Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lemförder to the Rescue

The title you see anticipates my next effort, which will appear as soon as I crawl under the car in earnest to get into trouble monkeying around with the front suspension. That, or I'll report with an excuse for doing something else that's easier.

Later:  I have a proper excuse as it works out, so here I am reporting it:  Two herniated disks, and two impinged nerves that have nothing to do with them. A bad back on this scale is a nice gift that keeps on giving; it hurts and takes time to heal, so the delay with this post, or any other one here, will provide you with a little relief, too. I will have to figure out some light cosmetic jobs for the short term, perhaps flicking a feather duster in the car's general direction. Regrettable, but I didn't do it on purpose.

Still later: No, no work has happened, but at least I'm thinking it all through too much as my back heals. This offers certain rewards and, of course, alibis to go with them. For me planning is a comforting thing; when there is a good plan of what needs to be done, and good solid work to go with it fully understood, then there you have half the pleasure of actually doing the thing already in your pocket.

Mark Twain understood this and he was the perfect paradigm for this philosophy. He said, "I love to work. Why, sir, when I have a piece of work to perform, I go away to myself, sit down in the shade and muse over the coming enjoyment. Sometimes I am so industrious that I muse too long." Letter to John T. Moore, July 6, 1859

Remarkably, Twain comprehended repairing old Porsches very well, because at another moment he pointed out that, "Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions." That would sketch out the whole process nicely, wouldn't it?

But I can't blame only Twain for all of this. Tom Clancy got in on this act when he said, "The difference between fiction and reality?  Fiction has to make sense." I rest my case. 

A good amount of time has melted away since the previous update to this on and off, multi-theme post, but that's okay, because a few things have actually been happening. With my Porsche, that is. To see it now you would think that I have been wrenching away steadily at the contraption, but this illusion is the result of a clever distribution of tools and parts left lying around the shop, to fool the eye, so to speak. If it looks like a busy workshop, then it must be such a place . . .

But it is, in fact - I'll stick in some pictures below to prove it. Here are some issues being tackled at the moment: Gear shifting has been unpleasant; stiff and stiffer the warmer the car gets, so the first attack on this frustration involves a new clutch cable, shifter bushings, shift coupler, and all of that. Then, there is a leak of air, road dust, and noise entering the car at the bottom corners of the rear window - the result of inattentive work when the car was repaired/updated at some prehistoric moment; I will be happy to seal this off. Plus, the trunk's gas struts, that hold up the lid, have expired and the lid hits me on the head while I'm rummaging around in there. Also, I am switching to 'turbo tie rods', seen above. Plus tune-up items, random small springs, seals, filters, new brake fluid, and a further list of doodads not interesting enough to mention - and there is cosmetic work, too. Oh, and I'm going to install a new third brake light. Necessary, all of this, if I want this car to continue to wow the locals, as well as be reliable, and actually fun to drive.

My back is a little bit better, and I'm even going to work out in a gym to regain faded muscles. With a trainer.

This first photo reveals the interior, minus the seats, carpeting, floorboards, and shifting mechanism, but the new clutch cable has already been installed.

The second image simply illustrates the process of adjusting the clutch cable. I moved the clutch release lever - to which the clutch cable attaches - one spline of rotation toward the front of the car, in order to put the adjustment nuts in the center of the threaded end of the cable, thereby giving me more 'fore and aft' adjustment. Therefore, the adjustment is totally off, and it will be black magic to get it correct when the car is back on the road in the spring.

The process of replacing the trunk's lid-holding struts is straightforward; remove the little clips from four pins, pull the pins out, and remove the struts.  Installing new struts is the reverse of removal, except for the miserable bottom pin on the left side of the car. You can't even see the silly pin, nor can you feel it, because your hand won't fit down where it is. Not even a dramatically long needle-nose pliers will do the trick, because of junk in the way. I'm going to have to read up on this.

Okay, reading up was no help, but I figured out a clever method, unfortunately I didn't photograph it. Here it is: With the strut out of the car, I took the pin that fits through it's bottom end into my hand and threaded a strong sewing thread through the hole in the end of the pin and tied it. Then I strung the thread through the bracket into which the strut fits, then through the bottom of the strut, then through the other side of the bracket. Being cautious to avoid tangling the thread, I then installed the strut into its bracket. It was then a simple matter to pull the thread, which pulled the pin through the bracket and strut. I cut the thread and it was installed, just like that. Then you slip on the clip that holds the pin in place. Prior to inventing this method, I had wasted hours on this simple little project.

There you have it for now. Next I'll rant about trying to seal the gap at the bottom of the rear windows. Not as easy as I had hoped, naturally.

A pickle fork is a crude fork-shaped wedge that is driven
into the tie rod-to-steering control arm joint to pop it apart.
March 4, 2014. Never mind the gap seal business for now. Finally I installed the Lemförder turbo tie rods that are pictured above. The one on the right side of the car was the easier of the two, so I did it first as a learning process, and all of the difficult issues that people mention are true. I had to buy a pickle fork tool to get the tie rod end off, because all of my penetrating oil and hammering failed to pop it out of the tapered hole in the end of the steering control arm. But once the tie rod end was off, the right side tie rod unscrewed easily.

You screw in the new tie rod (using some Lock-Tight), then the fun begins. Getting the new rubber boot that covers everything and its retainer spring into place involves some learning, ingenuity, tool fabrication, and a lot of cussing. I quoted the Pope. . .  At last I completed the job on the right side, but the left side offered an endlessly entertaining proposition. The reason is that on my car, the brake master cylinder and attendant jumble of tubing is under the car and beneath the left side tie rod, making access 'interesting'. 

In the photo below is the end of the new rubber bellows that encloses the steering rack and tie rod (I know it doesn't look new, but it is); it keeps dirt and water out of the rack, so that your steering doesn't fail. No human on Earth has fingers with enough joints in them to fit up under there, especially when it comes to fitting the end of the bellows onto the steering gear box, and positioning the tight spring that goes around the bellows-end. It looks easily accessible here, but it very much is not. 

The bellows' coil spring is in the middle here. Click to enlarge.
So, this is where the tool fabrication comes in. I invented a number of tools and they did the job, basic though it is. Not easy, however. I'm proud of those simple tools, so if anybody is struggling with this installation, send me a message via the "Post a Comment" thingy and I'll describe them for you.

