued by the Czech company, Tatra, for ripping-off the design of Tatra's V570  automobile (and other models). The 570 had an air-cooled, four cylinder boxer motor, rear-engine, and was a two-door, aerodynamic economy car that looked remarkably like a Volkswagen. The case was settled after WWII when VW paid Tatra 1,000,000 DM in an out of court settlement. Is there a pattern here?

Tatra V570
Back to our story: Being ambitious, in 1906, after 300 electric+ powered vehicles were produced at Lohner, Ferdinand went on to join the Österreichische Daimler Motoren Commanditgesellschaft Bierenz, Fisher & Co., and, ultimately, Daimler-Benz, where as chief designer he produced newer versions of hybrids, and other creative cars - think Mercedes-Benz SS/SSK. Also, he designed aircraft engines during WWI.

This is Porsche's reproduction of the Semper Vivus, two wheel drive. (© Porsche)

Never mind all of that. This post is supposed to be about the tenuous connection between Ferdinand and Quebec. Part of that connection, probably all of it really, has to do with Porsche's influence on his early employer, Lohner-Werke of Vienna, Austria. After Ferdinand's departure, Lohner didn't just sit on its laurels, building luxury horse-drawn coaches and the like.

On we find:

"Lohner, the Company Which Grew Porsche

"Lohner was a successful company, and built front-engined fire engines for Vienna, Frankfurt and London. The company also boasted the production of every single bus in Berlin at the time. On top of this, Porsche's electrical technology was utilised by Lohner to create electrical goods vans and trucks, and the company spread out to the aircraft industry, and even produced coaches for the Austrian royal family. 

"The Lohner-Porsche was a much-referenced design when NASA [plus Boeing, see below] came to create the Lunar Rover for driving upon the surface of the moon, and many of the design innovations can be seen mirrored in the only car driven outwith [outside of] the Earth's atmosphere. Toyota and many other major manufacturers are producing hybrid concepts and production vehicles which use Porsche's pioneering technology, and design houses are experimenting with the 'in-hub' engine layout to this day. Although produced over 100 years ago [117 years, as I write this], the car has more significance than ever."

Lohner gave Porsche his first chance to develop some of his own fantastic ideas, among others. 

So, what else did Lohner do after Herr F. Porsche left? In addition to what is mentioned above, during the early 1900s the firm manufactured aircraft for WWI, after the war Lohner manufactured trams, and after World War II the company began manufacturing scooters and mopeds using engines from Rotax, and it merged with this company in 1959, to become Lohner Rotax. It still builds trams, too, in its association with Bombardier (see below).

Meanwhile, in Quebec, Joseph-Armand Bombardier invented the snowmobile in the 1930's - a large version not seen today. Ultimately called the 'Ski-Doo', they were powered using Rotax engines, made in Austria by Lohner-Rotax. 'Ski-Doos', in the small size we see today, began in production in 1959.  

In 1970 the Quebec firm Bombardier, Inc., the Ski-Doo builder, purchased a controlling share in the company and renamed it Bombardier-Rotax GmbH. Bombardier would not have noticed Lohner were it not for its developmental history, including airplane building - and tram building (powered by electricity), since Bombardier was then producing electric subway trains. Ferdinand Porsche's influence on the Lohner company was significant, with some arguing that his ideas lifted (an admittedly successful luxury horse coach builder) into far broader evolutionary realms, causing it to build sundry other types of vehicles - to this day.

A modern Bombardier 'Flexity' tram. (© Bombardier)

And now, Bombardier isn't just in the snowmobile business, either. It builds airplanes, and many other types of vehicles, too. You may have recently noticed in the business news that a Bombardier medium-size airplane, the 'C' series, was subjected to a 300% import duty by the US government, effectively eliminating it from the US market. Boeing claimed that the C series competed with it unfairly - never mind that Boeing doesn't make a plane of this size. Unfair, Boeing said, because Bombardier received subsidies from the government in Canada. At the same time Boeing has received huge subsidies from the government in the USA, but this has been ignored in the US and the duty remains.

A Bombardier 100+/- passenger C series, made in Quebec, with parts from elsewhere in Canada, too. (© Bombardier)

Turning full circle, we connect back to Europe again. Airbus purchased a 50.01% interest in the Bombardier C series planes, thereby effectively making it a new company. It will build the C series in Mobile, Alabama, forget any 300% import duty; they won't be imported any more. People in Quebec don't like losing control of the C series, but Bombardier designed it and will still make plenty of money on the planes that it builds in Canada for the world market.

