Friday, 24 October 2014

911 Project - Running In

It was always something of an ambition to be able to drive the old 911 to the annual Classics At the Castle event, held this year early in September, in Hedingham, Essex. A month beforehand that looked a forlorn hope; the car had no interior, bumpers, door & side glass, or effective brakes, and seemed a long way from being roadworthy. 

I put the hours in, and with some help from the usual suspects got as far as I could, before biting the bullet and handed the car over the professionals.  
On the ramps at Carrera Performance having 'stupid'
removed. Son #2 points to bits I'd missed.
Their brief included setting up the suspension, and carrying out a comprehensive nut, bolt and wiring check to ensure reliability and safety wasn't compromised by any stupid mistakes I had made. 

A running Porsche engine
It was with some relief I heard there weren't too many of those; I'd assembled the gear lever incorrectly, and some of the suspension bushes upside down, but nothing too serious. So two days before Classics at the Castle I had the MOT certificate in my hand. First job was to head over to Garry at ClassicFx for some help putting the side decals on. 
You need the help of a fussy perfectionist to get your
decals on straight
They'd been part of the look I'd planned for the car ever since the it had been taken off the road back in January 2013.  Even at that point I'd settled on the main body colour, and in May I'd asked Adidas designer Chris Jury to create one of the superb computer images he produces. I was looking for a hint of orange to compliment the Gulf Blue, but as so many of the Gulf inspired colour schemes are overdone I wanted to keep it subtle. After a lot of email discussion we decided to stick to using orange PORSCHE lettering against grey stripes. I thought I would look great.

I clearly wasn't the only one; later that summer I caught sight of Singer's 'Dubai' car, the eighth one built:
Great minds may think alike but fools seldom differ,
as my Aunt Sybil used to say
Once on the road, initial driving impressions were promising. Even keeping a strict 3500 rpm limit for the first couple of hundred miles it was clear that the engine now has much more power and torque on offer than in its original low compression CIS tune. From inside, the experience is dominated by the induction noise from six open throttles, while although the flywheel is still completely standard, the way the engine responds to the slightest sniff of throttle suggests large chunks have been removed.  The ride is on the firm side, but there is a decent amount of compliance. And the additional sound-proofing has reduced road noise significantly; previously the din at 70mph had made any motorway journey a wearing experience and it now appears hushed by comparison.

I spent the Saturday putting the carpet in along with a host of small touches, and next morning Boy#1 and I were up early for the drive to Hedingham; a two hundred mile round trip in a car freshly bolted together by an overambitious amateur.
Packed for Hedingham; sandwiches, tools,
spare oil, credit card, mobile and AA membership card.
We made it. There were the inevitable teething problems, most noticeable on a warm September's day was that no matter how much we fiddled with the controls the heater chucked out a roasting quantity of hot air, and after a score of miles the driver's side window glass fell out of its runner. On the outside, the engine cover wouldn't stay shut, and become more and more reluctant to do so the more miles we travelled, so we became used to acknowledging the worried toots and waves of other road users, and stopping ever few miles for another attempt at closing it. 

Mission accomplished; old 911 on the
Castle Hedingham lawns
It was also clear the initial settings of the PMO carburettors were some way out; the new engine hung on to revs on a closed throttle, and judging by the way a 50litre tank of Super Unleaded disappeared it was running very rich. While the car is surprisingly rattle free; the baffles inside the silencer have come loose, and from inside sounds like an old tin can filled with bolts being dragged along behind. As the daylight waned the headlights proved to be as effective as a candle in a jam-jar, and there are only a random smattering of functioning dashboard lights. But hey, it goes, stops, it was comfortable and it got us from West Sussex to Hedingham and back again!

The modern Recaros with a Retro-mod touch
were well received

Another stop to close the engine compartment and
worry about ineffective headlights 
That was a few weeks ago now. I'll admit that after the fraught (and expensive) month leading up the car's MOT the pace has slowed. The self-opening engine cover was sorted with a little fiddling, the window glass has resisted several attempts to get it to behave, and I've re-installed the old Becker radio and some other internal trim.

