Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Travel Edition 2011

Like so many other families, we have taken our share of Holiday trips. One year it even included a Caribbean cruise, but for the most  part, those trips have been to Ruidioso, New Mexico. My in-laws moved from Abilene TX to Ruidoso about 12 years ago. So every other year we make the trek to see them.

The first year we went out for Christmas, we had a BMW 525i Touring, which is the sportswagon version of the 5-Series. I had purchased a Thule roof carrier just for the trip. The Thule was huge, I probably over bought. Once installed, it poked out in front of the sight line above the front windshield. It looked kind of omnious, like a black shadow just at the edge of your perpherial vision. But it held a lot of stuff – presents, clothing, ski equipment, pillows, you name it! Inside the car we had the four of us and our puppy, an American Eskimo named Crockett in a large travel pen. It was quite snug inside.

I am old enough to remember when I was a kid and travelled by car, we had to entertain ourselves – read, play card games, count blue cars, spot license plates from different states, sing songs, you know…the classics. Not our kids – we had a PC hooked up to a AC power converter and they had a ton of movies and PC games. Still they wondered aloud when we would get there. “How long until we get to MawMaw and PawPaw’s?” “Thirty minutes sooner than when you asked last time.” I bet you all have said more or less the same thing a few times…

We left a bit late, not sure why, but we probably left about Noon. Normally it is a nine hour drive from our house, so that would put us into Ruidoso about 8:00 PM (we gained an hour as we went west). What were we thinking? We stopped in Abilene, Snyder, Post and the infamous Brownfield (read the story about when we left town without paying for gas in an earlier blog post titled Bad Boy Part IV or The End of the Line) and of course Roswell. Problem is the temperature was diving as a huge cold front was pushing through. We kept having to take our puppy Crockett out of the pen so he could do his business. It had also started lightly snowing. It was getting worse by the minute. In Brownfield, we stopped at a Mickie D’s and I took Crockett for a walk around the parking lot, while my wife and boys grabbed something to eat. We pushed on.

Just west of Brownfield, the last rays of sunlight were retreating into the western horizon, a small crack in the clouds giving the sun rays the last chance of day as light snow swirled around the road. Out in front of us a small group of three deer decided it was the best time to cross Highway 380. I had to swerve nearly running off the road to avoid them. Needless to say the pulse rate spiked a bit and I probably lost two or three years off my life in the moment. Still we pushed west. The dark night west of Tatum, New Mexico so black you could feel it seep into the car. The temp still dropped, now getting into the low teens. The BMW soldiered on, problem was the car tended to run cool and the low outside temps made the coolant in the engine run cool too, meaning the heater was not exactly putting out a lot of heat. We had to direct what hot air we could get onto the front window so the rest of the car was pretty cold. I had on a heavy sweater over my two shirts and was wearing gloves. My wife who tends to be cold all the time, probably had at least three more layers on than me. The boys in the back were so bundled in blankets there were very snug. And Crockett? He is so fluffy, he no doubt liked the temp inside the car.

The blackness of the night got even deeper. There were few cars or trucks on the road. I do not recall if we even passed anyone…or got passed for that matter. The handful of cars coming in the other direction announced their presence as a tiny speck of light miles in the distance. It was so dark it was hard to judge the distance to the approaching vehicle, but minutes later, we would pass each other in a brief blaze of headlights. Then the tiny dots of retreating taillights would quickly disappear. It was eerie. We drove west into the far reaches of night, eventually we finally saw the distant faint glow of Roswell, New Mexico.

It is kind of disquieting, but the dessert surrounding Roswell is so black at night it can be felt, like a veil that pulls you in and encases you. And out little car; that speck of moving head and tail lights almost feels like a alien visitor, an intruder in the vast blackness. The soft glow turns brighter, growing from a line on the distant horizon to a small city that feels like a refuge to the penetrating darkness. You can almost believe the alien tales that have grown up in the Alien Capital of the World. Almost.

We stopped for a break at a hotel on the western edge of the city to let Crockett out. He bounded onto the pavement and started barking. Soon another dog answered, then another and yet more still, a quickly spreading symphony of barking. It seemed that every dog in the city took up the challenge to be heard above all the rest. It was amazing, as I am sure all the local dogs were letting this intruder know that he was in their town, on their turf. I shook my head at Crockett as he pranced around looking for a place to do his business. “Dude…now see what you have started?” Time to head west once again. My wife used our cell phone to update her family, they were starting to get worried.

The distance between Roswell and Ruidoso is about 74 miles. There is a huge climb out of Roswell along a dark highway that for now at least was a four-laner. Then a plunge down a very steep grade onto a twisting narrow two lane highway that hugs the valley floor as it climbs towards Ruidoso and Sierra Blanca mountain range (thank goodness it is four-lanes now). It was getting colder still. The temp now in the single digits, the boys announcing that they were tired and cold and asked for about the 80th time when we would arrive. The snow was starting to fall in earnest and the conditions were rapidly deteriorating. The last 74 miles took almost 2 hours as I carefully threaded the car along the twists and turns.

It was very quiet in the car, my wife leaving me to focus on the task at hand. Slowly, slowly we moved ever closer to Ruidoso slotted behind a highway department snow plow until we started seeing the billboards announcing everything from steak dinners to comfortable hotels, cabins and even a casino. Yeah, the end was in sight and at midnight we pulled into drive where my in-laws live. Spending the next 60 minutes unpacking the car and getting settled in their house, I threw myself into bed at about 1:15 and passed out. I was totally spent.

I woke up the next morning to a huge snow storm, it snowed for two days and dumped two plus feet. It was the first time our dog had seen snow and he did not like it. He was still a puppy and the snow was deeper than he was tall. I had to carry him out multiple times a night for him to do his business and because he was a puppy, it seemed he had to do his business all night long. On top of that, he was not the best house guest either, barking and chasing the in-laws cats. What were we thinking bringing him along?

The BMW was burried under a white blanket. It looked like a car shaped blob under all the snow. Thank goodness my in-laws have a very solid 4WD SUV, I was able to take that up to the Ski Apache for two days of glorious skiing. The trip back? We were just on the western edge of Roswell, the snow mostly having melted when I heard that unmistakable sound of dog about to puke, we pulled over to a goat ranch by the side of the road and I tried (unsuccessfully) to get him out before he puked. Too late. It was a long trip home too.

We never took Crockett on a road trip ever again, once was more than enough. We boarded him or had someone dog sit. He was not born to be a travelling dog, but a stay at home dog. We had learned our lessson. And now? For this years trip, we rented a 4WD SUV, a very nice and new 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It is very comfortable and drives great on the highway. PC’s and TV’s have been taken over by 3G enabled iPad’s, iPod’s and smart phones and the kids do not ask when we will get there. They just figure we will. This time we left at 6 AM and made the trip in 8 ½ hours, stopping only three short times for bio break and gas. Once again we faced dropping temps and the threat of snow, the first flakes starting to drop and stick as we arrived at my in-laws. I’d like to think that we learned a few things about long distance drives over the years. At least there will be no puking dog in the back.

We had a very wonderful and white Christmas! And hope that everyone reading this is having a great Holiday season too!

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.

Monday, December 5, 2011

15,000 Blog Hits, a Big Thank You and a Christmas Gift Idea

Fifteen Thousand. That sounds like a huge number, and sometime this week, the blog you are currently reading, My Life With Porsches will surpass the 15K hit mark. There are many blogs out in blogosphere land that have had hits or visits in the six figure range, but I suppose that if you average it out, 15K is still a nice number. It has been a blast to write these pieces and share some stories with you. And as we move into year two of the blog, there are a lot more stories to come. Some Porsche inspired, some just inspired.

What changes can you expect? The plan is to move to a Wordpress format in 2012 as it gives us more options and more features. We will be playing around with the format a bit over the holidays. We will figure out a way to make sure all our search hits roll over to the new site. So no worries, you will be able to easily find this blog.

Now on to the gift part. If you have someone on your Christmas or holiday shopping list that loves cars and loves reading, I have a great gift idea… You probably already guessed it, the gift is a copy of my book (links below). So here is the deal, every year I ask for a current model Porsche GT3 to be gift wrapped and sitting in the driveway. Needless to say I am still waiting. So if you or the person on your shopping list is anything like me, they would appreciate the next best thing! An Action Adventure novel that is heavily auto and race car inspired. It will help pass the time while they are waiting for the Porsche GT3 or “fill-in-the-blank” dream car to appear in the driveway. So here are the links!

