Wednesday, November 16, 2011
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.