EDIT This item was reported in the news at 14:50 EST, 26 January, 2018:

"MONTREAL — Bombardier Inc. won a resounding victory Friday when the U.S. International Trade Commission eliminated nearly 300 per cent in duties on its C Series commercial jet by unanimously voting against a petition filed by Boeing Co.
Commissioners voted 4-0 that Boeing didn't suffer harm from prospective imports of C Series planes. . ."

So, there you go. Bombardier and Airbus will continue to refine their relationship.

Okay, that's all wheeling and dealing, but the faint connection of Ferdinand Porsche stimulating Lohner to some form of accomplishment remains. I said it was a tenuous association.

In reality, Porsche was good for Lohner, and Lohner was good for Porsche. And, therefore, Porsche was good for Quebec, if you follow the chain of events described above. Porsche thrives as a company, Bombardier thrives, everybody is happy. Boeing, maybe not so much.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

"Back In The Saddle Again" ©

People who have 'spare' Porsches (meaning that they bought another one and can't drive two at once) tend to be generous with them, in my experience. Also, Porsche owners who are especially pleased with their particular model want to share their pleasure, and since I am Porscheless at this moment, I've been driving a variety of Porsche cars that have been offered to me by their owners to try, on occasion. They feel, with decent conviction, that I would be happy driving a marvelous car, and that I don't want to be left out in the cold, so to speak. The idea is that they are also offering a seductive temptation to me to get back into one of these cars, but they are just plain big-hearted at the same time. I love this. Therefore, I continue to honestly fail to make any solid decision about a different Porsche, or any Porsche, or any other car, or no car. As a toy, I mean.

I've said, elsewhere on this blog, that the future of automobiles is electric, and that hydrocarbon fuels will momentarily vanish - unless certain lunatics start WWIII, making all bets void. However, this isn't the future, this is now, and mainly Porsche cars still run on gas. I think things through too much, and always have done so. It's a character flaw, because life is too short to ponder things endlessly while I descend into the infirmities of age. At least I occasionally make some good decisions, but excess time gets lost in the bargain, which makes them bad decisions due to that vanished, irretrievably lost time. So, do I want another hobby car, or not?

A few people wouldn't call a Porsche a hobby car, thinking that this concept diminishes the sanctity of 'one of the world's greatest cars'. Greatest at what?, I'm tempted to ask. A Porsche sports car is a very narrow focus device, after all. Yes, some people drive them to work at their office every day - even though the office is at an easily walkable distance from home (true in one case that I learned of the other day), but I don't think that this purpose is what Porsche AG has in mind. 'Sport' is the operative idea in this car's identity. Okay, that's fine, but how many Porsche owners engage in actual sport with their cars? What percentage compete with them on the track (a vanishingly small number), or in time/distance rallies, autocross, or other 'tests of speed'? Hardly any. Instead, too many speed illegally, and dangerously, on public roads. Others crawl up and down Main Street, making as much noise as possible, etc., yelling 'look at me!'  In other words, in one sense the majority are poseurs, sorry to say. I didn't compete on track with my 911, either.

Porsche cars have a certain look to them, and many models are truly seductively designed, without the clichés seen on almost all other cars. Maybe that's enough. Buy what you think is the most beautifully designed car, drive it as you will and let others bash them on the track in order to keep up the performance image. It's your money, so who am I to judge? At last, though, do I 'need' another one?

Two days after I sold my 911 I called PCA to ask if I could remain in the club (as an affiliate member, or something), since I have met a good number of really nice people that I now count as friends, and I want to continue to participate in the club. "When does your membership expire?" I was asked by the PCA office. "In March I think," I said. "Just renew it," I was told. Apparently once in, always in, so I'm legit as an ex-Porsche owner. That's economical. [Note: An officer of the club logically must own a Porsche - unless, oddly, the Region's bylaws don't require this.] [Another note: I have become an official Associate member of PCA.]

So, I've been attending various PCA events, often in borrowed Porsches. I might do that this coming weekend - but I'm still thinking it over; see what I mean? Anyway, the following is a recount of the most recent activity that I attended in a Porsche that was on loan to me. I drove the blue Boxster seen above; it worked perfectly and was fun, and I drove it while its owners drove their new Cayman. Good deal - I tried to respectfully exercise it as I drove, in order to keep everything ship-shape and humming. I never thought that I was a roadster type of guy, but I could live with this, perhaps. 