Amazon Print Edition

Kindle eBook edition

Barnes & Noble Nook edition

Personalized copy – the book will be personalized, signed and shipped to any address in the US. If you would like it shipped outside of the US, please contact us on the web site so we can calculate the shipping cost.

As we move into the Holiday season, it is my hope that each and every one of you has something to be thankful for. I know we do. This blog has been a great creative outlet, we launched the book and website and are connecting with hundreds of potential influencers that can help us promote the book. We have so much to be thankful for. Thank you for your readership. I cannot begin to tell you how humbling it is and how much I appreciate it.

And on that exhaust note, see you all next year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bad Boy – Part IV or the end of the line

After only one track event, my 1976 Porsche 930 Turbo or Bad Boy was retired from track duty. Instead of taking it down the path of performance and track mods, I took it in another direction -- turning it into a garage queen/concourse car. But the track bug would not go away, so I looked to buy an entry-level track car.

Do you get the feeling that there is no such thing as an entry-level track car? That maybe entry-level and track car are oxymorons or perhaps mutually exclusive? (Yeah, you figured that one out.) So I did my research and found out that a lot of Porsche people buy 944 Turbos (called a 951 by us geeky Porsche types). They offer a lot of bang for the buck -- decent power, good balance, 50-50 weight distribution (since the transmission, called a transaxle, is located in the rear), good brakes and a lot of aftermarket performance parts. Setting a budget of $6K, the search spanned the entire US. The goal: to find a decent car to build into a track monster. I found one in Atlanta, bought it and flew in to ATL to pick it up and drive it back to Big D.

After I got it home, I worked my way through it: started off with a thorough detail, changed all the fluids and did other minor maintenance things that anyone does when buying a used car. Okay, actually very few people would go through it as thoroughly as I did, making sure it was ready to transition over to its new duty -- track car. On the minus side, I discovered that it was really a 20-footer: looked pretty good from 20 feet away, but when you got closer – not so hot. The white paint was not uniform, it had been repainted and not all at the same time, so all the panels were actually different shades of white. But on the plus side, the unibody frame was not bent which boded well for maintaining a good alignment and tracking straight.

I won’t bore you with all the mods. Okay, since you asked…

1. Upgraded chip for more HP
2. K&N filter
3. New suspension bushing all around
4. Stainless steel brake lines
5. New belts and idler pulleys
6. New radiator and water pump
7. Track seats for both driver and passenger/harness bar/5-point harnesses
8. Replaced airbag equiped steering wheel with smaller Momo unit, deactivated the passenger side airbag
9. Another set of wheels with Toyo RA-1s R-rated track tires
10. Other miscellaneous stuff that would fill a page.

It was kind of half a track car. It had enough mods to make it go faster and handle a little better, but the big stuff would come in round two (suspension, exhaust, etc. -- actually a lot of ETC). I did a bunch of events in the car and started working my way up the track event ladder, moving from Green to Blue to Blue solo (meaning they turn you loose on your own to figure out how many ways you can go off the track).

So here I was with (a) the show car (1976 Porsche 930) that stayed under a very expensive cover in the garage and only came out a couple of times a month to be washed and driven for 10-15 minutes, and (b) the track car (1987 Porsche 951) that was getting too uncomfortable to drive on the street. So I did what any conscientious, caring car guy would do and bought a trailer to tow the 951 to the track or the 930 to concourses. (It’s a good thing we already had a Ford Excursion that excelled in towing a trailer or I would have had to buy a truck too.)

By this point I think my wife thought I was going off into the deep end of car mania. And I will admit I was -- not finished yet. To complete the triumvirate of Porsche ownership, I wanted a daily driver, something my wife could drive too. I convinced her that our 7-car garage (yes, I said 7-car garage) needed one more Porsche to fill the void. There was a big hole in my life that could only be filled by a Porsche Boxster. You know, something along the lines of a convertible variety. Now way back in the 80s I’d owned the sagging rusting Porsche 914, but it was not a real convertible, it was more of a Targa (meaning it had a removable roof panel). It’s not the same thing until you have a car with a top that disappears completely, the wind in your hair and a barrage of olfactory sensations as you drive down the road. Your nostrils are filled with the scent of fresh cut grass, French Fries from Whataburger, too much perfume from the gal in the car next to you, fresh skunk road kill (searing your nose hairs). Really any scent would be a huge improvement versus the exhaust fumes that my old 914 spewed out its tail pipes.

So the search spanned the entire US, until I found one 278 miles away in San Antonio TX. It was a 1999, and had the desirable color combination of Arctic Silver with the famous Boxster Red interior. It was exactly the color I wanted. I flew down to pick it up and drive it home. Does this sound familiar? I loved that car, eventually more than the 930 and the 951. It was perfect. We settled in for a long period of three-car Porsche ownership.

One fall we decided to go to Ruidoso NM to visit my in-laws and I wanted to drive a Porsche up in the mountains. The area around Ruidoso had a lot of challenging roads to discover. You can probably guess the obvious, the Boxster accompanied us on the journey. So we loaded it up and headed out. Stopped for gas in Brownwood TX to fill up the ginormous gas tank of the Excursion. Even though the gas tank was HUGE it got terrible gas mileage on the trip, we had to fill up twice in 600 miles. Anyway, I filled the gas tank while my wife and kids went into get some snacks and hit the restroom. I thought she said she’d pay for the gas -- she thought I said I’d pay for the gas. End result, nobody paid. We piled back in Tiny (yes, we actually nicknamed the Excursion Tiny), and headed towards Ruidoso, my wife at the wheel. We got pulled over by the local sheriff before we’d even left town.

At this point we had no clue why were being pulled over, maybe the local police had never seen a Porsche on a trailer before. (Hey! It was a small town.) The officer asked if we had stopped at the gas station recently and we replied that we had. He asked if we had paid for the gas, and based on our reaction, he knew we weren’t crooks, just careless. He escorted us back. We felt like the whole town turned out to see our return to the gas station; the giant green Ford Excursion pulling the damn silver sports car. (“Can you believe they tried to skip outta town without paying?” I heard in my head.) I parked the car at the edge of the gas station and under the watchful eye of the local sheriff, took the walk of shame to the cashier. Everybody stared -- I found my shoes to be particularly interesting. I paid, we left town, our experience no doubt front-page news of the local paper. Since that time, every time we stop in Brownwood, we double-check to make sure we pay for the damn gas.

The trip itself was fun, I did get to take the car on some great roads. But there was another thrill in store for me: the New Mexico Trinity Site was open while we were there. It only opens twice a year, one weekend in April and one weekend in October. Never heard of The Trinity site? It was where a group of very young and daring scientists exploded the first atomic bomb. There isn’t much to see, but if you get the chance, you should go. It’s one of those important places where you can walk in the footsteps of giants.

Back home, I found that I drove Bad Boy less and less. It was almost 30 years old and it seemed like every time I took it out for a drive something broke. A lot of parts need to be replaced on a 30-year old car, no matter what kind of shape it’s in. Problem was every drive was “five-hundred dollaring” me to death. I took it out one day and it made a terrible whining sound and then something popped. CRAP! I opened the rear deck and smoke came pouring out of the fan, I instantly knew what it was, the alternator had seized and shredded the fan belt. I limped the car home on the battery. As I got home, the smoke got worse, the belt had caught on fire. I opened the deck and used some long needle-nose pliers to pull the still smoking belt out. It was really bad news this time. When the alternator seized, it took the fan shaft with it, melding the two together forever. The parts cost $600.

It was the $600 straw that broke the groaning camel’s back. My poor long-suffering wife snapped. She went out into the garage (yes, the 7-car garage), made a sweeping motion with her arm and said that everything needed to be sold. Get rid of all the Porsches, the Excursion and trailer -- everything must go. I was devastated! But, she was right. So one by one, they all went until we were reduced to only two cars. The Excursion replaced by a Honda CR-V and the three Porsches with an Audi A3.

The last to go was the 930. I sold it to a fellow from Houston. He dispatched a truck and flatbed trailer to pick it up. The husband/wife team arrived to fetch the car. I slowly backed it down the driveway and positioned it for them to drive it onto the trailer. Looking at the ground clearance, I warned them it didn’t look like it would make it. The gal told me not to worry, they’d done this a thousand time, they were experts. She almost burned out the clutch getting it part way up the trailer, the smell of burnt clutch filled my nostrils, when suddenly -- SCRAPE!!! The car was stuck, the exhaust had dug into the ground. Experts. Right. I turned and slowly walked up the driveway, not turning around to look at the car. I was done with it. I had a bittersweet feeling about selling it. I loved it and hated it at the same time. She gunned the motor, more clutch slippage, more sickening clutch smell. I heard more scraping and a bang when the bottom of the car hit the trailer as the car scooted up onto the flatbed. I did not turn back to look. The experts had already done enough damage.

