Garage Adventures: Winter Edition

As the cloak of winter swirls around the little bit of daylight we get every day the heated garage looks better all the time. The list of winter projects is not as long as some years but the fact that there is one is a comfort.

Somewhere to go and something to do seems to be more important than ever. Certainly trips to the left coast for auctions and the annual 356 Literature Meet are on the schedule but the extra days we had this year after Christmas and New Years needed to be filled with something besides Netflix. There is a feeling that is hard to describe after a job is finished and I can stand back and see the result. 

 The engine is out of the Speedster and is waiting for a replacement crankshaft to come back from the machine shop so there is nothing to do there. The Martini 911 had a brake problem that presented itself as a caliper dragging but I couldn’t narrow it down to which corner. Just as the car would come to a stop under light braking the last 6” felt like I stepped down harder, but I didn’t. Without the brake applied the car would sit still at a traffic light when it felt like it should be moving slightly because of the grade of the pavement. I could never detect a temperature difference between wheels but it still felt strange.

 I figured that replacing the brake fluid was a good place to start so the vacuum system I bought from Griots Garage years ago came out of the cabinet. I always thought that I overpaid for a ½ gal plastic jar with a rubber hose on it but since it has worked out to about $3/year I can’t complain. It’s so old that the clear hose was really stiff and hard to see through so I went to Ace Hardware and got 18” of hose for 70 cents and it looks like new again.  Clearly, it’s the little things that make my day.

 After the brake fluid was topped up and everything tightened I discovered that the left front wheel was dragging a bit. Seems that the rotor, which looked new, was just a little warped and offered some resistance through about half of the rotation. I needed new rotors. The car was still up on jack stands, which was where it would stay until new parts arrived. That was a lesson I learned years ago: don’t put the car on the ground and the tools away until everything has been checked.

 Turns out that the ventilated rotors for a 50 year old Porsche are actually pretty inexpensive. Of course you have to shop around a bit and don’t buy anything from China but at $59 each (from ATE) they were a bargain. The new Porsches with ceramic composite brakes (pccb) have rotors that start at $1300 each and go up from there. You gotta love old cars.  

The rotors arrived in a few days and the job completed in just a few hours. A quick test drive confirmed that all was well and it was back to the trickle charger for Martini, now awaiting the Autocross season.

The next project was another that I had been putting off for a couple of years. The sliding steel sunroof on the Puddle Jumper (’57 356A coupe)had been getting harder and harder to slide and the headliner material in one side was bunching up and dragging. I had put it together 15 years ago so I remembered some of the steps required to take it apart which is why I hadn’t tackled the job sooner.

I got the tracks loosened and slid the upholstered panel out leaving the steel roof panel in place. Sitting by the fireplace one evening (not all garage work in done in the garage ) I put the panel on a card table and could see why the material was not held securely. A metal strip meant to hold the fabric in place had been covered by the material not placed over it. Easy fix, right?

Once I got it glued back in place I let it sit for a couple of days. Meanwhile, I checked the movement on the steel panel before I began reassembly to discover that it was binding even before I put the headliner piece back in place. Not good.  Something wasn’t right.

The aluminum rails that the sunroof slides on are held in place by three screws that are visible through the sunroof opening and have an anchor built onto a rear cross brace just above the rear window. I only know this now because of two members of the 356 Registry that answered my call for help. They each have a sunroof coupe in the middle of restoration and can see back into the rear of the track where I can’t because the headliner in place. The photos they sent answered all my questions.

A small L shaped bracket is spot welded in place and the back end of the aluminum track fits into a small box formed by the bracket. A very simple design. 66 years is a long time to expect a single spot weld to stay in place and one of mine gave up.  That allows the track to move and jam the panel when movement is attempted. The bracket is missing and I believe has fallen down between the headliner and side of the rear pillar. I will attempt to retrieve it, drill a couple of holes and screw it back in place without removing too much of the headliner. I’ll see how that goes, I have all winter to get it done.

If you have trudged all the way to this sentence you are a true car person, or someone made you read it. I will attempt to be less technical in future columns but sometimes I just have to get all this mechanical stuff out and in print. Thanks for staying with me, both of you.