Part Two:  Running on Borrowed Time

The event recounted here took place in a location where we have been before. Link: An Out Of the Ordinary "Barn Find", so I won't go into great detail about it now, even though it is always fun to visit the place. It was at the home/workshop of an internationally prominent restorer of ancient classic automobiles (not the modern Porsches known to us, as they are too new), and he restores wooden speedboats, also. The collection inside his shop is a jaw-dropper, and each visit there is something 'new' to be seen. By prominent, I mean Amelia Island, Pebble Beach, that sort of thing.

Packhard. One of the best, ever.

Type 19 'Bugatti'. ©2015 New England Auto Auctions
At the moment he is working on restoring one of the earliest cars designed by Ettore Bugatti. In 1912 Bugatti designed a small car that was then built by Peugeot, the Type 19 Bébé, of which a handful remain in the world, even though it was Peugeot's most popular car at the time. Bébé is a good name for the car, as it is minuscule, but fascinating. The two speed transmission is the size of a can of soup, and, being a 1913 car, it has rear brakes only, which appear to be external contracting bands on 'rotors' that are about 1" (2.5cm) wide. Why stop when you are having fun? The two people who would occupy that car had to be absolutely tiny, even by 1913 standards. Since 3,095 Type 19s were produced between 1913 and 1916, its popularity caused it to become known as Europe's Model T. 

Bébé's bare bones. The red arrow, upper left, points to the body of the car.

Much later, it's coming along nicely. Photo borrowed from (I'm a member)

The canister, left of center, is the two speed transmission.
With 10 horsepower available, the Bébé was able to reach 40kph (+/- 25mph) if the road was good, which mostly they weren't then. Actually, the car's engineering and construction were advanced at the time and offered very good value for the franc. The Bébé was killed off in WWI.


This PCA event involved a tour of nine antique covered bridges sprinkled along some delightfully entertaining New England roads, plus the normal Pot-Luck lunch, and at one location there were three bridges in a row, one after another. I took pictures with one hand above the windshield, as I steered, shifted gears, and ate a sandwich with the other.

Speed limit 25 mph. Perfect for a Type 19.

Riding as a guest in a Porsche is not unknown in this PCA region. I've had passengers in my Porsche when their cars were not on the road for greasy reasons, and others are often generous in offering rides to cover similar circumstances. Then, there are the cars that I have driven, too; kindly made available by openhanded region members. If you belong to this club, you've got a Porsche at hand, always. Simple as that.

A good turnout. This was about one-third of the show.

However, attending Porsche events sans-Porsche just feels odd to me. People have been generous in lending me their cars, but I feel like a moocher to drive a lent car, multiple times. Something needs to be done.

Then there was this in my garage the other day . . .

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Melancholy Farewell to My Elderly 911

It's gone. That car was so drop-dead gorgeous, truly, and I miss it in more ways than I will be able to adequately describe here. The older among us, both animate and inanimate alike, need attention; it's sadly normal. At the same time, when an old animate mortal (like me) becomes stiff with arthritis and other symptoms of general decline, it's difficult to give proper attention to the needs of ancient machines in our care. It hurt me a lot every time I crawled out from beneath the belly of my 911, and I did it many hundreds of times. At last it was enough. I sold it, and I'm not happy. I tell people that I parted with my car, and they say, "Congratulations for selling your car!" I don't say anything in response to this, because it makes no sense to me at all; I don't need to be congratulated for abandonment. They are responding to another objective that they imagine I had, but misunderstand.

My workshop is empty. What next?
We all have issues and struggle to get through them to survive - including my 'late' car - but that car could do nothing to help itself; that was up to me. I agree that it was 'just a car' as some immediately point out, but really I don't fully believe that. This hasn't to do with the vaunted history and panache that is so often associated with the Porsche marque. I don't care that it was a Porsche at all, but rather that it was a little machine with a personality: it was spunky, it was an individual - it had to be interesting. I did my best for it, and I had to be creative to do so; it paid me back for my efforts.

Some people buy and sell cars all of the time. They talk about some car that was so great, but they got rid of it in a few months, or maybe a year. Great, really? Why is it gone, then? I guess that they would not grasp my mindset, and I struggle with theirs, so be it. I am what I am, and I enjoyed my Porsche for slightly less than eight years.  I would still have it if things were different.