Most of this stuff will get finished eventually, if I keep my cool. I'm starting to enjoy thinking outside of the box once more in order to create tools, and the like.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Synaptic Homeostasis for the 911

In the fall of the year my Porsche must to be put into storage for the duration of the oncoming winter; it's the only sensible option in this climate. The vintage of Porsche that I own has a non-galvanized body shell, so any suggestion of salt or slush will start the car to rust immediately and rust is onerous to repair, if it is possible at all. Mechanical mechanisms can be fixed or replaced in a straightforward way, but rust is an insidious cancer that never sleeps once it gains a footing. Best to stay away from rust in the first place by installing the car in a dry and warm place, with moth balls. Well, I've done that - too soon I thought, but it snowed and they spread salt on the roads, and they use enough salt around here to over-brine a batch of schmaltz herring.

A 'rust-free' car here might be considered a 'rust-bucket' in another part of the world, but my car is not near a state of collapse just yet, so I carry on, secure in the knowledge that it is solid after all. I hope.

Once corrosion has been forestalled by comfy, clean storage, those pesky mechanical bits that have been getting loose and tired can be attended to at an unhurried pace during the cold months (-40º is a potential here with the windchill, so stay indoors in your cozy workshop).  This renewal of functional parts is an operation that might be equated with the dusting and cleaning that goes on in your brain while you are asleep; synaptic homeostasis, a process occurring during sleep, is a phenomenon that prevents the nervous system (i.e. brain) from plunging into chaos. 'Cleaning out the cobwebs' some might say. I wonder if this can also be accomplished through meditation. . . Neurons in your brain need a regular renewal in order to function smoothly, strongly, and well, just as do many pieces of an old car.

Spark plugs expire and need replacement now and then, and your brain's synapses need their gaps cleaned a bit, too, so to speak. All complex systems require regular maintenance, whether animal (you) or machine, and this is best performed during sleep time, be it overnight in bed, or over winter in a workshop. Don't simply park the car and forget it till spring, that's not nice. The thing is that the brain does its maintenance procedure automatically, whereas the Porsche just sits there looking needy. The only automatic event concerning the Porsche is the drain on my wallet. 

A Porsche as old as mine doesn't have any electronic computing gizmos to complicate things, it's all mechanical, so you don't reboot, you install new boots - rubber ones. I have a batch of rubber parts lined up on my workbench, right next to the turbo tie rods, throttle springs, A-arm bushings, a clutch cable, 'frunk' lid struts, and an alarming number of other bits. It will take a while to install all of this - I don't work very fast, but it's a long winter here. It's possible that the car will be off the road for as long as six months, so what you see in this post represents half of the life of this car under my semi-arctic stewardship.

Owning a Porsche like this is not the same as owning a new one. I'm sorry to point this out, but many new and bedecked Porsches are fashion statements for the glitterati, and such owners may be unclear about the location of the engine, but they believe it is in a peculiar place that offers a mysterious advantage to their revivifying driving experience. Actually, owners of new Porsches are prevented by law from fiddling with their car's functional systems, given that their efforts might result in an embarrassing faux pas and concomitant disinclination to purchase next year's model. Being seen in the car might be as important as seeing out of it, although since an alarming percentage of chichi Porsches in the world of uber-urban cultural privilege are often only driven at metropolitan speeds, this might not matter. I own a raw, visceral, loud, bumpy car. This is a decided safety feature - it makes so much noise inside that you think you are going wildly fast when you are only going way too fast, so you might survive it and live to drive another day.
(At a later and more sober moment, looking back at this paragraph it seems to me that I have been too harsh in my characterization of certain owners of gleaming new Porsche cars; I painted with too broad a brush. On occasion there is a capable owner to be found, and he or she will actually wring the bejesus out of a new car on the track at a DE day, without so much as a single fatality or putting the car topside down.  Excuse me for this; my rash error, but I can't help promoting the cars that I appreciate most - old ones - even if I step on toes in the process. Today's Porsches are technological marvels; I guess I find romance in the DIY stone age. Okay, I'm jealous. Not really.)      

KrazyGlue injected into tiny cracks stops them from growing
For me the winter break is good. Downtime is useful. When I know that there are issues that need to be resolved with my car, my summer driving pleasure always has awareness of that need in the back of its head, because I tend to wallow in the difficult details, instead of skimming over them so that I can smell the roses.  

As your brain repairs itself while you slumber, nonessential chaff gets erased, you might say, so that there is adequate elbowroom for the thinking tasks of the following day. Replacing Porsche parts isn't exactly identical to erasing them, but as long as you are getting rid of potential problems, what's the difference? Renewal is renewal.

Details . . .

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Just Do It

Yesterday a fellow Porsche owner popped over for a visit. It was a special visit that didn't cover fixing, or driving, or drooling over unusual Porsches, but rather we discussed means by which a person can enjoy life more fully - okay, so this actually did cover my old Porsche obliquely but it wasn't really intended. My friend told me that I should move away from being too cerebral, and that I should live more from my heart. I probably have to be cerebral for a little while in order to figure out how I might do that smoothly. . . 

It was the mythologist and creative thinker Joseph Campbell who said, "Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you . . .", but my friend's words had the same ring to them and I took them seriously, because it certainly is obvious that I over-think all the time. Most things that I do I think through in grinding detail, and this causes me unending dissatisfaction with the result, given that my expectation is never realistic enough in the face of the truths at hand. For example, I often imagine restoring my car to totally new condition, except with certain modifications of course, but then I look at it and my mood dampens because it's just an old car and my efforts don't come to much. Perhaps my litany of pending details to be resolved creates a fog that obscures a reality. It will never be finished. Is it a kind of coverup and maybe an excuse for the car being mediocre? I hope not.

Well, I've over-thought this already, haven't I?  I should just drive the car, regardless, just do it. That's easily enough said if the engine is running well, the transmission is shifting nicely, the suspension aligned properly enough to follow a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for me. Groan.

I'm going for a drive right now in a 911 that runs, imperfect, or not. 

