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 you...it 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 www.planet-9.com / 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 (www.ctf.org) and their motorsports arm (www.racing4research.org). 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.