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.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Report on the 2016 Porsche Parade at Jay Peak, Vermont

The 2016 Porsche Parade at Jay Peak,Vermont, is now history. Having been there on and off for the entirety of it, I guess I'm a part of that history, so here are a few observations arising from it all.

Drive right in. The effort expended on signage was significant. There was even a sign truck running around, continuously.

This was my first Parade, therefore, I can't directly compare it to other Parades, but since I offered to do work shifts on four days as a humble volunteer helper, probably I learned a bit more about the insides of it than those PCA throngs who otherwise showed up to enjoy the show. That said, I have the impression that the turnout for this Parade was smaller than at other recent Parades. Monterey, California, in 2014, was undoubtedly larger, because CA is where every second car on the road is a Porsche and if just a few of them showed up at the Parade there must have been a million of them there. That, and Jay Peak is way, way off of the beaten track.

Also and sadly, there were many cancellations among the would-be attendees to Jay Peak, due in very large measure to the shenanigans of a couple of
"alleged" crooks who are accused of committing a massive fraud against the place involving hundreds of millions of dollars +. Word of this got around, fast. Attending Parade, especially for someone living at any substantial distance, involves a sizable commitment of time and money. Finding out at the virtual last minute that a large part of the northeast corner of Vermont, including Jay Peak, has been heavily damaged by a Ponzi scheme of sorts might have caused a few PCA types to change their minds about going there. Of course it did.

The following is somewhat an aside:  If a simple man steals $100 from a convenience store he will wind up in the slammer as soon as the police find him, and he will stay there for a while. In the Jay Peak case, $200,000,000 has
"allegedly" been 'misused' by two men and they are walking around free. An individual who knows him reported to me that one of them, Bill Stenger, who is under court order to have nothing to do with the operations of Jay Peak, was seen standing next to an Audi, watching the activity during the Concours d'Elegance. Ariel Quiros, the "alleged" 'other perp' whined to a federal court in Miami, Florida, that the Feds had to release some money to him - from the funds that the court had frozen - because he couldn't put food on his family's table. He is accused of "allegedly" siphoning off $55,000,000 for 'personal expenses', so reports go. There is nothing in his pantry? He otherwise has no legitimate assets? I hope that guy in jail for taking $100 doesn't hear about this. Quiros needs to pay an army of lawyers. Note that they haven't been found guilty yet - wink, wink. The words "alleged" and "allegedly" have been added to the two above paragraphs on the advice of counsel.

For more recently released extensive details about this fraud case, click here.

But back to our main story, because PCA has nothing whatsoever to do with fraudsters, especially the ones at Jay Peak. Anyway, the government put the operation of Jay Peak into the hands of trustees who, it must be said, worked well to ensure that the Parade was able to take place as planned.

The Hotel Jay is one of the larger hotels on site.

I began my duties in/at the simple Welcome Tent, on Saturday, June 18. I was one of those who handed out ice-cold water and junk food, along with answers to basic questions about where to check-in to a condo, and things like that. Attendees showed up in various states of fatigue, some were confused, others were quite fresh for some reason. There did not seem to be a relationship between having a new car, or an old one - people simply hold up differently to automobile travel. Clearly some enjoyed the trip, while others looked forward to a relaxing bath to recover from it. One agitated man immediately demanded to know where the nearest bar was located; at least he was finished driving. He wasn't the only guy like that in attendance. Over all I noticed more variety in the cars than in the people, and no one pretended arrogant superiority either, but of course everyone was driving a cool, shiny Porsche, alors que peux-tu faire? (You would hear a little bit of French now and then since the Parade was near Quebec, after all.)

Welcome Tent. Red, white, and blue bags of junk food.
Saturday also offered Parade 101, and Concours 101, both 'courses' for those not yet familiar. I should have taken Parade 101 instead of handing out junk food, c'est la vie pas le paradis.

Sunday involved check-in to the Parade for the bulk of those who attended. The affair was organized so that the process took place in a reasonably efficient way, and I got to sit down for much of it, good. There were more people here all at once than on the day before, but it was never crowded, and I did not witness any major screw-ups at all, just little ones. Outside, the Concours combatants were cleaning and polishing for all that they were worth, and I had to wonder how many thousands of Q-Tips were consumed in the melee. And, you could drop off your art work for the Art Show, buy stuff at the Goodie Store, have your kids entertained (there weren't many kids attending), and get a safety/tech inspection for Auto-X, plus everything else already mentioned. In the evening you could go to the Welcome Party if you still had any energy left. I went home to a nice dinner and my own bed. Also, on Sunday, there was a meeting of the Protest Committee, for those who wanted to know how to disagree with Concours judging decisions - before any decisions were even made. The Concours people, and the Auto-X competitors are deadly serious, and each has a Protest Committee of their own, set up ahead of time.

