AMER­I­CAN Want to see Amer­ica via the wind­screen of a Porsche? Of course you do, and so did Aussie trav­ellers, Ste­wart and Ross Perry. To live the dream, they bought a Car­rera 3.2, sight un­seen, and set off for the trip of a life­time. Not even an en­gine re

911 Porsche World - - American Road Trip -

The short story: two Aussies – that's me, Ste­wart Perry and my mate, Ross Perry – buy a Porsche Car­rera 3.2 un­seen in Amer­ica, for a very long driv­ing ad­ven­ture. Here's how it panned out!

Ross and I were greeted by a line snaking through the door of Long Beach DMV (Dept of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles). Our taxi driver com­mented “it’s al­ways like this, re­cently took me five hours” – the last thing we needed af­ter en­dur­ing an overnight econ­omy flight from Mel­bourne to Los An­ge­les. Amere four hours later, I emerged tri­umphant with a per­mit al­low­ing us to drive to King­man, Ari­zona. Less strin­gent regis­tra­tion re­quire­ments, the of­fer of a per­mit for non-res­i­dents with no lo­cal ad­dress, and the chance to avoid hefty Cal­i­for­nian sales tax made reg­is­ter­ing the car there the ob­vi­ous choice.

Next stop was the CARS USA ware­house, where the 911 had been hi­ber­nat­ing since pur­chase. It looked ex­actly like I ex­pected: a neat orig­i­nal Iris Blue 1985 911 3.2 Car­rera, with a few lit­tle chips and marks, and just over 103,000 miles on the clock. I bought the car sight-un­seen via the well-known Porsche fo­rum Pel­i­can Parts. A pre-pur­chase in­spec­tion by a third party was re­as­sur­ing, but nonethe­less it was a re­lief to see it in the flesh.

I knew in ad­vance the bat­tery was dead, so we had one wait­ing at the auto parts store around the cor­ner. Once in­stalled, the Porsche fired straight away, send­ing a dis­turb­ing cloud of oil smoke waft­ing through the ware­house. But es­pe­cially af­ter sit­ting for months, old 911s have a rep­u­ta­tion for blow­ing smoke on start-up and it seemed to van­ish within a few miles.

Driv­ing on the ‘wrong’ side of the road af­ter nearly 30-hours awake was al­ways go­ing to be a chal­lenge, dou­bly so at rush hour while get­ting used to the in­sane merges and eight-lane in­ter­changes LA free­ways are fa­mous for. I bat­tled a lit­tle with shift­ing the baulky 915 gearbox with my un­ac­cus­tomed right hand, but armed with ba­sic di­rec­tions and a dodgy map Ross di­rected us un­scathed to our Airbnb ac­com­mo­da­tion in Venice Beach, a quirky lit­tle pool house a short stroll from the ocean.

Re-en­er­gised, next day we be­gan our sight­see­ing by head­ing in­land to the worl­drenowned Nether­cutt Col­lec­tion – an assem­bly of more than 250 mainly pre-war lux­ury cars, in­clud­ing an abun­dance of for­mer Peb­ble Beach win­ners, all re­stored in-house and in pris­tine or­der. The pub­lic are free to roam the mu­seum, but the best of the col­lec­tion is housed across the road, only viewed as part of a tour which re­quires pre­book­ing. The cen­tre­piece is the Grand Salon, a chan­de­lier-lit sea of mar­ble built to re­sem­ble the ul­tra-lux­ury car show­rooms of the ’20s and ’30s and show­cas­ing thirty of the best and rarest cars of the era.

As the tour winds its way up four lev­els, the fo­cus isn’t only cars; amongst other col­lectibles is a vast ar­ray of me­chan­i­cal mu­sic play­ers, all still func­tional. Many are en­thu­si­as­ti­cally demon­strated for the au­di­ence, par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive be­ing a Ger­man-made Orchestrion from around 1900, a com­pletely mech­a­nised au­to­matic or­ches­tra housed in an or­nate cab­i­net.

Back on the Venice fore­shore we strolled amidst a vi­brant mix of lo­cals and tourists. Giv­ing the tacky sou­venir shops a wide berth, we found a cosy bar and sam­pled our first craft beers and burg­ers of the trip – set to be­come a re­cur­ring theme.

