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Diary 2014

A good start to the year with a couple of kind offers to race friends cars in 2014, possibly in a race at Castle Combe in a Caterham, plus a Civic Type R at a different circuit. The aim for the year is going to be getting the 911 in a good cosmetic and mechanical state and have fun on a few trackdays in both the 911 and Boxster.
I am not going to renew my instructor license as I have little time to offer a race school even if they needed any more instructors (which they don't appear to). I will however carry on offering casual instruction and car evaluation drives to friends and acquaintances.

Just after the new year I looked at the front brakes on the 911. I have felt them dragging, plus they did fade on track after one session, so at the very least I wanted to flush the brake fluid. Sadly both seals are looking in poor shape, much as the rears were, so I will order a pair of front calipers shortly.

                  

Autosport show next with the CSCC at the NEC.

                 

I signed up for a Classic Car Restoration course at Bristol College, taking place over 10 weeks, on one evening a week. I know little of rust and dent repair, welding and spraying so thought this could prove useful at some stage. We each started with a fresh body panel (in my case a VW Golf front wing) and took it through each stage of dent repair, filler, fibreglass, welding, prep, primer, top coat and finish. A good course and one that taught me to leave many of these processes to the experts, or at least don't practice on your pride and joy!

             

             

             







New front calipers now fitted to the 911, and fresh 5.1 fluid. The difference was felt immediately with no brakes dragging.


Nice shiny new caliper next to a rusty one.

 

 

 

 

The day after fettling the brakes I drove the car up to Racing Restorations in Pershore, where it will stay for the next three weeks whilst it has new genuine Porsche front wings/headlight bowls and the rusty inner wings will be repaired. I'm missing the car already! On the drive up to Worcester the speedo broke again, with the needle now stuck at 70mph, I will remove and investigate when I get the car back. 

At this stage we hope to have the body repairs taken care of within three weeks, depending on the level of work to be completed.

Porsche 911s of this age and older have no wheel arch liners, leaving them vulnerable to a build up of mud and road salt. A quick search found that a company called Specialist Vehicle Preparations had previously made a batch up, so I have added my name to a list of interested people on the Impact Bumpers forum.

               

Race Retro show at Stoneleigh, the stand I helped design and prepare for the CSCC.

Had a good conversation with Racing Restorations now that they have had more chance to appraise my car and we agreed to change the planned work. My budget was better spent on all the structural work the 911 required, leaving the cosmetics to come at a later stage. Therefore it was agreed to repair both inner front wings, the nearside kidney bowl (the large piece of metal in front of the rear wheels) and sill, sunroof drains, corner A post plus a hole that had appeared behind the oil tank within the engine bay. The old front wings whilst rusty would be repaired and made good to last for the time being.

A few weeks have passed and I went to check on progress of my car, missing it already!

                

Removal of the outer wings show the full extent of the rust.

                

Rusty bits under the bonnet, next to the new fuel tank.

                

The hole behind the oil tank, quite an unusual place.

                                         

I'm glad the car is being taken care of now and shocked that it had been driven in such a state previously.

A friend of mine has recently treated himself to a very nice Ferrari F430 F1 and was happy to take Beth and I for a drive on a sunny winters morning, the day after he bought it. What a superb car! It made the Boxster seem rather ordinary (and quiet).

               

Whilst waiting for my car to be finished I have started an arch liner group buy on the impact bumpers forum to make up sets for members using templates that SVP have kindly provided, see below. The individual pieces are actually quite large, with the rear liners being almost 2 metres long; a good job the Boxster has a decent sized boot.

                     

As SVP are based in Worcester it gave me a chance to check progress on the car once again. Welding had commenced and is nearly finished on the front inner wings. Note the nice shiny calipers!

                   

To the far right, lower corner of the image below you can see a small hole, there is also a few in the same place in the image above too, although obscured by the oil cooler pipes. These holes have occurred as water penetrated the rusty holes around the front shocks and ran back down and collected at the leading edges of the sills. These are next on the list of places to be cut out, patched and welded. Also shown in the image below is the new part that supports the impact bumper tubes (now painted red with the two studs pointing out, below the welding earth). You can see how this naturally forms a nice ledge for mud to collect on and then rot through! Rob has a neat and proven way of covering this to prevent it happening again. The combination of modern anti-corrosion treatments, original effect undercoat and the arch liners will keep my 911 rust free for more decades to come.