Check-in, in the Ice Haus. I wore a green Volunteer shirt, too.
On Monday the Concours judges assembled at 7:00 a.m. and concluded their decisions by 8:30, by some miraculous means. Maybe they had seen all of these cars before. . .  Here is a story I was told: One Concours competitor lost first place in their class for this reason - The car was out on a lawn that had a slight slope. Someone wanted to have the car seen in gear, but with the hand brake not engaged. It must have looked nicer that way. The car rolled 3 inches in the process of doing this, therefore, there was a slight patch of moisture from the grass visible near the tire bottoms. Lost first place for this unsightly dampness. The way those people prepare, and judge, their cars, I believe this story. I can't prove it though. The Concours exhibition ended at 3:30. By four o'clock many of the competing cars were already loaded into 'Reliable' special car transport trucks, so as to be moved to the next show promptly, I guess. Honestly, the Concours didn't interest me that much; just look at the parking lot. After all, there were several locations where anyone could wash their Porsche upon arrival, or at any other time during Parade. OK, I'm not being very generous. I guess I should consider Concours as an art form, and appreciate it in that light.

Concours on the golf course. A really deep plum colour - excellent.
There was a Historic Display, too, and some of those cars were driven long and hard to get there, if you judged by the fascinating collection of bugs on the front of them. These vehicles were interesting for their accomplishments, rather than their shine. My favourite was a Porsche diesel farm tractor, however it hadn't been driven there, too bad. I expected more old race cars, but they appeared to have stayed home. Truly some of these Historic cars were compelling, but it was a small number of vehicles for an event like this.

No rusty junkers here. I'm sure a lot of people lusted over as many of these cars as I did. Mobile jewelry.

Due to the large golf course venue, the cars were spread over considerable acreage, and you had to hike through the woods, literally, to get from one section of the 'exhibit' to another. It made it seem as if there were fewer cars than there actually were, since they were so stretched over the landscape. I doubt that anyone complained about having some elbow room.

The car to the left was a Paris-Dakar 959 'tribute', if I remember the correct sign. This one got driven there, and if you click it to see a larger version of the photo you will be impressed by the numbers of bugs on it. Why clean up a racer? That car would probably burn the paint off of the car in front of it if it got too close.

Concours again. Nice seats - ventilate the rear of your thighs, too.

My favourite, the farm tractor, was off to one side and often ignored, which was too bad. I don't know why there aren't more old Porsche tractors around, maybe they were too pricey back in the day. They were wonderfully engineered, though. Even a smaller one, in the Hospitality Suite, had multiple power takeoffs, clever attachment points, seating for a passenger, and other embellishments. I wish my Massey-Ferguson had some of those nifty inclusions. What I like about my own P-car is its raw, simple utility, but it's not actually that simple. Neither is the tractor.

Possibly the largest size of tractor that Porsche made. I'd like one, but would I be allowed to get it all dirty?
Monday also included a Concours lunch, Wine tasting, TSD (time, speed, distance) Rally school, a dinner cruise, as well as a Farm to Table buffet. There was a lot of eating involved, every day. Same as my local PCA Region. I don't know why more PCA types aren't substantially heavier. Maybe it's because they want to save poundage in the name of Porsche-level performance. Porsche works hard to remove every kilo of weight that they can from their high-performing cars, so perhaps this objective rubs off on the owners who want to scoot around as Dr. Porsche intended. However, this performance svelteness does not seem to apply to the biggest selling Porsche, the heavy Cayenne. What does that mean? In any case, a lot of people get mixed up about which Porsche they should be seen in, and why. Nice people, though, no doubt.

The Hospitality Suite on Monday. Vendors were around the edges, Porsche Classic included.

On Monday afternoon I worked in the Hospitality Suite, in the Ice Haus, so I checked out the Concours and Historic cars, mentioned above, before my tour of duty. One 'perk' of being a volunteer worker at Parade is that you get to chat with other workers, and ask a few questions. The Parade Information table was handing out self-guided driving tours instructions. All of them originated at Jay Peak, and then returned there. After a friendly chat, I got a complete set of the 22 tour descriptions. With a little editing here, and connecting of the dots there, some rather nice new tours can be concocted from this information. Good for the locals in the Region around here. PCA had more than enough copies of the tours on hand. 

On Tuesday the TSD Rally began at 7:30 in the morning, with the last finishers expected to return at 5:00 in the evening. I've driven in rallies where some people never did return, but those rallies were seen as successful, anyway. Kind of a weeding out process, perhaps. TSD is one of the 'big things' at the PCA Parade, on a level of focus equal to the Concours, or Auto-X. That means keen competition amongst those Type-A types, but then you could say that about dog shows, too. Whoever had fun was doing it right, but those who got an ulcer over any of this might try something else. To each their own and I don't argue with any of it.

Tuesday also offered Driving Tours (including to the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory), a Lunch Cruise, an Ice Cream Social, Seminars on Secrets from the Archives, the Connected Car, and Driving Experience. Then there was a Dinner Cruise, a Concours Social, and finally the Concours Banquet (these last two sponsored by Porsche). Fun, all of it, but largely eating again. What about taking an old Porsche 911 (like mine) apart, and putting it back together again - all in a day. That I'd really enjoy; I can eat anytime. Okay, not with a whole bunch of Porsche People, but still. 

