So, the Porsche. The Mid-Life Crisis. Regular readers will remember how it expired on the legendary Nordschleife last August. For the first few months people asked after it – then they started thinking probably they shouldn’t ask any more as it seemed to evoke Very Large Sighs from me whenever it was mentioned. FINALLY, ten months later, I’ve got it back.
This is what happened.
Having left the Porsche with RSR in Nürburg, like an Egyptian with greased deck shoes, I swiftly fell into denial. I couldn’t afford to fix it so I was in no hurry to get it back. I was told “probably not September, more likely October” for the fix. So with my natural haste (!!) I followed it up at the end of November, and again in January.
Ah, but that was after the break-in. Shortly after I’d left it there, RSR was broken into in the dead of night. The thieving scumbags took two of RSR’s halo cars and ALL THE KEYS to the other cars on site. Including mine. Fortunately I had a spare, which I posted to Germany, however I’d never used it. After inquiring about the state of the car in late November, they discovered the spare key didn’t work. Hmmm.
At that point I was a bit pissed at RSR for not replacing the stolen key and letting the car sit there for 5 months without doing anything to it – at that point they’d had the car for longer than I had (!!!!), but then I hadn’t asked after it, so clearly they knew I wasn’t that bothered. Which I wasn’t. To be honest I didn’t want to see the fecking thing again (I have a very low tolerance for unreliability in cars), but even broken it’s still worth a ton of cash and even a mountainous indifference to the car wasn’t enough to make me ignore that. So I contacted boss-man Ron Simons and we had a chat. Up to that point Ron hadn’t been involved apart from agreeing to look after it at the time, as a favour. Within five minutes Ron’s magic had made everything OK again and RSR were back in my good books. Ron got his men to give the stricken motor a colonoscopy and told me that it was a bit beyond their expertise to take it any further, which I hadn’t fully grasped before. Ron shipped the car to Porsche Koblenz for me and everything was warm and fuzzy again. Briefly.
Porsche Koblenz noted that it had “probably broken something on the cylinder head”. They did a compression test on it, charging 4 hours at 125 Euros per hour (!!!), then announced that the next stage of investigation – taking the engine apart – would cost “in excess of 30,000 Euros.”
FUCK. RIGHT. OFF.
Am I on Candid Camera? 30 thousand Euros? The fecking car didn’t cost that, and they want that just to LOOK AT IT?!?!?! I don’t pissing think so. A quick email to my trusty trucker Alex from Lizard Logistics and he was on the case to bring it back home for me. Thirty thousand Euros. You can buy whole people for less than that.
So. Chapter Three. I’ve been using Lakeside Engineering in Ottershaw for many years now and they really are excellent – they’ve kept my much-abused Elise in fine fettle for well over a decade now and it still hasn’t let me down after 70,000 miles and more track days than you can shake a jelly at. As it happens they’re Porsche specialists as well as Lotus specialists, so I had every confidence in leaving the sick 996 in their capable hands. Based on the evidence gleaned from Porsche Koblenz, Max started taking it apart. Then I obtained a scan of the compression test and forwarded it on. By now, it’s March already.
A few days later, I received The Call.
I don’t know how cars work, but Max does. It turns out that the compression test results from Porsche Koblenz were IMPOSSIBLE. They showed two cylinders with zero percent leakage and another two with 2% leakage. Even a fresh engine off the production line would leak 3-5%. So the results Porsche Koblenz provided were FICTITIOUS. At best, you could imagine maybe they’d discarded the results and, when I asked for them, they reconstructed them from memory as best they could. At worst, they just made the fecking results up and charged me for work they never did. What. A. Bunch. Of. Bastards.
When Max took the engine to bits, he found that cylinder 4 was indeed leaking (as RSR had originally noted) but not enough to cause the failure. So what did cause the failure?
Are you ready for this?
A spark plug.
The porcelain came out of the plug’s metal mount, which in turn destroyed the coil pack. That’s why the car went into limp-home mode.
If it had had a new plug and coil pack at the time, I could have driven it home from Germany.
So now the engine’s in bits and it didn’t really need to come apart in the first place. Taking the engine apart and putting it back together again comprises most of the labour, so the most expensive cost is already sunk. Now that it’s in bits, it makes sense to do all those things that need the engine to come out for. It’s on its original clutch, so let’s change that, and the cylinder *was* leaking so let’s do all those, the air conditioning needs new condensers, and it was jumping out of second gear at Blyton Park, which is a common problem that needs a new gearbox ring to fix – and of course Porsche will only sell them to you in full sets.
Unsurprisingly, all that took a while to do, and I was ferrying other cars into Lakeside for maintenance in parallel with the Porsche so it took even longer. But it’s all done now. And it’s as good as new.
But the bill came to seventeen grand. Owwwwwwwch. That might be the most expensive spark plug in history. I don’t have seventeen grand. The mortgage fund does, but I’d already tapped that to buy the thing in the first place. Just as well interest rates are low right now. Let’s hope they stay that way until I can earn some money to pay it off.
So now I have it back. It feels new to me again – hardly surprising since I’d only done 3000 miles in it before its ten month rehabilitation and hadn’t gelled with it then. I feel strangely ambivalent about it now. On the one hand, it’s made me skinter than I’ve been since I still had acne. On the other, it wasn’t the car’s fault. It had a minor failure and shut itself down to prevent further damage. It did the right thing. And now it’s better than ever, and it’s going to go up in value over the next few years.
But I’m a bit scared of it now. I now need the money that it represents – the money that I’ll get back when I sell it, because I’ve borrowed it and I will need to pay it back. So it’s changed from being an extravagant toy into a valuable asset. I’m not sure how to feel about that. I want to be able to give my toys a damn good spanking. If I can’t do that, what’s the point?
So right now, it’s in a firm last place in fleet favouritism. Will I bond with it over the coming months? You’ll be the second to know.