My Porsche wings had been clipped. No, they had been sawed off. But, as you can imagine, I eventually got new ones.

And on that exhaust note, see you next time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rennsport Reunion IV Review and the CTF Back Story

I love Porsches! And if you have been following my blog for any period of time, you have probably figured that out already. I just got back from Rennsport Reunion IV, the world's largest gathering of historic Porsche race cars and the drives that drove them. How was it you ask? Well, I will tell was a three day long Porsche-gasm! I am hooked and plan to be at the next one, no matter where it is.

I wrote a pretty thorough review for / here is the link: Rob's Planet-9 article

Also, I took a bunch of photos, just click on the slide show above. I took about a hundred. Not near as many as Porsche Purist, who took 500. That link is here: Rennsport Reunion Wrap UP.
Check them out!!

What I want to share with you is the back-story about partnering with the Children's Tumor Foundation ( and their motorsports arm ( I met these wonderful folks during the Rolex Grand AM event at Laguna Seca back in August. The cause is just - finding a cure for Neurofibromatosis or NF. And the fact is, these kids are suffering from this debilitating disease and they deserve better. CTF works tirelessly to make that happen.

I was the guest of The Racers Group (TRG) during the Grand Am weekend and saw the CTF folks in action. I met Jill Beck who runs the Racing4Research part of CTF and I will tell you, I got tired just watching her. She worked non-stop with meetings, interviews, media engagements and then there were the kids and their families. I would say there were well over 100 of them. She made sure each child felt special, felt like they mattered. She shepherded her flock from car to car and team to team, making sure she got maximum exposure to get the CFT message across. How successful were they? No less a media outlet than the Today Show came and taped a segment about the CFT kids. You can see the segment at the following link: Racing4Research. Check it out!

What I realized was that this foundation, this fight to find a cure was a perfect fit for me as I looked to find a partner and a cause to support while promoting my book. I turned to Jill and told her that I wanted to work with CFT, I wanted to help spread the word and awareness about this terrible disease. She saw in me (I hope) a kindred spirit who wants the best for the kids.

When I heard about Rennsport, I reached out to Jill and she told me about her plans. Those plans involved the Cayman Interseries. This single marque series is geared (pun kinda intended) towards the Porsche Cayman. Napleton Porsche came up with the idea of taking the fantastic platform of the mid-engined Cayman and turning it into a great entry-level modern race car (if you could call a $100K race car entry level). The series is for Gentleman racers that want to race a competitive racecar, but have the support of a professional race team. It is the perfect storm, Napleton does all the heavy lifting and the drivers do all of the heavy driving…or something like that.

The cars themselves are painted in the color schemes of famous racing Porsches and it is a hoot to see some of the fan favorites from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s but in a modern Cayman inspired interpretation. Anyway, Jill Beck came up with the idea of selling raffle tickets to support CTF. One of the cars, sponsored by Lee Davis and his new men’s clothing line Luna-C donated the prizes, I tossed in a couple of personalized books and we were off to the races (yes…that time the pun was intended).

The point is, these events are a great platform to promote NF awareness. And when we can do a raffle or promotion that raises money to research a cure, everybody wins. The racers that support NF win, CTF wins, I win and most important the kids win.

Give to CTF. The kids could use your support.

And on that exhaust note, we will see you next time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bad Boy Part 3

So the 930 was fast, loud, beautiful to look at from any angle and had a bit of a quirky personality. Mostly it made me a little anxious every time I took it out. But there was something missing, I wanted to conquer my respectful fear of driving it, so I signed up for my first track event. I had to get up really early since the track is right at 60 miles from my house, but getting there early means you can grab one of the primo parking spots and get everything set up before the drivers meeting. So I set my alarm for 5:00 AM, but I did not sleep a wink the night before. I was just lying there waiting for the radio to go off and hear the early morning BBC news service. I got tired of waiting for the British voice to fill the void in the darkened room and got up to get ready.

The first time you go, you are not sure what to take, so you take everything. Every tool, power tool, chair, cooler, air tank, jack, jack stand and on and on…that will fit in the front trunk, back seats and passenger seat, filling every nook and cranny of the interior. Funny side note, now days, I take my torque wrench, extra oil, air gauge, air tank, chair and small cooler, and…that’s about it. It helps to have friends who take every tool they own, much bigger coolers and lots of snacks. But then again they trailer their cars so they have the room. Anyway I arrived and found my spot, unloaded my car and started setting up.

After the drives meeting, I met my instructor for the weekend. I remember that he was a Brit, drove a race prepped BMW and was national champion in his class. Not a bad guy to have as your first instructor. Long story short, I had a great time and learned a lot. Yes even that first day, I distinctly remember being bit by the track bug. Oh yeah, we now have a better way to describe our addiction: Track = Crack. I think you get the gist. Anyway, I remember being so tired when I got home. My wife and kids took me to dinner and I had the coldest beer ever, I drank it in like 20 seconds and got another and was fast asleep by 8:30PM.

The next day, several people came by and asked what I was doing. Normally Porsche people think if you own one and the wheels turn, it should be out on the track. But that was not the love I got that day… I had one guy almost yell at me, telling me that a car like mine should be in the garage and only come out for the occasional drive and concourses. Wow, I did not expect that! But they had a point; it was in fantastic shape. But (and this is a big but) if the motor went BANG, I was looking at $15K+ to rebuild it. OUCH, that hurt just thinking about it. So after Bad Boys first track weekend, it was retired from track duty. Don’t worry; I bought other cars for the track.

A few months later, the engine started making a funny noise when I came off the throttle, almost like a loud clicking sound. Some Rennlist Forum discussions yielded a worn out helper spring for the turbo, it was a pain to replace and after several busted and skinned knuckles it was fixed. But after that and a few other minor maintenance items, we settled in for a long period of uneventful ownership. But you just knew that could not last…

In 2003, the Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera / 930 was 27 years old and even though it had been well maintained and pampered, it only had 52K miles on it, stuff was wearing out. The biggest problem was a bad second syncro in the transmission; it made this distinct high-pitched grind if I did not shift just perfectly. Other 911 guys will know exactly what I am talking about; it’s a noise they can distinctly hear in the back of their minds or in their car…if they have not fixed it yet. So it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

So what is the best (and only way) to remove the motor from a 911? From the bottom. I did not have a lift (or a friend with a lift) so I bought the two biggest jack stands ever and then put those stands up on some stout wood blocks and along with one of my track buddys jacked the back of the car up, it perfectly pivoted on the front tires. But it was a pretty strange sight, a Porsche jacked up on stands at an extreme angle, looking like it was about to crash land in my garage, missing the rear wheels, hubs, half shafts, oh yeah…and drivetrain. What started off as a simple transmission rebuild turned into a lot more…but you probably already figured that was coming. So here is a list of all the stuff I did while the motor was out:

1. Had one of the best local Porsche shop do the necessary transmission rebuild. It only needed a few things besides replacing the syncros.
2. New clutch, pressure plate, throwout bearing
3. New clutch cable
4. Replace sparkplugs, wires, distributor, rotor, coil, ETC
5. Valve adjustment
6. New motor mounts
7. Replace sound deadening material against the rear bulkhead
8. Rebuilt the halfshafts
9. New wheel bearing all around
10. Rebuilt all the brake calipers (I checked the price to replace one of them…$2400! Each!)
11. Replaced the rotors
12. Stainless steel brake lines
13. Replaced the tired trombone shaped oil cooler with a Porsche sourced version from the 930S, installed the fan and wiring to activate it. It was a MAJOR pain to make everything fit, but it helped the car run cooler on warm days (I never took the car out when the ambient air temp was above 90)
14. And I saved the best for last. Replaced all the AC lines. OK…the motor was back in the car, it would have been impossible to put the lines in with the car at such an extreme angle. The hood would never have stayed open.

My budget was going to be about $2500 for the whole thing. Yeah right, that is like saying you are only going to have one cookie when they come out of the oven. You have more, like 3 or 4 or maybe 8. Same thing applies when trying to set and stay within a budget when you are restoring or doing major work to an old Porsche. You may as well double or triple it.