Porsche Cars of Canada sponsored a cocktail party for thirsty Canadians and, sure enough, I showed up for that. It involved no eating, so I was good. I didn't know anybody, but I chatted with random revelers who also didn't know anybody, and we got along fine, because no one expected to actually prove what they claimed about their Porsche exploits. Some of these people had remarkable stories to tell, then we said good-bye; forever, more than likely.

Photo borrowed from PCA. Because they wouldn't let me get any closer.
Wednesday's main offering was Auto-X. This I wanted to see, because while I have read about it and followed some competitions through the media, I have never been present at a real event. There is no road race track anywhere within the PCA region that I belong to, so Auto-X seems to be the only type of competitive driving open to us - aside from rallies, which we have done. Therefore, I wanted to check it out for future reference. Anyway, it was pouring rain, and the first day was for 'stock' cars. You had to prove to everyone that your car was stock, and that meant that between runs on the course you had to open the trunk and engine compartment - in the pouring rain - for any other competitor to examine. If they spotted anything that they didn't like as they peered into your soaking engine room, they would report it via a protest process. I told you that these people are serious.

Waiting in the rain for a go at the course. Show room stock category. Let me check that engine to be sure it's stock . . .

The guy driving this car is enjoying it. He drove in Auto-X, and he drove in the Gimmick Rally on the next day. I give him credit; a 918 may be packed with serious technology to keep it upright and you in one piece, but it can kill you, too. As a result, he had a qualified instructor along in the passenger seat during the sodden Auto-X, in order to protect himself - along with numerous course workers, other cars, and god knows what else.

Next run group. I believe he drove down from Ontario.

While there were plenty of competitors, there were fewer spectators on hand. That's not difficult to understand, but too bad. The thing is that, I suppose for safety reasons, the spectators were kept hundreds of metres away from the course, so one hopes that their binoculars were of the waterproof variety. I had a big umbrella, but there was a breeze, so my pants and shoes were soaked, same as everybody else. I confess that I didn't stay that long.

A view from the grandstand. That horizontal line way out there is the course. Kinda far.

The crowd in the 'grandstand'. Honest; I took the picture.

Wednesday also included a golf tournament and later golf awards, a driving tour to Lake Champlain, more driving tours to Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory, a lunch cruise, a beer party, a dinner cruise, and a 'Checkpoint' social, plus a 'Checkpoint' award ceremony. I guess these last two concerned the rally of the day before. Plenty more calories were consumed.

Thursday offered the only activity that my significant other was prepared to join. To be fair, she was working most of the week, but this fit in. The Gimmick Rally. This is our kind of rally, because you don't consider time, or speed, but you do consider distance - although in a different manner than the TSD people do. We were given a large and often useless map, sometimes GPS co-ordinates, and other written clues to find a collection of antique Vermont covered bridges. This did give the locals an unfair advantage; never mind, the point was to have fun. As we located each bridge, we were required to take a selfie with the bridge in the image in order to prove that we actually found the thing. The rallyists who discovered all of the bridges, plus one exceptional road, in the fewest number of miles traveled were the winners. We tried our absolute best. 

The results were published for everyone to see. We came in 97th place, out of maybe 130 or 140. No trophy this time.

The Fuller bridge.

I blame it on the traffic. That's why I'm snarling at it as my photo was taken in front of this bridge. You can't get on with it with all of those 918s, and similar, causing too much congestion. I was told to lighten up.  

This is more like it. No traffic congestion here as there is in the other picture, above.

It says on the above bridge's sign, "Slow autos to 10 miles an hour. Horses to a walk. Per order selectmen." Good as far as I'm concerned.

And so we carried on, proudly propelling #978 toward certain victory. That didn't work out, but we made pit stops along the way where we met up with friends - most of whom were locals with some of the target bridges in their virtual backyards; that was a perk. Actually, I think I prefer 97th place to 4th, where we would have been a tiny, and agonizing tick away from the podium. There is no such anxiety when you are 97th. According to the results listing on the PCA website, a number of competitors' results were 'incomplete', 'ineligible', and many had 'no score' for some reason, so it's hard to figure out who finished in actual last place, another retrograde distinction for someone. We did fine.

This is the exceptional road I mentioned above. I pulled over for this photo; it's much tighter and smaller than this looks.

Thursday also included the Autocross competition for modified cars, some of them purpose-built in fairly extreme ways. Such as, two speed transmissions. Autocross takes place on small-scale courses, always, so who needs more than two gears? You save weight and complexity that way. Clever. I couldn't go, because I was driving in the rally.

Then there were more Driving Tours, to Lake Champlain, and to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream factory again, a dinner cruise again, and other ancillary merrymaking and eating. One of those was the Brats & Brew Buffet. When we saw a number of friends while on the Gimmick Rally, they suggested that we join them after the rally at the Brats & Brew thing. We inquired and were told that tickets were available at the door. Good, and convenient. After the rally scoring procedure, where we had to produce our selfies to prove we actually visited each bridge, etc., we drove to the site of the Brats & Brew Buffet.

