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Preparing A 40-Year-Old Porsche For A 20-Day Road Trip

New transmission fluid, an oil change, a box of spares, and a few aesthetic enhancements.

Earlier this week I mentioned that I’d be taking my 1976 Porsche 912E on a nice long road trip across the country, and being that I’m leaving on Tuesday morning it’s time to get a little pre-trip maintenance done. It’s all simple stuff, but things I’d rather not be worrying about when I’m in the middle of nowhere tootling along the highway at a cool and steady 65 miles per hour.

Bradley Brownell

The first step was to get the car jacked up and swap the old oil for new 20W50 and a fresh Bosch oil filter. Don’t worry, there are jack stands under there, the car is not held up by the jack alone. 

Eagle eyes will notice the dryer vent material on either side of the exhaust. Since I got the car, I have had very poor heat. While under the car I gave the heat exchangers a look, and noticed that both had nasty holes rotting through the outer sheath. 912E heat exchangers are practically unobtanium these days, so I clamped some heater hose over the holes to try to keep the heat headed in the right direction at least.

Bradley Brownell

Second on the list is a Type-923 transmission case load of fresh petroleum-based strangely-blue sludge called Swepco. I’ve had this car for about 9 months, and I’ve amassed nearly 8,000 miles in that time. I have no way of knowing when the transmission fluid was last replaced, and fourth gear has always been a little whiney under load, so I figured fresh fluid wouldn’t hurt anyway. The old gear lube smelled about as bad as you expect it would. One less thing to worry about. 

Bradley Brownell

The transmission drain plug is magnetic from the factory, and while there is a little ferrous material stuck to it, it isn’t enough to get worried about. 

Bradley Brownell

Next on the list was to get a few aesthetic things fixed up before taking off. The first is the nasty old plastic engine lid grille. 

Bradley Brownell

The plastic design, above was weather faded and had a few cracked fins from years of abuse. A new black metal grille, the original style for all 911s from 1973 and 1974, bolts right on and looks a thousand times better to my eyes. This particular piece was sourced from Pelican Parts and built by Tasker Metal Products in California. 

Bradley Brownell

The lighting here isn’t ideal, and the car is absolutely filthy, but I’m happy with the finished product. That’s a good looking grille. 

Bradley Brownell

Next up was to tackle the tail light lenses. Both lenses on the rear of the car were cracked, so I picked up a set of Euro-style lenses with amber corners. 

Bradley Brownell

The final project to take care of before leaving was to de-clutter the bumper. 

Bradley Brownell

Here’s a shot of the rear bumper from my last road trip. The giant US-spec bumperettes don’t really belong. This car’s Ansa sport exhaust comes down below the rear valance, which moots the muffler cutout in the original rear valance, and the rear ‘PORSCHE” reflector is seriously hazy and filled with micro cracks. I wanted to take care of all of these things in one fell swoop. The rear reflector had to come off to repair the dented sheet metal behind it anyhow, and to get the reflector off the bumper has to be removed, too. 

Bradley Brownell

This muffler design is a little loud, but it’s all mostly intact. The tips bottom out frequently on dips in the street and eventually, the whole thing will have to be replaced by something more appropriate. I believe this exhaust was designed with a Volkswagen Bus in mind, so it’s not ideal in any way. 

Bradley Brownell

In the process of removing the rear reflector, I found a mouse house. This detritus could have been sitting in my bumper for longer than I’ve been alive. I’ll never know. 

Bradley Brownell

An easy scuff down with a little bit of sandpaper was all the reflector needed before taking a coat of paint. If you’re going to do a project like this, be sure to use paints compatible with plastic. A new reflector is over 800 dollars, so being on the cheap side, I decided to try this before biting the bullet on a new one. I rather like how it turned out, at least more than I’d expected to.

Bradley Brownell

Once the bumper was removed fromt the car, the extent of the corrosion damage became evident. The rear bumperettes are a foam rubber substance that apparently likes to hold on to moisture, because all of the hardware holding them to the bumper, and the lower valance, were corroded in place. I made quick work of the rusty bolts with a zip wheel, but the valance was obviously too far gone to salvage. It’s in the garbage can now. 

Bradley Brownell

The bumperette holes are far from ideal, but personally, I’d rather deal with the eyesore of corrosion (people call that “patina” these days” than the eyesore of the giant bumperettes. The new tail light lenses, reflector paint, and metal engine grille, though, more than make up for it. 

So, lets get this road trip started. I’m feeling pretty confident that it’ll not only make it all 6000 miles issue-free, but it’ll catch a lot of eyes along the way.