THE SOUND AND THE FURY
A new pair of serpentine three-branchmanifolds now adorn the exhaust ports of Johnny Tipler’s 986 Boxster S, treating the world to an acoustic cacophony of the raucous kind
Motoring to Le Mans Classic last month, I wanted to make as much noise as possible. Not content with merely having the Boxster looking good in its new Etna Blue colour scheme, I wanted it to sound the part as well. New manifolds and a catbypass were the obvious way forward.
A Cargraphic silencer fitted at the firm’s Cullompton factory last autumn highlighted the sadly corroded condition of the rest of the 986 S’s exhaust system. Now 15 years old, I shouldn’t have been overly surprised. But the pristine ovoid cylinder showed up the rest of the system for the crumbling antique concoction it had become. While it was still serviceable, I vowed to get it replaced with new manifolds – and, while we were about it, cat-bypass pipes, too. A call to Ian Heward at The Porscheshop sourced a pair of three- branch manifolds, as well as the cat-bypass tubes. It seemed cheapskate not to match the exhaust headers with a 986 S induction kit, so Ian included the makings for that in his Eurocupgt package, too, plus all the appropriate gaskets, studs and bolts.
We’re blessed with one or two good Porsche specialists in Norfolk, but one I hadn’t tried previously was Holt-based high-end specialist Trofeo, whose techies Mike Roberts and Graham Heels are steeped in the finer points of Porsche engineering. The Boxster was duly booked in, displacing a Cayman up on one of the two hoists.
The first task was removing the old manifolds. I wasn’t surprised that Mike had to resort to the dark arts to undo the retaining nuts. ‘They just break,’ he reported. ‘And the ones that wrung off didn’t break dead flat, so we have to take them back with the (Black and Decker) Wizard wheel, then we have to
centre-punch them, and we do that freehand rather than use a clamp, because you end up having all kinds of issues with those.’ Seven out of 12 broke. ‘We did try first with stud extractors, but you still can’t get them out, because the heat generated in that area just locks the threads, so we ended up drilling yours all out. We’re not allowed to use a torch these days; most workshops have to be flameless, so we use an inductive coil heater, and they heat up the metal rather than using a flame; we put them on the studs for about 45 minutes and then, basically, we drill them out. Starting with a small drill-bit, you drill through, then you go again with a bigger one. There’s a little ridge on the bit that allows that ridge to go flush into the aluminium, and then you put this driver through and it snaps it into place so they can’t fall out. So, basically, we re-tapped the threads.’
Originally the manifolds are shiny, and then after running the engine, when they’ve had a little bit of temperature through them, it tempers the colour with a hint of bronze, which looks really nice, and it’s a shame you can’t see them except when the car’s on a hoist and the undertray’s removed. The new manifolds are quite simply works of art in their own right, reminiscent of the entwined snakes devouring mythical Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons in the Vatican’s monumental classical tableau of the same name.
The standard factory headers come off the ports and head towards the rear of the car in more or less a straight line. The new ones perform sensual curves and curl back on themselves before heading rearwards and connecting up with the new cat-bypass pipes. These bypass pipes lack the installation point for the oxygen sensors: ‘the sensors were seized solid but we managed to get them out,’ Mike tells us. The new pipework finally joins up with the Cargraphic silencer, installed last Autumn.
Because the headers spread out into a larger configuration than the standard pipework it was necessary to trim the corners off the undertray in order to reinstall it. As Mike explains, ‘Your manifolds are banana bunches so they come out from the heads and then curl around, whereas the standard ones just run parallel. If we hadn’t done that the manifolds would be vibrating against the undertray, but more significantly, they would also melt it.’ Will they pass scrutiny come the next MOT, or will the cat-bypass pipes mean a fail? Mike is quietly optimistic all will be well.
Downside, if there be one, is that the oxygen sensors allied to the cats are now absent, so that the warning light is a constant presence on the dash and the “go straight to jail” – well, to the garage, anyway – message pops up when the engine fires up from cold starts and the oxygen sensors are at their most active. One caution is dispensed with by a click of the computer arm, the other hidden with a black sticker. Ever the optimist, I trust that these unheeded warnings won’t ever refer me to a problem of a different nature. Mike Roberts is reassuring: ‘That won’t affect the performance,’ he says; ‘in fact it’s going to make it better: the performance will be increased.’ Amore practical route is to see somebody like Wayne Schofield at Chip Wizards who would doubtless be able to programme it off. Could be a run to Manchester is on the cards. ‘You might be able to get a software package from the States to turn it off,’ says Mike, ‘but you’re going to have the warning light come on all the time because the cat’s been taken off, but also if Wayne does it he’ll probably be able to give you some more power as well.’ Oooh!
