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