Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Automotive Racing Novel - Closing Speed - A 917 Adventure

Nick, the narrator of Closing Speed by Ted West, is a young American(outsider) thrust into a world that he doesn't fully understand(European Racing) and his experiences in this world with plenty of unwritten rules causes him to question(character growth) his original fascination with the sport he once unblinkingly loved.

In this regard, West's Nick brings to mind The Great Gatsby's narrator, also named Nick. West Egg, it seems, is not that different from a pit at the highest level of European racing. There are shady wealthy characters, myriad affairs and questionable motivations pushing the action forward in both novels.

Nick, West's Nick, finds himself fresh out of college and plucked from among all the aspirants to cover the 1970 European race calendar to bring back an unbiased view of the battles between Porsche's 917 and Ferrari's 512. Nick's beat is all of Europe. His transport, a new Jaguar XKE, on loan from the headquarters.

And it is in the descriptions of the off the track action that West shines. And it should, as this story is a fictionalized account of an assignment West actually carried out for Road & Track. Lucky Ted!

But, back to the novel. We, European racing fans, have all seen the mighty 917 on track. Watched the grainy film of it dicing with the Ferraris. We have seen the glossy coffee table books celebrating each as automotive porn, shot under flattering lights. But what we have not had access to is the stage that this automotive battle raged on. And West brings us this sprawling stage in jealousy inducing detail.

From the first few pages, I challenge any reader to not want to be in Nick's(West's) shoes as he parades up and down the pits. Chats with the drivers. Becomes a confidant of the driver's wives. Becomes their friend. Makes the transition from outsider, and to all appearances, into one of them. He becomes to the insiders, the racers, an insider as well. "You are one of us," says one of the drivers. But Nick himself, he knows he is never one of them. And it is this self realization that is an echo of Fitzgerald's Nick. This ability to know when one has spent time with people who live a life that is so focused on something destructive that the only sane course of action is to watch, record and report.

For the race enthusiast the details of accidents, passes, track conditions, track locations and tuning is mouth watering and achingly accurate. Remember, West was there. We are carried along as Porsche pushes relentless innovation to conquer the Ferraris. We understand the fleeting celebrity of the driver's who are the tools of the companies competing at this high, dangerous level because as one character notes, "there are no wars" to challenge young men.

I am not a big book reviewer, but when a novel comes out that treads in my wheelhouse of passions and pastimes, I wanted to give it a shot. So, I do not think the above is a typical review, by any means, but it should give a pastiche of what Closing Speed is all about. It is a great, fast-paced book perfect for eeking out a bit more automotive enjoyment this summer. Seriously, automotive non-fiction is great and informative, but only fiction can quicken the pulse as effectively as actually driving a car.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Completed Engine. Hanging and Ready + tire costs.

There she is. 2.5 liters of assembly lubed, torqued down, decked and spec'd power. She'll rev up and spit out every one of her 150HP. That's right, 150 Horsepower.

When I bolt her in I will be putting hopes and dreams in the car as well. And at the same time removing my biggest excuse for not running at the front.

More exciting posts when the engine gets slotted in.

On a side note, curious as to what a set of race rubber for SPEC costs, including taxes, mounting and balancing? $797.23. Lets hope they last the season.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

944 Race Engine Sealants and Baffles

Wow. You start big projects like this and never think you will see the day that they will come to a conclusion. And sourcing and managing the race motor build has been a lot of fun.

The last few steps are taking shape. One of the biggest is the addition of a Lindsey Racing oil pan baffle. This stops oil surge and starvation in long sweeping left hand turns. As I have noted earlier, the 944s are super reliable except where it comes to oil starvation to the #2 bearing. I love the welds on the aluminum, although not as perfect as the welds on a thin wall Cannondale bicycle frame, they are beautifully functional.

Interesting note, my publisher Kevin Clemens, said when the 944s where new, they would use them for tire testing and that nothing was more reliable for them. The 951s, he noted, were a different story.