I did it! I feel good. I cranked up the old Porsche and went for a several hour ride down along the Connecticut River on both the Vermont side and the New Hampshire side, too.  I ignored the details that aren't perfect in my car and simply enjoyed the light, the smells, the traffic-free small roads off in a corner of VT that is open and unassuming, and willing to let a person do what a person needs to do.

Jesus saves Vermont (click for larger view) 
Here is the main lesson I'm getting from all of this so far: I don't have to imagine that it is necessary to diminish anything that I am now - being in my head as much as I am - but rather the real potential will be to add to what I am, to expand beyond my self-made confines and be larger in life. It's a very warm feeling, and my Porsche turns out to be an instrument that can help me to reach a new plateau of bliss. Who knew? I suspected it. Don't sweat small flaws, in yourself, or your Porsche.  

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Essay, a Rant, and a Note of Caution

You may belong to a Porsche club of some kind. If so, I hope that it is run in a manner that promotes enjoyment for every member of the club, including those who work to keep it going. Sometimes good fun becomes elusive for those trying to make the club work (without the general membership noticing anything at all), because of errors and excesses that may arise in the club's operation from time to time. Yes, in part the following is based on direct observation, but my reading on this subject has also allowed me to expand my comments further. If you wish to contribute to the job of keeping your club running on an even keel, please consider the advice below.
People find happiness in many things, and in the world of Porsche, significant rewards are available via social interactions that arise from, but do not necessarily directly involve ownership, care and feeding of vintage cars, racing, or similar. People also enjoy getting together for pleasurable reasons that involve food and drink, casual conversation, beautiful locations, and, hopefully, these experienced in agreeable weather. Others enjoy DE days, rallying, or Auto-X, and all of this is fine. Someone has to do devoted work to arrange such events; it's normal.

And, some people have more capability with certain types of events than do others. This is normal, too, so the job of producing varying activities obviously falls upon many different people. As well, keeping a Porsche club's managerial structure functioning involves a variety of tasks, from taking meeting minutes, to waving flags in a racetrack's corner. A lot of people are entrusted with assorted duties, and when given that trust they naturally want to do well.

But when anyone interrupts this reasonable chain of events in order to impose inessential, or even inappropriate directives, the whole structure begins to break down, because when people are no longer entrusted with undertakings that they genuinely are happy and able to do, they feel diminished and lose interest. It just doesn't work.

Such a drive to exert power (especially meaningless power) is not an essential part of the world's natural order. It is part, only, of human ego in its negative sense, but human ego is not part of all of nature. Here is an excellent example illustrating these concepts from a unique perspective. It's not a Porsche thing, but it's fascinating:

A recent experiment was performed on an African savanna using a herd of antelope in the wild. Concealed automatic cameras observed the herd for some time, and special interest revolved around the movement of the animals from their feeding grounds to their watering grounds some distance away. The timing of this movement is critical. If the herd - and it had to travel as a complete herd for protection - moved to the water too early in the day, then some individuals would not have enough time to finish eating and would receive insufficient nourishment. If the herd left too late, the drinking would extend into darkness, making individuals vulnerable to predators.

The cameras observed that a single animal would stop grazing and face toward the water source, though it was remote from the feeding location. Then another, and another; when exactly a majority faced the water, then the entire herd would move off toward the water, together. The herd was not led by a powerful alpha male, but by those who first perceived the need to drink, be they juveniles, females, elderly, or other non-alpha males.

In other words democracy, not demands of those who were powerful, was the natural structure and order describing the critical timing of seeking water.

This phenomenon has since been observed in creatures ranging from insects to great apes. Power does not dictate. Power exists for specific, limited functions among animals, but it never controls the needs and actions of the many. Democracy is built into the natural order, it is not a human invention.

There is a modest disconnect between this marvelous exposé of democracy in the general natural world where power is never abused, and the observations written here about questionable management where it is almost always abused. But, in the human case, the reasons are complex and many, but they are avoidable. In nature this is less the case, and in any instance respect for the needs of others is central and critical.

Not everyone is driven to attempt complete control, but there are unfortunately some who are, and it appears that we are stuck with them. In circumstances like car clubs this is dysfunctional, pointless, and divisive. For example, nothing works well in an organization when someone seeks total control over proceedings that are better tended to by the capable individuals whose normal job it is to do them.

I have made this essay as generic as is feasible in the interest of addressing the broadest possible audience. After all, there are a great number of publications written over decades - within the realm of Porsche clubs alone - that describe and decry the means by which club chief officers can destroy the spirit of a club, rather than build it. Add this to that list.

All of which is to say that in a circumstance where one person presents him/herself as the indispensable center of everything, when there are able people waiting and eager to work, beware. You need good people to successfully run a Porsche club, but they will flee from a person like this.

You own your Porsche in order to have fun. If you belong to a club, make sure that it employs this idea for all who are involved.

To the right is the heraldic coat of arms of the state of Baden-Württemberg, in the southern part of Germany. That's where Stuttgart is, and that's where the head offices of Porsche are located.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Going Straight

Adjusting a Porsche to follow the track that you want while going down the road is not as simple as it is with almost any other car. Camber, caster, and toe adjustments are common with most cars.  But, with a Porsche you can adjust the height, the rake, the corner-balance, and you should adjust the car in order to take into account the weight of the driver. You will adjust to make sure the car is the same height side to side (with driver in there); that there is just about a 19mm slope in the body of the car (lower in front, called rake); whether or not you have adjusted to "Euro" height or North American height; and the like. If a parked vintage Porsche 911 has a notable tilt to it when empty, it either means that the driver needs to go on a diet, or it means that someone turned adjustment "C" when they should have been turning adjustment "G".

And almost every one of those adjustments affects one or more of the others. You could tear your hair out for a week trying to get the thing the way you want it, and it would still be wrong. For example, if the car pulls to the right, it means that there is more weight on the left front and the right rear tires than there is on the other corners. This is not the case with the run-of-the-mill minivan you see at Walmart, which is lopsided for other reasons having nothing to do with precision handling, but we won't get into that subject just now.

You need a computer controlled machine like this one to accomplish the job of exact alignment, but more importantly, you need someone running it who has a good amount of Porsche experience. And, by the way, everything done to the front of the car also has to be done to the rear, which then affects the front again. And, be sure to test drive it in between each new tweak, because the car's handling will change with each adjustment you make.  