                   

Below you can see part of the rotten sill after we have removed a couple of lumps of filler. We knew this had been bodged prior to me buying the car, but it was still a shock to see how bad the rust had become. Unlike modern cars, 911s of this era have no wheel arch liners, as result the mud and salt find plenty of nooks and crannies to build up, retain moisture and eating through the galvanised chassis in time. The only option when they get bad like this is to cut out the rot, have new metal welded in and then keep on top of the mud build up, using Dinitrol or Waxoyl at intervals.

                   

                      

The next photo shows a skilled repair in a unusual location, to the right of the engine bay is the oil tank and filter. In the rear wheel arch in this location are the oil pipes and oil thermostat; a perfect platform for thick mud to build up if not cleaned our periodically.

           

One of the front wings had a big hole in the headlight bowl (a common issue as mud builds up around them and rusts through). So I brought the pair home with me.

                  

I thought I would put my college course to good use and brought it in during the course so as to repair the hole, possibly welding a patch or even cutting out the old headlight bowl. Having looked at the wing with my lecturer it was decided the best thing was to do the job properly and cut the bowl out and spot welding in a new one (a bowl would be about 50). So, the picture below shows the point where I had carefully air sawed the old bowl out. Next I ground out the spot welds.....this was when the disaster occured!

                   

It quickly became apparent that much of the wing was in fact thick filler as a chunk fell out. Nothing for it but to chase back the filler to find good metal.

          

An hour later and I was still removing filler, I had to face facts that the wing was scrap, just not worth repairing. Very annoying as a new wing was not within the current budget. Searching for a used wing found a silver wing from an SC (identical) on ebay, being sold by SVP. So, yet another trip to the midlands to collect the wing and transport it to Pershore for Rob at Racing Restorations to work his magic and prepare it to fit my car. Two months have now passed which is frustrating but at least progress is happening. Here is my car in the company of other Impact Bumper 911s in varying states of restoration. The shell in the back corner is rumoured to be the first ever European IB model by chassis number, and so worth restoring despite the poor state of repair.

A quick check on progress on my car showed that the inner front wings were finished, with the rotten kidney bowl and sill cut out waiting for fresh metal (some photos above taken out of date sequence).

 

A couple of recent trackdays have been superb. The first at Castle Combe, organised by Motorsport Events saw me drive a friends new Caterham Sigmax car as he prepares for his first season of racing. A good little car, well set up by McMillan Motorsport. It reminded me of my old Caterham, only with more torque but less available revs. I was pleased to have a tussle with a 997GT3, as well as give some pointers to the owner of the Caterham.

                 

The second trackday involved driving my good friends Elise SC and Caterham CSR260 (above), which included taking some of their friends out for hot laps. I am lucky to have such great friends who have confidence in my driving.

A last minute set back where some corrosion was found on the outer sill drivers side has put the collection date back to early/mid April 2014, disappointing but no doubts that the car is in the right place being worked on by the right people. In the meantime Beth and I have been contacting various companies to make up the sets of arch liners in black polyurethane. We settled on one in Gloucestershire, as the gentleman seemed understanding, with a long standing reputation and happy to show us previous clients work. The arch liners are to be made using a waterjet cutting machine after the templates have been scanned and programmed into the CNC software. The water jet runs at around 65,000 psi and is accurate to at least 1/10th of a mm!  

                   

The group buy involved selling almost 40 sets of liners in two batches, some heading abroad; take a look at the box mountain below! Thanks to my wife and in-laws we got them away to happy owners, with a set left for me to fit to my own car whenever it was finished. The three week estimate at Racing Restorations has stretched to two months so far and I miss my car!

              

A couple of Saturday visits revealed why my car was taking so long. Partly it was the delay caused by my front wings requiring more work due to my discovery that the passenger side was unuseable (!) and partly by a discovery on the drivers side sill. The drivers side kidney bowl (the area in front of the rear wheel) had been replaced in the past, however the sill appears to have been bodged. What you can see in the image below is a crude bracket to hold the oil pipe that has been fabricated and riveted onto the sill over the top of a hole! This was only spotted once the outer sill cover was removed and the area cleaned.

