A day in the life of a vintage Porsche owner
Friday, January 24, 2014
I affectionately call my black 1976 911S "Smoky," because the first week I owned him smoke billowed out of the engine compartment while I was driving around my neighborhood. Fearing my skills behind a Volkswagen didn't translate into the more difficult Porsche clutch, I was relieved to discover it was just the heat exchange hose that had popped off and needed adjustment.
The name Smoky stuck and was reinforced a year later when I drove home at dusk, turned on my headlights, and a thick mist rose from the instrument panel. I turned the headlights off, and the smoke cleared. I checked for charred wiring but didn't find anything suspicious.
But I immediately purchased a fire extinguisher to keep within reach under the passenger seat, and I haven’t had a problem since. (Yes, I currently use my headlights without any issues, and electrical refinement is part of my five-year plan.)
Owning a vintage car has its set of challenges. Before even grabbing the keys, I must check the outside temperature to make sure it's not warmer than 85 degrees (I've been informed that head work is quite costly). An oil cooler is on my to-do list, but I'm still doing the research to find the best one.
Before getting in the driver's seat, I also reconnect the battery since there's an unidentified drain. And if I don't eject my CD before shutting the car off, there's a thumping sound from the radio as the 911 revs up — again, a mysterious electrical problem that perhaps relates to the after-market alarm a previous owner installed and someone later removed.
While waiting to be taken out for a spin, Smoky sits patiently next to a 1987 VW Scirocco and a couple of Harley Davidsons in the garage. A pile of cardboard boxes are flattened beneath him to soak up any oil that inevitably leaks. Checking the dipstick periodically is also a necessity.
I should have known I was in for it when my father gave me Smoky with a two-page, handwritten instruction booklet. He listed all of the car's quirks, including the broken gas gauge, sticky gas pedal and squealing noise that sometimes occurs when the interior heating element is turned on.
Sure, Smoky needs a little work. But all the nuisances disappear once I start the engine, open the sunroof and step on the gas. The 911's signature growl is my companion as I navigate the Connecticut shoreline, fully aware that it's the journey — not the destination — that is important. We merge as one, swooping into turns, returning thumbs-ups to passersby, and following the line of beauty on the road before us.
People may ask why I don't buy a Boxster or a Cayman to avoid all the trouble. They're obviously more dependable and easier to maintain, but where's the character? My heart belongs to Smoky. I wouldn't have it any other way.
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