Last trip out.
At this point I absolutely have not decided what type of car I might acquire next, or if I will get one at all. There are cars beyond Porsche that are very attractive for many reasons, too, and I am thinking about all of them. Or none of them. Do I need a hobby car? Nobody 'needs' a hobby car. Maybe I should take up knitting socks, or collecting antique bicycle tires; at least those hurt the planet less.

After all, the whole world is moving toward electric cars, anyway, and all of this fossil fuel combustion business will one day be vaguely remembered in the same way as ox carts are recalled by us today - they did a job, but in a coarse and limited way. We may be discussed in future seminars for having thought up such absurd conveyances, invented disregarding the planet and our health, and everything, just so we could go from here to there, tant pis. But a Porsche could do it in an entertaining way, wow. What little it takes to entertain the limited, like me. Never mind, one day people and goods will be teleported from here to there, and they will laugh at the idea of 'driving' - what a farcical and piteous waste of time, because where you are will be important to them, not how you got there in your 'sport' car. I do continue to enjoy people that I have met via my Porsche, though, so there's that.

The new owner is the bald guy. He's nice, and I hope that he enjoys the car.

I believe every one of the ideas that I spelled out above. Then again, maybe I live in the wrong century, although I'm unsure what the correct one would be.

Goodbye, and farewell. I will miss you, little analogue friend.

I'll have more thoughts about all of this, and before long additional ideas will appear in new posts on this blog. Friends have been lending me various models of Porsche's to drive. We'll see. Example: check the 'P.P.P.S.' at the bottom of the post found here

In the meantime I'll keep busy . . .  This is a '78 and it runs great with 7550+ hours on it, but details need some TLC.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Exxon Valdez Redux

There are basically two things to do with an old Porsche 911 like mine; maybe three, if you are of a certain mindset. They are: drive it, or fix it. The third would be to hoist it up onto a pedestal and show it exclusively, if it is rare for some reason, but this option is of no interest to me - mostly I want to drive it. A Porsche that is only a pedestal show car is one that equates to a collection of funky shoes, or an assortment of antique bowling balls, or other chachkas on people's shelves that they occasionally drag out into the light. Once a 911 reaches 'display-only' status, it then has become a flexible euphemism for a car, and woe is it.

There are other ways to experience woe, though. In my previous post below I pointed out that my car was running badly, because the fuel injection was confused for some baffling reason. That has been resolved and the car runs quite well, if not 100% perfectly. It will get there eventually.

Never mind that, now something on top of the engine is spraying oil, and I do not mean that a minor seepage is present. Splattering all over is what I mean. Grrr. Naturally this escaping oil is way at the back of the engine compartment, where no normal human can reach. The engine must come out. I just put the damn engine back into the car. Grrr.  I'm going through about one litre of oil per 160 kms (or about 1 qt per 100 miles). The problem looks like bad oil cooler seals.

Also see my post: "The Triangle of Death"

Seepage in this area is common, but it was dry here when the car last ran . . .
Keeping the car neat and tidy, and doing things to it to improve it in any way can be fun, and I do this. My car was built in 1973, although it is a '74 model. So, it's over half-way through its 44th year now. Parts wear out, parts break; you fix it and this is to be expected and is normal at such an age. However, this oil episode is not actually fun since it interrupts the driving of the car too much.

And, too much complaining, sorry. I should add that the car's valves have never been quieter, due to a good, engine-out-of-the-car adjustment. Along with the replacement of a rocker arm and other bits that needed retirement. Now all you really hear is the modest hissing of the cam chains, but if you wrinkle your brow you can notice a faint ticking telling you (me) that the valves are not too tight, either. 

Usually leakage in the "Triangle of Death" doesn't spray up onto the cooling shroud.
I'll write more as more happens. At this moment, the engine will come out of the car in a few days. While the oil leakage is being addressed, the oil thermostat will also be  tested to see if it is functioning properly. That job is easy once the thermostat is removed - you plop it into hot water along with an accurate thermometer to see when it opens and closes. The engine has been running hotter than I want it to do, and the thermostat might be at fault.

Update:  The engine did not actually overheat, but heated in an erratic way. Upon testing, the internal oil thermostat does appear to be at fault, and it is being replaced with a known good unit, or it will be rebuilt. See also my remarks in the comments below.

New oil seals got put on the oil cooler, and everything else back there. 

