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Porsche 924 Turbo goes back together

Porsche 924 Turbo goes back together

It’s been almost five years since I took my 1981 Porsche 924 Turbo apart for a repaint and the car is still not back together. Family life and motorbike fun just keeps getting in the way of my available time to work on this beautiful old car and get it road legal in the UK.

The most recent burst of activity on the 924 Turbo stopped after I bought my 1150 GS Adventure two years ago. Last year’s addition of another boxer – the 2004 BMW R1150RT that middle daughter Ciara and I enjoyed two great European tours on last year and which I fully rebuilt bar the engine during this winter just gone – meant that the 924 was left unloved for another twelve months. However, it is now in the way of another big project, so I’ve been putting that right at weekends and it’s looking much more like a car again.

The latest work is reassembling the engine and getting it running again, so I can move it to finish the inside of my new garage build. I took the induction apart in 2015 to check gaskets and vacuum leaks, powder coat some parts and to get to the cam belt to change it, but soon realised what I really wanted to do was to pull the engine, transmission and front and rear suspension to refurb everything after my complete body repaint and full strip and rebuild of the interior. I decided to just have a good look, tidy things up and make a list of bits to start collecting for a more detailed refurb at a later date.

I really like looking at and working on this car and am excited to begin working on a complete powertrain refurb at a later date once this new garage workshop is sorted. Good-as-new mechanicals and underside parts will really make the 924 Turbo something special. My intention now is to get it running cleanly, take it for another MOT to help get it UK registered and then send it away for the summer while I sort this garage space for project use.

I took a few pics when ripping this all to bits in 2015 and am I glad I did: the brain soon forgets where stuff goes. During reassembly, I’ve found a couple of bits that could do with changing and ordered some more new parts which should hopefully get here this week. One thing that would really be nice to change is the the vacuum capsule, which has a cracked bracket, but I can’t find one in my stash at the minute. It is on the list for the future.

I have a few more bits to put back together, then the brakes need to come off: discs will be de-rusted and the calipers will be dismantled before a system flush with fresh fluid (it is absolutely black at the minute) and then we can run it and see what else needs looking at. I bought a set of tyres for the original wheels and have fixed everything thrown up by the previous MOT, so fingers crossed that it all works out.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

Sold my Porsche Cayenne with LPG conversion

Sold my Porsche Cayenne with LPG conversion

One thing I won’t be doing on my upcoming fiftieth birthday is driving a Porsche, as I recently sold the Cayenne. It was just at that point where the condition was still pretty good, mileage was highish but not unacceptable, there were few good examples available to buy and I was satisfied that my Cayenne itch had been scratched.

As the snow fell across England, I put it on eBay as a ten-day sale with a set of good pics and a decent description, including the long list of all the things I had done to it in my five years of ownership. The ad generated an excellent response and brought in good interest from genuine buyers, which reached a crescendo as the end of sale approached.

A local motorsport specialist came round to see it on the final morning, we had a good drive and he placed a strong bid in the final minutes of the sale. However, the auction ended with a buyer in Essex claiming the Cayenne for just over £6k. I had quite a lot of spares and accessories that I planned to offer the buyer first refusal on, but the final price was the most I have seen an ’04 with similar mileage sell for on eBay, so I just put everything in the boot and sent the new owner off delighted.

A few friends who I spoke with after the sale end seemed to have the impression that I regarded the Cayenne as some sort of burden, with parts being changed on a monthly basis and me basically rebuilding the truck while I had it. This is not the case. I did have to go through a long-winded gearbox rebuild, but that would have been sorted much quicker and less painfully had I just taken it to a decent gearbox specialist right from the start.

Elsewhere, there were new parts for the heating and fuel supply systems, a crank position sensor change, bits and pieces for various MOTs and so on but, other that that, it was relatively easy company over five years and 50k miles, with no particular appetite for oil, tyres or brakes. Would I recommend a Cayenne as a used purchase? For sure. I particularly like the later 957 GTS models, but they are still big money, so an upgrade was never on the cards for me. I wouldn’t go into debt for a car that was still depreciating and I have better things to spend money on than a luxury daily driver.

