944: And the next thing to break is….

944 balance shaft belt broken
A rather forlorn-looking balance shaft belt. Not sure if it was the culprit or just a victim.

Yes, the cooling system. As I feared from the start. Based on my experience with my 1964 T-bird, cooling is almost always the problem with old cars. And it’s often the problem with race cars and high-horsepower cars too. Heat dissipation is a constant battle in any motorized vehicle.

So what happened? Continue reading 944: And the next thing to break is….

Porsche 944: Keeping cool on a hot day

86 porsche 944 engine bay
86 porsche 944 engine bay

After feet and feet of snow a winter or two ago, it’s quite welcome that summer brings driving weather. At the autocross a while back, though, it was really, really hot–not that I’m complaining or anything. But it was other-end-of-the-spectrum hot. At the autocross, I was lucky enough to bring one recent-vintage car (Porsche 997 Targa 4) and two older cars (1973 914 and 1986 944). Keeping the machinery cool became more of a focal point than when I’m just running the newer car. Even the newer car can hit 250°F+ for coolant temp when running at a race track like Palmer or Thompson on a hot day. Idling waiting for runs at the autocross drives up the temps no matter what, so you get a lot of heat that doesn’t have the benefit of fast airflow like you get when running laps on a race track. So how can we keep things a bit cooler? Continue reading Porsche 944: Keeping cool on a hot day

Porsche 944 – Race, Break, Repeat

Back in July, I had the amazing fun of bringing three Porsches from very different vintages to an autocross in RI. It was a blast, to say the least. It was the maiden (race) voyage for the ’73 914 and the ’86 944. And I had no idea what to expect from them. I expected the 914 to be a handful. And it delivered on that promise! The 944 was actually more of an enigma, really. Having done a bit of mending of suspension bits, I already had an appreciation for the fact that this car was driven hard and put away wet for it’s prior lifetime. I knew I was getting into a project with this one, but little did I really know. Continue reading Porsche 944 – Race, Break, Repeat

Porsche 944: From My Beater to My Baby?

When I was even thinking about getting an old 944, I firmly intended to get it as a car to use and enjoy, not one to baby and worry about. I was maybe going to turn it slowly into a mean autocross car. Or maybe daily drive it in winter as a beater. Or maybe crazy rallycross car with skidplates and rally tires. Or all of the above at the same time! The beauty of the 944 platform is that it has a wide range of capabilities and is a fairly simple car, aside from the motor. It has great handling, no doubt, and has been many things to many people. image-4And they are plentiful, which in the Porsche world these days makes them relatively affordable and parts easier to obtain. I am now seeing sad posts where folks are talking about not wanting to being their RS America’s to the track anymore because they are too valuable now. I don’t think that will ever happen to my 944. I got it to be “my Miata” – a small, nimble car that is heavy on fun but light on cost. I didn’t want to have to worry about it being clean or nice. It would just have to run well and be a good driver. Continue reading Porsche 944: From My Beater to My Baby?

The Joy and Agony of Driving a Radioactive Isotope, an Old Porsche

It’s funny how at one point in my life, any car I owned that wasn’t under dealer warranty was too risky for me to have as a daily driver. I would trade in a car after only one year of owning it if I put so many miles on it that the warranty was up. Getting to work was so critical, I felt anything that jeopardized the prospect of making it was unacceptable. Definitely funny how life changes. That strategy cost me a small fortune. And it was very easy to justify it at the time.

My life is a bit different now. It’s not that I don’t have important places to be and that it is any less important that I get there. But there is now a different equation in play. Continue reading The Joy and Agony of Driving a Radioactive Isotope, an Old Porsche

The ’86 944 Punch List


Work on the 1986 944 in Copenhagen Blue has commenced. I’ve grown rather fond of the little thing these days as happens to many of my cars. This one appeared fairly complete on delivery but soon started to show that all was far from perfect. But I wasn’t looking for perfection. I was looking for a project. A car that needed some love so that I could do some learning. And I got what I bargained for.  Continue reading The ’86 944 Punch List

When the Answer Isn’t Always Miata

photo 1

When thinking of a fun car to drive on an autocross course, the answer always seems to be, “Miata.” And who would blame you for thinking so? A small roadster with front engine, rear-wheel-drive, great chassis. Not overwhelming power, but massive grins on any twisty road. So what could compete with it?

Not too much. But being a Porsche-phile, I thought I’d try to find something. Enter the Porsche 944. The new 2015 Miata has 155bhp. My 1986 944 has 160bhp. The Miata weighs about 2,600lbs. A 1986 944 weighs 2,850lbs. The 944 is front-engine and rear-transaxle for a perfect 50-50 weight distribution. Very much like the Miata. For me, the 944 has two minimal rear seats which means I may try to stuff a kid or two in there. Try that in your Miata. Continue reading When the Answer Isn’t Always Miata

Wheeler Dealers – Porsche 914

I’ll admit to being a fan of the Wheeler Dealers show from the UK that appears on Velocity from time to time. If you haven’t seen it, the two main characters find old cars (“motors”) and try to get them back on the road, trying to sell them for a “profit”. Since they don’t factor any labor costs into the restorations, I find the numbers to be quite fictitious. Ed China, the mechanical miracle-worker, has a garage with a full lift and many specialty tools that are very cost prohibitive for a home mechanic. So I hardly find this show to be the home DIY tutorial that it purports to be. But its great fun to see the classics they source and the love they put into getting them back into fighting shape.

Here’s to finding a “cracking motor” for yourself! Continue reading Wheeler Dealers – Porsche 914

997 Lower Control Arms For More Negative Camber

I’ve always noticed how race car tires have a very different attitude than street car tires. They are often wider and sit under beautiful fender flares. But they also seem to have a bit more tilt in them where the bottom of the tire sticks out further than the top. I’ve lately discovered this to be called “negative camber”. Camber is the tilt of the wheel around an imaginary axis line that would run either between the two front wheel centers or the rear wheel centers. When the top of the wheel moves in toward the center line of the car and the bottoms move outward, that is “negative camber”. The opposite is positive camber.

Why does camber matter? Continue reading 997 Lower Control Arms For More Negative Camber

Project Porsche 914: Dodgy Steering No More

The first major wrenching project on “Signal”, the Porsche 914, is one of convenience really. I had the parts in a box and I knew it would be better when done. I thought it would be a fairly quick and easy way to get to know the car. Turns out it was a good way to learn about the car. But it was not so quick nor so easy. Continue reading Project Porsche 914: Dodgy Steering No More