Friday chip run
There are now getting on for 700 post-restoration miles on the odometer, comprising mainly of trips around the South Downs. Although the initial slight engine smoking and high oil consumption seems to have eased as the oil rings bed in, the engine still isn't running as I'd like. To fix this, I booked a rolling road session for early next month, while otherwise the snagging list seems to get longer as the running-in process continues.
Basking in Autumn evening sunshine after another
go at fixing the driver's window.
While its easy to focus on the things I still need to fix, I'll admit there are times when I do look at the car with a certain satisfaction.  Just to remind you, dear reader, how far we've come  - here's a picture taken on the day I spotted the car in the workshops of a small Floridan classic car dealers three years ago.
January 2011, New Smyrna Beach, FLA. The
old thing and I meet for the first time



Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Seating Plan

I've written about the importance I attach to engineering a correct driving position before, and the 18 months it has taken to restore my 911 has given me plenty more time to think about seats. 

In 1973, a Porsche 911T would have left the factory with a set of 'comfort' seats. While they might have been comfortable, these seats were probably better suited to a fireside in winter than doing the job of supporting an enthusiastically cornering driver. 
Comfortable, but not good
At some point over the last 40 years an owner of my car felt the same. Sadly, they chose to replace them with the cheap 'sports' seats that were in the car when I bought it. They were uncomfortable, badly made and installed so high up in the car that my head brushed the roof. They needed to go. 

The sports seats prior to an appearance on Ebay
Back in 1973, the original buyer could have opted for a sports seat made by Recaro (as are all Porsche seats) but these were expensive, and not many did - although if you'd been sensible enough to buy one of the 1,500 2.7RSs built that year you'd find a set when you opened the door - at least if you'd bought a 'Touring' version you would have. 
Recaro sports seats in a 2.7RS Touring
Original sets of these are now unobtainable - or at least, obtainable only if you're prepared to hand over a kings ransom. It is possible to buy reproductions; they are expensive, and while I'm sure the quality is good, I did want to sit on a set of real Recaros. I've experienced Recaro seats in any number of cars in the past and always appreciated their comfort and support. My need for access to the back of the car in order to stuff luggage or small boys into the rear perches meant I needed a front seat that tipped forward. That ruled out many of the race inspired models with their fixed backs, but this was always going to be a road car anyway. 

I spent a lot of time on the 'bay chasing after typical 1980's Recaros, and researched the possibility of modifying a period Porsche tombstone in the same way as Singer have done, but that didn't seem very original. 
A pair of modified 964 seats in a Singer Porsche
A few years ago Recaro produced a seat snappily called the Sportster CS. It's a high back design with good side support, slots for full harness shoulder straps, and a hard plastic back. Better still it adjusts for rake, and the back tilts. Recaro have used this design as the basis of many bespoke versions for manufacturers to fit in their sporty cars, so you'll find similar seats in hot Fords and Renaults, as well as upmarket vehicles from Aston Martin and Maserati. 

Now the Sportster CS is best part of £1,000 new, but I spotted a pair of the original aftermarket versions on the 'bay, and snaffled them up with a cheeky £900 bid. They had a slightly odd combination of grubby red Alcantara seat and squab with grey vinyl leatherette bolsters and head restraint, but they looked promising. When Tuthills Porsche were readying the car for its first UK MOT I asked them the install the seats. The first set of seat frames were too high, but a second version dropped them a couple of inches to the perfect height for my 6' 2", and I used them in the car for its first year on the road. 
The Sportster CSs as originally installed
There were many things about the pre-restored version of my 911 that were difficult to live with, but the seats were probably the best I've ever used in a road car. The colour though, didn't work with the otherwise black interior, or the yellow bodywork, and they were top of the list of things to change when I started the 'light' restoration. 