However, it's an old car, so there is no part at all on it that is totally above suspicion. Each drive is an adventure . . .  Nevertheless, all air-cooled cars are advancing in value. Maybe I should consider passing this car on and getting a new toy.

Like certain others below, this post does not reach a conclusion that satisfies me, or you probably, but rather some puzzles are left unsolved. It's the name of the game when keeping a classic car going, but it still solidly remains fun to drive.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Return of the Reluctant Prodigal

NOTE: That reluctant prodigal is taking longer than I thought to get his act together. A little work has begun, but not enough to report on here, yet.  As soon as we invent a way to solve the latest disaster, we'll be back.

Okay, finally the needed parts should arrive today (delayed by heavy snow storms), and I will begin work in earnest on engine reassembly, and the transmission will get some repair, too, and a new clutch, etc. This has been a saga that has been going on far too long, but what can you do. Old cars...  

My engine a short while ago.

My engine now. I've been working.

Also my engine now. Things are moving right along.

OK, THE ENGINE IS NOW IN THE CAR !! However, I next will begin the process of connecting all of the wiring, oil lines, fuel lines, clutch cable, plus some additional parts (CV joint gaskets, brake pads, etc.) that are scheduled to arrive in a few days. Next week I will fill it with oil and try to fire it up and take a test drive, right after I adjust everything. Wish me luck.

I'm thinking radical thoughts about all of this, but, it's too early to spell them out in public.

NEWSFLASH:  It runs, sort of. Actually, it runs quite poorly and this seems to be caused by the Bosch K-Jetronic CIS fuel injection system. Why the CIS is out of whack is unknown to me at this moment, but this afternoon I will attempt to do some basic tests and adjustments to see if I can resolve the issues by simple means. If not, then I'll wait in line to have a guru (with all of the required testing instruments) take a crack at it, but I'd rather do it myself.

Friday, September 16, 2016

My Engine Went 'PFUT, Pfut, pfut' . . .

I'm Porscheless for the time being. The engine and transmission are now out of my car, because both are clearly ill.

Neither has been repaired, yet. The engine may need one new part: a crankcase. I'll explain why below. A good crankcase for a car that will soon enter its 44th year is not easy to locate, as my searching too clearly points out - if I need one.  

A leak-down test is about to be performed on my mostly naked engine.
The crankcases that I did find so far online are junk. They have the exact same issue as mine, and for these useless pieces big money is commonly asked. Locally there is a compatible rebuilt engine, but it hasn't been started and run, so I don't know what its new story might be. No to that, at this point. Also, there is a used engine in the region that is partially complete, but it looks as if it has been under water for years and it cannot be run as is. The would-be seller says that it will need a full rebuild. So far, zero success for me, but such parts are genuinely rare here.

My engine may need a crankcase, because it is made of light but weakish magnesium, and it appears to have suffered the fatal failure that cases of this type run into most of the time as they age. The magnesium engines of 2.7 litres, once they have lived this long, can pull their head studs out of the crankcase into which they are screwed, because there is an insufficient strength of metal to keep them in place. This didn't happen with earlier and smaller capacity engines using magnesium crankcases. I'm so lucky. Porsche failed to beef-up the magnesium cases as they increased the engine's displacement, and there's the flaw. A pulled stud makes the engine pop on acceleration, due to exhaust gasses leaking.

Several years after my engine was built, Porsche switched to stronger, but heavier, aluminum and this particular problem was eliminated. The reason for my woes, though, is bad engineering, probably at the behest of Porsche's bean-counters back in the day.

While more fully inspecting my engine before complete disassembly, a leak-down test was performed. This test assesses the condition of the pistons, rings, valves, valve guides, and cylinders. The leak-down numbers were excellent and comparable to a brand new engine (2% to 3+%), but there is still the stud issue. A worn out engine in need of rebuilding would typically have leak-down numbers of 30%, even more sometimes, so the top part of my engine is fine. My magnesium crankcase is likely bad, though, because while it has reinforcing 'Time-Serts' (I think they are that brand) already installed into the case for all of its 24 head studs, at least one of those inserts is pulling out of the case. This is damage that cannot easily be repaired (Some claim that this problem can actually be repaired by a proprietary means. It's unclear to me how this might be done, or if it is reasonable $$. This is not a special edition, numbers-matching engine. . .) Right now, I'm convinced that I own an ineffectively designed boat anchor, but I could be too pessimistic.