A couple of sharp eyed readers, Dare and Freporter, asked about the sealant being used ont he case as it did not look like sealants they were familiar with. David at 944 Motorwerks told me the following, "Permatex 51813 is a direct replacement for Loctite 518, as Permatex bought out Loctite. Porsche recommends in manuals Loctite 574 which is obsolete." This new sealant, as the Permatex website points out, is an anaerobic gasket maker.

Also visible in the pics is the oil pan also modified to accept a real oil temperature gauge. I chose a short sweep model from AutoMeter and will update on its install in the future.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

944 Race Motor Update

In these photos you can see the oil pick up installed and short block complete.

You also see the stock oil cooler on the side of the engine, I use this in conjunction with a mocal external oil cooler run off a sandwich plate between cooler and oil filter.

The timing on the motor has been solidified so I will be getting it after April 10th. So, for the first race of the season I will need to run my current 140,000 mile motor. Oh well, I can really cane it now, knowing if it blows, big deal.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

So You Want to Write About Racing...Panorama

That wonderful little book in the white envelope you get every month is one of the better benefits of PCA membership. It really is worth the price of membership alone. Betty Jo Turner and her photographer husband do a solid job of bringing club and Porsche news every month. 

So, I was really pleased when they agreed to run my piece about building a Porsche 944 race car. It is nice to see a bit of low cost Porsche news in Panorama as it is usually full of expensive cars, trips and racing.

The article was fun to write and the pics came out great thanks to my wife and Cooper Naitove, who took the big action shot that is the main photo of the article.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Style & Substance & Tax Write Off - Windshield Banner

We had a mercury-favorable day in Denver today and I was able to uncover the 'ol #901 and install the windshield banner/sunshade I had made at Signspecialist.com. Toby who owns or runs the place was great. Contacted me by email after I submitted my order just to make sure the banner was exactly how I imagined it. Plus, the decal came with a video, an instruction guide, a squeegee and a razor blade. Man, they give your everything you need and then some to do a bang up install.

For like $25 this was a multi-purpose score. One, no sun visors in a race car, so this helps with reducing glare from noon-day sun. 

Two, my car is #901 so this works as another numbering decal.

Three, I can promote my novel Hunt for 901, at every track appearance. I already to that, but this is a visible promotion tool for the IRS. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

944 Balance Shaft Install. 200th Post

Dave at 944 Motorwerks is keeping me up to the moment. He has been installing the balance shaft in the 944. Everyone knows this is a part Porsche licensed from Mitsubishi. But, another interesting thing to note is that some race cars and street 944s have run without the balance shafts.

But, SPEC rules mean you have to run them. And I do not think you gain much power by not using them. Just a lot lumpier idle. 

Also today ordered up a real oil temp gauge and an oil pressure warning light so have the final pieces needed once we get around to install.

Kinda mediocre 200th post. Man, it feels like I have made 2,000 posts. But, not too bad. You keep reading, I will keep them coming.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

944 SPEC Engine Build Starting Assembly

Dave sent me some shots of my cleaned and prepped block beginning assembly. The first step he is taking is trial fitting the main bearings, as you can see above.

After that, he will fit the crank. Truly, it is very straight forward from here.

Proust Moment - When I saw this picture this morning I realized I had never had a brand new motor in any of the 15 cars I have owned. Not once. I put a new cam and intake on my 440 Chrysler that my dad and I dropped into my first car, a 1969 Roadrunner clone. But that was not a down to the bare parts new motor. So, this is getting more and more exciting for me. Come to think of it, most of my cars have had over 100,000 miles on them. Some, over 200k. So, let me drift off thinking of the smell of assembly lube, touching the greaseless block. Proust had it right, certain things that we see can cause a domino effect of memories.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Well Begun IS NOT Half Done

The saying, "well begun is half done" was posited by a hard-working fellow lost in time. But many Porsches come to us with "half done" jobs. A half done job on my recently acquired 82 Targa was the A/C delete.