Day two in LA saw us take iconic Mul­hol­land Drive for a round­about jour­ney to the Pomona swap meet to check out the vast ar­ray of cars and parts for sale, mostly Amer­i­can models from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Next stop was the Getty Cen­ter art mu­seum, perched atop a hill and boast­ing ar­chi­tec­ture just as im­pos­ing as the ac­com­pa­ny­ing su­perb view of the coast­line below. Its var­ied and fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of art­works across the cen­turies could not quite dis­pel our un­ease at the in­ter­mit­tent puffs of oil smoke em­a­nat­ing from the 911’s ex­haust as we idled in the queue to the car park. Dis­ap­point­ingly,

the cruise home on Sun­set Boule­vard ce­mented our con­cern. It be­came ob­vi­ous the 911 was not happy, down on power, and run­ning rough.

As a re­sult, we found our­selves first thing the fol­low­ing morn­ing in the car park of the lo­cal O’reilly Auto Parts, en­gine lid up and newly pur­chased spark plug span­ner in hand. Im­me­di­ately, we could see cylin­ders 3 and 6 were burn­ing the bulk of the oil, and our power loss and un­even run­ning had likely been caused by cylin­der 6’s spark plug be­ing bridged out with car­bon build-up. With new plugs in­stalled and a litre of ex­tra oil in the dry sump tank, we crossed our fingers and set off, bound for Las Vegas.

The fur­ther we got into Ne­vada, the hot­ter it be­came – un­sur­pris­ing of course, but all too no­tice­able in what proved to be the ab­sence of a work­ing air-con­di­tioner. How­ever, the car was run­ning nicely on the high­way, de­spite con­tin­u­ing to use oil, and we spent most of the 300-mile drive to King­man cruis­ing at 80mph while be­ing over­taken by many lo­cals with less re­gard for the speed limit than us. Our con­cerns about an­other hor­rific wait at the road trans­port au­thor­ity were un­founded. The Ari­zona De­part­ment of Trans­port team had us out in only 15 min­utes, with our 90-day non-res­i­dent regis­tra­tion al­low­ing us to drive legally for the rest of the trip, and all for $15!

In fad­ing sun­light, we fi­nally cruised down the fa­mous Las Vegas Strip to the Monte Carlo Ho­tel, our home away from home for the next cou­ple of nights.

Next morn­ing, prior to head­ing out for a spec­tac­u­lar scenic flight over the Grand Canyon and Hoover dam, I dropped the 911 off to Las Vegas Porsche spe­cial­ists ‘Carl’s Place’ to have the oil swapped over to a Brad Penn 20W50 – ap­par­ently suc­cess­ful in stem­ming oil con­sump­tion ac­cord­ing to the ex­pe­ri­ences of other 911 own­ers whose cars had been sit­ting for some time. Nat­u­rally, dur­ing the day and a half it was at the shop the car didn’t blow any smoke at all, but as soon as I fired it up to leave we were again in a blue haze.

Hav­ing picked up yet more oil and a num­ber-plate frame to mount our per­mit more un­ob­tru­sively, we hit the road again, set­ting a course for Mam­moth Lakes via the Death Val­ley Na­tional Park. De­scend­ing into the Val­ley, the tem­per­a­ture rose, and rose, and rose again. Stop­ping for a sand­wich at the aptly named Fur­nace Creek Gen­eral Store, the road­side ther­mome­ter showed 116 de­grees F (46.5 deg C) and the ad­ja­cent sign in­formed us we were 190 feet below sea level.

It was a jour­ney that of­fered stark con­trasts, pass­ing from the sea of arid sand bro­ken up by lit­tle green shrubs of the Ne­vada Desert to the to­tal des­o­la­tion of Death Val­ley, emerg­ing into green val­leys sur­rounded by tall hills near Lone Pine and fi­nally some se­ri­ous moun­tains. In all, we climbed al­most 8000 feet that af­ter­noon.

Con­tin­u­ing the fol­low­ing day via Yosemite Na­tional Park (more stun­ning scenery that re­ally de­served a longer look) and Oak­dale (lunch and a fur­ther crit­i­cal oil top up) we drove through a glo­ri­ous af­ter­noon to ar­rive at Peb­ble Beach. Here we set up camp at La­guna Seca race­way, to ex­pe­ri­ence Mon­terey’s ‘Ul­ti­mate Car Week’.