It was sold out; we couldn't get in. What? Well, it cost serious money at the same time, so maybe we were lucky. The tickets were $100 per person (I'm pretty sure); not easy to swallow for a sausage and a beer, with potato salad, whatever. It turned out that the beer wasn't included! Really? And the dessert that was promised didn't exist. Never mind that, an oom-pa-pa band was present and playing so loudly that no one could hear themselves think, forget having a conversation. I didn't find one person who was happy with that event. The rally was fun.

Before I get to Friday, I have to mention a competition that does not involve the skills that are employed in some of the precision events at Parade, such as Auto-X. It involves dogged perseverance. You get a prize if you have driven the greatest distance to get to the Parade. One guy - I don't know his name - has been awarded this prize almost every year, recently. He drives down from Alaska, and since he showed up in Vermont that is an extended drone of a drive. His car is always identifiable, because in order to protect it from gravel on the Alaska Highway, and all manners of other junk that gets flung at a car driving down the road, he covers his 911 in blue painter's tape. A lot of it. How he gets the stuff off of the car is beyond me, because after baking in the sun it really sticks. I know, because I covered the front of my van with similar tape when I drove to Alaska, and it was a devil of a job to get it off. Took forever. 

Sticky tape special, hard butt version.



The guy did neat work, and it must function. He keeps doing it every year.

OK, Friday. I volunteered to work once again in the Hospitality Suite. The stint was five hours in the afternoon. Since I live more than an hour's drive away, plus an extra time allocation in case there is congestion when crossing the US/CAN border, plus finding a parking spot, etc., my starting time for a shift beginning at noon actually turned out to be before 10:00 am. This meant that I had to get out of bed at 8:00 am, nearly the crack of dawn in my opinion. At least the sunrise then is nice, but I'm lazy enough that I would have been happy getting back into bed after enjoying it, however, I made myself eat my nuts and twigs breakfast, shower, and haul myself all the way to Jay Peak just to be hospitable. I hope it was appreciated.

By the end of the week the Hospitality Suite didn't draw the same population as it did on the first days of the Parade, but the free soft drinks and pretzels continued to attract a certain crowd who knew their preferences. In fact those things weren't free, but you know what I mean. Anyway, being hospitable meant that I didn't see much else during the day and I had no reason to go to the Late Apex Awards dinner in the evening.

The cool light projection says it all.

Nevertheless, feeble witticisms aside, volunteering is important for the success of Parade. The venue is costly to PCA, and in this case very large, and the attendees show up in massive numbers (the largest booking in the history of Jay Peak), plus they needed everything, given that the whole show was in the raw, far north of Vermont. For example, people wanted to know where to buy gasoline. That was a good question, because there were only two gas stations anywhere nearby, and one of them wasn't that nearby. 

I was honestly impressed by PCA's colossal efforts in pulling this event together. There were extraordinary challenges to conquer, particularly considering the questionable antics of the upper management of Jay Peak. I congratulate PCA for a job well done, regardless. But, they could not have done it without the volunteers.

The Tech Academy was the big show on Friday, and if I had all of this to do over again, I'd certainly attend it, rather than be a hospitable volunteer. The Tech Academy lasted for six hours, and you could stay for part, or all of it. It would have been six hours for me, but then I really like technical stuff. Aside from what I have already mentioned above, there was another Driving Tour to Lake Champlain - and all the rest of it, near as I can figure, involved eating.

That brings us to Saturday. The day started with a 5K run/walk affair, for those who wished to burn off all of the calories they had been absorbing. There was again a Driving Tour to Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Factory - for the fifth time! Plus, once more, a Driving Tour to Lake Champlain. There are only so many things around Jay Peak, you see. However, remember my mention of the 22 self-guided driving tours described in the Sunday section, above. 

Then, I joined the Dark Side. I attended the Volunteers' Lunch, and I ate a big plate of food. I couldn't help it. I was virtually surrounded by the Banquet of Trimalchio all week, so what could I do? At least I waited until the last day, lest I become addicted to this sort of thing.

A small sign down in the grass, but I found it.
While I was munching away, staging for the Parade of Porsches was taking place outside in the large parking lot between one of the hotels and the 15,000 sq. ft. circus tent in one corner of that lot. A tent of this size was essential, because there were 700 volunteers helping with the Parade, and also with this lunch! 

You can find good photos of the staged cars on PCA's website, here:  I didn't join that parade, because my car broke during the Gimmick Rally. More on that sad business in the "I'm Mad at My Porsche" post, immediately below this post. This is why I have no idea where that car parade went, if anywhere, nor can I even guess.

Hungry volunteers. That's not even the full length of the tent.

Following the volunteer lunch, there was a 'On the Border' Tour that found its way to the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, in Derby Line, Vermont, and Stanstead, Quebec. This building literally straddles the border. There was a talk given by a Vermont politician, I believe, who gave a rendition of State history, but people reported to me that it was boring, too long, and said little about the Haskell itself. My route home goes right past the Haskell Library, etc., so I didn't bother to stop; been there, done that. At the same time, the Haskell building has an interesting history.