My car has a 'clunk' in the front when going slowly over small bumps, plus the car pulls slightly to the right, plus the front tires have begun to wear on their inside edges and they have a slight 'feathering' of those edges. In other words, it needs work. Oh, and the steering wheel vibrates at speeds above 100kph or so. In investigating all of this I learned that the 'rake' of the car is twice what it should be, and that ill adjustment must have increased the negative camber, as well as the toe - in front.  The rear tires seem to be wearing normally with no indication of misdirection.  We'll fix that.

I ordered a batch of rubber bushings for the front anti-sway bar, since they appear to be the cause of the clunk, plus a set of 'bump steer' spacers to accommodate the too-low front of the car. The spacers lift the steering rack so that the tie rods are once again level after having been lowered. I'm not especially interested in raising the car back to 100% stock in the height department.

Anyway, lifting the steering rack will affect the negative camber and toe, once again. Maybe it will actually put the alignment almost right, but it won't fix the steering wheel vibration, nor the drift of the car to the right which likely is a corner balance issue. The mechanics you see here are competent and have aligned a number of Porsche 911s, so we'll see if they have a comprehension of all the subtleties in the bigger picture.

Naturally you have been wondering why there are so many adjustments to be made to the suspension of an older Porsche like mine - or yours. Today's Porsche cars may have even more complex adjustments; I don't know, but if so, they are there for somewhat different reasons.  What I do know is that when my car was built, in November of 1973, it was not produced on a modern production line, such as those pioneered by Henry Ford in 1913 - a century ago. Each Porsche was installed on a sort of large wheelbarrow device that allowed it to be moved along when it was ready for the next phase of its construction. I guess this was a 'production line' of a primitive sort, but it was not as smooth as the one Ford had in operation 60 years earlier, which manufactured cars in large numbers.

Porsches the age of mine were among the last of the handmade cars constructed by any surviving manufacturer to build cars in significant quantities. Each body was assembled using parts that had been stamped out, as is normal. They were then welded and soldered together without the same precision, identical alignment of typical modern cars built in huge numbers. Therefore, every body is different to a degree, and it is easy to see this if you compare a number of examples of this era - you can see hammer marks from the process of convincing various pieces to fit together. As well, one person might have assembled a transmission, or engine, and when it was finished it went into a certain car. There weren't dozens of people involved; these cars were pretty much hand built.

1974 production line. Notice all the workers and the frantic pace involved.
As a result, alignment has to take into account the fact that no two car bodies are alike and so infinite adjustments are needed to bring all of these varying vehicles into a reasonable relationship with one another. Porsche obviously wanted a standard of handling and even appearance for its cars, and to accomplish this alignment of everything had to be precise in the end. In addition to this, various owners had an interest in racing, or touring, or hill climb competitions, or going to buy groceries. The adjustments can accommodate all of these interests, as well as the variations in the actuality of each car.

Naturally, this makes for complication 40 years after the car was built. Some components might have been replaced, but not others. Possibly a previous owner made changes to suit his interests, and he might have botched the job. Parts will have been damaged from the years of vigorous use the cars have endured. I found evidence of vigorous use in my car when I removed the gas pedal. It was bent into a curve from having been mashed hard to the floor repeatedly over time. Also, other abuse was possible, even expertly repaired and concealed accident damage. All of this makes solving the issues my car now suffers a test of resolve and creativity - as well it is necessary to read competent books on the subject.    

Continuing this story later, all the parts I ordered arrived and have been installed, and so the wheels were aligned again. I think. Every movement up or down of the car (i.e. push up on the bumper, or pull down while it is on the alignment rack) changes all the settings. So, when is it correct? Everything will change as you bounce down the road, therefore, there is no apparent absolute alignment, except for momentary serendipity when you hit the right bump or slope in the pavement. I guess you get it in the ballpark. That, or I find a more experienced Porsche aligner.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What is it worth?

Insurance companies want to know what they are insuring you for. In the case of an elderly car, some understanding of the worth of the thing must be established, so that in the case of a loss guidelines are already in place.

My policy offers to pay an agreed value. This means that an approved appraiser (the insurer has a list of these) says it's worth X dollars, plus tax, and that's what the insurance company should fork over in the event of a total loss. The tax part is important where I live, because it's 15%, which is a solid chunk of change on the price of a car. Once you have agreed on a value - and paid a premium to match - you cannot argue that since then you have had the car gold-plated and it is now worth 100 times the agreed value. Sorry, but no.  

The other day I was contacted by my insurance broker, and told that my insurance company required a new evaluation of my Porsche 911 before it would issue a new policy, due to begin next month. It's been four years (already!) since the previous appraiser's evaluation, and in the mean time I have a new insurance company. This new company takes a stance whereby it demands evaluations, for special older cars, every three years, but they respected the prior four year term because it was agreed upon. It's hard to imagine values changing that rapidly since my car will soon celebrate its 40th birthday in several months, but there you have it.

So I washed the car in anticipation. 

In the last four years plenty has happened to my car, but you can't see it by looking at the thing. My engine and transmission have been taken out and put back into the car a couple of times. First because the transmission needed a general overhaul, but also an important functional repair - a new main shaft got installed, which is the biggest chunk of metal in there. Then the whole affair came out again because the ring and pinion gears were not aligned by the transmission rebuilder (why not?) and they needed to be set straight. Then there was the 'triangle of death', an area on the top rear of the engine, where you can't reach when the engine is in the car, where multiple oil leaks tend to occur. I had some leakage there and so I preemptively changed all the usual suspects. The list goes on and there was some money involved. New CV joints, new Bilstein shocks, all manners of hoses, filters, dribblers (for real), wires, etc. I put in new firewall insulation, a fuel pump; I can't remember it all. Oh yes, I totally redid the trunk, and redid the undercoating of the body.

The next major project saw the entire interior of the car stripped out, down to the bare metal. I gutted it. Even the old-school sound deadening material was tediously removed from the floor. I had planned to modernize the sound deadening with today's exotic materials, but before I got to that I found some rust, partly due to water leaking in around the windshield. Two years after my car was built Porsche began to use galvanized metal for the entire body, but not on my car. 