In reality, the job was 10% done. The compressor and evaporator were removed from the engine compartment, Oh, you can also add in the compressor belt.

So, I had the task of removing all the other parts listed in the four above diagrams. That is a lot of stuff. I have, I am not afraid to admit it, smallish hands. But even my diminutive mitts got scared and scraped digging into the smuggler's box and recesses of the engine compartment.

So, a "half done" job on your Porsche is not great to leave as is. It is not something to stand idly by and abide. If you work on those stuttering jobs in fits and starts, that is OK. You are in great company. I remind myself of Gaudi's Sagrada Church, still not done. But they are working on it....

And, if you sell a car with a "half done" job. Shame on you.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

German 911 Gets Scottish Interior

After being so completely thrilled with the way my new Grand Wagoneer headliner came out I knew I wanted to do some interior work on my 82 Targa. Add to that the Targa is black on black on black and you get for a very boring interior. And note, I am a huge fan of funky clothes, interiors, etc. And so is Alois Ruf, so I think I am in good company.

I could not afford to pay for this work, so was limited to redoing the door panels and rear package shelf. A project hastened along when I went ahead and removed the monstrous stereo system whose speakers left Crater Lake-sized holes in my door panels. And left me without a rear shelf.

First thing I did was remove the interior door panels. This takes about five minutes aside. Take a photo of the window switches so you know how the wires go when you put the switches back in. As you can see, the original fiberboard was well stained and warped from moisture exposure over the years. I would use these as a template. 

The material I used for my backer is called Coroplast and can be found in many colors and cheaply at any decent art store. Coroplast is easy to trim with scissors or knife, has a smooth surface that accepts adhesive well, will not be damaged by water, weighs less than a Korean ice skater and is bendable. The final benefit being needed for the rear parcel shelf. To ensure a good facsimile, you can see I clipped the original to the coroplast before cutting. I marked all holes with whiteout to cut out later. 

But back to the doors, you can see the original doors had foam on the back in varying depths, something I recreated with my door panels. I did put a thin headliner foam on the door panels, you could also use felt like I did on the parcel shelf. Both worked easily and provided the soft curves you need. But if I had to do it again, I would use the foam on all the pieces as it is easier to trim and glue on without wrinkles.

I used 3M trim adhesive. You really need to use an automotive adhesive, not Super 77. The stuff sits on the fabric and does not stain it and has a long, 20 minute work time. Something good for rookies. Once I wrapped the fabric around the back, making lots of relief cuts to the fabric did not bunch up on the corners, I also duct taped them for overkill. The glue held really well, but why not go one step further. Staples, the normal way to secure the fabric are hard to find in the shallow depth and do not stick well in the coroplast.

As for the rear deck, since I had none, I first made a template out of cardboard and then transferred that to the coroplast. 

The only trick worth passing on is you cannot have a big enough space to work on for this. A kitchen table is a bit small. Might want to put two tables next to each other. I am luck enough to work in an ad agency that has huge cutting tables. Total project including glue, fabric and coroplast cost me about $50. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Glamorous Author's Life

So, what looks like a convict in a prison shipping room is actually myself signing books a Porsche Book event held at Iconografix in Hudson, WI. 

All those boxes are filled with fantastic automotive literature. I feel a bit inadequate when selling my little novel next to some huge tomes like Excellence Was Expected or the newest Jesse Alexander  photo compilation. Getting to just wander around the stacks at Iconografix was great. But it took a lot of effort to only buy one book out of the dozens I lusted after. Right now, the race car is getting priority over my library. 

But, it was fun time chatting with all the Porsche nuts who braved the cold to show up. And even more fun talking with my publisher Kevin Clemens and owner of Iconografix Tom Warth. Both have wells of auto stories that would probably never run dry.