In any case, the new manifolds and induction kit have certainly made a significant difference to the driving experience, both in terms of noise and performance. ‘They’re tuned lengths so you’re definitely going to have a few more horsepower,’ predicts Mike. He’s right, no question. Driving home, there’s an instant surge, and it’s as if the handbrake has been on all this time and now it’s not on anymore, a remarkable transformation. The sound is at first kind of like a bunch of pebbles rattling in a can, but it quickly settles down to a six-pot throb – till the need arises for more throttle, and then we’re treated to a fullblooded gnarly flat-six roar. Music (of a kind) to the ears.
I notice people turn to look more now – sort of like being a successful contestant on The Voice – though that could still be down to Spray ’n’ Peel’s gorgeous Etna Blue colour change. Arriving back at Le Mans’ Maison Blanche campsite late Saturday evening would have been embarrassing, had it not been for the hardcore racket of the Plateau 6 RSRS and 935s tearing up the night air. Anyway, the Boxster’s previously booming exhaust note has disappeared, which I’m rather glad of as it was a tinnitus trigger especially during acceleration. So, say goodbye to Mr Boomer, and hi to Mr Raaaasspurrrr!
Phew, what a scorcher – as the famous but probably apocryphal headline has it. It doesn’t seem very long at all since my enthusiasm for working on any of the cars was decisively dampened by first the winter rain and then the so-called Beast from the East (a few centimetres of snow in mid-march, basically), but we have now ‘enjoyed’ many weeks of blazing sunshine that in practical terms have much the same deterrent effect. I know you guys in, say, the southern USA or the Gulf states will be all too familiar with that scenario, but for we Brits it’s rare to have two consecutive days above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, never mind two months. But I have managed to get quite a lot more done on the 924S, before it all became a bit too hazardous to health, and luckily my driveway is in any case shaded by the house until about midday. Siesta time after that...
My first achievement, after my previous wide-ranging report, was to fit the new rear-window perimeter seal that I have had in stock for ages, and then, prompted by the fresh rubber’s natural ‘bounce’, to adjust and ultimately to replace the two locking pins that project down into the latch mechanisms in the body. (Just remembered: I had removed both of the latches in order to clean, lubricate and adjust them one sunny and unusually warm afternoon in February, before the arrival of the aforementioned Beast, also taking the opportunity to fit new rubber seals that sit in the recesses directly above the mechanisms. More on both of these items in a moment.)
The primary stimulus to my replacing the tailgate seal was successfully doing much the same with the boot-lid seal on our daily-driver VW Passat a few weeks earlier, and that also highlighted some interesting but at the same time rather frustrating comparisons between the two cars. The VW seal, priced today at just £31.98 plus VAT, is a continuous loop, obviously made to exactly the right length. The Porsche item (£58.13 plus VAT in 2015) comes as a simple strip cut off a long roll that has to be almost but not quite fully fitted, and then trimmed precisely to length as required. That does simplify the task in certain respects – avoiding the need to detach the two tailgate support struts, for example, and perhaps rather more importantly the wiring to the rear-window wiper – but I do have to question why, even so, it cannot be manufactured such that no adjustment is necessary.
In both vehicles the physical barrier against water ingress past the seal is in surprisingly large part the sticky, off-white ‘goo’ inside the metal-cored ‘U’-section channel that slides over the flange on the body shell. (And the gradual hardening of this stuff is as much the reason for either seal eventually failing as the rubber itself degrading. It also means that you cannot realistically use again a seal that has been fitted and later removed.) In the Passat, said substance has from the start remained discreetly out of sight. In the 924S, though, it immediately started oozing out all over the place, and while it was easy enough to clean off the worst of it, there remain traces on the naturally slightly porous surface of the rubber. And however carefully and neatly you cut it – not the easiest of tasks thanks to that metal core – that joint makes the ideal exit point for the sealant. Even now it’s still seeping out, especially as the inside of the cabin reaches melting point every day, and inevitably – and annoyingly – it catches my eye each time I look in the rear-view mirror.
Probably the most important aspect of fitting any such seal, however, is to make sure that every last centimetre of the channel – internally ribbed to grip the flange on the body
shell – is pushed fully home. That sounds blindingly obvious, and on what you might call the convex curves around the upper part of the Passat’s boot-lid aperture it was dead easy to achieve. (I left the two concave curves right at the top until last.) But the Porsche effectively has concave curves alone, and in that scenario it is all too easy to cut the corners, as it were, leaving the channel insufficiently tightly gripping the full depth of the edge. (And which is in some places not very deep at all.) You also need to make sure, of course, that the edges of the headlining, and the fabric on the rear pillars, remain correctly trapped by the channel.
