Porsche 356A Road Trip Mass to Co - June, 2010

(Photos and video links are interspersed with more photos at the end)

 

As the story goes, Bill Boeing Jr.(one of the Boeing sons...) bought a 1958 Porsche 356A T2 Normal for his wife to drive around Seattle. A Couple years later, they sold it to Heidi's Great Uncle Bill and the car has been in her family ever since. It has passed through three family members (one being Heidi's mom Joan) and last resided with her Uncle Kim in Massachusetts. After a bit of convincing, we are now the next happy owners of this lively vintage automobile. This is a page for a trip, which began Saturday June 19th with a set of one-way tickets to Boston. We stayed with Heidi's uncle until bright and early on Tuesday the 22nd when we headed out to Bruce Baker's 356 restoration shop in Collegeville, Pa. Now, the car is in pretty good shape considering her 52 years of age, but a good once-over from bumper to bumper saved us a fair bit of time and money on the long trip back to Arvada, Co.

 

The trip didn't go exactly as planned because the car, now named Miss Eva, needed a bit more work than anticipated. This added a bit of stress to the trip, but safety was more important. It all ended well and we all made it back safe and sound just one day later than originally planned. Below is a break down by day followed by photos and video links. I've never driven across country before, so I didn't know what to expect. Had this been a modern car with cruse control and AC, the trip would have been just utilitarian and a bit boring I suspect. As it turned out Eva was a delight to drive! Also, we were joined by our good friend Joe who was instrumental in our safety and also a great traveling companion under less than ideal conditions. Thanks Joe!!

 

Saturday, June 19th - Fly out:

 

Not much to report except that Heidi got stuck next to a lady for the whole flight who could talk the leg right off a table! We arrived in Boston around 5:00PM and were picked up at the closest subway station by Heidi's Aunt Kathy and were at the house by 7:00. Kathy and Kim had set up a yummy cookout with a nice visit from Ben and Jen and their new baby Ian.

 

Sunday and Monday - Final work on the car before the trip:

 

I went through the usual checks: valves, timing, oil, brakes, etc. I had been out to work on the car for a week a couple months earlier and performed a complete tune-up, front brake work, complete oil change and several odds and ends. Even so, the car wouldn't idle and the brakes were still quite soft. Once on the highway, she would drive well enough, but was still marginal. We decided that she could make it to Bruce's shop in Penn, but, as it turned out, that was even a bit difficult and uncertain. One persistent problem I really wanted to solve was a small gas leak from the fuel selector which is located in the cabin. I didn't want to be smelling gas the whole way home. I replaced the fuel line thinking that would do it. Bill, one of the 356 Registry members had invited us to a German car show Sunday afternoon not to far away and it seemed like a great little trip for the car but she was not in good enough shape to make the trip. At the time #3 cylinder wasn't firing and that was greatly affecting the idle. When we called to let him know, he got in touch with another member, George who runs a small shop out of his home and he was very helpful in diagnosing the problem. There was some debris in the idle jet and the overall mixture was off. It was so nice of both of them to help and I was really sad we didn't make the show. Sunday was also Father's Day and Heidi prepared Cornish Hens for dinner. On Monday we went out shopping to buy tools and other supplies for the trip. Heidi was driving and I was trying to interpret the trip navigator which was only right about half the time as we hit Sears, Costco, and an auto parts store. By the afternoon we had the car running as best as we could and were set for our departure early Tues morning. In the evening we got together with my Cousin Bruce and he fixed us a wonderful soup and we chatted into the evening. Thanks Bruce for a lovely evening, yummy dinner and great company. Sorry Tom was out of town but that just means we'll do it again sometime!

