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…

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