Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A/C Delete Complete, Bonus Euro Bumper Depth Mod

After three days, and a total of 9 hours the A/C delete is complete. Thanks to the tech article on the spec 944 website I was able to create this super cheap bracket. I was wandering around the pick and pull yard looking for a suitable bracket and found a plain on on a mid-eighties Volvo. I kept looking though and found this toothed-washer bolt and bracket combo on a 91 VW Jetta. It works like a dream and really holds the alternator in place.

The picture above was taken from beneath the car and really shows how simple this is. The write up keeps talking about the 'top' alternator bolt, but the writer obviously meant the bottom one. Also, to get the belt tension right I had to use a pry bar between the alternator and the big bracket the alt is bolted to. The 5pk860 belt fit perfectly. I also had to twist the hose that goes to my radiator overflow tank so the alternator did not rub on it. Simple, but a big mess if you over look this.

Since it was 50 degrees in Denver today and being outside was so nice I also did the euro bumper mod. This was as easy as taking a 9/64 bit and drilling into the bumper supports, this way, the bumper can be pushed back to euro depth after it is installed. I did have an old towel that I held over the drill while I did the job because it does erupt with some force. It also made clean up very easy. In the above photo you can see how much deep the bumper is. I'd guess around 4".

Off to finish decorating my Buche de Noel cake. If it does not come out terrible I'll post a pick. Heck, making this cake was almost as complicated as the above work. Maybe more complicated.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A/C Delete.

You've no idea how much wiring, plumbing and other mechanical bits are involved with a car's air conditioning system until you go about removing one.

There is, on my 944, the condensor, evaporator, extra blower, miles of wire. 12 feet of metal and thick rubber hosing, controls, etc. What a mess. There is even a whole passel of stuff behind the passenger side dash that will be staying put.

And every bit of this cold air making machinery is very, very well installed. Heck, I had to jack up the car and cut through the lines with a sawzall to make the pieces manageable.

But, the benefits outweight the sweat equity. Without a condensor, the radiator gets much better air flow. There are the weight savings of course. And most importantly, maybe a free HP or two with the removal of the compressor and its associated drag on the belt.
Porsche has a very nice A/C delete bracket. It is $160. I will be going this route. For a total of $22 including new belt.

And, contrary to what others have mentioned, I needed to undo almost the entire front valance to a point so that I could pry it outwards enough to let the condensor drop.

Bonus removal - Power antennae. You know, this thing weight 2.5lbs. High up on the car no less.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Few Hundred Dollars + Snowboard = New Porsche Race Car

It is true. I traded a few hundred bucks and a Never Summer(super sweet limited edition Coors
Link banquet edition) for a 1983 Porsche 944. A race car has never come so cheap.

And this is no run of the mill 944. It seems to have been destined to be a race car from the day the original New Mexico resident ordered it up, then picked the car up in Germany as a tourist delivery item.

The car has:
Option 456 the Sport Shocks and sways.
Option 220 the Limited Slip Differential.
No Power steering.
Fuchs wheels.

Those are the three most desirable options to have on a 944 NA that will be raced. I am just going to DE the car this summer and if I get hooked or make more money, I migh
Linkt do SPEC 944 next year.

Sure, the car is super filthy and the paint is more faded than the Corey's combined careers but it is a very solid base. Total mileage is 143k. Importantly though, the previous three owners took very good mechanical care of the car. It got new shocks and clutch at 100k. It wears fresh tires. I have all the service records back to 1988.

The big things it needs are the timing belt/water pump/balance belts(I am hemming and hawing if I will do this myself) and the brakes and clutch to be bled and new soft lines installed(I will do these for sure).

I spent about 7 hours today tearing out the interior of the car. Yuck. You don't appreciate how well screwed together a Porsche is until you try to take one apart. On my jenky scale I figured I took out about 210 pounds of stuff.

Oddity, it also has option code 666. I guess the guy who ordered wanted the devil riding shotgun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Grip That? On Steering Wheels.

I am a boring youngish, oldish sot who hems and moans about those things not original. Those things that go against sound thinking and engineering for a moment of flashy lust. I am not to the point of those that think the catholic mass should go back to Latin, but I am pretty far on the original side of original.

Now, to steering wheels. Why are they changed, I hesitate to use the word upgraded, so often? Simple, It takes only one nut to take a wheel off and swap it out. It gives the owner a false sense of accomplishment that they actually did some meaningful work to their car. One man's opinion here, but it is the same reason lots of people swap out light lenses and add on metal pedals. It is easy to do this. If swapping engines was an easier proposition there would be all sorts of half-breeds driving around. 