The obvious back-story for my engine is this - the engine wore out, and also pulled a stud, or more, from the case in the process. As well, cylinders were worn, etc. So, it was rebuilt, with reinforcing Time-Serts (?) installed for all of its studs, probably most of them prophylacticly. The job does not seem to have been done with absolute precision, but the main point is that the crankcase has to go, I think. There is an easy solution, but it involves cubic money: buy a complete engine (and transmission!) that has been re-manufactured by a well regarded, pro shop at the other end of the continent. Yikes.  

Hope. Sunlight from the window bounces up into the empty engine room.

A small update.

Naturally I've been looking everywhere.  Here is a partial quote from an email sent to me earlier, from a man who does restoration work:

". . . My idea with the engine I have [in my shop] is that we are right at the stage where the long block is finished; the cams are timed, valves adjusted, but no accessory has been installed: shroud, tins, alternator etc.. Which in your case is an ideal situation since you’ll want to keep all your ancillaries including fuel injection, exhaust etc.. In the coming weeks we will finish to fully reassemble ours and put it for sale as a complete unit . . . "

So, I sent him an email saying that I wanted to see the engine. I also wanted to ask some questions about building methods used, parts sources, and I wished to see some leak-down numbers, etc. 

A BIG update.

I went to look at that engine. If you can imagine an engine getting assembled using a meat cleaver and a very large hammer as the primary tools involved, then this was it. I was told that the studs, all 24 of them, were replaced with genuine Porsche 993TT 'Dilavar' studs, the latest version. New pistons, new cylinders, new valves, new heads, all of this was replaced (mainly used stuff, though). The reason for this was that the engine had been over-revved; the valves broke and went right through the heads, destroying everything. The crankcase appeared to be fine. And that crankcase was fitted with 24 Time-Serts.

I said above that my engine had Time-Serts, too. When mine was more fully disassembled, beyond what is seen above, it became obvious that this was not true. It had been machined for CaseSaver inserts. These are renowned to be stronger than Time-Serts and less likely to pull out. But at least one did, anyway.

Threaded stud holes machined for CaseSavers. ~1mm of material
 is left at the edges of the cylinder spigots. Not much room for error.
Web photo

Okay, CaseSavers are generally seen as a last resort, within $ reason. The thing is that when some of the machining for the inserts had been done on my engine it had not been done perfectly. That stud that is pulled may not have been installed well.

Here is where the above-mentioned rebuilt long block I looked at earlier becomes interesting. The first thing I noticed was that there were broken cooling fins at the base of at least one cylinder - I didn't need to examine more to be put off. I asked about this and was told that it was difficult to install the cylinders over the studs. That should not be the situation, but it happens when the studs aren't installed straight in the crankcase. So, the re-builder of this engine ground down the sides of those expensive 993 studs - in a very haphazard manner - in order to make them smaller so that the cylinders could be installed without breaking so many fins! I would like to know what that rough grinding did to the strength of those studs. I declined that engine.

Now, I still had my own engine to consider. 

Fortunately, my actual, chosen engine guy is very inquisitive and creative, and he has 40 years of experience working on air-cooled Porsches. He measured that my problem CaseSaver is around 20mm long, but the hole into which it is installed is about 30mm deep, and it is at the top of that hole. All that was needed was to screw it down to the bottom of the hole, and instantly it would gain back 50% of its original purchase on those newly available threads. He noticed that the damaged threads at the top were not fully destroyed, either. Therefore, he will use a high strength, industrial-grade aluminum-containing epoxy to coat the upper threads. This material can be cut to make new threads. The combination of the lower placement of the insert, along with the epoxy product, will recreate a substantial percentage of the insert's original strength. Plus, he will install a Dilavar stud into that insert (but I hope not ones from a 3.0 engine; they tend to break).

This is unconventional, to say the least. That's why I like it. Simple and not too expensive. The desirable thing is that the Dilavar material expands at roughly the same rate as aluminum, therefore, the stress placed on my  patched CaseSaver hole will be far less than before. With luck, I won't face this issue again."Don't go drag racing with a stone cold engine," my engine guy said. Good advice, but I have never done that, and won't. You have to warm these engines up. Also, he said, "I have every confidence that this repair will last well."

Unfortunately, there will be no report of the engine running in my car until next spring. It's fierce winter here now.

Oh, the transmission needs a new input shaft oil seal. 

For the continuation of this story, see The Return of the Reluctant Prodigal above.