Longtime Toolmongers will remember me mentioning my Porsche project a couple of times on the blog, mostly surrounded by four-letter words and complaints about German engineers’ total disrespect of the auto mechanic and outrageously insane parts prices. But I have some good news to report: it’s running, and I’ve been daily driving it for about six months. Here’s part one of the whole (jackass) story.
I’ll just say it up front: I’m a total and complete sucker. When I was in high school I put on some of my more dowdy clothes (trying to dress like my dad) and headed down to the local Porsche dealership. In those (way, way) pre-9/11 days if you looked sorta OK, you could test drive a car without so much as showing a driver’s license — and that’s what I did. I conned the poor sales guy into handing over the keys to a shiny new 944 S2, one of just a few at dealerships around the country.
It was an awesome car (at the time): 208 horsepower from a normally-aspirated 3.0L four-cylinder, just 30 or so HP less than the Turbo, but without those nasty ’80s turbocharging woes. It had the Turbo’s slick nose and tail, too, plus a bevy of next-level s#!t like four-wheel anti-lock brakes and dual airbags. It was a serious automobile that listed for over $40,000 — back then.
As you might imagine, I trounced on it. I hammered it up, down, and around the local freeway and underpasses, and generally had a severely good time before returning it to the salesman, expressing disinterest, and insinuating that maybe if he got in something more interesting I’d be back.
Then a couple of years ago I was over in Mississippi visiting a friend and we stopped by his daughter’s house. And in his driveway I saw sitting a definitely-no-longer-mint 1989 Porsche 944 S2 — even the same color as the one I flogged about as a kid. With about 65k on the odometer, the owner apparently bought it from a guy in Florida a couple of years earlier, then parked it when the water pump crapped out.
(OK, that’s not entirely true. He pulled the belts off, realized he had no idea how to put ’em back on, called a couple of shops to discover it’d cost north of $2k to fix his mess, then parked it. Then backed a trailer into the driver’s door.)
I pretty much went stupid at that point, forgetting that if he drove it much after the water pump failure, he might’ve cause all sorts of nastiness inside that rare engine. And when I say “rare,” I mean r-a-r-e. Forget junkyarding. While you can find fenders, seats, suspension components, and so on all over since they’re shared with other various 944 models, the engine in the S2 is unique. And that means you’re looking for one of the few thousand that made it to U.S. shores.
I also forgot that 944 water pump replacement is filed under “oh God no” in the book mechanics use to determine “book rates.” It’s a nasty job. You’ve got to remove all the accessory belts, the timing belt, the balance shaft belt, and pretty much most of the front of the engine to get at it. Then you’ve gotta access a ton of near-inaccessible bolts to remove the pump, install the new one, and reverse the process. And that’s when everything goes right.
I also forgot that these cars just aren’t worth that much and paid out my nose for it. Sure, it’s still only a couple of grand. But in hindsight I should have offered $500. Live and learn, right?
At this point Sean enters the story, as I convinced him to drive out to Mississippi with me to trailer it back. Besides making the run in a super hurry because we didn’t have much time to spare, we also had the joy of loading it by ourselves sans winch.
Did I also mention there were three or four wasp nests under the car, too? I really wish I had a video of Sean shooting 20′ streams of waspicide into the air like the fountains at the Bellagio while fleeing the scene. Or pictures of us driving the truck into a ditch to try and get the trailer as level as possible. Or audio recordings of the words we used when our arms fell completely off ratcheting a come-along to get the car the last bit of the way onto the trailer. Sadly, I don’t. You’ll just have to trust me that it was an adventure, and we did finally get the car back into my driveway at home.
And then the real fun began.