That's not me
Some rust I could clean and isolate, but a half-dozen areas had to be cut out. They were little, but still. Not having the requisite tools, nor expertise, I hired a self-described Porsche restorer who was willing to make house calls. He, with my feeble help, formed galvanized sheet metal into pieces with compound curves so that they would fit into the corners of the floor, a typical rust location. I didn't know that you can both expand and shrink metal into complex shapes, now I do. The new sound-proofing went in with plenty onerous work, and each piece was glued in place with the seams then sealed using lead tape, which was then covered with vinyl tape. It sounds vaguely like building a medieval cathedral.

The carpeting was refurbished and looks good. All 17 pieces of it get glued in like a jig-saw puzzle. I had the steering wheel covered, in Texas, with leather to match the upholstery in sort of a cork color. Yada, yada, but in the end it looks pretty nice and people go "Aaaah!" in appreciation. There are actually parts in there recycled from at least six other cars.

Now the appraiser, not remembering this car from four years ago, did not have an idea of all the work that was done, because much of it is hidden, underneath, and invisible. So I brought along a memory stick with photos of the process (I made him look at them), as well as a PDF of the evaluation that he had done four years previously and forgotten. I brought along a stack of receipts, too, and I showed him the biggest ones. However, the evaluation will reflect the market price, considering the work completed, but not my fantasy notion of what the car is worth.

Installing speedo with a custom dial
So, I got a copy of the twelve page long evaluation when it was done. There are some glaring factual errors. For example, the report says that the car has four-wheel drum brakes. 356's had drum brakes, but not this vintage of car. Then I disagreed on the estimation of the condition of various bits and pieces. The guy crawled all around on the ground looking under the car and the underside of the engine. He peered closely at everything, but we didn't always see eye-to-eye. If I would challenge the evaluation, then I would have to find another appraiser and pay all over again for a second opinion and that would involve a trip of hundreds of miles. I didn't challenge it.

Finished inside, at least for now. . .
In the end the new appraisal increased the agreed value by $4,500, plus tax = $5175. Actually, I haven't heard from the insurance company yet as to what they think of this. With my labor worth nothing, that would cover a good part of my out-of-pocket spending, so I figure it didn't come out too badly. However, bringing along all those photographs and other documentation really paid off. Had I not been thorough, I would not have seen an acceptable adjustment to the car's value. Be prepared. It's worth it in the end. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


"joyride [ˈdʒɔɪrʌɪd]
noun informal
a fast and dangerous ride, esp. one taken in a stolen vehicle: kids stealing cars for a Saturday night joyride."

Chapter One - The Rough Start

"Drive it like you stole it" is often given as ungrammatical advice to owners of older Porsche cars, lest they allow those vehicles to moulder away in a garage somewhere, unused, against every intention of Herr Doktor Ing. h.c. F. Porsche, who assuredly enjoyed driving in a sporting fashion. I don't know how your average thief drives, but I can imagine that whatever his method, risks are rampant. In this post I will talk about some consequences of risk, tragic consequences, followed by pure joy in order to bring you, and me, back into the realm of the happiness that Porsches are supposed to bestow on us. Without that happiness why would we (I) put up with the care and feeding of such a fussy, noisy, risky car as a 911, that is still going beyond its 40th year?

A week ago I drove my Porsche across the entire width of the northern edge of the State of Vermont. It isn't a large state, but it does take two-and-a-half or three hours to make the crossing using some of the speedier roads, which is a relative term and it means little. I got a late start, because of delays in traversing the US/Canada border. In the summer, tourists plug up the Homeland Security checkpoints by driving motorhomes and caravans festooned with kayaks on the roofs, and wads of bicycles on the back. They don't move fast, and the border guards don't either. Local knowledge helps, so I decided to detour two towns over to a very small crossing where there was only one car ahead of me in line. [Today, a week later, there was a two hour wait at the border I routinely use, which isn't that little one.]

Where are you going? the border officer said. To a Porsche club drive and picnic . . . What's that !?! the DHS officer demanded in an elevated voice as he leaned over to squint at the name tag on my shirt. A name tag, I said as his squinting got wrinklier. How could a name tag have implications for terrorism, or whatever? I answered him satisfactorily, I guess, so at length he quit squinting and asking questions and I was on my way, late.

So, I was starting out on a cross-state run and I was behind time, and I was in my Porsche. What could be the solution to this situation, especially considering that I faced twisty little roads through sparse farmland, rolling hills, and maybe a few small towns? Yes, that's correct, you've got it. Drive it like you stole it.

The problem is traffic. In the summertime everybody is on the road, in every type of vehicle, many going very slowly. On a road with a 50 mph speed limit (the maximum limit on secondary roads in Vermont) there is always a Prius going 30 mph. When the driver occasionally winds it up to 35 mph, you can see the occupants leaning into the curves as if on the Pike's Peak hill climb. There are few passing zones when the roads get interesting, and when a passing zone appears, it is 30 yards long. Maybe on a hot sport bike that's enough space to pass, but not with my 911. A frustration builds up; it's normal.

So, you have to try harder. At last on a highway that is little used, by comparison, I was able to open it up. Not in a crazy fashion, but still. It's a nice road with wonderful views, nearly smooth pavement (some even new), many hills, and plenty of curves - I don't remember that there is a straight part to this road. A straight part would have allowed passing. I passed.

At some point in bygone days when animal-drawn vehicles and humans on foot were the only occupants of the roadways, the paths (which became roads later) took a far more organic and meandering journey through the countryside. Very commonly, farms had their houses on one side of the road, and the barns on the other. Plenty farms are still like this, but now the road in between has maniacal Porsche drivers on it. The original purpose was probably convenience of some kind, now it imposes hazards and inconvenience. But, in this corner of Vermont, the roads still curl around through farms, just as they did when horses reigned supreme, and I didn't perceive a hazard beyond the confines of my spirited driving. I should have.

I love animals; all of them. They are innocent, they honestly do what they have evolved to do, and with many it is possible to have an actual relationship of a mutually beneficial nature. Not all animals that are often pets are pets. There are barn cats, among others in this category - working animals, mostly. Farmers keep barn cats to do what cats do - catch mice and other critters that annoy farmers.

