The Porsche Targa top has been called the 8th Wonder of the World - though some claim the 8th Curse (that being wind noise). I have identified 15 causes of wind noise and water leaks.
As some of you may know my twin granddaughters have started helping me in the garage with my Targa Top business. As rising juniors in college majoring in business, they make a few bucks I get some needed help. If you were to think they are helping me with marketing, invoicing, sales side of the business, you would be wrong. I am teaching them the 'manly stuff' like how to build Targa tops fom the ground up. They are learning the basics, like how to measure, cut with a razor knife, use a bull grinder and drill guns. You get the picture. They are also learning how to safely pack a box so the contents don’t get broken, how to judge good parts from bad quality parts, how to properly use hand tools, how to be consistent in your work within a quarter of 1%. I believe my job is to teach them the things they will never learn in Business School. Welcome to the real world.
Also working alongside of them, I get to instill some sound business practices. A couple of examples: When an immediate task is completed and there is a pause while glue sets up, find something to do. It maybe cleaning and prepping other parts or do something as mundane as cutting cleaning rags. As they say at McDonald's , 'if you have time to lean, you have time to clean'. Learning the rule of measure twice and cut once. Another one is to correct a problem once it is discovered. There is no such thing as 'canceling errors'. Perfection comes being perfect at every step. And with striving for perfection comes pride in accomplishment a trait which will transcend this job. Not sure college is teaching any of this these days.
Another good practice that I have taught the girls is that when problem is found, it isn’t about laying blame. There probably is enough of that to go around starting with me. It's about fixing the situation, using the experience as a challenge and taking steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It has been nearly a year since they come on board, and so far so good with them learning the workings of a small business. But there is still so much to teach them.
As you may know, I've been in 'the Porsche business' building and sellin Vintage Porsches and parts before they were Vintage. In all my years, I've brought maybe 200 cars back to life from bad engines, worn out suspensions and more. Along with these I have built over 50 track cars so I could enjoy my passion and help others too. The idea was to put big engines and big brakes on old worthless chassis, long hood 911 and 912's. The building of track cars lead me to the vintage parts business as if I didn’t have enough to do.
I have a 71 911E on the lift in the process of restoration. It might just be time to teach the Targettes how to wrench. Part #2 of this post will be the Targattes venture into mechanical restoration of suspension and brakes This should be fun - not sure who's going to learn more - me or them.
I have seen a trend during the past year, which will upset some people. It would appear to be opposite of what the norm has been, at least around this neck of the woods. And it is related the 'Singer Curse', as some call it.
There are the people who are keeping their cars original as they have aged, going so far as driving around with faded paint and worn rugs. PCA even has a class for them in their Concours. They're called 'Survivors'. This segment is small but exists. Alongside of this group are the majority of Porsche owners, who keep the cars bone stock original and in as new condition throughout. These cars are perfect and new looking, the way it came from the factory.
But now a new breed has emerged and they are moving fast. These are the Hot Rods/Outlaws, with paint changes, big flares, upgraded interiors, chrome trim, motor changes, and you name it. This group is relatively new here, but Hot Roding 356’s and 911’s for years on the Left Coast. Singer and Magnus lead the pack here.
It seems that in the East, the only acceptable modifications were for track use. As many of you remember, I did it in the mid eighties by taking a 68 912 which cost $200 and stuffing a 911 engine into it and making it look like a 73 Carrera RS. I drove that car for nearly 10 years on the street and track (mostly track). When it got tired, I built a second RS Look from a 72, 911 stuffing a 3.6 into it. That car was my first car I drove at Daytona. Fast and cheap.
In the past, keeping cars stock got the high selling price. The un-modified Porsche would bring double or more over these others. But as Bob Dylan once sang, “The times they are a-changin”. These Hot Rod cars are bringing the top dollar now. There are more tribute paint schemes, more stuffing 3.6 motors in, more long hood conversions and just plain more of everything taking them over the top in some cases. Most of this work now is very high grade with paint work of the highest standard.
Who knows how long this trend will be in fashion but as we all know, trends come and go. There is a bright side of all of this for you owners of original cars though. When things cool off, the trend changes again, there will be fewer stock cars around and thus supply and demand will drive prices for the original up. There will always be Hot Rods for the people who enjoy that segment and that’s ok. As for the 'survivors', they don’t really don’t care about what the other two groups are doing, they just enjoy driving their cars around - 'like a rolling stone...'