Why do I not like 99% of most aftermarket wheels?

A) They are ugly. Period. They may look 'cooler' on their own than the OEM wheel but in situ they look as awkward and out of place as a 12 year old at his first dance with the girl's school from across town and his Dad lurking in the corner as a chaperon. Just look at how wartish the momo wheel looks in the otherwise stock SC above.

B) They are invariably smaller. And this is not always a good thing. Especially for beginning racers. A smaller, thicker wheel invariably encourages a death grip. A more aggressive seizing of the wheel with one's fingers. My karting instructor, after a few laps, saw me stretching my hands and instantly recognized I was holding on too tight. Looser hands, to a point, encouraged smoother driving. And a Porsche at speed, on the track, has a pretty good weight to the wheel in all the cars I have been in, 911, 944, 951, Boxster.

Some driver's I have met search for a smaller wheel to increase the weight because they say it feels better, racier. But this heaviness feels good for a short time. But the penalty in rougher movements. Jerky turn-in. And fatigue are not worth it.

C) Even some stock performance wheels have a yellow line at 12 o'clock. Ugh. Unless you are driving a rally car and making multiple, full 360 degree wheel swings, this is just a boy racerish affectation. If you like a yellow stripe at the top of your wheel, you probably also like flashy exterior badging.

This was, I think, a nice follow up to the below post on driving gloves. You can imagine the acid reflux I endure when glimpsing someone with string back driving gloves gripping a Grant colored wheel. The burn is horrendous. 

Don't believe me. Reinstall your stock wheel for your next track day and see if you don't drive smoother, more relaxed and more energized. Heck, even F1 cars have power steering. 

Everything in moderation, even the feedback and weighting in the wheel of a sports car. 

And just because I railed on them. Doesn't mean they don't have a place. A wood-rim wheel in say a Jaguar or Austin Healy is quite lovely. They match the wood and delicacy of the cars they are installed in. I even once purchased a 1967 MGB from a man who lived in a converted Newport Carriage and owned a gasoline pogo stick that had an original Les Leston drilled rim wheel. It was superb.

Pics from pelican, stuffswap, 7motorcars and seriouswheels .coms

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Consider the Driving Glove

Like M.F.K. Fisher considered the oyster, I would like to consider the driving glove. 

The driving glove. It sounds good. But in practice. In 99.5% of execution (excluding Nomex racing varieties while racing which are 100% OK) are so ridiculous as to cause sad aversions of one's gaze when in the presence of a dandy who dons these grippy historical remnants.

Driving gloves were a necessity when you owned a Bugatti with a cord-wrapped wheel and needed to keep the beast on the bumpy two-lane tracks around your Southern France or Northern Scotland manse. You would chaff your lilly white, unworked hands if you didn't. And we couldn't go around shaking the hands of Ladies with a capital 'L' with hands as chaffed as the gardener's could we? No. So the invention of the driving glove in both cold and warm weather varieties. The rope backed warm weather versions being the most offensive. And if you want to be a moll, you can still buy them. I suggest they are even inappropriate for modern iterations of classic races, a la Mille Miglia. 

What makes driving gloves so offensive? Well, it is the open back. I'm sure this had something to do with how the gloves were constructed back when things were done by hand. But, this open back to me always seemed like a woman who wore a too low cut blouse. A bit showy. A bit garish. This peek of flesh is just not fashionable or proper. A hand either needs to be fully protected or it does not. There are no open back rose gloves for gardening.

Note. If you wear open backed driving gloves in a drop top car you will endanger a ludicrous tan. You will look like a cycling tourist with your half moon of tanned skin poking out of your shirt sleeve.

The pictures I posted above have some serious offenses and some acceptable options. The mult-color versions are from Neiman Marcus and so garish I could not even bring myself to link to them. Hunt them out if you must. That is if you want to look like an extra from Breakin' Two Electric Boogaloo.

The brown suede Porsche version is equally offensive but in a Ralph Lauren languid photo-shoot sort of way. These might look OK if smoking one of the oddball Bondian Porsche Design pipes. Maybe. If you were alone. 

Finally, some driving gloves that I approve of. Note, I do not approve of any 'casual' or 'fashion' driving gloves outside of weather above 45 degrees. There is no need. 

The John Lewis black driving gloves are very modern. An urban take on the driving glove. The synthetic back relieves the driving glove of its Achilles heel. The palm is perforated for breathing and thin enough for a good feel on the rim. 