The Week of­fers some­thing for ev­ery­one, and for all bud­gets. The high­light for us was ‘The Quail – Amo­tor­sports Gath­er­ing’, an in­ti­mate 200-car show cen­tred on ’50s and ’60s sports and racing cars (in­clud­ing a class for pre-’65 Porsches, though these fea­tures vary each year). With very limited tick­ets sold, in­clu­sive of amaz­ing food and drinks, it was far from crowded. On the same day, two miles down the road, we also dropped in on the ‘Werks Re­union’, a free event with 1500 Porsches on show.

La­guna Seca Mo­tor­sports re­union pro­vided yet an­other great day out. A fea­ture race cel­e­brat­ing 50 years of the Shelby GT350 saw al­most 40 ’65 and ’66 Shel­bys hit the track, in­clud­ing one all the way from back home in Aus­tralia! This was fol­lowed by a race of Le Mans and GT cars from the ’80s and ’90s, backed up by a sports car race with

Porsche 935s against big block, wide body C3 Corvettes… You get the idea.

Car Week fes­tiv­i­ties cul­mi­nate on Sun­day with the Peb­ble Beach Con­cours d’el­e­gance. Ross and I left our Porsche in the back-blocks and jumped on the shut­tle bus. As we de­scended the steps, the vista of the bay spread be­fore us, with a light fog hid­ing a cou­ple of mega-yachts; a few steps fur­ther on, the cars ap­peared, a sea of beau­ti­ful pre­war ma­chines, en­cir­cled by a line of coach­built Fer­raris and a smat­ter­ing of other ex­ot­ica. But all good things must come to an end, and it was time for us to re­vert to more gen­eral sight­see­ing around San Fran­cisco Bay.

With oil con­sump­tion un­abated, or rather wors­en­ing, we were fear­ful for the health of the 911’s en­gine, so first stop was to de­liver it to Don Wise’s Au­tow­erks in San Jose for a com­pres­sion and leak down test to di­ag­nose the root cause.

Jump­ing into a hired Toy­ota Yaris, we headed off to catch a pre-booked ferry for Al­ca­traz Is­land. A short walk up the hill from the dock is the in­fa­mous cell block. Au­dio guides with com­men­tary recorded by for­mer guards and pris­on­ers steer vis­i­tors around the site and re­count in­trigu­ing true sto­ries of dar­ing es­cape at­tempts. It was also fas­ci­nat­ing to learn about the Na­tive Amer­i­can oc­cu­pa­tion of the is­land for 19 months from 1969–1971, part of an ul­ti­mately suc­cess­ful land rights protest.

Back on the main­land we as­cended the Coit Tower for 360 de­gree views of the area, be­fore walk­ing across town for a closer look at the fa­mous Lom­bard Street, which boasts eight hair­pin bends in only one block. Then on to Fish­er­man’s Wharf for a freshly caught din­ner be­fore cross­ing the mas­sive span of the Golden Gate, north to San Rafael, our base for the du­ra­tion of this leg of our hol­i­day.

The next day be­gan with a quick stop at the renowned Cable Car Mu­seum, which also houses the main­te­nance work­shop and cable pow­er­house. The mu­seum ex­plains the im­por­tance of this iconic mode of trans­port to the de­vel­op­ment of San Fran­cisco, as well as the dra­matic story be­hind its sur­vival in the face of a num­ber of gov­ern­ment shut down at­tempts.

Con­tin­u­ing the his­tor­i­cal theme, we checked out the Com­puter His­tory Mu­seum in Moun­tain View – ad­mit­tedly cho­sen mainly for its con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion for re­claim­ing the Porsche, but un­ex­pect­edly fas­ci­nat­ing and wor­thy of a longer visit. This amaz­ing col­lec­tion con­tains ev­ery­thing from a Bab­bage Dif­fer­ence En­gine to a work­ing IBM 1401 – an early main­frame launched in 1959 – which vol­un­teers have spent 20,000 hours restor­ing to run­ning con­di­tion.

About 3:30pm the call came in. “Not good news I’m afraid,” Don told me. The valve guides in my en­gine were com­pletely worn out, with sig­nif­i­cant leak down on cylin­der no 3; the only course of ac­tion would be a top end re­build. Not­ing that he couldn’t do it for at least a month, Don sug­gested names of good Porsche tech­ni­cians in Portland – our next des­ti­na­tion.

Noth­ing for it in the mean­time but to con­tinue with our itin­er­ary as best we could. Next morn­ing we drove out to the Napa Val­ley, nurs­ing the sickly Porsche. We were taken aback at how many winer­ies wanted hefty fees for tast­ings, but a quick Google

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.