For example, the USA/Canada border splits the building in two, and the actual border is painted as a black line on the floor. It is the only library in the USA with no books - they are in the Canadian part of the place. However, the reading room is in the US. Once, a wanted criminal managed to cross the border, but
The Haskell, from Canada to the left.
he was caught. Somehow he avoided extradition, yet he was tried anyway! The judge sat on one side of the border, in the reading room, and the crook was brought into the other side. They tried him across the room (and border) and reached a verdict. Could be that he then was extradited. I believe that this was at a time when laws were somewhat different from now, but still. There are many other cool stories about this place, but back to the Parade.

Okay, one more thing. It doesn't look like this any more. Outside, the border is blocked off (the street on the left used to go into Canada), and US Homeland Security guards sit here all day in idling Chevrolet Surburbans, frowning. There are cameras everywhere. Innocence lost. 

Conclusion:  It was certainly fun seeing all sorts of fancy and interesting Porsches. Many of the cars I saw were familiar, but virtually. I had not seen them in the flesh before and it was enormously enjoyable to have them right there to gawk at. Some of them looked impossible, such as elderly examples in the Concours. If they had been built yesterday they wouldn't have looked as good.

People did their thing, Porsche style; competing, eating, meeting, driving, and visiting a new part of the continent that they had not seen before. It's a funny thing, a car club. You like a certain kind of car, so you celebrate with others who all have the same marque of automobile. That's it. No funnier than any other kind of club, though. It was a great show, I saw some Porsche notables, everybody waved when they met another Porsche on the road, the local cops lightened up, it was beautiful countryside that was a delight to drive through. Altogether a remarkable experience. Going to one Parade was enough for me.

PCNA did its thing. 'Exclusive' versions of Porsches, plus unavailable ones, etc. Teasers.

I finished this post on August 12, nearly two months after the Parade. I did it in bits and pieces, I was busy.

The Jay Peak tram has been ordered shut down by the State of Vermont for required repairs to make it safe for operation. The $4.9M repairs will likely take until June, 2017. You can hike up to the top if you want exercise and a nice view.

Important update:  The Burlington (Vermont) Free-Press newspaper has now reported that the gondolas of the tram have been re-inspected. A hairline crack was found in the carriage of one of the gondolas (the blue part that connects the gondola to the cable above), and this gondola has been removed from service. Therefore, the remaining gondolas will be able to operate for the time being, before a total overhaul of the whole system, now scheduled to begin in the spring of 2017. You will be able to ride up to the top after all. P.S. Service resumed on June 25, the last day of Parade.

I'm Mad at My Porsche

What's with this snivelling car? Nobody has been able to diagnose those eccentric, squirking, complaining noises coming from the engine (maybe), so do I drive it? Is it going to blow up in the middle of nowhere, where there is no cell phone coverage? Will they have to tow it away, leaving an oil puddle on the side of the road - that I will have to summon a HazMat team to clean up?  

And, the above mentioned noises can only be heard inside of the car, not in the engine compartment or elsewhere. Plus, I hear the perplexing noise only at idle, because more revs means more general racket and that drowns out the peculiar noise in question. Depressing the clutch pedal doesn't change anything, either. Oh, and when I start the car, the noises only begin some seconds after the engine has been running.

At the moment I just keep driving it, with the hope that it continues running until I come upon some genius who will recognize the issue. Then I'll fix it, I hope. Or, I'll learn that it is quite normal.

The fact is that a car of this vintage is similar to a person of a comparable vintage. At a certain point various joints start to go wonky, systems get confused, wrinkles develop, things corrode, hair and sheet metal get thin, the car gets a bellyache - which gives you one, too. The list goes on, although a car can be totally restored, whereas a person can only get patched up and injected with sundry chemicals to extend their usefulness, at best. The car can live forever if given enough loving care over time, but I don't think that my personal prospects are as optimistic as this; I'm mortal.

Then, if I'm mortal why is it so bad if the car is, too? Should I be ashamed of getting older? No, I should be happy that I still survive and can run around doing things. The car should also be happy for every new day it sees. Nobody expects a guy to run the 100 meter dash in under 10 seconds when they are in their eighth decade, so why expect a car that's closing in on becoming a half-century old to run as if it were brand new? It doesn't make sense to demand this of an elderly car, unless you completely deny reality, or pour an amount of money into the ancient thing that suggests that you are remarkably unhinged about having it run flawlessly.

A cliché that I mention too often about my car is that it makes so much noise inside that it causes me to think that I'm going very fast, when actually nobody else, outside, notices such performance. In truth, I insist that this is a proper safety feature. I can be satisfied thinking that I'm flying along, even while school buses pass me by. Full disclosure: I wear ear plugs to counter this effect. Possibly this is misleading me.

Therefore, worrying a bit about the likelihood of getting somewhere in my car, in a predictable fashion, is normal. This is just like me intending to climb onto my house's roof to inspect the chimney - maybe I should worry a bit. I'll probably manage to get up there, but then I might wind up in an unexpected location altogether, such as a shrubbery. If the wrong thing happens to either my car or to me it will unfortunately be essential to call a tow truck(s) of some sort. There is a fire extinguisher in my car, and I always carry a cell phone while driving it; I do less for myself. This suggests that I have inadequate faith in my car. Sorry about that.