By the time we were through, my buddy and I could have that drivetrain out of the car in 90 minutes flat. We would get the car jacked up, and shimmy that floor jack turning an inch here, a fraction of an inch there, raise / lower and pivot, we had it down to an art form…or was that science? The motor clearing the bottom edge of the lower valance panel by half an inch, then we would just smile and crack another beer. So the car was running pretty damn good, the transmission shifted perfectly, the new clutch was maybe stiffer than the old one and the dessert plate sized calf on my left let got towards dinner plate size. Bad Boy was back to being it’s old self – being Bad and LOUD. But I was not done…

Oh no…I had been bitten by the bug to make it perfect, more had to be done. Bad Boy required it, like feeding some hungry bear from an expensive German fairytale (or should we say autotale?). Oh yes good was not good enough. So all the AC hoses got pulled (which took hours), took them to a place that specialized in building aircraft hoses (among other things) and asked them to build exact replicas, but in modern non Freon loosing materials like rubber. They laughed at me, told me it would cost about $300 and told me to come back next week. Three hundred may sound like a lot for AC hoses, but I had checked the prices from Porsche. They had to be special ordered from Germany where they were made by hand at a factory that only turned on the lights when they received a prepaid order, people actually came out of retirement to make them. The very fabric (yes I said fabric) had to be imported from Inner Islavistan. They were very special and VERY expensive. So $300 did not seem too bad.

I laid all the hoses out (forgot which ones were which) and started to put this hose puzzle together. It took one whole weekend of my life… I had to kneel in the front of the car on top of the fuel tank and yank, bend, twist and otherwise try to make these hoses (which had been made exactly like the ones they replace) fit. It was a long painful weekend and my knees will never be the same. But everything eventually fit and the AC actually held a charge….which I think was a minor miracle.

Then I had the factory Fuchs alloy wheels redone by the only place in the whole DFW area that redid them. Good news is they worked cheap and did very good work too. They looked beautiful back on the car. Next was paint. There were a few rough spots on the rear deck and lower valance panel, so I had it redone by one of the best paint shops in the DFW area. Ran into one snag, the “Turbo Carrera” badges were fading a bit with age so I wanted to replace them. I searched and searched for the correct badges and could not find any. But as luck would have it, I did eventually find them, a place in Chicago had them in stock, being referred to as NOS (New old stock), which means they hung on to them forever hoping that some idiot like me with an unlimited budget (shhh, don’t tell my wife, she thinks they only cost $37.50) would come along and finally buy the damn things. Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges! Sorry I could not resist. But once it was done, the results were spectacular.

I entered Bad Boy into two concourses and won my class at both. It was two for two and looked to be ready for a long life of concourse competitions. But it was not to be…

And on that exhaust note, see you next time.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Top 10 Sexy Cars of all Time…or at least between the years of 1959 and 1990

We’ve done the ugliest cars old and new, so I figure it is time to turn this thing around and list the best of the best. These are the cars that I think are the cats meow, the bee’s knees; the cars that put the sizzle in sexy…well you get the idea. It is my opinion that for a couple of decades automotive design was on a roll. The sixties were the best; design had reached a pinnacle before the specter of automotive safety and emissions controls had reared it ugly head. Designers had a free hand and man did they execute on some stellar automobiles. Feast your eyes on these beauties!

Of course there will be a poll, there is always a poll…vote for your favorite. So without further ado….

Honorable mention: Porsche 928, Ferrari 275, Toyota 2000GT, Maserati Glibli

10. 1959-1967 Austin Healy 3000 (42,926 produced) – also known as the “big” Healy, this car along with the MGB and Triumph TR4 were the quintessential British sports cars of the sixties. But the Healy was just right - low slung; with a deep growl from its inline 6-cylinder engine, this car put everything that was great and British into one package. Of course it was frequently seen on the side of the road broken down…but hey it even looked good standing still. My family had a 1964 Mk III from 1967 to 1969. If you go back to the beginning of the blog you can read about it.

9. 1975-1989 Porsche 930 Turbo (21,589 produced) – The 911 is one of the most recognizable automotive shapes in the world and the Turbo takes that basic shape and adds enough curves, flares and spoilers to scare small children and animals. It scared adults too and enough of them went off the road backwards to justify their fear. I had a 1976 930 called Bad Boy (it was), but I tamed it by learning how to drive the damn thing on a track. So there….

8. 1963-1965 Aston Martin DB5 (983 produced)– Good enough for 007? Good enough for you too. Adequate editorial space given.... (translated as “Nuff said”).

7. 1967-1971 De Tomaso Mangusta(401 produced)– the incredible aching beauty; the pure crap that it was mechanically. I cry when I see one, knowing that the owner probably never drives it because they are fearful it will catch on fire or steer right off the road. Pity, because it is just a thing of pure automotive sexiness. You have to love the impractical way the engine is accessed, by covers that pivot from the middle of the rear deck. Cool looks, Italian style…Italian practicality, but Italian execution too.

6. 1968-1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona (1284 produced) – Ferrari’s answer to the Miura, it was the last of the classic front engined Ferrari (the 400i does not count). The car was designed in 7 days by the styling house of Pininfarina and was shown at the 1968 Paris Auto show. While the Miura ushered in the dawn of the supercar, the Daytona (looking almost dated when compared to the Miura) was the better car on the road…and faster too (until Lamborghini came out with the SV version). Still my heart skips a beat when I see one at a car show, because you never see them on the road anymore.

5. 1970-1975 Citroen SM (? Produced) – I love this car. It is so French but with so many advanced systems, it was almost Rube Goldberg’esque in its complexity. The SM floated down the road, had perfect seats, an advanced Maserati engine, uncanny self-centering steering and nitrogen filled self-leveling suspension as well as fantastic brakes. It was said that the SM could motor all day long at 140mph. Few other cars can duplicate that level of speed and refinement. And when you arrived at your destination, upon exiting the car, the world would come back at you with all its brute sensibilities, it was easy to turn around, get back in and motor away. I want one…really badly. There is a perfect one available for $85K. Will someone buy it for me please?

4. 1974-1990 Lamborghini Countach (2042 produced) – this car was the most outrageous thing I had ever seen. It adorned the wall in my bedroom; hell it still has a place in my heart. If Lamborghini needed a replacement to update the Miura, they certainly hit a home run with the Countach. Designed by the house of Bertone (and a new designer named Marcello Gandini), engineered by Paolo Stanzani and sorted out by Bob Wallace, it officially put Lambo on the radar for a lot of people. Ferrari took notice… I love the LP400 and its more simple design before all the wings, spoilers and flares were added. To me it looks very seductive without the bulgy bits.

3. 1978–1981 BMW M1 (455 produced) – Who says that the Germans can’t do exotic? They can….they did. The M1 was BMW’s first mid-engined car, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was one of the first designs that heralded the wedge shape. Remember the Lotus Esprit (yes the car from the James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only)? Giugiaro designed that one too. But what really made the M1 stand apart from a lot of the other cars on this list is that it was intended and built for racing. There was a series called Pro-Car that had a lot of the best drivers competing against each other in identically prepared cars. With power up to 850hp (in Turbo charged form), they were very potent! And fun to watch.

2. 1961-1968 Jaguar XKE Series I (38,419 produced) – Wow! This could be #1 on the list, but I dearly love the Miura. So the XKE will have to settle for second spot. The famous automotive journalist and writer L.J.K. Setright called the XKE the best crumpet collector known to man. Crumpet is a…err, slang for birds, “bit of alright”, chic, gal…you get the idea. The bonnet was soooo long, tapered in front with fared-in headlamps, a long greenhouse with a hatch and tapered rear; it is just about perfect. A huge 3.8 liter inline 6 made sure it could accelerate like a rocket and keep its pace. Needless to say it caused a sensation when it hit the Geneva Motor Show. The Jaguar reps stood in the booth with order books in hand and took order after order. It was an instant hit.