A fortnight after the Cayenne’s departure, I don’t miss it too much, but there is nothing that can really hope to replace it. I’ve been looking for another Subaru Legacy estate, but my ideal spec is a needle in a haystack that has not come on the market in the last twelve months. So I’ve bitten the bullet and switched back to my 2006 Honda CRV: a good example with all the toys and one previous owner that’s been more bulletproof than a riot van over the two years I’ve owned it. It’s comfortable to drive and easy on the back, so I’ve added a Stag Q-Next LPG conversion to bring the fuel costs down to acceptable levels, which essentially bolts me into the CRV for the next three years.

Gas will save at least £1000 a year in running costs on this car – it saved twice that per year on the Cayenne – so is a no brainer. The main downside of the (grey) CRV is the absolute blandness of the exterior: it won’t upset anyone and that is one thing I will really miss about the curvy Cayenne. There’s also an hint of “I’m borrowing my wife’s car” about using the CRV, but passing fifty allows one to be increasingly less concerned about this stuff.

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

See the light with upgraded classic Porsche fuse panels

See the light with upgraded classic Porsche fuse panels

I sent out a press release and did some blogging for Jonny at Classic Retrofit yesterday, telling the story of a German 911 enthusiast who had gone to the trouble of measuring the improvement in headlight output after fitting one of Jonny’s replacement blade fuse panels.

I just love the story: it is charming and simple and so down to earth. Perfectly suited to Classic Retrofit. Jonny’s clever replacement fuse panels for classic Porsche 911s have proven to be an exceptionally popular upgrade amongst owners who wish to add reliable modern blade fuse technology to their vintage air-cooled Porsches.

 With several hundred of these plug-and-play Porsche fuse boards now in active service beneath factory fuse panel covers, one defining feature of the Classic Retrofit fuse panels is a pair of built-in headlamp relays.

The relays divert current for the infamously dim headlamps away from the column-mounted light switch, supplying the headlamps directly from the battery. Most of us who started in 911s many years ago fitted headlamp relays to improve light output – I have put them on all of my 911s – but Jonny’s boards go a step further, integrating the relays into the fuse panel and making the whole lot fit under the standard fuse panel cover.

Wolfgang’s Porsche 911 3.2 Carrera

Based in Potsdam, in the suburbs of Berlin, Wolfgang Nothnagel is the owner of a special edition US 1989 Carrera 3.2 in superb condition. Wolfgang keeps his car classic and looking as close to stock as possible, so his subtle mods to date include a stainless steel exhaust system, Osram ‘Nightbreaker’ street legal headlamp bulbs in standard light units and all new suspension rubbers underneath. With ‘everything stock’ as the mantra, Jonny’s upgraded blade fuse panels were the perfect low-key upgrade for the standard factory fuse panel.

“With the storm going over Germany, I used the time to finally fit the fuse panel,” said Wolfgang, who runs a lighting design and event staging company in Berlin. “Replacing the fuse board was done without issues in just forty-five minutes. On the incoming side, there was a need to redistribute one or two of the bundled wires, because the opening receptacles of the new fuse board are smaller. Other than that, the changeover was easy.

“To measure the light output, I used a Gossen Mavolux light meter from our workshop. I don’t claim that the measured output is the highest possible peak point, but the spot used for the measurement was more or less in the centre of the beam. Also, the sensor and car were not moved in between the process. So the delta in readings is valid to display the change in light output due to the relay circuit.

“To my surprise, I got a very different readout in between the original wiring style and switching to the new relays. There was an improvement of some 18%: just the right thing to have through the darker autumn and winter evenings. I am very pleased with the results!”

I have some panels to fit to my car and will get around to it eventually, but my favourite part of this story is a: that Wolfgang is such a cool character and b: that 911 people all over the world who run apparently stock examples still love to play with their cars. So much of the original technology in an old 911 has now been superseded, so it makes perfect sense to fit improved technology that doesn’t interfere with the look of the car, but will deliver more effective performance and improve the ownership experience. This is exactly where Jonny comes at all of his products from.