While a bit flashier, dashier but still acceptable are the Jim Clark versions from Griot's. Griot's is the Sharper Image for car buffs and as such has many silly stupid items. But these I believe do a great job of combining the nod to history with a modern touch. They, like the John Lewis items, would go seamlessly from Porsche or Lotus, to train platform clutching your attache to quick five block walk, to your office. 

And that is not a 'driving glove' that is a winter glove that doesn't get in the way of quality drive time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Is two better than one?

OK, coming up with 'concepts' (OMG I need to stop using advertising words all the time) for my personal holiday car with my wife, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try out something. Who doesn't wish they had a twin?

The fun. The pranks. The games. The built in best friend without the trouble Cheng and Eng had to stick with. It would be great. So...

Too bad my photographic double didn't enjoy doing some of my work,

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Gonzo Porsche Journalism. Thanks Hunter.

I don't actually recall where or when in all that is time consuming on the internet that I stumbled across a mention of a Porsche review by Hunter S. Thompson. But I did. And I wanted to find it, especially after having enjoyed HST's review of the same Ducati 900SS that I owned once.

I tracked it down to a 1999 review done for the now defunct SF Examiner. Ah, yes. The paper version of this venerable paper is no more but its archives live on.

Here we find our now dead (ashes since shot out of canon in Aspen) hero drives a new 1999 911 C4. Some good, classic Hunter stuff in here. Not his best by far. But when he talks about the Arena red car as being 'perfect for night driving.' You get a bit into what he was thinking. Too bad no pictures with the article. But from his choice of big convertibles, the 911 no doubt impressed.

Linked here and pasted in full:


"When you loan a factory-fresh Porsche to Hunter S. Thompson you question your motives, if not your sanity. But we figured that if Porsche was willing to loan a new 911 Carrera 4 to the famed gonzo journalist, we weren't about to argue. So, we extended the offer. The next morning, we were welcomed by a message from Hunter threatening to slit our throats if we didn't have the car delivered to him immediately. Being fond of our throats, we held up our end of the bargain and arranged for the car to be delivered from Los Angeles. And Thompson, who has field-tested everything from Ducati motorcycles to Ferrari sports cars, held up his. At press time we discovered he had failed to return the Porsche. But that's a legal matter. In the meantime, know that he's somewhere out there blowing loose stones off dark highways. Consider yourself warned.

JC: We hear you just got back from a midnight test run. How was it?

HST: That's a fine little machine, a luxury car for sure. That f----r's fast. It gets up to 100 real quick. There aren't a lot wide open straightaways here in Woody Creek, Colo., so I went to this primitive old sports car race track at The Aspen Automobile Club, which was a huge learning experience. The stability and confidence that this car gives you is amazing. It tracks like a slot car except the rear end doesn't come loose. It's definitely fun to drive, but you really have to pay attention. My temptation is always to push it and get the adrenaline going. And I did that. Jesus, this car was easy to get used to. When you get it up to 4,000 rpm and the engine starts to hum, it's a whole new feeling. It's like a plane taking off. It makes you wonder, HmmmmGod damn. What makes this car so special? And it's hard to say. But this Carrera 4 has all the power you need up here in the mountains. More, really. This is what you call a competitive sports car.

It's an uplifter for sure. You can't go out to your driveway every morning and feel any better.

JC: Did you like the Porsche's aesthetics?

HST: Arena Red is a sexy color. I was thinking it was more in the area of Chinese red. Arena Red is a deep red. It's very sexy. It's a wonderful night driving car. It's almost invisible. This is a stealth car. This is a magic color. I was prepared for a bright red. I found myself thinking, What color is that? Ferrari and Jaguar have never done a car this color. Today, I drove the car right up to the front window of the Woody Creek Tavern and had my boys go over it. I thought I'd show it off a bit. Boy, that Arena Red is beyond sexy. It's a deeply seductive and compelling red. I've never seen anything like it. I heard some thugs sort of admiring the car and I heard the lead thug say,

"Hey we should buy one of these." I was just inside waiting for my hot dog, trying to be very inconspicuous.

But it was impossible. And then here come these freaks admiring the car jutting out in this weird angle in front of the window. Boy, I wish I had a photo of that scene. This car catches the eye. But it keeps it, too. It's a second-look kind of car.

JC: How does the 911 Carrera 4 compare to other 911s?

HST: The Carrera 4 has the steroid look of the '90s. The older 911 almost has a kind of concealable muscle. The Carrera 4 is more billowy. It's still extremely sleek. But the interior is not as lean and spare as the 911. I've driven Porsches where you have to look over the windshield with a lower seat, where you could almost feel the gravel scraping your ass. This car keeps you very busy, in terms of driving. It's quieter, the gear box couldn't be better.