1. 1966-1972 Lamborghini Miura (764 produced) - When Ferruccio Lamborghini was turned away by Enzo Ferrari who told him to go back to his farm implements (which Lamborghini did manufacture), Ferruccio made sure he would show Enzo up. He did. The early GT350 and GT400 was a good start, but it was the Miura that stole hearts and minds away from cross-town rival Ferrari. The first Supercar, it had the first transversally mounted mid-engine V12 / transaxle in a production car. I love the way the engine hatch pivots over the rear bumper, just taunting you to take a look at the heart of the beast. The sparse interior had super thin seats, lots of gauges and switches, and a grab bar for the passenger, which was a good thing when the going got fast. The Miura and the Ferrari Daytona could both do over 170mph, fast stuff back then. Hell, that is fast stuff today too. But the Miura was unstable at high speeds and was prone to over heating. It was a temperamental Italian, but like Sophia Loren so lovely to look at. I could look all day long…at the car I mean.

Hope you enjoyed the list. Please feel free to make suggestions or additions to the list. I can possibly be persuaded. And on that note, I will end with a bit of a plug for my book. I figure if you read this far…you will not mind.

Print version - The Driver Book I - Decision 5" x 8"

Kindle version - The Driver Book I - Decision eBook delivered right to your Kindle enabled device!

See you next time.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye my friend – LFB

This week we said goodbye to a family member, friend and companion. No cars or car stories for this blog entry, but a farewell to our dog Crockett. He had picked up a lot of nick names over the years: Poopa, Puppa, Poopalicious, Puppalicious, Grill Guard, Little Fluffy Buddy (LFB), Fluffy White Sausage, White Torpedo, Mr. C, and the infamous Bad Dog. He loved his family, tolerated a few visitors (like my Mom and the people that feed him while we were gone) and hated everyone else.

Mr. C was typical for his breed - America Eskimo. They apparently come with one of two distinct personalities – they either love everyone or dislike everyone (except for their family). We got the latter. Protective to a fault, I am sure to the people knocking on the door, Crockett sounded like a much larger dog.

Pure white and VERY fluffy The Poopa looked like he should be the most gentle friendly dog in the world, and every time we were out on a walk, the people we encountered would say “awww he is so cute” and reach down to pet him (who would not want to pet a snow white fluffy dog), he growled at them. I would warn them…he is not too friendly and they would reluctantly back off. It actually had just a touch of irony.

The Puppa loved his treats (to a fault) and was always on treat or dropped food patrol. It was funny, when we ate a meal, he would sit and stare at me, boring holes in my fork to mouth motion. I would reach down and try to pet him and he would duck away not wanting to be pet as if saying “Hey! I am working here!” But if a morsel of food hit the deck, I would yell “Man Down” and he was on it in a split second. This was okay at the table, but if we were preparing food and something big hit the ground, you had to be really fast to beat him to it and snatch a sure treat away from the jaws of victory.

Like I said, he loved his treats. When I took my vitamins in the morning, he was right there needing his pill too. His pill was doggie dental food, but he thought it was his treat. Bed time? I like to stay up and write until late into the night. Sure enough about 11 PM, he would let me know he wanted to go to bed. What he really wanted was his bedtime treat. A lot of nights, he would have to wait until 2 or 3 if I was on a writing tear. I think he had trained us. But through all his food fixation, he actually had a very delicate stomach and if he did get something he shouldn’t, it frequently came back up a short time later. We cleaned up a lot of puke over the years.

I could go on about the other end and all that fur, but my wife won’t let me, she thinks it is TMI. She is probably right… Poopalicious loved to eat smelly socks, underwear or any other piece of laundry he could get a hold of. One time my wife put a dish-rag in the laundry that she had used to mop up some spilled juice from a roast. We could not find that rag anywhere, we looked suspiciously at Crockett, he feigned innocence. One month later, we finally found the rag, he had puked it up…it sat in his stomach for a month…disgusting!

Not exactly greased lightening, Puppalicious had two kills to his credit, a baby bunny and a baby duck. Hey, I said he was not too fast. Frequently he was a pain-in-the-ass, but mostly he was our dog. Mr. C’s favorite thing? Having his booty scratched; the area along his back near his tail, Crockett would just shimmy and squirm the whole time, a few seconds of pure pleasure. But then he was done and walked off. He only liked pets when he wanted them, in certain ways he was pretty independent (almost cat like).

OK, about the Fluffy White Sausage and White Submarines nick names; frequently when he laid down he would put his front paws straight out and his back legs splayed out behind him, he did this so he could put his belly on our tile floor. With all that fur, he was always hot. So my sister commented one time that he looked like a fluffy white sausage laying on the floor, that nick name stuck. When playing tug–of-war, after a few seconds of vigorous pulling he would flop down on the floor and my boys would pull him along the tile on his belly, like he was skimming through the waves….White Torpedo. Crockett had a lot of personality.

You would figure that he was one tough dog and for over 10 years you would have been correct. The dog books tell us this breed frequently live to be 18-20 years old. We thought he would be with us at least another 7-8 years. But it was not to be. He started acting sick about 6 month ago and we took him to the vet. He had acute kidney failure and was put on a very restrictive diet (even more restrictive than his usual one) and he hated it. He had to take lots of pills, but we wrapped them in this new product called Pill Pockets (we wish we could invest in this company but they are privately owned, it's a great product). He lived for his treats wrapped in Pill Pockets, his bark tone having changed to almost a sharp urgent plea.

Several weeks ago, he started moaning when lying down and we were very concerned and it seemed that we went to the vet at least once a week. Anytime he showed any symptom that seemed abnormal we would call our patient vet and voice our concerns. Crockett had a lot of tests and it seemed that we had a handle on the kidney issue. Perhaps he learned to be more vocal about his discomfort.

But the moaning continued and it just seemed that he was not all there. He was not the same dog. We video taped how he acted at home and took it to the vet. She was very worried and asked me to bring him in right away. She took an x-ray and she found a large tumor on his stomach. In our hearts we knew it was the end. He had tried to fight through the pain and would come to tell us, as if asking for us to do something. But it was just too much.

We did the humane thing and put him to sleep yesterday. I held him close in my arms while the vet injected him with the euthanasia drug and in seconds his great heart stopped beating. I cried and held him close, not wanting to let go.

Good bye little buddy, I will sure miss you. Sleep well, the pain is gone.

See you all next time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Driver Book I – Decision is now available for sale on my web site and on

After months of writing and waiting, editing and waiting, working with graphics artists and you guessed it waiting and then for good measure, waiting some first novel The Driver Book I – Decision is now available for purchase on my website and

To make it easy to find it, here are the links:

My personal Create Space Web page - 5" x 8" Print version

eBook version available in Kindle format - 5" x 8" Print version

And now for a little teaser, here is an excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 1:

The dark metallic-gray Maserati Quattroporte sliced north along the French A-7 Autoroute toward Lyon. The Driver stayed in the passing lane, flashing his high beams. Peugeots and Renaults moved out of his way as if pushed by a shockwave.
Something was bothering him. Most Engagements were trouble-free drives, taking cargo from one place to another. A Driver seldom knew what his cargo was—it could be things or people or things and people. This Driver’s cargo, a small box, was secure inside the specially built safe in the Maserati’s trunk, surrounded by sheets of soft foam rubber to keep it from sliding around. Rene Dufour had been doing this for a long time and something about this Engagement made him uncomfortable. Usually when he sensed an Engagement was going to be dangerous, possibly life threatening, he knew what was causing that feeling; a sixth sense honed over years of experience. Today nothing; only a vague persistent uneasiness. Glancing in the rearview mirror, once again he reviewed the events that began when he’d picked the cargo up in Marseilles, hoping to identify what it was that was bothering him.
Driving into a rundown and abandoned warehouse near the wharf, the headlights peered through the shadows and dust illuminating three men standing next to a silver BMW 5-Series. Rene had pulled to a stop and got out. He remembered scrutinizing each of them. They had French underworld written all over them. Two wore silvery gray tight fitting suits, buttoned up, the outline of pistols barely visible in their waistbands. The third, in a very expensive black suit and wraparound sunglasses, his dark hair tipped spiky blond, stepped forward to meet Rene. Tattoo’s blossomed up along his neck and up behind his jaw—flames with the tips changing from bright red to yellow just finishing underneath his ears. Classy!
Identities verified, Tattoo Man flashed a pearly white smile visible even in the gloom of the warehouse and brought the small case from the trunk of the BMW and gave it to Rene. Before he could open the Maserati’s trunk, the trio had turned, got into their car, and disappeared with a shriek of spinning tires and clouds of billowing smoke. Rene cocked his head to listen. The BMW continued accelerating until the roar of the engine faded into the distance. Strange, he remembered thinking, usually they watch me leave. Not much to go on, but the feeling of unease persisted. Rene returned his focus to completing the Engagement.
The consummate professional, Rene Dufour never failed to deliver once contracted for an Engagement. His plans were to contact his clients when he reached Lyon and give them an update on his progress and a new ETA for Reims, his final destination. He toggled the switch on the console to his right, activating the rear camera, one of several modifications he’d had specially built into the Maserati. He studied the cars following further behind him, looking for any indication that he may have a tail. So far, so good. He switched to the front. Nothing.
He drove for a few minutes getting his bearings from the GPS in his dash, spotted an Agip nearby on the way to Morieres, and at the last second veered off the road into the service area, just east of Avignon. He pulled up in front of the main building, which housed a restaurant and shop and sat for a moment to see if anyone followed him into the rest area. Not seeing a suspicious vehicle, he turned the Maserati around and backed into the parking place. He exited the car, pulled his ever-present iPhone from the suit jacket pocket and locked the car, also setting the extra security systems before heading inside for a visit to the restroom and to grab an espresso.
Rene stepped inside the restaurant and paused, looking back. The tinted glass gave him excellent cover to observe the cars passing. For the briefest moment, he stared at his reflection in the glass. 1.8m tall, broad chest, and about 77kg, his graying black hair brush cut. He could not see his intense blue eyes, covered now, as they frequently were, by sunglasses. His thick lips and thin nose combined with a slight olive in his complexion to let him pass for French, Italian, Spanish and—with some additional facial hair—Middle Eastern. Vain about his clothes, he too wore designer suits, especially Canali and Zegna, but unlike the tattooed man back at the warehouse, Rene preferred loose-fitting jackets that gave him freedom of movement and concealed his shoulder-holster. His easy, self-confidant movements—second nature after a career in law enforcement—announced to anyone paying attention, ‘Do not mess with me.'
No cars had followed him into the parking lot. Good. Makes things simple, he thought. He went to the restroom to wash up and stopped by the counter. He ordered and paid for a double espresso. When the order arrived, he added several sugars, ritually stirred the espresso until the sugar had completely dissolved, then quickly gulped the hot, sweet liquid down. He looked at the Maserati. It had only been out of his eyesight for a few moments, but he had to check it, he always did. He pulled out his iPhone and ran the security program. The response was quick: no explosives, no bugs, no tampering.
Rene punched another button, remotely starting the car and unlocking the driver's door, which gapped open slightly so that he could enter the car without having to fumble with the door handle. He walked quickly outside and was in the car, putting the Maserati in gear and heading out in less than eight seconds.
Exiting the Agip, moving along the access road onto the A-7, he noticed a staid black Mercedes E55 AMG saloon up ahead idling in the emergency lane. Dark tinted windows, smoke rising softly from the tail pipes, a coincidence this car happened to be sitting precisely at that spot? Not likely. Instantly on full alert, thinking, planning, he quickly pulled into the emergency lane himself, careful to stay about fifty meters back from the Mercedes. Using another modification to the car, Rene used the thumb wheel on the steering wheel accessing the front camera, he zoomed in and snapped a photo of the Mercedes’ license plate. Looking up, he noticed what seemed to be an identical Mercedes coming up behind, now slowing to pull in behind him. They had him pinched in between; no doubt they had assumed they could easily take him down. So it was time to change the rules to their game.

Want to read more (I know you do!), you can download the Kindle eBook version or for those of you that prefer to turn actual pages (like me), the print version is available too. Hope you enjoy the book, it makes an excellent gift!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bad Boy Part 2

I just stared and stared at my 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera / 930 as it sat there in my garage. I pulled it front ways first so I could just look at the back of the car, that huge white whale tail spoiler that every teenage boy thought was the biggest, coolest wing to adorn the back of a car since the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. Then I would turn it around and back it in just to look at the front of the car, low and menacing. Sitting so low to the ground, a hunkered down shape that spoke of speed and power, it looked squat, mean and fast from any angle.

And do you know what? In 1976 it was fast, with the exception of the Lamborghini Countach LP400 and the Ferrari 512 Berlinetta Boxer, there was nothing stock that was faster on the road. Porsche created a revolution when they introduced the Turbo. Let’s face it, cars were pretty sucky in 1976 and with the exception of the afore mentioned exotics, there was not much to choose from. In fact, the 911 Turbo was a revelation. It was funny; Porsche management in Germany actually thought that nobody would buy them. There were so much more expensive than any other Porsche 911 in the range. Every last one of them sold. But they also had a deadly reputation. Inexperienced drivers were not used to that power and there were several that crashed when their driver, after piling on the speed as the turbo kicked in carried way too much speed into a corner and hit the brakes. Not something you do in a rear-engine car. They bite hard when that happens, the rear end would snap around sending the car spinning off the road backwards; often with dire consequences. Even the US Government threatened to do something about these evil fast cars crashing off the road backwards. I knew full well the cars reputation and I respected it every time I drove it. I was always just a little scared when I took it out, but don’t tell my wife…

No other street Porsche had been this fast. I read someplace that the claimed top speed was 153, but I have read other reports that it was closer to 160. No matter, it was fast back then and it is fast today. And it was loud. Bad Boy had been equipped at some point with an after-market “sport exhaust” meaning minimal internal baffling, maximum external noise exiting the huge twin coffee can size exhaust outlets. My wife claimed she could hear the car more than a half mile away as I accelerated up a nice uphill stretch on the back road near our house. Good, I like loud. My boys? They loved it. Today they both tell me it was their favorite Porsche that I have owned. I remember that my oldest son who was in junior high at the time was telling me that he and his friends talked cars every day during lunch. I asked which cars did they talk about…he said my 930. Ahhh, I was humbled, it was still the object of teenage lust, even after all these years.

You know for an old car, it was pretty well equipped for 1976 - AC (well at least there was just the hint of cool air coming out of the vents), power windows, power mirror (yes mirror, remember in 1976 most cars only had one, to get the other was an option), full leather, power sunroof, cassette radio and even intermittent windshield wipers(!). It was missing some important stuff too; Porsche did not put power steering or brakes on this first generation of the Turbo. Many people complained about the brakes saying they were not good enough. Actually I found them to be perfectly adequate, but since they were not power assisted, you just had to press on the pedal real hard. The clutch was not hydraulic, so it did not have a slave cylinder to help with the clutch action, just a very long thick cable that pulled the pressure plate directly. The clutch pressure was extreme, taking a lot of force to press the pedal in. It was funny, my calf muscle on my left leg looked like a dessert plate, it was so pumped up.

There were some quirks about the car. The turbo power was like an on-off switch. There was nothing, no torque, zilch zero nada below 3K RPM, but once you hit that engine speed, the turbo clicked on like a switch and WHAM it exploded forward, pushing you back in the seat as the motor pulled all the way to the 6800 RPM red line. It was intoxicating and I hammered it every chance I got, which as it turns out was pretty much every time I drove it. The acceleration felt like the USS Enterprise as it blasted towards another part of the galaxy bending into warp speed. That shock wave of force and sound was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I had perma-grin; the smile of a gear head plastered on my face. Yes driving it was fun, don’t know if I will ever get the chance to experience anything like that again…but man it was a hoot! But there was not a rev limiter on the car so you had to be very careful not to over rev the motor. I am willing to bet that many an early Turbo motor went BANG simply because the motor was consistently over-revved.

Another quirk - I liked to take the car for about a 150-200 mile drive every other month or so. There were some nice back roads that took me north and west of the DFW area close to the Texas-Oklahoma border. One day was glorious with temps in the low 70’s, a few puffy cotton ball shaped clouds in the sky. So I pointed the car west and opened up the sunroof and it retracted all the way back giving me a ginormous 8” slot of open sky above my head. It was great, until I noticed that the oil temp started to creep up on me. Now I would like to say that I was very respectful of the oil temp on the car and a good temp range was 160 – 180 degrees, more than that and the oil was getting too hot. Respectful may not be the right word, more like terrified, yes…that is closer to how I felt about the oil temp. So I watched it like a hawk, like 10-12 times a minute, I would sneak a peek at the temp. And now it was nudging up past 180, I was concerned…

Don’t know why, but I decided to close the sunroof and low and behold, the temp dropped into the normal range. Strange. Later after I returned from the trip, I went online and posted a question on the Rennlist Porsche Forum and someone replied and suggested that I look in the owner’s manual under sunroof operation. I turned to the correct page and there it was…saying something like “Do not operate the retractable metal pleasure roof segment (or some such German translation) over 100kph (62mph) as it may effect the cooling capability of the engine.” WTF?