Even before conscious perception of what I was doing I braked heavily on the gently curving road, in the center of a bend between the house and the barn. The beautiful orange stripped cat ran for all he was worth toward the barn, coming from my right. There was a bang. In my rear-view mirror I saw the heart-rending sight of the stricken cat, who had one rear leg standing straight up in the air. In one second, not more, the leg dropped down, the cat no longer able to support it in death. A tight knot gripped my gut; the landscape lost its color, the road's curves became flaccid, and the hills flat. It was 'just' a barn cat; it was an innocent being doing its job. I was playing; I was guilty.

I stopped. I found no one, and was forced to leave the creature. I told someone of this later and they said, "So? It's only an animal." I think less of people who have that arrogant and essentially ignorant attitude. We are all in this together. Sorry if you, dear reader, fit into this category, but that's the way it is. 


Chapter Two - Downhill From There  

Clouds and sun were evenly balanced and it was warm, not hot since it was still early, although I had been driving for some time since my farcical interview at the border. I just drove, without the same initial enjoyment, and the miles ticked away on the odometer, unnoticed and not appreciated. I was still on the same highway, the one with the greatest geological variation of any I would travel today and I should have been delighted at my good fortune in traveling through lovely countryside like this. It was only a barn cat; I kept telling myself this, but I hated it

As had been my luck throughout the morning, I was stuck behind a pick-up truck, the worse for wear, being driven by a man in no hurry, except to go somewhere, slowly. I resigned myself and tried to appreciate the hills that were remnants of Vermont's Green Mountains; I had seen them all before and the next bend was as familiar as the previous one, so it seemed today. The man in the truck had much time on his hands to be driving at this pace for so long a time.

If I get my earplugs wedged into my ears just right, so that they really work, the 'song' of the Porsche's engine (and ring & pinion gears) recedes to a level that will allow me to actually hear conversation when I reach my destination, since the ringing in my ears will be at an almost moderate level. My ears have been insulted enough over the years by gun shots, agricultural equipment, cross-continent motorcycle tours, and my ex-wife, although not so much by volume in her case. At any rate, my ears need protecting. 

And so the drone carried on and I focused on what the balance of the day would bring once I reached my journey's end, awash with friendly faces. The drone was subdued, of course, by my noise-attenuating ear plugs, and so the world as I perceived it was not real, at least in the auditory realm. I could see, I could smell, I could feel, I could hear to a degree and the sun was now brighter. It became a lovely morning once again.

The pick-up truck turned into a farm yard, allowing me to nimbly disappear over the next small horizon, and so now I felt much more alive; in charge of my actions once again.

It didn't last long. Now I was behind an SUV fat enough to block my whole forward view and, naturally, the driver was not in a hurry to get to where he was going. We carried on.

At some distant point, in the middle of nowhere not near a town, the SUV abruptly began to slow.  I could make out that there were a couple vehicles ahead of it, but beyond them there was a sea of flashing lights. A man, a volunteer of a sort found in Vermont, was in the road, wearing a florescent vest and he was directing traffic - something bad had happened, at least this much was clear.

With the volunteers' pick-ups already present, plus two local fire trucks, there was a vehicular crowd; too many for safety on a tiny, winding road. I was obligated to slow to a crawl, but this allowed me to become a voyeur; I did not want to stop and make the problem worse. 

An anonymous car - a middle-sized, beige thing that was probably a Japanese blump - had driven straight where the road curved gently to the left. It went unswervingly across the front lawn of a house, and slammed square into the granite wall of a piece of the Green Mountains. The mountain did not move, and the car was flattened up to its windshield.

The driver of the car, and its only occupant as far as I could tell, had been removed from the automobile and she was sitting on the ground, leaning against the rear door. She was being tended to by a woman, I think. No ambulance was yet on the scene.

I will never forget the expression on that woman's face:  shock, fear, wonder, disbelief, pain. Saucer-eyed and incredulous, the look of her sitting there told nothing about her injuries, but there had to be some. There was no obvious bleeding; she was conscious. She was clearly pregnant.

I have to suspect texting in this case. It could have been anything, so this is speculation, because I have no hard evidence for this idea, but the day was fine and bright, there was no wind, the portion of the road she was driving on was flat and dry. The lawn was part of a residence, not an agricultural property and no such property was near. Rule out animals or a person in the road, because if it were necessary to swerve to avoid one of these, the car would not have gone perfectly straight. She just drove the car straight, into a granite wall. Why?

Because she was distracted by something. She could have started going into labor, but then she didn't look that pregnant. I believe she was doing something inappropriate, and these days a likely culprit is texting. If so, that would have been a very high-risk activity, especially considering her pregnancy. I am convinced she took that risk.

Two innocents in one morning . . .

Chapter Three - Everybody is Smiling  

There is no reason to speculate anymore about the balance of the day. It is true that I'm still low-spirited from what has happened, but the landscape is getting more 'foreign' as I near Lake Champlain, with smaller hills and a swampy pungency, and I know I am about to arrive in the promised land.

Well, this is a surprise. I guess I drove with more intensity than I was conscious of doing, because I'm actually early, somewhat. At least there are fewer cars than I expected, although there are some people around, plus a couple dogs, and a boat. I get to select a good parking spot. There is plenty of room, but getting away from the dusty driveway is helpful for the car's shine. It turns out that there are a few carless visitors, but they seem friendly, anyway.

The population builds quickly, and rather nicely. There is a gorgeous 356 that just underwent a full restoration - there isn't even any dust in its wheel-wells - and nearby a weeks-old 981 Boxster with new-car-smell oozing all over the place. Those, and everything in between; about 33 Porsches (and a couple others) showed up for this activity. I'll get to the people in a moment.

Right away, an opinion. First, to me the new Porsches are too fat (I won't mention which ones at this event). This remark might step on some toes, but Porsche is addressing a market, and that market evidently wants posh along with power and prestige. The recent cars are absolutely stuffed with electronic gizmos beyond any need as far as spirited driving is concerned. Yes, some are digital nannies that will keep the unwary going in their intended direction, never mind their ineptitude or distractions, such as trying to program idiotic details into the infotainment system, but this is sad. Sad, because when I look at the history of Porsche, that's not what I find. I find nimbleness due to light-weight, minimalist cars, that are raw and visceral. They were, as my car still is, driven by the driver, not by people in Porsche's marketing department. 'Less is more,' in the sense meant by Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, is fine by me. I'll take mine additive-free, please. 