All seems upside down in the Porsche world these days. Prices are going up, up and up with more players than ever (read non-Porsche people) in the game. Cars that only five years ago wouldn’t bring $5k, are getting home run derby dollars today. Even what we used to call ‘beaters’ are now called Drivers. So, let’s turn our discussion today to Drivers and where they are in the scheme of things. In my hierarchy, it goes like this. Show cars are top shelf, then Cars and Coffee cars, next are Driver, daily use but not every day, then beaters are last. Here’s my take on most of the Porsche’s manufactured in the past 50 years. Some you can drive and some you probably shouldn’t.
914 1970-76. Rust in the suspension and rockers destroyed half. At least 40% of the remaining cars have been killed by neglect because one couldn’t afford to fix them. Some of this 40% may still maybe saved but in truth, today they are economically infeasible to restore. This leaves 10% of the nice 4 bangers at $8 to $12k but reliability concerns and old technology hurts them. Sorry No.
914-6 1970-72. No longer a Driver and maybe never were. These cars are in the $60k to $80k range now. A Cars and Coffee and Show car.
Early 911 Long hood cars. Breaking the Bank here and there is nothing on earth to stop the climb. $50 to $75k. A Cars and Coffee shoe-in but most likely a Show car.
912 1965 to1969. You got a chance here with prices hovering at $30k for this 4 cylinder 911 look-a- like. Top notch 912s are bring $40k to $50k. People love the long hoods with only this 4 cyl model left an entrance price. What has happened to the car world? Better stop here or be accused of being six lover (even though, truth be told, I started out in a 912 45 years ago). Dark horse Cars and Coffee.
911 from 74-77. These cars were not looked on favorably for many years due to engine problems but now with the climb of the 911SC, these 911 have been reborn at the $24k level. Make sure you get a remote oil cooler with this car along with the other upgrades. Maybe a Driver.
911SC 78-83. These cars used to be a bargain and great driver at $20k not so much now at $35k. Good looks, good power and good handling have been the SC calling card. Yes still a Driver.
911 Carrera 3.2. A bullet proof car that that will stand up to miles with high mileage examples of over 100k miles bring near $50k. A chance here to being a Driver but a Cars and Coffee for sure.
911 89-95 964 models. People, in part to Singer and Magnus, have found out what a great car this is. AC that works, ABS, lots of power, air bags, power steering and superb handling. If you can find one for less than $40k buy it. Just make sure it has head gaskets. Got enough features to make Driver.
911 95-98 993. The price of the 993 have been out sight for 20 years but now things have cooled off. They haven’t gone down in price, they just haven’t climbed the way others Porsche have. One of the down falls with miles on these car is the secondary air injection problem, so be careful. Also, maybe the puffy design didn’t take after all. Cars and Coffee for sure.
944 1983-91. These cars have a lot going for them, Ac, heat, safety and handling. This car is still affordable in the $5-$8k range. Just that some people haven’t got over engine placement and lack of power. Maybe a choice in the future.
928 1978 -1995. The 928 was the successor to the 911 that never succeeded in eliminating the 911. Porsches first shot at electronics was a failure. The only cars that are worth having are the later years and they are not a Driver, maybe a Cars and Coffee.
968 1992-1995. Here is an exceptional car that the world hasn’t discovered. At a price of $12-$18k you get a lot of car. The 968 will stand up to miles, heat, safety, ac with 911 power and handling of a 911, and then some. Right now only falls down on being an investment. This is a great Driver.
986 Boxster 1997-2004. One of the top 3 cars Porsche ever made. You get it all, a true sports car with an open top. Porsche made a lot of Boxsters which has kept the price low, with a price of $8k to $12k you get a lot of car. I smell Driver.
996 1999 – 2004. A lot of car for the price they are selling for. Draw backs: never be an investment too many cars, not the classic 911 design and engine problems. Buy nice choice for less than $20k.
Here are my top three drivers:
Number 3 You pick it.
Number 2 Boxster
Number 1 968 Coupe
That’s all she wrote.
I was introduced to my first 911 a long time ago – waaaay back in 1972. I had several 356’s in my ‘shop’ with rusted out bottoms that I made feeble attempts at fixing. I'll go into those details at a later date or we will need to change the name of this blog. The car in question was a 68 Irish Green soft window Targa. I found the car listed in a local newspaper and the car was only 5 miles away. I made arrangements to look at the car the next Saturday morning with great anticipation.