“As Wolfgang pointed out in one of his emails, the original fuse panels in his car worked for twenty-five years without major issue,” says the esteemed Mr Hart, “but upgrading to our fuse panels using the more available blade fuse type with LED blown fuse indicators and additional headlamp relays makes perfect sense. The project is easily DIY-able, our fuse panels for pre-73 and impact bumper 911s are very affordable and everything fits under the original covers.

“Kudos to Wolfgang for measuring the improvements and sharing his findings. It reminds us what we love about our work: so many great people!”


Classic Retrofit recreates original 911R ignition system

Classic Retrofit recreates original 911R ignition system

Original 1967 Porsche 911Rs are few and far between, but a 911R is exactly what Classic Retrofit was asked to look at for its latest “special projects” creation. Having already been brought in to create a period ignition for the exceptional 911R replica being built at EB Motorsport in the UK, the firm was well placed to help the owner of a genuine 911R who sought to remove CDI boxes fitted to the R prototype sometime in the 1970s and replace them with proper spark boxes, as would have been on the car from new.

“CDI technology was not introduced until 1969,” notes Jonny Hart at Classic Retrofit, “so all factory cars prior to this date used earlier ignition systems. In the case of the 911R, the car relied on a Transistor Controlled Ignition (TCI) circuit to manage the ignition coils, running signals from the high-revving distributor through a circuit that stretched the ignition pulse, forcing the ignition coils to charge for longer. This system has a few shortcomings when compared to CDI, which is why most racers switched to CDI soon after it was introduced. However, for an original 911R, TCI amplifiers are correct.

“To recreate the original system, a genuine 911R ignition box was 3D printed and sent to us for reference. We scanned the printed replica and set about having new boxes created. While that was in progress, we created a modern TCI module to fit in the 911R units. Two original Bosch blue coils were sourced to complete the package.

“The finished product is an impeccable recreation of the original Porsche equipment and a perfect example of what our special projects section has been creating for the rarest Porsche factory race cars over our three years in business to date.

“More than 200 CDI+ units are now in circulation and everyone who uses them is wonderfully impressed,” enthuses the Classic Retrofit MD. “Working on unobtanium ignition units for rare race cars, including several Le Mans winners, has been an illuminating spin-off from the exhaustive R&D programme that led to the continued success of CDI+. It’s a special service that we are delighted to offer clients and collectors all over the world.”

Ferdinand blogs my freelance adventure with Porsche at the centre. To support the blog or engage with me in other ways, you can:

EB Motorsport adds classic Porsche paint service

EB Motorsport adds classic Porsche paint service

EB Motorsport is now offering a full body preparation and paint service for classic Porsche restorations. With a highly experienced spray painter employed to handle car builds and restorations on its own fleet of classic 911s, the Yorkshire-based classic Porsche parts specialist has the capacity to add paintwork for other Porsche enthusiasts to its list of capabilities.

“With so many Porsche projects in progress and quite a bit of paintwork generated by our engineering services and manufacturing plant, we decided to bring refinishing in-house last year,” says James at EB. “Only the best will do for our cars, so we installed an excellent UK-manufactured Dalby spray booth and use the same Glasurit 22-line paint system specified by Porsche. The results on our latest R build have been stunning and we will use the same materials on our RSR Turbo build when it is ready for paint later this year.”

“With the motorsport season in full swing, we are spending a lot of time out racing, so the EB paint shop has the capacity to take on some work for serious customers looking for the best finish,” notes EB’s Mark. “This might include fitting EB body panels as part of a road or race build, or repainting standard cars. Our painter has a huge amount of experience and of course there is plenty of his work here for potential clients to inspect. Workshop slots are available at very short notice.”

Interested parties can contact EB via their website. I have seen the R up close and it is a very special creation – no complaints on the paintwork either.