To many, this view I have is an odd and abstemious perspective. It's almost unpatriotic, or similar to a general rule observed by the Old Order Amish, or the Mennonites. Those people aren't much for sports cars, but they know what basic technology is and what it does, and no frills are necessary. Good attitude. The fact that my car has no power brakes, no power windows, no power seats, no power mirrors, no intermittent wipers, no sunroof, no sound system, no automatic transmission, no console, no GPS, no AC (it's a hot car), no power steering, a cable operated clutch, no ventilated seats, etc., is more than fine with me. The car is a blast to drive, and any mistakes made are mine, and not the car's fault.

Everybody is smiling. I don't know who came with what car, mostly, so I smile back and tell them that they have a nice car, and all of them do. It's just that some of those cars are not for me. I also see plenty of people that I know. Being friendly is universal, of course, so all of this is easy to take, and conversation is relaxed and pleasantly fluid. Talk covers every imaginable subject and it ranges from ephemeral smalltalk, to Descartes vs. Schopenhauer. Everybody keeps on smiling. 

The happy dogs make believe that they are trying to murder each other.

We get our orders from the boss that explain how we should behave on the drive we will take around the islands in the north part of the lake and everyone jumps into their cars, fires up, and joins the parade. We imagine that we are wowing the locals with our snaking line of shiny Porsches, but most of those locals continue to weed their gardens, or hang laundry on the line out back. One or two point in our direction and comment to their beer-holding buddies about them souped-up Volkswagens going by. We keep smiling.

Food. There was a lot of food. It was very good food. I'm not a foodie.

Chapter 4 - Let's Go Boating 

The boat was meant to be a sort of add-on hotel, should the need arise. This was a big party, after all, and a good number of people had driven substantial distances to get there, so the considerate hosts offered to put up those who wanted to party more so that they would stay off the roads in the dark while possibly being a bit tipsy. This was a good ploy and there were takers for the offer. There is a house and a guest house. The owners stayed in the guest house, and turned over the 'real' house to those who wanted it. The place sleeps ten comfortably, but the hosts were uncomfortable that this would be enough, so they asked one of the participants to bring her boat - which sleeps six - in order to be sure there would be enough capacity, bed wise.
It costs something like $800 to $900 to fill the gas tanks of that boat. I'm not quite sure how many hours it took to drive the boat to the location the house has on the lake, but the fuel consumption per hour is considerable because the boat has a big, rumbling V-8 with a lot of weight to push. As it happened, the boat wasn't needed as a mini hotel. 

Even if it had been needed, the cost of gasoline for that boat would have exceeded the cost of the best motel rooms in the vicinity, so the surplus guests could have been put up in relative splendor for a comparative pittance. Yes, but what romance is there to that? The boat rocks you to sleep, after all, and it was easily available. Too bad.  

As we (I was among them) awoke the following morning, groping around for coffee, the boat was still there and it was a nice day. This was a no-brainer. 'Let's burn some gasoline tootling around on the lake' seemed to be the collective thought and it was the middle of summertime. 

A boat that draws a meter of water must be maneuvered with care no matter where you are. On this lake you don't go anywhere without a chart spread out in front of you, and your depth-finder turned on to constantly read out how much depth you have under your bottom. In some places that look like fully open water you would rip the bottom off of this boat if you drove through there fast enough.

And so we launched ourselves out onto the waves to see the sights and enjoy the day. Soon the engine was roaring at its power output sweet-spot and everybody's hair was blowing horizontally toward the rear of the boat, so we were smiling. It's silly, isn't it? Anyway, the boat driver's head bobs up and down as he or she monitors the chart, the finder, and the horizon/shore/landmarks for clues about how to get from here to there without drowning a dozen people in the bargain. This is great fun, and when I took the wheel I sweated profusely and drove slowly. You have to become accustomed to this sort of thing. 

In the end, after rounding this island, then that one, then a few more, it was over and everyone said that they had a wonderful time. The presence of the boat represented tremendous generosity on the part of its owner, and it was a clever idea to have it available on the part of the party givers, too. We did sincerely appreciate it. 

I'm a car guy.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Price Glory?

The title of this post does not refer to the stage play, or multiple motion pictures by the same name, which are war related dramas, but rather to a horrendous event of the 2013, 24 Hours of Le Mans. Maybe that does make it war related.

The Le Mans race this year was held under difficult conditions, mainly resulting from repeated bouts of rain that caused poor and mixed surface conditions on the track.

An experienced Danish driver, Allan Simonsen, who drove an Aston Martin in the race, was killed on his fourth lap. I confess that when I came across a video of the accident, I looked at it. I wanted to know what had happened, and why. Thankfully, the crash itself is not visible in the brief video, but some of the driving and conditions preceding it are seen. As you might expect, scrutiny of this event appeared on the Web. Here I quote one person's comment about the video. It appeared on a popular Porsche discussion forum.

"It had been raining.    

"Car looked squirrley before he overcorrected.

"This has turned into a 24 hour sprint race. The teams are driving on the edge the whole time. There was a decent amount of rain and most teams stayed out on slicks anyway to avoid the stop their competitors weren't taking."

To these comments, I responded, "The above sums it up for me. At some point when drivers' lives are devalued in the interest of winning, it's no longer a sport, and no longer interesting."

Oddly, after only 12 posts on the subject of Simonsen's loss, mine was the last and nobody else offered any thoughts. Naturally, this sad event was mentioned in the press (of course, it was sensational) and in remarks made by team bosses and the like. They pointed out that no one has been killed in the race for 27 years. That doesn't make it OK. Somebody remarked, "Bummer . . ." Really?

Today's cars are dramatically more reliable and capable than those of 27 years ago, so keeping a winning advantage often comes down to pit-stop numbers, and the length thereof - almost more than the differences between the various marques of car. Yes, in the midst of this, Porsche is celebrated for its stellar performance, yet again, as it won both the GTE-Pro, and GTE-Am classes, and it deserves congratulations. Not everyone has the history and engineering resources of Porsche.

