Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Inception of a Dream...or Obsession

It is my experience that the first step to establishing a well founded obsession is to start with idea that would normally attract the question "are you drunk?".  I also find that it does help if you are.  As it would happen in 2006 after sufficient "preparations" I found myself in a discussion about an article by Jim Kenzie about a road race called Targa Newfoundland.  So the planning sessions began.  If I am honest, initially it was more of a topic that popped up every time alcohol was too liberally applied. That is the insidious nature of an obsession.  It starts small.  Almost an after thought.  It slowly worms its way deep in to your brain to takes up permanent residence with floral pattern curtains, a hideous Ottoman and the Looney Tunes song on perpetual repeat. Of course at this point it is far too late and you merely sing along with your feet up on the Ottoman barely noticing the curtains.  You can always tell when this state has been reached because the drunken phrase "We should do that one day" gets replaced with a "We are doing it!" statement with a dangerously low blood alcohol level. So with that the real impacts of the obsession began. 

The first two questions were obvious.  What car and what division?  In the end it was agreed that the Fast Tour Division was the best fit.  This was mostly due to the minimal preparation required for the vehicle.  It worked with our meagre budget and yet still satiated the obsession.  The next challenge was to find a car.  Quickly a list of "must have" requirements was created. The list was balanced with our desires for the driving experience against our deplorable lack of funds.  The idea was to get a car that if we banged it up we would not be heart broken.  As it turns that rule was complete violated.  The key attributes on the list were as follows:
  1. Manual transmission
  2. Rear wheel drive
  3. Decent handling
  4. Decent power to weight ratio
The decent handling ruled out almost all North American cars immediately.  Basically nothing we could afford had the handling we were looking for and the older the car the worst the handling gets.  The rear wheel drive eliminated all of the hot hatches and most of the Japanese imports but we did make one exception to this rule.  The Volkswagen Scirocco from the 80s. This car was once the prized possession of William and how could anyone say "no" to the passionate way he would drone on about it.  Hey, we were probably going to wreck it anyway.  After much toil the decision came down to five options.  The list below is sorted in no particular order by William.
  1. Volkswagen Scirocco 
  2. Porsche 944 or 924
  3. Mazda RX7 late 80s or early 90s for the horse power
  4. Nissan 280ZX or 300ZX
  5. Porsche 928
We looked at several cars in each category and quickly realized that what fell in our price range either required way too much work or was a low power non-turbo version failing our power requirements. The latter was the case with almost all the Porsche 924/944 cars we looked at.  The most surprising thing was the Volkswagen Scirocco.  The ones that were in our price range required a complete ground up rebuild. If we wanted to we could pay double our budget for a well kept/restored car. The durability and lack of torque from the Mazda and the Nissan cars made us leery given the environment we would be taking the vehicle through. Another surprise was that the early 80s Porsche 928 were falling in our range but most of them were automatic transmissions.  We decide to have a serious look at them.

Though we had not truly settled on which car make/model yet the more we looked at the specifications and available information about the 928s the more interested we got.  How could you not be attracted to a 234 HP 4.7L V8 with  L-Jetronic fuel injection system, a rear transaxle for near perfect 50-50 weight distribution and handling better than everything else on the list.  The size of the  928 community of enthusiasts openly sharing information, ideas and techniques was staggering.  For the 928 line up these people were obsessive, bordering on cult status.  They were, however, the nicest bunch of zealots you would ever want to meet.  These people seem to document and post just about everything they do in excruciating detail.  I found a 188 page PDF detailing how to change the timing belt and water pump! 188 pages of glorious pictures and detailed descriptions.  After several email conversations with some very knowledge and extremely helpful people the decision was really made. The 928 was the car we wanted.  The real challenge now was to find a manual transmission in our price range that did not need a massive overhaul.

There were 24 listings at the time in Canada selling a Porsche 928 however only 6 were manual and of the 6 only 3 were in our budget and in driving distance.  The first one we looked at was a 1982 in the colour red.  The body was in pretty good shape but the engine bay was a mess. The big concern was what damage has been done and the noticeable whine coming from the rear end.  In the end we felt it was not worth the risk and we passed.  The second was a silver 83 in Georgetown Ontario. It had been listed at a price that was outside our budget but just barely.  We figured we could try to negotiate the price lower and see what happens.  We took a look at it and right away saw that the body was in fantastic shape.  The engine bay was complete and the engine was running strong.  There were issues that would need to be dealt with mind you.  The biggest issue was the clutch needed to be done but other smaller things like electric motor on the driver's side seat was intermittent, license plate light needed a bulb, clutch safety switch was not working, parking break light switch was not working. Less technical but still annoying was the smell of the interior of the car.  It obviously was stored in a barn extensively and the smell reflected it.   We also knew from the 928 community that there was rubber in the fuel lines that needed to be replaced and that it was very time consuming to complete.  After giving the car the once over we decided to talk it over and think about it a bit.  We had another car to consider as well.  After about a two weeks of trying to line up a chance to look at the third car unsuccessfully we decided to have another look at the silver 83.  By now the car had been listed for some time and there were very few bites apparently.  Based on what we know about the work that was needed and the price he was asking I think it was understandable.  The person buying it had to be committed to the project.  We managed to negotiate the current owner to a number that was inside our budget and pulled the trigger.  The current owner was great about everything.  He helped us get the car certified and even gave us the complete set of workshop manuals.  It would quickly become apparent that we now had a new obsession to keep our original obsession company.  Here are a few pictures of the car in its state when we purchased it.

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