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When Disaster Strikes…Ignore it.
(09/02/2009)

When Disaster Strikes…Ignore it.
By
Tony Mazzagatti

In 21 years of driving 356’s I’ve developed a king of invincibility complex. I work under the premise that a 356 will always get you home. Maybe I have selective recall but I can only remember flat towing a ’56 Speedster home from Philadelphia to Englewood, N.J. once in 1970 and doing a transaxle swap to get another one home one other time, but driving home nonetheless. Of course I’ve done more than a few roadside repairs but the main point is you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to keep one of these bathtubs on the road either. There’s no fuel injection, power assisted anything, not even chokes on the carbs.

My most recent reinforcement of the Theory of Get Homability was our return trip from the Porsche Parade in Colorado Springs. While in Colorado the clutch had been increasingly acting up but no problem in our ’65 C Coupe. After a fantastic week at the Parade we headed north for a left turn in Cheyene and a thousand odd miles into Reno. We weren’t a hundred miles out when the clutch decided to go south. This is actually one of the least disasterous disasters that can happen to you on the road. Undaunted we simply pressed on for the next two days since you can shift without a clutch at all around 2200 rpms if the transaxle is not under any load. This is great when your rolling but when hunger strikes either the occupants or the gas tank things get a little trickier. Coming to a stop is no problem since all that’s required is moving the gearshift lever into neutral or turning off the ignition just before coming to a stop. Now the fun. Leaving the gas station or traffic light means putting the car in first with the engine off and turning on the ignition. If the battery and starting circuit gods are with you that whole mass of Teutonic metal will leap forward while the engine comes to life catapulting you into the twilite zone of shifting without the clutch.

This wouldn’t have been too bad on a trip that was almost exclusively highway driving except for the next problem. It seems that some frustrated rocket scientist (me) decided to try some new space age sealant on his valve cover gaskets before leaving Reno. “If it’s too good to be true then it probably is” can be applied here. The valve cover gaskets developed a wander lust of their own and left their appointed posts allowing massive quantities of oil to lubricate Wyoming and Utah. Outside of frequent stops along the way to replentish the slippery stuff it wasn’t until Salt Lake before we even had a chance of solving the problem. It’s truly amazing how many red lights one can encounter reaching the Red Lion Inn downtown. After a pleasant night and leisurely brekfast the hunt for gaskets ended an hour later at The Pit Stop on the south end of town where they demonstrated once again that true Porsche friends are everywhere. Back on the road but still clutchless we were facing a long but straight shot into Reno.

All went well until we remembered that construction on Route 80 at Wennemuca required a detour down the main drag. Fortunately we only had light traffic and one traffic light to negotiate as we were shunted off the interstate. Of course the light turned red at the last minute and since all things mechanical were getting hotter and hotter in the 100 plus heat I decided to whip a quick right turn down a convenient alley rather than turn the engine off again. Even though we were going only one way it didn’t seem to coincide with the accepted direction of the truck entering the far end. Fortunately the truck driver didn’t contest the laws of physics and allowed us out of the alley without having to stop. After touring a number of side streets with approved California rolls at a number of stop signs we returned to 80 and back up to cruising altitude. The remainder of the trip was uneventful and I pulled the engine the following day to discover that the center hub of the clutch disk had completely disassembled itself even peening over the throwout bearing guide tube freezing the bearing in its disengaged position.

The clutch is back in the car and serving us well as the everyday transportation that it was originally intended to be. Needless to say we still get home every night.





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