I'm something of a non-conformist when it comes to car interiors. As evidenced by thousands of aspirational Mercedes, Jaguars, BMWs and Audis etc., it seems the great majority aspire to have their seats (and dash, door cards, centre tunnels etc.) covered in leather - creating a veritable womb of dead cow skin. Why anyone would choose to sit on something that's cold in the winter, hot in the summer and slippery all year round is beyond me; leather doesn't really appear to be a material that's at all suitable for car seats. If you look at the most expensive coach-built limousines of the 1920s and 19030s you'll see that while the hired help doing the driving made do with a leather clad perch, the wealthy owners in the back sat on rich fabric. 
Sumptious fabric for this Bugatti Royale's owner
I'm with the fabric sitters,  so when it came to recovering the seats it was only going to be a fabric.

I researched the fabrics Porsche have used over the years. There's a wide range, from psychedelic checks that mess with your eyes, through wild tartans to utilitarian corduroys.

Bad trip
Eventually I chose a black and white houndstooth check known as Pepita in Porsche circles. This was used in the 911s from the late 1960s to early 1970s, and the two tones would unite the white headlining with the  black vinyl door cars and would be mirrored in  'Salt and Pepper carpet.  Sourcing an exact match to the original proved difficult and expensive, but there are options available that are so close only a Porsche geek with a ruler would know wasn't real. The small rear seats would use a combination of Pepita and vinyl that's close to original and matches the fronts.

So seats and fabric was handed over to Joe at Trimdelux, and in the fullness of time he worked his magic and I put the transformed Recaros back in the car in time for the MOT.


Friday, 29 August 2014

911T Project - The Light At The End of the Tunnel

You might expect that once your project car is back on its wheels with the engine installed in the right place you are nearly done. The past weeks I've spent franticly working through a long work-list belies that; putting the glass in, sorting out lights, exhaust, bumpers, wiring, controls, interior and a host of other small tasks took all that time and more, but I'm finally about done.

It was the nasty, cheap, smelly and suspiciously sticky carpets installed in the car when I bought that it really started me on the whole project. I seem to remember my initial objectives were to renew the carpets and fix the smokey engine, before it all snowballed into the restoration I've detailed here. 

Anyway, here is the old set laid out on the lawn for reference:

Rancid carpet

After a couple of abortive attempts to order carpet from a well known Dutch supplier I decided (with the help of a trimmer friend) to make my own. It took eight metres of carpet, and a good couple of days in a hot workshop on the warmest day of the year to cut out the dozen or so pieces I needed. I've selected an original Porsche carpet known as Salt and Pepper.  
Carpet template.
Right handed scissors + left handed user = sore hands

This all needed to be fitted into the car, which took another couple of days breathing fumes from strong contact adhesives, but the end result is looking promising. 

Re-trimmed rear shelf,  basket weave vinyl, and salt 'n pepper

I decided to re-use the exhaust that came with the car. A go-faster stainless set up is the ultimate goal, but this will allow me to get the car running. 

Yellow silencer
When the car was painted, back in the US, there was no attempt to mask the system, so the silencer was covered with yellow overspray. A few hours with the wire brush in the grinder and some light coloured high temperature paint sorted that out.

Grinder and wire brush; instant exfoliation

Bright shiny exhaust straps, white silencer, waiting for the
rain to stop falling on my 'workshop'
Trying to source a set of bumpers was a saga in itself. The glass fibre RS style front and rear bumpers that were on the car originally were of poor quality, and I didn't like the RS front air dam without the matching RS ducktail. In any case they were wrecked when the paint was blast cleaned off the car.
Bumpers V1.0
Modern road conditions and my heightened sense of self preservation means I probably won't venture much above 90mph so I can live without a front spoiler. So I sourced a standard, steel non-spoiler front item on ebay The car will look like the 911Rs that were raced before Porsche really started to understand that air flowing under the car generated lift, and therefore needed to be stopped with air dams and spoilers.
A 911 generating lift

The ebay buy was in good condition, so it just needed the trim holes filled and then painted. 

I also bid on a cheap used rear unit, but when it appeared it seemed to be only good for scrap; certainly it needed more glass fibre repair work that I was capable of. I was about to order a new unit from one recommended supplier when they told me delivery would be delayed by a month while the workforce went on their summer holidays. I then tried another specialist, but when that one arrived it had none of the brackets needed to fit it to a car. 

