PORSCHE PROJECTS

Yes, it’s good news from our man Laird and the Cay­man. The sus­pen­sion is work­ing well with new springs and the blow­ing ex­haust head­ers have been welded rather than re­placed. Fi­nally he’s happy... For now!

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

The lat­est from the 911&PW fleet in­clud­ing air con and cool­ing rads for Ben­nett’s 996, a new Boxster for Ti­pler and header fix for Laird’s Cay­man

What a dif­fer­ence a few months make. And what a bona fide, 12storey, fully-car­peted joy it is to bring you an up­date to the Croc Chron­i­cles con­tain­ing noth­ing – yes, noth­ing! – but good news.

Reg­u­lar 911&PW read­ers with dis­pro­por­tion­ately high tol­er­ance lev­els for drama will know what an up and down jour­ney it’s been with the Croc. An en­gine re­place­ment un­der war­ranty within a week of pur­chase was about as in­aus­pi­cious a start as they come. Strug­gling to bond with the car there­after on its fash­ion-spec fac­tory wheels and aw­ful, mushy, stan­dard-spec brake pedal was hardly a win­ning fol­low on.

The litany of glitches and faults since have re­cently cul­mi­nated in the dou­ble whammy of a sus­pen­sion refresh gone wrong and the prospect of an epic four- fig­ure bill to ad­dress a pair of blow­ing ex­haust head­ers. But brace yourself for an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally up­beat and breezy de­noue­ment to all of the above. Be­cause the sus­pen­sion is sorted, the ex­haust is fixed, I haven’t been bankrupted in the process and the Croc and I are now in a com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship.

In other words, it’s taken very nearly three years but I’m now fully at one with and at peace with this car and look­ing for­ward to and hop­ing for many more years and many hun­dreds of thou­sands of miles be­hind the wheel. But hold those thoughts.

Let’s be­gin with the fi­nal res­o­lu­tion to the saga of the sus­pen­sion. The is­sue there in­volved the springs as supplied with the Bil­stein B12 sus­pen­sion kit. The front springs that come with this hard­ware are, not to put too fine a point on it, com­pletely out of spec. They run the front axle far too

low and pro­vide al­most no travel. Re­solv­ing that kind of prob­lem through con­ven­tional chan­nels such as a war­ranty claim is a night­mare sce­nario that would in­volve sig­nif­i­cant labour costs and a car left un­us­able for an ex­tended pe­riod. That’s just no good, re­gard­less of the rights and wrongs of any of it.

Ul­ti­mately, then, the eas­i­est so­lu­tion was to fit some front springs sourced from H&R my­self. These, too, were a lit­tle off – again, too low – but more in the realms of off com­pared to my pref­er­ences rather than just com­pletely off by any sane met­ric. An ex­tra set of front 6mm spring pads and the re­sult was within my win­dow of tol­er­ance. It also drove a lot bet­ter. Much bet­ter. More on which in a mo­ment.

As if the front spring palaver wasn’t enough to keep me busy, the Croc’s two blow­ing ex­haust head­ers have also been putting the fear of the Almighty into me. For starters, we’re talk­ing £1200 a pop for re­place­ment items from Porsche. A shock­ing price to be sure, but then the pri­mary cats are in­te­grated within each header, which ex­plains at least some of the hor­ror.

The only out­fit I could find do­ing pat­tern parts (ig­nor­ing sup­pos­edly high-per­for­mance head­ers with so-called ‘race’ cats, in which I habour zero in­ter­est) was an out­fit State­side that of­fered very appealing pric­ing lo­cally but a stiff over­all likely landed cost in the UK. The so­lu­tion, in the­ory at least, was to have the head­ers welded. All well and good. But would they come off with­out a glitch? In its wis­dom (ie none) Porsche uses cheap steel fix­ings to se­cure the head­ers. Said fix­ings in the form of bolts or studs are not only sub­ject to su­per-high temps. They’re also very ex­posed and lo­cated sig­nif­i­cantly aft.

All of which means you have a combo of roast­ing heat and a con­stant spray of muck and wa­ter and road salt and all the rest. The re­sult is that they cor­rode chron­i­cally, which in turn means they mostly snap when re­moval is at­tempted, fol­low­ing which it can be very ex­pen­sive to have them drilled out of the heads and any re­pairs to the threads made good.

Mer­ci­fully, the Croc’s head­ers were re­moved with the en­gine swap in late 2014. My fix­ings were still a mess, when the fine fel­lows from AW Mo­tor­sport near Chich­ester had at them, only one stud snapped. AW also man­aged to get the head­ers patched up very nicely and the whole thing turned around in lit­tle more than a day and for an over­all bill that failed to breach the four-fig­ure bar­rier. Not ex­actly chump change, but it could have been so very much worse.

The net out­come of all of the above was a Croc with, es­sen­tially, zero faults and a fairly well sorted chas­sis. The chas­sis had come to­gether a few weeks pre­vi­ously, but it was hard to re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate the char­ac­ter of the changes while the ex­haust sounded so hideous. With that ad­dressed and the Croc sound­ing, if any­thing, sweeter than ever (I’m not one for loud ex­hausts and I pre­fer a mix of ex­haust, in­duc­tion and me­chan­i­cal tunes to the ear-bleed of so-called sports pipes), the whole car came to­gether in a gen­uinely mag­i­cal man­ner.

De­pend­ing on how you look at it, I haven’t re­ally done any­thing hugely dra­matic to the car. Smaller wheels, a new brake mas­ter cylin­der, a bit of tape over the clutch pedal sen­sor, some slightly lower springs and some firmer dampers. Hard core mods these are not. Nor is the car night-and-day dif­fer­ent to drive. It’s no faster, it sounds stock and the chas­sis mods are pretty mild.

And yet the im­prove­ment in driv­ing en­joy­ment on of­fer is off the scale as far as I am con­cerned. On the fac­tory 18-inch wheels, the feed­back is just so dull and the chas­sis so very in­ert. On 17s, it comes alive with feel and trans­parency and ad­justa­bil­ity. The firmer brake pedal like­wise puts you so much more in touch with the re­tar­da­tion avail­able de­spite do­ing pre­cisely zilch to im­prove ac­tual brak­ing per­for­mance. Like­wise, the slightly firmer springs and dampers tighten things up that crit­i­cal bit and once again that puts you more in touch with what the car is do­ing. Lit­tle of this is about how fast. It’s all about how.

Most in­trigu­ing of all is how a slight re­main­ing flaw in the chas­sis setup in the form of a lit­tle su­per­flu­ous bob­ble and mi­nor lack of gen­eral com­pli­ance ac­tu­ally im­proves the ex­pe­ri­ence. It gives the car a dis­tinct mid-en­gine char­ac­ter at all speeds where the stan­dard chas­sis re­sults in an­o­dyne neu­tral­ity. I’m not alone, I think, in tak­ing the view that the most in­ter­est­ing driver’s cars are a lit­tle bit bro­ken. Well, the Croc re­mains just a lit­tle bit bro­ken. And I ab­so­lutely love it. PW

The Croc’s sus­pen­sion has been a cause of much mis­ery, but the mix ‘n’ match of Bil­steins and H&R dampers has sorted the is­sue

Ride height low, but not silly low. Note Laird’s anti-fash­ion 17in wheels

Above left: Amaz­ingly only one ex­haust man­i­fold stud re­quired drilling out, a legacy of a fairly re­cent en­gine re­place­ment. Above: Ex­haust man­i­fold ex­pertly welded

Be­low left: New ex­haust studs and gas­ket in place. Be­low: Ex­haust sur­vives to live an­other day

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