As for where you position the ends of the seal – and having pondered this when I did the job on the 944 last year – I am still undecided about that. It would be a much less pertinent question if the seal came as a onepiece item, presumably as per the original factory-fitted part. But logic and observation suggest at the bottom, directly above the tailgate lock, and that places the subtly reinforced sections of the rubber (they feel as though they have an additional extrusion inside the external one) at the lower outer corners of the glass, close to the latch mechanisms. That’s what I did here, and also when I tackled the 944 last year, and I am guessing is what Porsche intended. Personally, though, I think the sections that most need reinforcement are at the top corners of the tailgate aperture. In the 944 both of those areas of the new seal quickly became squashed almost flat again, and although – so far – the 924S seems better in this respect, there has still been a visible compression of the rubber.
Next, I turned my attention to the two latches again – or first to the pins on the tailgate, to be precise, since I was at that stage reasonably confident that the mechanisms within the body itself were adequately lubricated and adjusted, after my afternoon stint back in February. The tailgate seemed to shut quite decisively, but even a short test-drive showed that the device on the right-hand side was tending to spring open – or perhaps failing to secure the pin would be a better description – and there were also lots of annoying rattles and squeaks.
The obvious answer was to adjust the pins downward, such that they would lock more securely into the jaws of the latches, but both the former were quite badly worn, and the one on the right was completely seized into its mounting block, rendering any movement impossible. Removing the entire block from the underside of the tailgate showed why (see photo below left). There was no way that was ever going to shift, and so the only solution would be to saw through the old pin, to discard both it and the threaded insert inside the block, and then to fit a new pin to a good insert that I had saved from another car. (They are still available brand-new from Porsche.) Also replaced were the four small countersunk screws securing the two blocks to the tailgate. The finely splined sockets in the originals were by this stage in danger of rounding out, and notably the new ones from Porsche have much improved Torx sockets. (T30, for the record.)
Disappointingly, however, all of this playing about had for various reasons required me – against my better judgement – to ease out of their recesses in the body the two complex (and expensive; in 2015 £30.27 each plus VAT) rubber seals that are designed to minimise the amount of rainwater that passes down through the latches. (And despite the presence of which it is vital always to refit the plastic trays beneath the latches, together with the associated drain tubes that direct the water down and then out of the lower wheelarches.) The rubbers are very difficult to install and especially to remove without tearing, even with much carefully applied lubricant, and unsurprisingly, despite my best efforts, both began to split as I eased them out. Which was doubly annoying, because I had only fitted them on that Sunday afternoon back in February…
I do have in stock a further pair of brandnew seals, which once I am satisfied that I have nailed this tailgate-latch issue once and for all I might well use for the sake of neatness and completeness, and ‘closure’ (no pun intended), but at the time of writing my plan is to try repairing the two torn ones with Superlgue, and see what happens. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. (Stop press: so far, so good, although I won’t be refitting the newly glued rubbers, hopefully for the last time for a very long time, until I am 100 per cent satisfied that the new latches that I have since concluded I shall have to buy are working perfectly.)
New latches, too? Indeed. A few more longish drives – and several disappointingly short ones – showed that, despite their now obviously correct profile, one or other of the brand-new pins was for some reason pulling through the jaws (this despite their apparent freedom of movement and full closure) and, thanks to the strength of the hydraulic struts,
thereby allowing the tailgate partially to open while the car was in motion. And on at least two occasions it opened completely. In the short term I solved that by disconnecting the struts, and putting up with the resulting rattles and squeaks, but once I had removed the latches (again…) and examined them from beneath, I could see exactly what the problem is. The undersides of the jaws have worn into a tapered profile to match the tops of the old pins, and no amount of adjustment is ever going to prevent the new pins simply forcing their way through. That’s my theory, anyway, but I’ll have to let you know if it works once I’ve stumped up the £80.82 plus VAT (each!) the new ones will cost to buy.
I have had a bit of a result in more generally weather-sealing the rear end of the car, however. You might recall that in 2017 I removed and refitted the 944’s rear lights, discovering in the process that the vehicle must have suffered a minor impact at some time, such that at least one of the units no longer fitted the profile of the body shell quite as well as it should do. It was with some trepidation, then, that I began the same task on the ‘S’, which was clearly suffering from much the same water (and exhaust-fume) ingress. No sign of any damage, I’m pleased to report, but plainly the left-hand unit has been out at least once before, and whoever did the job had sealed it back into place not with the correct Porsche product – a special mastic ‘cord’ – but with something that had hardened to the consistency of charcoal mixed with toffee. I managed to scrape and pick it off both the body and the back of the light unit, crucially without damaging the paint, and thus later allowing rust to take a hold, but regrettably took no photographs. I was just a bit too fixated on getting the job done.