The 911 is like a finely tuned middle-weight fighter. The Carrera 4 is on a whole different level. There's a clear difference between these two cars. This car looks bigger and more powerful. This is a good car to take to the polo club. That's it in a nut. This Porsche is a different ball game.

Allen Ginsberg once described the difference between acid and yage, a kind of vine that grows in the Amazon and Africa. Leading dope fiends like Ginsberg and William Burroughs arranged to take a boat up the Amazon River to experience the yage. It was extremely impressive. Maybe the most powerful hallucinogen ever produced. Anyway, Ginsberg said there was a difference between acid and yage. With acid you see the snake and with yage you are the snake. This is the essential difference between the two cars. With the Carrera 4, you are the snake.

JC: That's a wise analogy. Moving on, how did the all-wheel drive system work?

HST: This is the first time I've sort of shaken loose. The main gates of the racetrack were locked so I used the other gates inside the gravel pit. Of course it was so much fun to drive on loose gravel. This is not your everyday city car. Once you get the engine up on a plane, as it were, Jesus, it's a pleasure to drive. You can drive it around on gravel and it handles very well. And it was great on the racetrack too, once you get it up on the jam as they say. I had it on all kinds of surfaces. It was kind of extreme driving from the gravel pit interior roads in order to sneak in the back door of the race track. Those were Jeep conditions. And it handled just as well there as it did anywhere. Then I hit the racetrack and gripped around.

JC: What's the first lesson in the Hunter S. Thompson School of Driving?

HST: Drive very carefully. Always.

JC: You just got back from Cuba on assignment from Rolling Stone. This must have relieved some deadline angst?

HST: It was a great distraction, a wonderful pleasure, an ice breaker. It was a great feeling to get loose with and figure f--- it. Forget about the story for a while. I couldn't ask for a better present from a friend. I had a lot of fun. No doubt.

JC: Did you listen to any music while driving?

HST: Well, I did listen to my own album, Where Were You When The Fun Stopped (a collection of songs handpicked by Thompson by the likes of Lyle Lovett and Warren Zevon).

But, if you close the car up it's like being inside a sound chamber. It could be dangerous for me to drive the car with the speakers up because you can get into a different reality. Egads! A man just walked in with a really fine red parrot. But it's no Arena Red.

JC: Here's the scenario: Your Carrera 4 against the Aspen police Saab 9000. Care to comment?

HST: I think this Porsche would leave him at the top end. Cops have too much money here, like they do anywhere.

Anyway, this is a racing car. If there is a Saab that could stay with the Carrera 4, I'd be surprised. But you'd have to go to Utah and get out on the salt flats to really test the thing.

JC: Some sports cars tend to feel unsafe at high speeds. How did the Carrera 4 do in that aspect?

HST: It didn't take me long to feel safe with it. It has a very seductive look that says, "Come into me and let's get going." Sometimes you can feel every nickel and dime you run over on the freeway. The Carrera 4 has none of that. I've never driven anything with this kind of suspension and lock-down stability on corners. I can see why Mario Andretti has said he likes this car. I drove a Ferrari in Hawaii and cut a land speed record. And that might have been tighter and faster. But it was uncomfortable at times. This is high-speed comfort.

JC: Does the Carrera 4 have any drawbacks?

HST: I had some quarrels with the seats not going back far enough. But that's a common complaint about Porsche and Ferrari. I had trouble fitting. I'll tell you, this car is no family vehicle. If I designed it, I'd just dispense with those seats and make it a two-seater. Just rip the back seats out. But I haven't done any serious experiments yet. I did push it to the limits where I had that feeling, Egads, here we go. But it would be hard to find the limits to this car. They'd be very high. Its tolerance for various stress factors on the road would put most cars into loops and emergency braking. This thing behaves and digs right in.

JC: Alright, last question: What's the maximum speed you reached?

HST: I haven't taken it to warp speed, but it won't be hard. I'm willing to sacrifice one speeding violation. I think I'm going to take it out at night to I-70 between Glennwood Springs and Grand Junction. That's the best place to really go straight. And with Arena Red, this car is so smooth-looking and invisible. There wouldn't be a cop in the world that world that would be able to catch up to something like this. If you had the right escape plan it would be very easy to get it up to warp speed. Tomorrow we'll push it to warp speed. Yes, tomorrow is a good day to do that.

John Clarke Jr. is a New York- and Colorado-based freelance writer. Hunter S. Thompson is a former Examiner columnist, among his other sins."