                          

Corrosion was worse than first thought so the sill was opened up and replaced with fresh metal.

  

The front wing that had been bought from SVP was repaired and fitted.

     

A final date has been set, mid week, so I booked a train from Bath, left work early and got to Worcestershire for 6ish. Expecting the car to be finished I was a little surprised to see this -

Not 'quite' as ready to drive away as I'd hoped. Luckily I enjoying working on my own car so didn't mind too much. A long evening of work with three of us working on the car saw me driving it away around midnight on fabulously quiet roads. Of course it drove in exactly the same manner in which I had left it, which is to be expected all all those thousands of pounds were spent on bodywork, most of which can't be seen!

For the money I paid I can't fault the work that Rob and his team carried out. Given a larger budget I would love to have gone ahead with new outer front wings a then a full respray, ah well, maybe in the future, for now I just want to get out and use it.

Great to have the car port filled with two cars again. Oops, I must get the number plate attached straight and level.....

 

          

An exciting week began with an invite from Adrian to give him a few pointers around the Silverstone GP circuit in his F430, on a Ferrari Owners Club trackday. I was happy to oblige and very much enjoyed both my passenger laps and his excitement when he let me take the wheel. The sound is just superb when set to race on the steering wheel 'manettino'. All those years driving MMT paddle shift Toyota Auris helped make the F1 'box feel natural! It felt balanced with some understeer through Brooklands and Luffield, but responded well to trail braking. Power oversteer through Village corner (relatively low speed), but conscious that my generous friend was sat in the passenger seat, worried about his new baby! A BRILLIANT DAY.



Some warm early summer weather saw me drive the 911 to work most days, taking the long route home. The drive is only spoilt by the vague gear-change and crunching first gear. More money.......

To finish the week my friend Simon had mentioned he has the use of a rather special car for the week, an AMG SLS Final Edition. He invited me to take a look at the weekend, so met him at a small airstrip. He had flown back from France that afternoon and asked if I wanted a quick flight, erm.... yes please!

    

         It looks a bit complicated!                    I even got to take the controls for a time and flew over Northern Wiltshire.

      

For on of the first times ever I felt ill whilst travelling. The demonstration of some steep banks and turns meant my stomach didn't enjoy this part of the ride even if the rest of me did. I wasn't sick thankfully, just a bit embarassed.

 

An example of just how big a modern Supercar is compared to a 30 year old sportscar, my car is dwarfed.

To finish the special week Simon gave me the keys to take the SLS for a drive. Even on dry roads this was going to be a bit intimidating as the car is hugely powerful and errrr huge! The bonnet stretches out in both length and width making placement tricky on narrower B roads with on-coming traffic.  The noise the 6.3 makes is incredible; loud and deep. The torque this thing has is stronger than any other car I have driven to this point. An astonishing car and almost too much for the road, would love to try it on the track sometime.

     

My Dad and his wife Sue came to stay for a few days, an opportunity to take both cars out in convoy. Beth and I drove the 911 with Dad and Sue giving chase in the Boxster.

       
 
This drive highlighted how much the poor gear-change was taking some of the enjoyment out of driving the 911. Ultimately I knew that a full gearbox rebuild was needed, but I thought I would have another attempt at improving the change, in addition to the bushes I fitted at the end of 2013.
A new horseshoe spring and cable were fitted; a bit fiddly to do by myself and working on a rough floor outside, but done after a few hours. The old cable had worn through the inner liner, making the cable slightly rough.

 

                   

A small improvement in shifting, with a smoother clutch action and snap back from the pedal. The very next drive was short lived with the clutch going to the floor with a 'twang'. It looks like the new spring had put this bracket under too much strain. Thankfully Porsche had the sense to make this part easily replaceable and not part of the gearbox casting!   
        

 

 

 

Continued good weather see Beth and I taking both cars to our local Wiltshire South Lotus Seven Club (Caterham) meet

 

 

 

          

 
I've been aware since the first trackday in the 911 that the front wing mounted oil-cooler had a small dribble from one of the short flexi hose unions. It hadn't got any worse, but it was time to get it changed; the potential for oil spraying onto the front wheel or the circuit is never a good idea, especially as I had booked another trackday at Keevil the following week!  After 30 years it is understandable that anything in the firing line of the tyres is going to be a bit reluctant to budge. With the oil cooler itself being alloy and expensive this was not a time for brute force, nor could you use heat and flame for obvious reasons.