Porsche 4-cam Engine Stripdown

Porsche 4-cam Engine Stripdown

I had an interesting visit to Tuthill Porsche at the weekend. Francis took one of his 4-cam 356 Carrera engines out of storage and brought it into the engine workshop for the team to carry out a complete restoration and rebuild, including upgrade to 904 spec (pistons and cams ready and waiting).

The 587/1 GT engine was found sitting in the corner of a garage many years ago. It had been in a fire and done a bit of damage but nothing too serious. Fran took it home and started rebuilding it with the help of a friend who made valve guides for Formula 1 engines and had rebuilt a few race engines also. They rebuilt the bottom end, bought new valves from Porsche and made a full set of valve guides (superb things to look at) but never got around to doing the top end. Now the Tuthill engine builders will get stuck into it as a special project and I am excited to follow the work.

The 4-cam engines are a bit of a minefield, but no doubt when they work they are pretty special. Ferry Porsche had a 4-cam in several road cars and put a fascinating piece about development of the first Fuhrmann 4-cams into his autobiography, which offers an excellent insight into how the factory was operating at this time (late forties).

“For some time, our total work force comprised less than a hundred men, but we made good use of the cramped and limited space (a 600m2 rented workshop in Stuttgart) and even managed to find room for a diminutive test and racing shop, which held just two cars. It was shielded from prying eyes by an ancient closet and a primitive sliding curtain.

“We knew when we started using the Volkswagen engine for our Porsches that the maximum to which we would be able to increase piston displacement would be 1,500cc. The pushrod system of valve actuation, while completely reliable, also placed limits on engine revolutions. But we had foreseen this problem, and already by 1950 Dr Ernst Fuhrmann, an outstanding engineer on our staff, began designing our future Carrera engine.

“Different technical drawings were made which examined the possibilities of driving four overhead camshafts. One method was by chain, another by gear drive and so on. It seemed to us at the time that the best method to use would be a gear train, and that the distributor could also be driven from the end of one of the camshafts; but this arrangement led to difficulties.

“Each of the four camshafts operated two valves, and as the engine gained speed, a vibration began which ended up by destroying the ignition system. We therefore had to make changes in the ignition drive – not too much of a problem. The Carrera engine originally had a piston displacement of 1,500cc but was so designed that could be enlarged to 2 litres. However, we are anticipating a little, since another five years were to pass before we introduced this famous engine into our production line.”

Looking at the myriad parts spread out across the work bench in Tuthills, I simply cannot imagine how much effort went into making this thing work reliably. It is insanely complicated – the camshafts have flywheels and each camshaft is driven by a shaft which needs two position adjustments (one at each end and in opposite directions) to alter the cam timing. Even the flywheel is complex: it is fixed to the crankshaft by two tapered spacers, which interact under torque to lock the flywheel solid, but need huge torques combined with a specific routine of taps with a brass hammer to do their thing properly.

The first Type 547 crankshafts were Hirth roller bearing assemblies that came in separate pieces. Can you imagine starting an engine build by assembling a crankshaft? There is wonderful madness to an engine designed for production that took 120 hours to assemble and up to fifteen hours to set timing on. Compare this to the 41 hours often cited as start-to-finish build time for a complete 996!

Every single piece of it is outrageously complicated, making the flat-four 4-cam engine fascinating but frustrating. It leads me to wonder how much of Fuhrmann’s love of the complex fed into the convoluted, overweight transaxle cars which he had scheduled to replace the 911 before he was eventually replaced as Porsche CEO by Peter Schutz in 1980. An interesting question that would no doubt draw many comments on engineers as MDs, and the eternal battle between technical staff and accountants.

Setting aside my musings on four-cam contribution to Porsche boardroom history, this engine build is a fascinating project and one I am really looking forward to following. For example, valve lift on the 904 spec 587/2 engine is confirmed as 10mm exhaust and 12.5mm inlet. This would be mental enough with small-ish valves, but the 4-cam valves are huge and weigh a shedload. It is simply unbelievable and wondrously exciting!