For all I know, the exotic, mystery noise that my car currently makes is original to it. In that case, something I recently did to the car restored it, but unintentionally. That's a long-shot, though, since nobody at all recognizes the sound, and it is utterly peculiar. I wish I could add a sound bite to this post, but at the moment I don't have the means to do it properly.

I'm not saying that I have a bad car. I don't. It's a gorgeous car that turns heads, causes people to wave from their front yards, makes nine-year-old boys call out, "cool car!", as I inch through traffic - even though they have to wait with their bikes as I squeeze past, plus all of the usual little old ladies and other characters commenting and questioning at the gas station, etc. Heck, I get accosted all of the time wherever I go. Nobody knows that it is making what I think is a funny noise, and certainly none of them care. And, going back and forth over the U.S. and Canadian borders is a bit smoother, too. No insidious crook goes over the border in a car that calls attention to itself. Those characters want to look as average as possible; this car ain't it.

Plus my car runs fine, for an old Porsche, which is to say better than most other cars on the road, of any age. I'm super fussy, that's all.

Okay, I'll take a deep breath now and relax a bit, and I will push the earplugs deeper into my head. Problem solved. 

Up in the air and in the dark. Something seems to have happened since writing this post. Check back.

August 12 update: The details of the scene above will follow soon. The engine is coming out, then exploratory surgery. Followed by getting it fully healthy once more.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bodywork Bombs

Of course, you want it to look nice. An old classic car that you are proud to own, work on yourself, and want to keep, needs to look presentable if you are a more-or-less normal person.

Doing your own work on mechanical issues can be accomplished with methodical attention, but when it comes to the aesthetic perfection of well-painted, well-polished, well-assembled body bits - inside or outside of the car - then Art on some level comes into play. For me, this is where the process turns into a forbidding exercise, as opposed to simply a scary one, such as rebuilding the engine (!)

The reason for this is that when a car is of a certain advanced age, and has paint of an unknown colour - one that's not the cars' original hue, and which bears no identification code - then you are out there, on your own, but are freed to imagine and dream whatever you want, somewhat. The trick is to have it 'work' and look just as good as Porsche's original effort, if not an improvement on that. Naturally, my objective is to make better what is before me, thereby calling upon the various muses who are in charge of the Art department. Help, I say. 

That's a pumped up statement, of course, but it's the product of the challenge I see. If I don't get it right, I'll call it Art. . . I said it's intimidating, because any obvious, or unfortunate variation from the Porsche original will sit squarely on my shoulders and be subject to disfavour, whereas mechanical 'upgrades' are ordinarily the focus of appreciative discussion. Then again an assessment of the Art part is usually subjective, anyway, because there are no absolutes to measure against. However, an analysis of the Fine Art of something, even, possibly, on a car, ought to be the object of an informed and well reasoned evaluation. But, Art isn't easy if it's the real thing. All of this said, car work, no matter how well it is done is not Fine Art, but rather sophisticated artistry and craft of a high order; worthy of earnest appreciation, as is excellent design. Sometimes these lines blur, but that would be decidedly rare.

So, in a moment of enthusiastic backing-up of my 911, I bumped into a short and invisible post. I put a small scrape into the lower edge of the rear bumper, and a robust dent into the valance beneath it. Damn, and I forgot to take a picture. In the shop I unbolted the valance and pounded out the dent. I did a good job of it, too; smooth. The paint, on the other hand, was fractured and there were four small cracks in bolt holes and along the upper edge of the valance, maybe those were from vibration. There were a good number of stone chips in the painted surface, as well as in the 'undercoat' on the back side. It needed a complete work-over.

The original colour of my car was Gazelle metallic, a kind of gold; now it mostly resembles Porsche's Meteor Grey metallic from about a decade more recent than my car, but it's not quite that colour either.

In a nearby town there is a body shop that does good work. I used them after hitting a deer with the Subaru, and the end result was perfect. I could not find where the work had been done, and the colour matched, exactly. Not real Art, but excellent workmanship. This shop does a lot of 'special' cars. There is usually a Viper in there, or a 356 outlaw coupe (see my December, 2014, post about a 356 outlaw) and yesterday, a Triumph TR7 coupe in fresh British racing green. I went there with my damaged valance under my arm.

The 'bodywork' part of the job is straightforward I said, but how do you match the unknown paint? "No problem. We have a scanner and can match any colour perfectly," they said with a grin. "There's only about three hours of work in that, plus the paint, so it won't be too expensive." I knew the cost of an aftermarket reproduction part, plus shipping, plus painting, plus the work . . .  I told them to do the job, because I knew that it could only be perfect.