  
  
24 hours of soaking in a rust penetrant had no effect, so an hour of VERY careful cutting with the Dremel, and the nut holding the hose to the cooler was off in four pieces. The new flexi was very reasonably priced at around 10, no more oil leak.

A much anticipated trackday at Keevil, through Motorsport Events. A group of us get together which makes the days social and even more enjoyable. No official photographer which was a shame, however I got chatting to someone with a professional looking camera and they agreed to take some photos of my (dirty) car which I hope you agree are superb, thank you to Hulcoop Allen Photography, all the photos of my car can found on their Flickr page.

                 

                

                

The trackday itself was great fun, where I enjoyed a few friendly tussles with a Skyline GTS, among other cars. The ability of the 3.2 Carrera to put its power down early out of the corners made the difference, plus of course led to a bit of fun with oversteer, despite no limited slip diff. Hope you enjoy the video, click on the image:

                            

An unfortunate side effect of the trackday was reminding me how much I missed racing. Actually I spend my working life in motorsport, so to clarify I miss taking part myself. I wrestled for some weeks with the knowledge that if I sold the 911 I would never realistically be able to buy an air cooled again, such is their continued rapid rise in value. I was driving the car to work which is fine in late spring, but with minimal ventilation things would get a bit toasty in the car, plus in the winter would I really want to see fresh bodywork get attacked by salt? If I had the luxury of keeping the car tucked away as a fourth car it would make sense to keep it, but I don't have that kind of money or storage. I had completed all the jobs I could take care of myself, leaving the big stuff to do: more rust, new wings, full respray and a gearbox re-build. Totalling up what this lot would cost plus the sacrifices I would need to make in life whilst saving my head said that it was a good time to sell now. My heart wasn't so sure, but looking through the classifieds at possible cars to race was fatal! Time to advertise the 911 and move on, happy that I had enjoyed ownership and get back to racing!

Just time to attend a few early summer events.

A Sunday morning meet for breakfast with local 911 owners (and an Italian imposter!) from www.impactbumpers.com, a great community forum for Porsche from this era.

       

        

 

 

 

A pleasant morning and great food as always at the http://www.rowdeycow.co.uk/

 

 

 


After work my good friend Philip and I attended a local Wiltshire automobile and fete, taking in all the different cars and chatting about possible replacements. Philip is a keen Lotus man and having driven his Elise SC I could agree with him that it was perhaps the closest car on the market to being a slightly more comfortable and practical version of a Caterham. Maybe I could drive one to work whilst staying warm and dry, as well as race?

 

 If I was going to get back into racing it really made sense to choose a car that suited the local Castle Combe championships; I spend enough time working at all the race circuits around the country and I'm not allowed to race with the CSCC of course (conflict of interest plus I should be working not having fun at our race meetings). If I raced at Castle Combe I wouldn't need to worry so much about a tow car or trailer either, so the Boxster could stay, just drive there, change tyres, race, drive home.

Beth and I went along to Castle Combe, watched the racing, decided I just had to get out and race again, so sadly typed out a for sale advert that night.

  

Surprisingly it took a while for the first serious enquiries to come in, eventually I had a queue and it was sold to a lady, to be restored with re-spray and gearbox re-build. I came out of the experience with a good profit, it's not often that happens!

With a busy week ahead working at Spa Francorchamps I just had enough time to track down a possible replacement and future race car. I considered another Caterham but to be competitive within the Sports and GT Championship you really need 200bhp+ and my budget wouldn't stretch to that. Lightweight race cars make sense and whilst the appeal of a more recent 911 was high I'm not sure my monthly budget would cover the high cost of consumables, tyres and brakes particularly. Whilst buying an existing race car makes the best financial sense we (Philip and I) wanted the challenge of a project, and I wanted to keep a certain amount of road comfort, so decided that a modified road car would be a preference. Philip was keen that I should get an Elise and whilst I have no love for the model or brand, they are good handling cars and they would fit well into the sports and GTs. I had been a member of http://www.seloc.org/ for years, having started my competitive driving in 2006 in the SELOC sprint series alongside many Loti, so am aware of the various standard and non-standard engine configurations. Being familiar with Rover K series engines I felt it could be a little underpowered at the budget I could stretch to, so started looking at the popular Audi, Honda and Ford conversions, having first confirmed with Castle Combe that these would be eligible in Class D (upto 3.1 litre). Whilst these conversions may not appeal to the purist they do provide great power and torque in a relatively lightweight package. Two days before leaving for Belgium I spotted an Elise for sale on Pistonheads that seemed to tick all the boxes. It had been a trackday and road car for a few years, seeing plenty of European track action, with some choice modifications, not least of which was a professional Audi 1.8T conversion some years before, by a company called Lotus Werx.