Apparently with the sunroof open (oops, I mean the retractable metal pleasure roof segment), it created a dip in the airflow as the speed of the car increased, with more air dipping into the interior and less over the vents on the engine bay at the back of the car. Remember that a Porsche 911 (all variants up to the 996) was air-cooled. So that huge fan at the back of the motor did several things – it spun the alternator for one, but it also dumped a huge amount of air onto the top of the cylinder casings, keeping the engine cool (along with copious amounts of expensive Red Line synthetic oil). The retractable metal pleasure roof segment impacted the airflow above 60mph, reducing the effect of the air being sucked into top of the motor by that fan.

Who knew? I will say that the 930 never stranded me. Oh it tried a couple of times, once with a flat tire (about 120 miles from home). I drove home very slowly on the 25 year old donut, people pointing and laughing as they flew by me on the highway; a Porsche going slow in the slow lane. The second time? I will leave that for next time when I finish up the Bad Boy series.

Until then…

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bad Boy Part 1

After we sold the 944S, there was a period of several years, well to be more accurate 8 years, 2 months and 14 days when I was Porsche-less. It was a tough time. We had two infants – youngsters - prepubescent boys and therefore had a litany of mini-vans, SUV’s and wagons. It was not exactly inspiring.

I had just received a hand-me-down company car; a purple (or more accurately plum) colored Dodge Intrepid and I HATED IT. Every mile was torture, what a piece of crap. I called the guy that had it before me (he had left the company for greener pastures…or at least that is what he said) and asked him “What where you thinking…Purple?” He said it did not look like that in the brochure…”dude, purple is purple, you can tell even from a brochure it was a crappy color. Face it, you screwed up and I have to live with it.” At the same time, we needed to get out of the mini-van we had, our kids were getting bigger and we needed something that was a step up…we needed an SUV.

So my wife hit the newspapers, this was when there were still actually car ads in the paper, before everything was online. And she found something… I was headed home in the lovely Intrepid from Houston and she called me on my cell phone. “How fast can you get to Midlothian?” She asked. “I dunno, maybe 40 minutes, why?” Not sure why my wife was asking me to drive out of my way to Midlothian. “I found a deal.” I should have known.

Well she did find a deal. A young family had got in over their head and had leased two vehicles: a Ford Expedition and a truck. They had to unload them…fast. Here were the details: take over their lease payments, they would pay the transfer fee - $300 and give us $600 cash because they had gone over their mileage. Let me get this straight, we call the leasing company, fill out a form, have it approved based on our credit and we get this Expedition and we get a check from this family for $600? Was this legit? I called the lease company, it was. Oh and did I mention that these folks had put a lot down on the two vehicles so the lease payments were low? I took the exit towards Midlothian as fast as I could.

Test drove the SUV, it was perfect, a Black Expedition XLT with tan cloth interior and 4WD. It was really a nice truck. I told the gal we would take it. My wife worked with the lease company and in a couple of days we had the Expedition for the balance of its lease, or about 36 months. And a check for $600. Perfect. Fact is, I like big SUV’s, they are safe, sit up high and get really terrible gas mileage, but did I mention they were safe?

So the mini van was gone, thank god. Replaced with a 1997 Ford Expedition – things were looking up. So in ’99 I left my cushy / stable job and took the plunge into DOT COM (or rather DOT BOMB) world. I needed new wheels since I had to turn in my company car. During the exit process, they asked me if I wanted to buy it. I had to think about it for a while, like 4-5 nanoseconds before I said no F’ing way or something like that. So I went shopping. Looked everywhere, wanted something cool and I was close to pulling the trigger on a 2000 BMW 3-Series. But because my budget was pretty low, it was a stripper, it had like zero options, not even metallic paint. My pragmatic wife cautioned me not to get the stripper 3-Series. She maintained there were other options. Looking online one day at the website (such as it was) for the lease company we had our Expedition through, I found out they had a lease return lot in the mid-cities. Hmmm, they had treated us pretty good, so why not check out the lot.

I pulled up and met the sales guy. Told him I was looking for a 3-Series and they had a couple, but nothing that lit my fuse. Well he asked me what my budget was and I told him my range. He said he might have something interesting. We went out back. There crowded by a bunch of crappy cars was a dusty ’99 BMW 5-Series with very few miles. It was silver, gray leather, LOADED(!) and it had a very rare (at least in the US) 5-speed manual. And he could get me in the car for less money then my budget. A lot less money. Why so low? I asked him. Easy…it had a manual transmission, nobody wanted a BMW 5-Series with a manual transmission. I did! It was mine.

Picked it up on a very rainy night, it was pouring. So of course I had to completely detail it the next day. I loved that car; it was awesome. But it was doomed too. I was making pretty good bucks in the Dot Com space and I realized I could get rid of the BMW and get back into a Porsche. It went up for sale. Funny I did the same thing with the BMW that the folks did with the Expedition, except I had equity and made the guy who took over the payments pay the transfer fee and give me $1500 cash. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do…or can get away with.

One quick BMW story before we go on… as a part of my Dot Com job, I was doing a lot of work with a well know PC manufacturer in Austin and was down there every week (sometimes twice a week), but frequently for 3-4 days at a time. My best friend had some gigs at a huge club opening for a bunch of touring bands and he asked me to play the gigs, since he needed a bass player. It was like 6 gigs over a three-week period and it dovetailed nicely with my business trips. I said yes.

So picture this, struggling musicians pulling up in a variety of barely running cars and trucks, getting out and lugging old nasty amps and such, dressed in grungy jeans and tee shirts. I pull up in a new BMW 5-Series, pull out a new Ashdown amp and am dressed in my hip Armani duds…the juxtaposition was interesting to say the least. I was the best dressed person in the club and my wife looked especially HOT in her black Jill Sanders outfit. Yeah, success sucks, or so I hear. But we played some great gigs and in the case of one touring band, blew their collective asses off the stage. It was a good night.

In 2001 I decided that it was time to get back into the Porsche scene, so I started looking around. I test drove a few cars, but nothing really stood out. I did not mind waiting until I found the right car, I could be patient. Then one day I logged into the Dallas Morning News website and clicked the link to the car ads and looked at the Porsches for sale. Usually there were a few cars listed, most were either basket cases or brand news ones way beyond my budget and means.

But there was this car, a 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera or 930. It was nearby, it was in my price range. I grabbed the phone and called the number listed. A guy answered the phone and laughed, he had just listed the ad only moments before, but already had like 6 calls. He was a commercial airline pilot and was not flying that day. He asked me how fast I could get to his house. I said fifteen minutes. He said I better hurry.

He met me at his front door and walked me around to the garage and opened the door with the automatic opener. The door rolled up and the sight of the Porsche 930 literally took my breath away. I had to have it. What cinched the deal was we drove to the place where I had most of my mechanical work done to all my previous Porsches and BMW’s. I really trusted these guys. The owner of the 930 trusted these guys too. The service manager told me this was the best 930 they had ever cared for; it really needed nothing. Here are some shots that the Pervious Owner (PO) sent me. Enjoy, but there are better ones to come…

Not for one minute had I ever imagined that I would be able to own the car of my teenage fantasies. A 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera / 930, number 408 of 630 imported into the US. Wow. Normally we do not name our cars, but we christened this one – Bad Boy. It was.

See you all next time.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Our 944S - The Forgotten Porsche

Marital bliss. My bride and I married in 1990 and we each brought one car to the union. I was driving a 1990 Acura Integra LS and my wife was driving a 1986 Nissan Pulsar. The Acura was a great car; made by Honda it was well built, well engineered and pretty quick (for 1990 anyway). The Pulsar? No beating around the bush, it was a piece of crap. I can only hope that my wife did not pick it out, holding out hope that her parents saw it at a local dealer and thought, “why that is cute, let’s get that for our daughter.” Or something like that.

Anyway it was terrible - terrible slow, terrible looking, with terrible funky mid-80’s ergonomics. My plan was simple, once we wed - ditch the Pulsar. So how could I put my evil plan into play, it was her baby. Then the other quandary, what to replace it with? Hmmmm, let’s see...maybe a Porsche? Actually truth be known, she found it. See my wife is addicted to newspapers (yes she still loves to get the Sunday Newspaper and reads every section, every ad, it takes hours….) and she was going through the Saturday auto ads and she turned to me and “Hey is a 1987 Porsche 944S a pretty good car?” That is like asking Parnelli Jones if he liked to drive Indy cars (OK, maybe dating myself a little bit with that reference). So we went to the dealer to check it out.