The metallic flecks are much smaller on the bumper at the top. Below is
the repainted valance with more bling. Click to enlarge.
It was done in a few days and it was presented to me completely swaddled in bubble wrap, which I peeled aside to see a shiny new painted surface; I paid and left, but the valance remained on my workshop bench for a fair number of days until I could get around to it. Finally I bolted it back onto the car and took a critical look at the thing. Oops. The metallic particles in the paint didn't look right (too big), and the colour was a tiny bit off. That, and there is a wobble along the bottom edge in the area where the dent used to be. Good thing that the valance lives underneath the rear bumper. Nobody looks down there, so I'll leave it, but I'll be less apt to recommend that shop as often.

To be fair, getting things right with something as malleable as car sheet-metal is a tough trick, especially when the rest of the car isn't present, so I can understand the wobble on some level. But, matching the colour of the object in hand by means of a fancy scanner whose only job is to match colour should be a no-brainer. I'll see if I can photograph what I mean about the big metal particles, and the wobble.

Looking down the length of the wobble. Not good.
It takes real effort to do high-level bodywork. There is a famous car painter, named Emil 'Butch' Brinza. He must be retired by now, and living in California, or Arizona, although he originally got into the car painting profession back in West Allis, Wisconsin (a component section of Milwaukee). I'm originally from Wisconsin, and although I didn't know Mr. Brinza personally, his shop was a short way from the differing shop of a very good friend of mine, who used Brinza's services on occasion, for interesting cars that he owned. People shipped cars and bikes from all over North America to Butch's shop, asking him to paint them. 

One of the stories I best remember involved a brand-new Rolls Royce Silver Shadow (I think). The car was painted super-deep 'Masons' black, that you would only see on a Rolls. However, this new Silver Shadow's owner thought that the car's factory paint was sub standard, and he demanded that R-R do something about it. Rolls Royce saw the customer's point, but having no painting shop of its own in North America, R-R naturally shipped the new Rolls across country to Butch Brinza's shop. They asked him to tend to the paint in a correct manner. (The black paint cost $190 U.S. per U.S. gallon in 1967. That comes to about $480 per gallon in 2016. Fancy paint.)

A 1967 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow.

Never one to take half measures, especially with such an invitation, Butch stripped the car down to the bone, because he also felt that the paint was not worthy of such a car. I'm talking taking the windows out; everything. What he discovered was that R-R had not cleaned the metal properly, especially where seams existed between various body panels, and that there was emerging rust in an assortment of places on that brand-new Rolls Royce. He did a proper job of the 're-do', and the car was shipped back to its owner. The owner was thrilled, because Butch's work was so superior to the original Rolls Royce paint. He was the best in the business, Butch was. R-R hadn't worked hard enough.

Butch didn't use a colour scanner, and he did real physical work. Sanding and polishing entirely by hand was the only method that got proper results in his view, and that seems to have been correct, or else his work would not have been so highly regarded.

You have to read this. Click to enlarge. © = Harley D?

In other words, actual work still is needed to get acceptable results when you look closely at a special interest car. Modern, automated methods do not always cut it.

Then again, simple creativity comes in handy, too. My Porsche has a mysterious round hole in the engine tin. At least I didn't know what that hole was for, although I recently learned that it is for part of the air injection system that my car doesn't have. My plan was to plug the useless hole, but Porsche doesn't sell such a plug, and probably no one else does, either. My dog, Wilber, provided the answer. Wilber likes his dog food, so I routinely have to open a can of the stuff and the cans are, surprise, round. That, and they are coated with an anti-corrosion material, plus the ends of the can have ribs to reinforce the light metal. Perfect.

I painted the lid (actually I used five of them before I got it right), poked a hole in the middle, and installed it in the car. It looks appropriately stock to me. Wilber is proud of himself.

That hole is the hole in question.

Looks OK, in a quirky way, thanks to Wilber

Porsche parts. Who knew?

Now I have to attend to my rumpled valance.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Perplexing Anomaly with "Genuine Porsche" Parts

Minutes ago I finished reading an online discussion about obstacles someone incurred while installing a windshield into an earlier 911. The issue seemed to be one of gasket fitment, and the questioner had used an OEM gasket from a widely recognized supplier. He thought his windshield was the wrong size, but no, it appeared to be the gasket. The generally decided-upon solution was to use a 'Genuine Porsche' gasket, rather than the OEM item. The OEM units have prices ranging from $39, to $116 from the supplier mentioned - and even $30 for a Chinese version, whereas the Porsche gasket was priced at $141.50 - all in U.S. dollars.

The commentators on this problem pointed out, anecdotally, that while some 'glass guy' struggled for two days trying to get an OEM gasket to fit, upon abandoning that gasket and switching to a 'Genuine Porsche' version, the windshield was installed perfectly within a matter of minutes. Hmmm. It sounds as if the Porsche version was worth the extra money in this case, if the story is actually true.

At the same time, how is it that a number of OEM, and other after-market gaskets remain for sale if you cannot fit the silly things to your car without an heroic effort? This is a good question, because the story being discussed did not only involve the one 'glass guy' described above, but it included a number of experiences with various people's windshield installation efforts. So, it might be true that the Porsche part worked best. A lot of people share the opinion that 'Genuine Porsche' parts, while always more costly, also always fit better and last longer. I guess something must back that up.