 

The advert made it clear that many of the usual Elise weaknesses or wear and tear items had been replaced, like the steering rack, radiator, clutch hose and rigid hoses running along the edge of the chassis. The downside? It was red! I really didn't want another red car, but everything else seemed right, including the asking price of 15,000. A good chat on the phone with the owner James convinced Beth and I to go and visit him the night before I left for Spa, he was selling the car to make way for his new Ferrari 458! A couple of hours later we arrived in the early evening, taking the car for a test drive. It felt quick although not quite as fast as I was expecting, maybe I've been spoilt recently driving other peoples supercars? Very squeaky brakes, but other than that we were happy.

 

After shaking hands at a price that included a few spares and another set of wheels and tyres we arranged to pick the car up in a weeks time. We were fortunate to have left a deposit as the next day James e-mailed me an offer he had received from a German, who would have paid more than us!

A successful trip abroad, with the CSCC members putting on a good show, with close, clean racing.  Plenty of exercise walking from the podium to take photos, then up the hill above Eau Rouge to take more photos (we don't take our official club photographer to Spa).

                                  

Couldn't wait to get back home to collect the car! The evening brought good weather and Beth and I collected it having been given a quick run down of where everything was located (how do you open the boot etc?). It is rare that I do such little preparation or research before buying a car, I guess I was just impatient this time around. The drive back wasn't entirely faultless with an unwillingness to start. After a few attempts with the solenoid clicking it fired into life and Beth drove it home. Over the next week I started to make a list of essentials required, plus a wish list of possible upgrades. I was soon to discover why so many recommend buying an already converted race car; the cost and effort involved in turning a road car into a race car is not to be underestimated. The Caterham couldn't have been easier by comparison having previously been a race car. The first job was to give it a damn good clean inside and out. The previous owner may have looked after the mechanicals well but the cosmetics were clearly not important to him judging by the amount of litter, coins and dirt inside the Elise.   

July brought us two complimentary tickets to go to the British Grand Prix qualifying day (Saturday), including hospitality. Despite always watching F1 on TV I have never actually been to one live, preferring to spend the money on other things. Changeable weather and general admission tickets (not grandstand) saw visibility a little limited once the umbrellas go up. The F1 cars are too quiet, with the engine note not being especially pleasing to the ear. The GP2 cars by comparison just scream around, giving an impression that they are actually faster. Sadly the memory card broke in the camera, losing all the photos from this day as well as previous weeks, hence just two camera phone pics. A good day, but if we were to do it again we would upgrade and pay for grandstand seating, Silverstone is not the best spectator venue in my opinion. On the other hand it's a brilliant drivers circuit in something fast and makes for a good race on TV. Really chuffed that Lewis took the victory on Sunday.

        

Philip cleared space in a barn next to his workshop where we could spend the weeks needed to convert the Elise, we were both looking forward to getting started on the project. The largest single item to buy was the roll cage. Many Elises use a simple petty strut arrangement (a diagonal bar running from the standard roll bar to the passenger footwell), however MSA regulations say that any engines above 2 litre must have a cage. Whilst my Elise has a 1.8 engine its turbo gives it an equivalency of just under 3.1 litre (x1.7 for forced induction). Whilst more expensive (around 1200) it made sense to choose a 6 point FIA approved roll cage, making it more likely to be approved for racing in Europe if ever that was an option for myself or a future owner.  http://www.safetydevices.com/ are the manufacturer of just such a cage and I saw from their website that MSAR are a dealer for them. Having bought a few items of clothing from them in the past and receiving good service I placed the order through them. Delivery date was unknown and they would contact me nearer the time, I said I would give them Philips address for delivery when they called, as that would be where the cage would be installed.
 