As it turns out my plan was not too evil, the car was great. Black with a black leather interior, it had about 36K miles and was in pretty decent condition. Now this was before I knew about Pre Purchase Inspections (PPI), or having a Porsche mechanic give it a once over; fact was, we got lucky. It could have easily gone the other way and we could have ended up with a lemon. But we didn’t.

When it came time to do a deal, we brought both the Integra and Pulsar to the dealer and we traded both of them in. The dealer was a little unnerved having to take in two trades, but they did it. Of course they did it, I cannot image a dealer not doing a deal to move some iron. So I drove home, because my wife could not drive a manual transmission…yet.

First order of business was to teach her how to drive a stick. We went to a large parking lot on a Sunday and we traded places. She was very nervous. She killed it multiple times before I had her moving and shifting. We spent the next couple of days with me in the passenger seat giving her nurturing advice. She got the hang of it. We also had just received my new company car a 1990 Ford Aerostar van, so we split time between the two cars.

My wife had started a new job working for a manufacturer of luxury writing instruments and her job was to visit all the stores that sold them and conduct training, clean and arrange the display cases and make sure they had all the special paper products to demo the pens. I remember her coming home one day and she was worked up, really hot about something. She had gone to a local purveyor of fine jewelry and a couple of the sales gals had been really snotty asking her how she could possibly afford a “Porsh”. She smiled at them sweetly and said that although she could not afford a “Porsche”, her husband could and she got to drive my car. Shut them up…nuff said.

So she had been driving it a while and I noticed that the clutch pedal was getting a bit long, meaning that the action was almost all the way out before the clutch engaged. This meant that they clutch had just about packed it in. I had also just got a monthly bonus and it seems that the 944S knew exactly how much the bonus was because the bill of the new clutch and the amount of the bonus were almost dollar for dollar. New clutch, new lease on life!

I loved that car, it was fast, good looking and did I mention that it was fast? Well it was also doomed. My wife went though pregnancy with our first child switching between the 944S and the Aerostar and she was miserable driving the Porsche. The bigger she got, the worse she fit, but she still stuck with it. We had it after our first son was born in 1992 and actually made a trip to Abilene to visit her parents with our son in the back. It was a tight trip, all the baby stuff filled up the hatch area and one of the rear seats. I was using the Aerostar (or as my father in law called it…the Astroloid) more and more for work, so something had to give.

But before we sold it, I started to work on some maintenance items on the car. Limited tools, limited room, meant that it took forever even to change the rear gear oil to the transaxle. Bottom line we needed a new car. So we took a look around, but did not particularly like anything we saw on the market, until we saw the 1993 Mazda 626, especially the one with the Ford sourced quad-cam V6.

So we went to the dealer and traded the 944S for the Mazda. They offered us a pretty good deal, but we were still a ways apart. We had been going through the negotiation game for a very long time, we were tired, our baby boy was tired, hungry and we had finally run out of diapers. So he decided to put an end to the negotiations by pooping in his diaper. We did not have another one and the smell started to get ripe. At one point, when the smell of poop was getting quite lethal in that small sales cubicle, my wife and I glanced at each other, we were going to hang tough, not give in. It was getting stinkier by the second, but we did not budge on what we were willing to pay. The first one to blink (or run away from the smell) was the loser. At that point, the sales guy excused himself for a moment and came back with the manager who took one whiff of the aroma surrounding us like a fog and agreed to my deal if we would leave right then. They took a chance and rolled us in the car, asking us to come back the next day to sign all the paperwork, but made us promise we would have spare diapers.

As we pulled out of the dealership, we made a quick turn into a nearby parking lot, my shrewd wife pulling out a diaper from the bottom of the diaper bag, turns out she knows a thing or two about the negotiation process too. My oldest son still loves that story; how he helped his parents get a smoking deal on a 1993 Mazda 626 LS with a sporty V6. Ah…the memories of a negotiation game where we held all the cards…err based on lack of diapers.

Until next time.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Inbetweeners – Cars that we have owned between all those Porsches

I have owned a lot of cars. Seems like there is a new one in the garage all the time. Funny thing though, a majority were used (or maybe more politically correct to say…pre-owned). What does this list say about us and our automotive choices? Well except for Porsches, we get tired of cars pretty fast, we say that we are going to keep them forever and don’t and for the most part, have owned a little bit of everything. But I will say that when I sell a car, it is usually in much better shape than when I bought it. It is a good idea to buy one of my cars, it will be spotlessly clean, the maintenance will be up to date and (especially with the Porsches) have some very tasty mods installed.

When it comes to Porsches, I have a problem. I call it the Slippery Slope and I cannot help myself, I just have to make the car better. I waxed on and on about it in a column I wrote for and if you want to read about my addiction, here is the link ( My wife read it, and commented about my “hobby” and noted that my automotive excess tended to be very expensive. “But at least I’m not addicted to Golf !” I proudly pointed out and then went on to say that at least she was not a Golf widow. No, she countered, she was a Garage widow – which amounts to same thing and based on the cost of Porsche mods, she pointed out that we would probably come out ahead if I started playing Golf 2-3 times a week. Hmmm, she had me there…

So I thought I would compile a list of all the vehicles we have owned or been assigned (including company cars) since my first 1965 Ford Mustang (listed in chronological order from first vehicle owned to most recent). This list includes the car my wife was driving when we met as well as the cars that I have purchased for my two teenage sons (but still have title to). It is quite a long list. There are some pretty bad vehicles along the way…enjoy.

1. 1965 Ford Mustang
2. 1972 Chevy Vega
3. 1980 Puch Moped*
4. 1976 Honda CB 400F
5. 1979 Fiat Strada
6. 1972 Porsche 914
7. 1985 Suzuki GS550E
8. 1965 Ford Mustang (a different one that listed above)
9. 1986 Acura Integra*
10. 1990 Acura Integra ES*
11. 1986 Nissan Pulsar* (ouch we had one of those…actually was my wife’s car)
12. 1987 Porsche 944S
13. 1990 Ford Aerostar Minivan* (it totally sucked) – Company car
14. 1993 Mazda 626*
15. 1993 Dodge Caravan* – company car
16. 1990 BMW 525i
17. 1996 Dodge Caravan* – company car
18. 1999 Ford Explorer
19. 1999 Dodge Intrepid – Company car (shorted we had a car – 8 weeks)
20. 1999 BMW 528i
21. 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera – 930
22. 1986 Porsche 944 Turbo – 951
23. 2001 Ford Excursion
24. 1999 Porsche Boxster
25. 1992 BMW 525i Touring
26. 2001 Volvo S60
27. 1983 Mercedes 230E
28. 2005 Honda CR-V*
29. 2006 Audi A3*
30. 2007 Honda CR-V*
31. 2004 VW Touareg V8
32. 1992 Mazda Miata
33. 1993 Porsche 968
34. 2001 Porsche Boxster S
35. 2007 Ford F-150 (teenage sons car)
36. 1995 Jeep Wrangler Sahara (other teenage sons car)
37. 2007 VW Passat (wife’s current car)
38. 2006 Porsche Cayman S (my current car)
39. 2008 VW GTI (replaced Ford F-150 when gas bills got rampant)

Wow, that is quite a list! Almost 40 cars in a lifetime. And I have no doubt that 50 is easily attainable (I am sure my wife is cringing as she is reading this). So tell me, what should our 40thcar be? I suspect that my wife is due to get the Passat replaced next. How do I know this? Intuition….

So we had the Touareg and she said that we were going to keep this SUV for years, maybe until the boys were through with college. Problem was it was about to turn 140K miles and I dreaded the maintenance items that were no doubt on the horizon, but I was cool with it. It needed new tires: did my research and found the perfect set of tires (General Grabber UHP) on These were very highly rated, inexpensive too and were so much more quite than the previous tires on the SUV.

So we settled in for a long stretch of ownership. Then one day a few months after we had put on the new tires, we were watching TV and an ad come of for the VW Jetta and my wife looked up at me and said, they were cute and she could maybe see herself driving something smaller, more economical. And she decided that maybe, we should go drive one. Uh oh, that means that her forever is about to come due today. We went to our local VW store and tested the Jetta and Passat. She loved the Passat; we drove one home. I figure it is safe until we get a new set of tires on it….

Until next time…