Lucky for me, I have not had to install a windshield into my car. Of course, I have had to replace scores of other parts, from one end of my car to the other. Some of the parts I used were 'Genuine Porsche', some were various OEM, or OE, while some were Chinese, or from North Korea, whatever. I have had a variety of adventures getting these various parts installed where they belong.

Porsche has recognized that there is money to be made supplying replacement parts for older Porsche automobiles. 'Porsche Classic' they call some of that supply plan. In any case, 'Genuine Porsche' parts have not always been a satisfying fit for me. I'm not saying that they aren't good, but some have been a challenge to install.

The first time I ran into this, three years ago, I needed to replace the oil lines to my Carrera chain tensioners and cam towers. The flexible, rubber hose portion of the lines had begun to leak on both sides of the engine, as that is a weak part of the line's construction. The new lines that I ordered were 'Genuine Porsche'.

The issue was that the oil lines "superseded" an earlier version(s) of themselves, and this meant that, while Porsche maintains that they fit in the same way as earlier versions, in actual fact the supersession was done in order to reduce the number of parts that Porsche needed to supply while still 'fitting' earlier cars, as I was told. Okay, they can be made to fit, but at times it isn't painless.

At least they improved the crimps on the rubber hose.
Here are the old and new right-side oil lines placed next to one another. No one can claim that the parts are identical, as they differ in length, curvature of the tubing, placement of fittings, etc. With lavish bending and twisting, both of the tubing shown here, and also the small line that wends its way down to the actual chain tensioner, the thing can be forced to connect and, I hope, properly deliver oil to were it needs to go. The lines were not as faultless as you would think authentic Porsche parts should be, but they got connected, at last.

The problems didn't end there, however. One end of the oil line, on its way to the cam tower, must pass under the air pipe through which air is forced from the fan shroud, down to and through the heat exchangers. There was just no clearance to do this. Following consultation with the supplier from which I bought the oil lines, it became clear that I was on my own, because these parts "properly superseded" the old parts that I had removed. 'Superseded' was Porsche's opinion.

After wasting plenty of time, and doing a lavish amount of vigorous cussing, at last I hammered a generous sized dent into the air pipe, in order to allow the differently curving oil line to pass by.  There was no problem with this previously, using the original oil line. Therefore, after bending, twisting, hammering, scraping knuckles, and making the air blue, the thing functions. 'Genuine Porsche'. . .

Where the arrow is you can see the dent and oil line in it.
Alright, that was three years ago, but I have just learned that things are still the same. It has been maybe four years since I removed the giant stereo speakers that came with my car when I bought it. The car makes so much noise as it is; who can listen to the radio without insanely turning up the radio's volume? Possibly that's why those speakers were so large. In any case, the speakers are distant history.

The nice Sony radio still resided in the dashboard, but I had no use for it being there. Then I discovered that there was a 'Genuine Porsche' radio delete plate available, for those who wished to divest themselves of those heavy and functionally useless radios, thereby adding lightness. The plate is meant to neatly cover the hole in the dashboard where the radio previously lived. The idea further is that the Porsche plate would fit the gap exactly, and look 'stock'. At least that was my expectation.

Glove box removed, radio out, knee pad off, ashtray out - ready to install the Radio Delete Plate. 

No such luck. The plate would cover the hole, but it covered way beyond the hole. Actually, it even covered the edge of the heater/ventilation control panel, which looked rather odd. The indentation in the dashboard which once served to position the original radio was swamped, as the new plate way overlapped the entire original recess. Too big, according to me. Yes, it covered the radio hole, but it did not appear to be a purpose-made part in that it did the job with too much enthusiasm. I believe that it should have fitted into the radio recess in order to look correct and original.

I consulted with the supplier about this, and pointed out that the plate was about 4mm too long on each end, a total of 8mm (.35") beyond the indentation that it reasonably should have fitted into.

Last two numbers, 02 = second supersession.
Now here is the interesting part:  On the back side of the radio delete plate there are lines molded into the surface, and those lines marked about 4mm in from each end of the plate. They looked like convenient guidelines to me, for modifications that I didn't plan to have to make. After shortening the plate I would also have to round the corners to make it fit - a bunch of carving.

I was told by the supplier, after providing the part number molded into the back, that the number indicated that this was the second supersession of the original part. I was also told that Porsche probably did mold those lines back there as a guide for trimming the plate, as they often did on parts that needed to be 'adjusted' for fitment on certain model-year cars. I was further told that even though the plate was sold as fitting my car (1974), in fact it did not (it fits 1978+), and that Porsche often does this in order to reduce the number of parts it needs to stock. So much for the precise fit of 'Genuine Porsche' parts. I don't know about more serious parts, but these simple ones were a headache. Aggravation and wasted time for me, better for Porsche's pocket.

All of this complaining aside, where else are you going to get new parts for a 42 year-old car? My issue is that Porsche should be straightforward and point out up front that customer-executed fitment is necessary for some parts. At least you would know what you will face, and can be prepared for it.

Finished and it looks nice, but too much of a DIY project.