By this stage I had three of the damn things littering the place, and not one good enough to send to the paintshop. Then, while wandering around the local sailing club, I had a bit of a brainwave. I found a local chap more used to sorting out damaged glass fibre dinghies, took along the cheap ebay bumper, and a week later collected it looking almost as good as new. 

When the engine was in the car it became clear the the Carrera 3.2 specification oil pipes I'd so carefully cleaned and painted were the wrong length to match up to the earlier engine. So I estimated the dimensions of what I needed using some stiff wire and had a suitable flexible hose made up by a local hydraulics specialist. 
£50- worth of flexible oil pipe

At this stage, I needed to go and get the seats that had been sitting on the shelves of an understanding Joe at Trimdelux in Littlehampton ever since I stripped the car a couple of years ago. Over that time we've had long discussions over colours, fabrics and finishes, and the final decisions have been made. This gives an idea of what we're going for - a combination of traditional 911 materials, black leather, and modern seats.
Rear seats in progress

Salt 'n Pepper, basket weaver, belts, extravagant
hide covered B pillars
Finally I'd got about as far as I could with the limited facilities available. There's only so much I can achieve working outside on the driveway, and without an ability to get properly under the car even tasks that would be simple with a lift, like attaching the petrol pipes or fitting the earth strap to the back of the gearbox, are next to impossible lying under a car. 

So earlier this week the car was pushed onto the back of another trailer and taken off to Jez at GCS in Horsham. He's been tasked with setting the suspension geometry and ride height, checking all the nuts and bolts are tight, sorting out any of my FUBARs and obtaining a MOT certificate.
Off for the finishing touches?

As I write, I'm waiting for Jez's verdict. 


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

911T Project - engine update

I'll just leave these here. Its the lovingly rebuilt engine from my 911T, complete with its new set of lungs courtesy of PMO in the US.

And here it is again, back home in the car where it belongs:


Classic Le Mans 2014

Each time I travel across to France for the Classic Le Mans I worry that the specialness of the event will be subsumed under crass commercialisation and overcrowding. Well, in spite of the best efforts of the organisers to do just that, I still had a great time, and still rate it one of the 'must do' old car events in Europe. 

As in 2012, I took my son and we travelled in my 964, just back from having its original, not messed with, thrashed, tracked or neglected & completely bullet-proof engine completely rebuilt. Also travelling with us were various old Porsche driving friends, so we were nine in total at our Gites, some 10km west of the circuit. After years of camping in the Le Mans circuit wastelands, I'm at an age when a comfy bed, hot shower and good food are as important to me as the track action, so as far I was concerned the additional cost was well justified, especially as our host turned out to be an excellent chef. 

The 964 outside the Gite with a 1966 predecessor
Another improvement on previous expeditions was the decision to travel a day earlier, arriving on Thursday evening after taking the scenic route down from Dieppe. It meant we had to whole of Friday to wander around the paddocks in relative peace, and could get close the cars and even talk to drivers and mechanics before the bedlam that is the Saturday. 

Even with a bizarre schedule that saw the first race only get under way at 5pm, it's still magic to see old racing machinery being driven properly on a track that lets big, fast cars really stretch their legs. Inevitably, our focus was on the later grids; four, five and six, where six, eight and twelve cylinder Porsches from the 1960s and 70's were out in force. Although the Saturday evening's races were affected by the weather, our successful blagging of access to the ACO's clubhouse meant we weren't. 
The view from the roof of the ACO's clubhouse
I'm no great photographer, but one of our party is, you can see some of his pictures from the trip on his Flickr page here.

On the Monday we left, but rather than head north back up to the ferry port with the others we decided to spend a couple of days seeing the Normandy D day sites, finally arriving back in sunny West Sussex on Tuesday evening.

Good trip.


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

911T Project - More Progress

When I started this project in January 2012, my intention was that the car was going to be back on the road for the summer. That summer; the hot one we had a year ago.