Either way, I shall take this opportunity – and also prompted by a ‘discussion’ with at least one Us-based 944 owner on Facebook – to remind you that there is a very specific Porsche product for this task, AND THAT ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER WILL DO. It comes as seven individual rolls wrapped in special paper inside a brown cardboard box (total length 17.5 metres), and the part number is 000 043 172 00. At £46.88 plus VAT it’s quite a lot more expensive than the common-or-garden silicon-based bathroom sealant that is sadly but surely every modern bodger’s weapon of choice, but the fact is that it is immeasurably superior in all respects.
One other triumph was to remove the remaining body-side rubbing strips that had been annoying me since the day I bought the car, way back in early 2012. (Several were rather wavy, where they had taken a hit, most likely from someone else’s door, and at least one I had already torn off in disgust, after badly cutting my hand when washing the car. I’ll leave you to imagine the colourful language that followed that episode.) Trouble was, while it was easy enough to pull off the plastic mouldings, they all left behind a thick and unyielding strip of weapons-grade adhesive.
I debated long and hard about the best way to deal with that, and in the end used some of the excellent HG sticker remover (www.hg.eu), rubbed well into the glue to soften it, and a plastic scraper held at precisely the right angle. It took several hours, spread over a couple of days, but ultimately left no more than a few very minor stains – and, significantly, no scratches in the obviously still original (and actually remarkably good) paint, other than where a previous owner had rather less carefully removed the strip behind the driver’s door, probably as a result of the dent which was there when I bought the car. For a while I thought about having the strips replaced with a simple flat coachline, painted or taped on, but having now seen the body unadorned, as it were, I have decided it looks far better like that.
And that’s about it for another month. The rear bumper has become a work in progress – the new rubbing strip I fitted to a replacement moulding a few months ago is frankly a bit of a mess; more on this next time – and so too my rear-wiper delete project. It was easy to take the motor off, and I have temporarily plugged the hole in the glass with an appropriately large flat-headed Torx screw and washer salvaged from another VW Passat (below, middle), although since I doubt that it’s going to rain any time soon I don’t know why I bothered. (Actually, a good downpour would be quite useful to prove my rear-light seals, never mind watering the garden.) Either way, I shall in due course probably install either the proper Porsche job or else a good-quality after-market part.
Oh, and I thought I had made a bit of a breakthrough with the non-functioning odometer, finding and then fitting the spare that I knew I had stashed away, but ultimately that’s an on-going saga, too. I managed to break one of the two tabs securing the lower edge of the instrument-panel surround to the rest of the fascia – in fact, I’m not sure that it’s even possible to remove the moulding without doing that – and despite dutifully recording distance for all of about 10 miles the replacement stopped working, too. I shall have both devices looked at by Julian at Reap Automotive in London – for many years the go-to man for Porsche instruments – and at that point see if I can find a replacement surround, too. Onward and upward… PW
The Tipler mobile in all its new, blue glory at Le Mans Classic
Looks OK, doesn’t it? Left side of the car is definitely its best (above), and peeling off all the body-side strips (see text) has made a big difference to its smoothness of line. Photos below show the trials and tribulations of fitting a new tailgate seal, which unlike on a VW Passat has to be trimmed to length. Cross-sectional view of extrusion (middle) shows white sealing goo inside channel – and the shot next to that how it oozes out, even weeks after fitting. Verdict: could do better, Porsche
Where to place the joint between the two free ends of the seal? Logic suggests at the bottom, and that locates what feels like reinforced sections of the outer rubber here, at the lower outer corners of the glass (above). I did the same on the 944 last year, though (middle), and the upper corners of the new seal collapsed. Thus far the 924S seems better in this respect, but I shall monitor the situation. Photo far right shows new rubber seal for one of the tailgate locking mechanisms, torn when removed, but now repaired with Superglue. Locking pins (below) proved to be badly worn, but one of the old ones had to be cut to remove from its threaded insert – and a new one of those sourced, of course. Screws securing pin and block to tailgate were rounding out (middle), so new Torx-headed items fitted, to be on the safe side. Fun and games with latches in body, too, secured by stud plates (far right). See also next page
Underside view of latch shows how it is secured to stud plate with two M6 nuts – here replaced with Nylocs to avoid having to tighten them so much that they excessively squeeze the internal components. In the event, the latches’ inability to grasp the pins was traced to wear on the underside of their jaws (arrowed), this proved by sliding latch over new pin (middle) and then simply twisting. It released far too easily. Below: just a reminder that rear lights should be sealed into the body with this Porsche product alone for optimum effect – and NEVER bathroom sealant. Special screw from a scrap Passat makes a great rearwiper delete plug: powder-coat it, and trim the rubber, and it’ll be as good as the costly Porsche part. Don’t know why I didn’t spot these ancient trumpet-style horns before, mounted under lefthand end of valance. Either way, they are now history, with audible warning from the two red plastic items – as before