Nevertheless, does a driver today become a consumable commodity, like tires and brake pads? Do 24 hour sprint races that jeopardize a driver's earthly existence have a place in auto sport? Simonsen was violently killed - because it would have taken too long, in a 24 hour race, to switch to appropriate tires? If so, this is obscene, and can't be tossed off as 'too bad' because it is a risky sport and this happens now and then.

I know I'm preaching about this, but I think people have an obligation to do so. And it's true that the complete cause(s) of the accident are not yet known with certainty; various wet surfaces with different slipperinesses are cited, etc. To me it doesn't matter if subtle additional influences are discovered to have contributed to the crash, because at the root of it they were just pushing too hard. A team can push as forcefully as it can imagine, but not to the point of insanity. A cover-up would not surprise me.

In our enlightened culture today a person can look at Web videos and TV programs that feature 'fails'. Often this means that a person gets hurt, or even killed, and this is viewed as entertainment. No wonder drivers are expendable; this is no better than gladiators fighting to their deaths in ancient Rome.     

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Porsche Personality Type

If you have been referred to this post from another site, please don't stop here. There are posts on this blog that cover a broad variety of subjects and it might interest you to check them out, also.  Click on 'Newer Post', 'Home', or 'Older Post' at the bottom of this page, or the list at the right.

We now celebrate the more-or-less 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911 automobile, and in the field of Psychology, study of Type A personality theory also has been going on for these same 50 years. The term “Type A” is tossed around often, but it’s not always exactly known what precise characteristics make up the “Type A” personality, because even among experts there is disagreement. Therefore, this post is offered as a public service for those automotive sorts who remain confused on this subject.

The Type A personality typically is associated with time urgency, aggressiveness, hostility and competitiveness. Porsche boasts of over 30,000 victories in auto-sport competition. Type A's have a clear drive for success, victory, high ambition and are goal oriented. Doesn't that sound like racing?  What are high performance sports cars supposed to do, if not to perform exactly in the manner we accuse high performance, combative and work-obsessed Type A people of doing? After all, a lot of Porsche owners must admit to some level of Type A drive.

© = ?

Type A persons have short fuses, and one unrelated but often cited trait is that they experience facial sweating, particularly of the forehead and upper lip. Vintage Porsche cars suffer sweating, too, but it comes from the underside of the rump of the car in the form of oil. Maybe that doesn't count. However, the core idea of Porsche's vaunted competition record says that Porsche equals power, speed, precision, and superior design and engineering. We're better than you, it says. The short fuse thing I haven't figured out, because Porsches tend to last - 16 overall wins at Le Mans, and next year they will be at it again . . .

Type B personalities tend to be more creative, imaginative, and philosophical. In other words, they are the people who design Porsche cars in the first place. You need to be creative in order to make a car with the engine in the wrong place perform in an acceptable fashion. What was Ferdinand thinking? Anyway, Type A types get things done, because they have to, or else they blow a fuse. There is a genuine health risk with this, it's not just a joke; heart attacks, strokes - Type B people never die of anything but angst or faded inspiration. 

Luckily most of us are a blend of Type A and Type B. This means that some Porsche owners, like me, can actually think as well as drive like bats-out-of-hell. This combination of attributes is special, so hang in there if you are so blessed, because the world needs balance, especially these days. Yin-yang.

Like so many things in life, the whole story is not as simple as A+B, it's more complicated, because there are Type C individuals running around out there, as well. Type C stands for caviar. These are the persons who collect Porsche cars, but never drive them. They are the creators of the concept of the Garage Queen, and they typically wear gold chains around their necks. Once, when I was in the market for a Porsche, I discovered one that was for sale under very fishy circumstances, in Florida. It looked beautiful in the online pictures, for the most part, and even though the color wasn't right (see post "The Power of Color" below - or, read your way down there) I called to inquire about the details as no price had been listed.

While on the phone the whole story began to become suspicious - it got suspiciouser later. This man who was "not a dealer" was selling this car as a favor for a man, his friend, who lived in Connecticut. The car was in Florida, because this non-dealer had it shipped down there so as to be better able to sell it, he said. He also said that he sold the car to his friend in Connecticut in the first place (causing it to be shipped up to Conn. from Florida to begin with), but now the friend wanted to sell it. The mysterious Connecticut man had had the car for one year, but, I was told, had never even sat in the car during that time. It was just parked in a corner of his warehouse along with many of his other cars. Why was it that a man who could afford a warehouse full of cars could not manage to sell this unwanted Porsche locally? Nobody in his neighborhood could provide this busy man a consignment sale sort of thing?

So, the Florida non-dealer did his best to convince me of the immaculate condition of the car. "I have my doubts about the condition of the car," I said. He became decidedly unsettled. "The car is perfect!" His voice rose. "If it has been sitting, maybe for years, it isn't perfect," I said. "Seals and gaskets dry, gas dries, corrosion sets in, no matter what the car looks like," I said. "If I were to buy that car the lack of use might cause it to break down while I drive it home."

"Drive it home !!" He became apoplectic and I had to hold the phone away from my ear. "Something might happen if you drive it on the road," he yelled. I think he might have been a Type A. "I want a car to drive, not park on a pedestal," I said, "but I'll make you an offer." And then I mentioned a price that I thought favorable. "I won't sell this car for that price !!"  (now he was screaming), and he slammed down the phone.

This image and the above borrowed from the web
 A week later I saw a fantastic Porsche for sale on eBay, but this time the color was so unique that even I was taken aback by it. But, it was a consistent Concours d'Elegance winner and totally amazing - and it was regularly driven. Oddly, the car was in Connecticut. Also, it was too expensive, but somebody did buy it in that auction; I watched the bidding. A few weeks after that I saw the same car (obviously - that color) for sale again, but not in an auction. I didn't want the car, but I was curious, so I telephoned; it was now in Florida. "I'm not a dealer, but I'm selling that car for a friend," the man said, "my friend has had it for a year and hasn't even sat in it in that time . . ."

No doubt this represented a special branch of the Type C personality, but in any case a car is for driving. Collecting, I don't really understand, but then I'm an A+B kind of guy.

"Richness does not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them. " - Napoleon Bonaparte.