The best way to get an idea of what I had bought was to get the car out on track, so a day was booked at Castle Combe with friends. This only gave me a couple of days to change the essentials: brake fluid, oil and oil filter. First observations are that the car is quite easy to work on, and the chassis construction is a lovely piece of work. The flat floor surely helps with aero, minimising drag, although makes jacking a bit of a pain.

                          

 

Replaced the existing (pictured) oil filter as a precaution, although it had been changed only recently.

The dirty white square that the filter attaches to is the standard Audi oil cooler/heater where the heat from the coolant system initially helps to bring the oil up to temperature. When the oil gets too it transfers some of its excess heat back into the coolant system. It looked better once cleaned up!

It actually took me two attempts to change the filter as I hadn't realised that a standard length TT filter doesn't fit, being too long due to the clearance between filter housing and firewall. A shorter filter fitted fine.

 

 

The day of the trackday dawned, exciting! I booked in for a power run at Circuit Motors, Castle Combe during the lunchbreak to get an idea of its current power level and to check the fuelling.

To sum up the car after its first outing: it's quick in a straight line, limited by lack of grip (see comedy lift off oversteer in video) from old, worn tyres but shows potential. The boot divider would have to be removed for racing as it was so close to the turbo that the heat had made a small hole in the alloy sheet! The brakes could be sharper, but no fade, even though the dash was showing 135mph before braking at Avon Rise (the Caterham could manage about 118mph at the same point). Looking back at the video I was only managing 1min 20s, so plenty of time to gain, I suspect with good slicks and stronger bite from the brakes a 1min 15s should be possible.

The power run was revealing during the lunch break. The advert had stated that the car produced around 280bhp, but I felt it was less than this (still v.quick though!). The first power run showed around 245bhp, but we could see from the fuel mixture that it was running rich. Two more power runs were made, each time losing around 5bhp due to the timing being retarded and the mixture getting richer due to high intake temperatures. The car arrived hot from the track, so I suspect if allowed to cool a little the power would be a good deal more and explains why the car feels faster on the road than on the track today.
So, that's something to add to the list, look at upgrading the intercooling (the engine coolant system is working perfectly by comparison).

Enjoy the video here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Hi6c1DYpQY

              

Great fun chasing my friend Adrian in his Caterham CSR260 after lunch. A good example of the lift off oversteer on these old Toyo R1R tyres is at 2mins 7secs, I had Mark Funnell on board as a passenger then (former CCRC special GT champion)! The quick Westfield at the end of the video was too fast for me to keep up with, no harm in trying though. Aware of the high intake temperatures I kept the hot laps to a limit of 3 at a time, with a couple of cool down laps in between.

Over the next few weeks a whole load of new parts arrived at work including a Forge baffled sump, new starter motor, coolant tank, switches and wiring, FIA cut off switch, Plumbed in Fire extinguisher, a used carbon fibre race seat, harnesses and much more.

I chased up the roll cage with MSAR but they had no expected time of arrival. I was aiming to get the car ready for the last round of the championship in October and had a lot to do.

Next up I ordered a simple, white hardtop shell from the appropriately named company Lotus Hardtops. It arrived cosmetically damaged which was frustrating having only been wrapped in a thin layer of bubble wrap. When held against the car I couldn't work out how it should fit, took advice from SELOC and then realised it is for an Elise S2! Someone who has owned an Elise for some time would instantly know the difference of course but I was and still am frustrated that the website owner has made no attempt to add a description to the advert saying for S2 only. I returned it back to them in the same packing and sure enough it arrived damaged with them too, meaning we had a disagreement about appropriate refund, eventually resolved with me accepting a loss. A correct S1 hardtop was ordered from another company but also arrived slightly cracked but will put up with this. These race shells come with no fixings for cost and weight savings, so we came up with a method of being able to remove the roof quickly so as to be able to remove it on sunny days driving to work, using rivnuts bonded into the screen surround and wing nuts at the rear. 

I took a midweek day off and was working on a fault that had developed preventing the car from starting due to no power at the fuel pump. A lorry turned up with a delivery, it was the roll cage on a pallet! It had been left that it would be delivered to Philips, a 50 minute drive away and that MSAR would call me with an ETA. Not impressed, lucky I was home.