Truth be told, I knew nothing about the 911, nothing about the engine, nothing about short wheel base, AND I knew nothing about Targas, This was the first year in America of the Targa and with the top off and the back window zipped out it was a dazzling looking car. Different than the popular coupe – but in many ways better looking. This Targa I went to see was now 4 years old but the paint looked like new, the interior was perfect and purred like a kitten. After a discussion with the owner pointing out the virtues of the Targa, a deal was struck and I drove it home. Remembering back, the Targa Top might have been a little worn and that might actually have been my very first Targa Top restoration. How time flies.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is an important, small detail about the engine. The reason it purred like a kitten instead of roaring like a lion was because it was a 4 cylinder 912 not a 6 cylinder 911. My first ‘real’ 911 was a 1972 911S Targa sportomatic and I’ll write about it in a future blog. But first, back to the Irish Green machine.
I LOVED that car, my boys practically grew up in the back of that 912 Targa. We drove it to soccer games, Porsche picnics, Watkins Glen – ohhh the memories. My kid’s favorite memory was when the back end caught on fire one cold winter morning while I was spraying some ‘boy scout juice’ into the carbs to help get it started. My aim was a little off, boom, backfire, poof, flames. I can still see the look on the boys faces. There’s just something about the smell of a combustible engine firing up on a cold morning that gets you going.
I drove that car off and on for about 20 years and every minute was pure, low horsepower driving enjoyment. Then I ended up selling the 912 to a very close friend with buy back rights for life. He drove it for a few years and it’s been in storage for the past 15 years or so. I think it’s time for the 68 912 soft window Targa to come back home. As they say, you can always go home.
I received a call last week that got me thinking. This person knew I have cars in various states of completion lying around all the time and was inquiring whether I had a suitable project DE car. I told him I had none. Here’s why. The price of all 911s have skyrocketed, and this has dried up the supply of ‘donor’ track cars – they've just become too valuable to risk stuffing in the wall at the track.
So, where are suitable inexpensive track cars going to come from now? This got me thinking back about the DE cars I had built over the years.
The first was a 1968 912 that I extended the wheel base, added flares, big brakes, 911 suspension, painted it white and added a big 3.0L engine. This is a car I bought for $200 finding in a shop’s scrap yard in the outskirts of Philadelphia. I used this car for over 10 years and it never let me down.
The second track car was a 1975 Carrera I bought for $12,000. My loving wife Anne drove it as her daily drive for 15 years and finally the 2.7 engine wore out. Actually it caught fire in the driveway but we’re not allowed to talk about that. Since it was not being used I built into a track car. After one year as a track car I sobered up and realized this car was too rare and turned it back to a street car. With age comes wisdom.
My third DE car was a 72 911 which I bought for $700 as a shell. This car I painted white everywhere, added big brakes, lots of light-weight plastic parts and a 3.6 engine. This is the car I drove at Daytona at Rennsport Reunion II. I used this car for several years before I bought a true Race Car - a 964 with all the bells and whistles. Now that was a great track car that provided a lot of memories.
What was common about these DE track cars was that they were low priced, very reliable, low maintenance, safe and fast. They were made out of worn out street cars and the parts we hung on them were more valuable than the chassis. We used to say if something bad happened all you needed was a pickup truck to gather the unbroken parts, since that is where the money was and you could probably put it all back together for next to nothing.
These days, there are no beaters. No worn out older 911s that can be turned into track cars. Every 911 regardless of condition is restorable and valuable. The end value is so great that even basket cases are prized. So, where do we go from here?
The answer lies in a car that has balance, good brakes, power and is relatively inexpensive - The Boxster. The newer, lighter, less expensive red-headed step-child of the 911. Purists don’t much care for them, but I think they make perfect track cars. If you don’t believe me come watch Boxsters perform at any of our DE track days.
You also have a second choice since 996’s are also relatively affordable (if you must drive a 911 at the track). And guess what, I think I have a couple of those lying around. Actually, I have a couple of both.
I thought it would be great time to highlight one of Porsches greatest limited production cars of the past. The RS America came out in the spring of 1992 as a1993 model. It was light with suspension and wheel upgrades found on the 965 Turbo. It came only in a coupe version with only 3 color choices - red, black and white (although you could special order it in midnight blue metallic or polar silver) and only with four options. It was made for the track and most of them happily found their way to a track at some point in their life. There were only 701 made in two model years, 93-94.
The only reason the RSA exists is because Porsche felt the European RS model was too aggressive for the US market so it was not sold here. Alas, the RS America was born - it was an RS made just for America. No power steering, no cruise control, no AC, no sunroom and no radio. It did come with a very distinctive 'whale tail' spoiler that still stands out today.