Here we are, 20 months on and bits of the car are still spread over large swathes of West Sussex as well as in my garage, utility room, and office. Oh well; as the poet said: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft a-gley

In my defence, my original plans that New Year's day involved no more than new carpet and a quick blow-over, plans which, in all honesty, have developed into a full-on restoration with a chunk of resto-mod thrown in.

That's my way of explaining why I won't be driving the car to Classic Le Mans next month.

Meanwhile, things are moving on:

The cylinder heads have been comprehensively refreshed and re-worked. Originally
they had very narrow ports and a hole for the CIS injectors.

The ports have been opened up to 'S' specification, and the CIS injectors
blocked off. Valve guides were replaced, seats re-cut, and the whole unit treated to
a good polishing. Flow rates are now up 50%

The new carburettors have arrived from California. They are made by
PMO and have an excellent reputation. Certainly they look the business -
it seems a bit of a shame to hide them in the engine bay.

Here's the engine in build. We decided to take the risk of not splitting
the crank case as all looked to be in excellent condition. The eventual
power output is anyone's guess; anything between 150-200bhp is
possible. More important is a unit that behaves itself.
A replacement dash was sourced. The condition wasn't great so it was
an excuse to get my mate Garry to cover it in leather.

The car with a windscreen and bonnet. Words that take moments
to type, but a process that took several weeks and the intervention
of my Porsche guru to complete.

Engine lid on, something that I learnt is much easier when you take
the grill out. Thanks for the tip Internet.

The new completion target is September, but I'm not telling which year.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Earned a beer

I'm no great drinker, but somedays you really feel like you've earned a cool tinny. Fitting the oil pipes and cooler to the 911 turned out not to be the work of a moment. More accurately, it was the work of a fortnight.

I faced a number of 'challenges' (as us rank amateur car restorers like to call major SNAFUs) to do with attaching 30 year old used parts to a car that didn't have them fitted in the first place. Firstly I had to enlist help to get the remains of the flexible oil hoses off the solid hoses, and galvanic corrosion between the steel pipe fixings and the aluminium diverter valve meant another £300- into Porsche's coffers for a new one. It also took me ages to find the correct adaptor for the oil cooler to replace the one I'd butchered freeing it from the old pipes.

Fresh aluminium gently reacting with steel
Attaching the pipes and cooler without the benefit of the brackets, fittings and holes Porsche thoughtfully provided on the 911S and RS models (the ones with front oil coolers from new) took a number of goes and (oh the shame) a visit to B&Q for the necessary hardware. 

B&Q's contribution; coach bolts
I used 50mm coach-bolts to fit the three shaped clamps under the sill, taking the positions from a photo of a un-messed with 2.7RS. I used a modified galvanised heavy duty shelf bracket to support the bottom of the oil cooler, and made a mild steel bracket (well, several, actually) to support the cooler at the top. There are metal/rubber bobbins at both points to protect the cooler from vibration.

The Mk7 oil cooler mounting bracket
The one fixing that was on the car. Thanks Ferdinand.
Oddly, the captive bolt needed to support the pipes as they run under the rear wheel arch had been fitted when the car was built, and had spent 40 years sitting quietly waiting to fulfil its reason for existence.  Oversight? Standardised assembly? In any case, it's now reached the top of Maslow's triangle, fulfilled and holding up the two pipes it was born for.

One week in, all flattering to deceive.
Early 911s have two batteries, each held in boxes let into the front inner wing. The right hand one sits about where the oil cooler should go, so as I didn't want to make any changes that couldn't be reversed at some point, I had to fit the cooler in front of it. 

It took many goes at getting the oil pipes in the right place without interfering with the wing, and at the same time placing it as close to the battery box as I could to stop any fouling on the tyres. 
Sufficient clearance around the tyre
That box does stop a clear airflow to the cooler from the horn grills under the headlight, but I reckon its going to be much more effective at keeping the expensive engine happy than not using one. Airflow from the front of the car into the wheel arch is turbulent in any case - spinning road wheels cause a build up of high pressure under the arch in all closed wheel cars.

Finally, after many, many test fittings the assembly was fitted.  As an afterthought I fitted the front wing. 

Its all looking a bit more car-shaped. 

The beer was good.