I am lucky enough to have two RSA’s in my collection. Here are the highlights of one of mine.
Porsche RS America 1993 WPOAB2966PS419115, 77 K miles Black with black, 1 of 701 made, Rare Car. Stock. Original engine & transmission: Options: AC, LTD, non-sunroof, package box, correct seats, Cup 1 wheels, tires ex, suspension upgrade to PSS 9, Euro ride height, Brake upgrade to 993 fronts and larger rears, chip, This is a fast car. Minor paint work, Well-maintained. No wrecks, no rust, no stories. It's a nice car, but aren't they all.
The Bike, The Scooter And The Twin Turbo
We were all headed to our last track even of the year. It promised to be one of the best, as twelve of us were going to VIR for a three day driving event. It is the longest trip for most of us, between 7 and 8 hours drive. However the track design, speed and setting are incredible. It rivals the Glen for all out speed and you get your speed fix three different times on each lap, whereas only once at The Glen.
My youngest son Matthew, who relocated to Charlotte, NC a few years back, decided to meet us there since it’s a short trip for him. Matty was going to drive my RS America Race car while we were building him his own race car. We decided that the 80% track and 20% street is just a little too much over the top Racer for his young family now. Or is this a ploy by him to drive my RSA? Anyway, I planned to build him a 50/50 car over the winter.
I was pleasantly surprised when Matty showed up on Friday morning, with his 5 year old son Mason in the 1996 KBF (Kills Bugs Fast) Twin Turbo he was borrowing while we built his new race car. I was not as happy when they began unpacking the Twin Turbo. He had it packed like a paneled station wagon on a trip to Disney. I questioned him about the need for a bike that he was extracting from the back seat area. He then reminded me that I have always touted the Porsche as a perfect family car with a wry smile. Ha. Now the kid is using my own stuff against me. I was afraid to look at the glove soft leather in the car. Oh well, it was great to spend time with Matthew and Mason and I guess that’s the price you have to pay sometimes.
There is a lot of walking a VIR due to the size of the paddock being long and narrow. This is the place I blew-up my knee two years ago from excessive walking. Now though I have a scooter to get around (A Christmas gift from Matty). This scooter is basically a gas powered skateboard with a fold up handle, in other words a broken shoulder and concussion waiting to happen. It is capable of 35mph with shaky steering, so it is nearly as exciting to ride as VIR is to drive. Fellow PCA member, Claudia thinks it is a hoot but she is a skier and we know how they live on the edge.
During the day I noticed that we were having trouble with losing air in the front right tire of the RSA. I had another tire and rim but this was a new set on the car and I wanted to wear this set evenly. Therefore, prior to every run session we had to add several pounds of air. The air was down at the other end of the paddock, so it was a pain. Just before the last run group of the day, I borrowed an air tank and headed on down to the air pump on my trusted scooter. The scooter handle bar has gas on one side and brake on the other. This means you need to carry the air bottle in the brake hand. I took it nice and slow down to the air pump; however coming back would be a different story. As I coasted the sandy parking area where we were setup, I realized I was carrying a little too much speed. I was headed for trailer ramp, not good. Mind you I am only going 2 or 3 miles an hour at most. Having a difficult time getting to the brake, I yelled ‘coming in hot’ and turned the handle bars to the right to miss the metal ramp that most certainly cause brain damage. That is all it took. The front wheel dug in and over the handle bars I went. I wish I would have just hit the sandy ground but no such luck. My knee hit the air tank on the way down and broke my fall. Most had seen the crash and came rushing over to see if I were still alive. They found me laughing out loud. Here I am at a race tack driving a car at over a 150mph and I get hurt on a scooter at 2 mph.
The problem is this is my bad knee, been cut twice due to injuries. I knew what I was in store for. Only one thing to do before the swelling flared up, pop two Motrin and strap myself in for the last run group of the day. At this point I could hardly walk but you don’t need to be able to walk to be able to drive.
I guess I was right about some things, like a Porsche being the perfect family car.
And wrong about others, like the scooter being a broken shoulder waiting to happen. Should have said broken knee. Either way, it’s a good story. See you around.
Dan Petchel is a Porsche driver, enthusiast and longtime PCA member and he's been tinkering with these beloved German sports cars for close to 50 years. He writes about Porsches, Targa Tops, vintage parts and the people he meets along the way