 

Videos:

First Look in the barn

An Initial Safety Inspection

First start before the trip

First Drive Out of the Barn

No3 Cylinder not working

 

Tuesday - Drive to Bruce's shop in Collegeville and spend the night in New Hope, PA:

 

We managed to get an early start after a few photos and we hit the road. Shortly into the trip I noticed my new gas line didn't fix the smell, but with a rag under it wasn't that bad. Something else for Bruce to look at. The first few hours of the ride were uneventful really, but I was as watchful and attentive as a hawk. I remember this from owning Beetles in the past, but the sounds from this car were different and I didn't have any really current baseline to compare it to. We didn't encounter much traffic and it was a nice cool morning. Because of all our luggage, car parts, tools, manuals, and food stuffed in the back, we rode with the top up. Fortunately, Miss Eva was running well at highway speeds. It was inevitable we would run into traffic at some point and about three hours in we came across a bit of construction that had the freeway down to one lane and traffic backed up a couple miles. So, I mentioned the soft brakes... they required a couple pumps and pulled to the left and, since the car wouldn't idle reliably, it took a bit of foot finesse to get the car stopped without it stalling. Looking at the long line of cars and hearing the engine loading up, Heidi signaled to the other cars and we made a break for the exit. We pulled into a gas station a re-fueled wondering how we were going to get around the traffic when a nice gentleman on a motorcycle asked if he could take some photos of the car. I had almost forgotten just how beautiful and special this car really is as I was very wrapped up in the trip and all the details. That really helped to re-set my thinking as to why we were going through all this. The 356A is a very special and historical car with great lines and was built to make driving fun. It is the first in a long line of iconic sports cars from one of the biggest names. It was an honor to drive this car, even if I couldn't see it at the time. Well, after the photos, the nice guy with the bike mentioned that if we took a back road just a little ways, we could bypass all the construction, which Eva would have no part of. We started back on our way only to encounter a long hill of cars with a stop sign at the top. My poor foot was a bit tuckered out by the time we made it past that intersection with all the clutching, gas and brake pumping, but soon we had bypassed all the traffic and were back on the freeway traveling at respectable speeds.

 

Since our trip was to take us through northern NJ, I really wanted to take a quick stop and see the house where I grew up in Mountain Lakes. I knew it was on Morris Ave and I *think* it was 317. After a little mix-up with the navigator, we finally found it. What a strange experience to stand out front of a house you haven't seen for years and years and you were in first grade the last time you saw it. It was much smaller than I remembered and the driveway was much shorter. I wasn't completely sure I was in the right place! That was great fun and after several photos we got back on the road pulling into our first stop in New Hope, Penn about 3:00pm. I called Bruce at the shop but he said to just stay there and not make the hour drive to the shop as it was already getting late. We would get started first thing Wed morning. That was great by me as The Lexington House had beautiful grounds and a nice outdoor swimming pool complete with fountain! I was in heaven! Green grass, lush trees and warm water. We were a bit beat from the trip anyway, so we spent a couple hours resting in the pool. We later took Miss Eva into town and had a nice dinner at one of the many small restaurants in New Hope. Something odd though: the restaurant didn't have any parking - none at all... We had to park next door at a playhouse that didn't have a show that night. This brought up an interesting issue we hadn't had to deal with up to this point: security. You can lock the doors, but it would be exceedingly easy to break into the car. My thought was to remove a small part from the car that would render it completely unable to start but would be easily reinstalled. So, I pulled off the distributor cap and removed the rotor. It is a small, but specific part and the car will not run without it. I thought this would allow me to eat my dinner in peace, but I think I checked on the car a couple times and Heidi the same. I suppose we were being a bit paranoid, but we just didn't know what to expect with such an old car and we didn't want something awful to happen on the first day of our trip! All was fine and we had a nice stroll through the town after dinner. Miss Eva gave us a nice ride back to the B&B and we headed to bed a bit early because tomorrow would be an early start.



 

Videos:

Leaving Lexington - Start of the drive

Mountain Lakes House

Morris Ave in Mountain Lakes

Entering Pennsylvania

Lexington B&B in New Hope Penn

 

Wednesday - All day at Bruce's shop:

 

I got up bright and early and got on the road by 5:45am. Miss Eva was running beautifully and I could just tell that she was sooo looking forward to a trip to the "Spa". She would have her wheels checked, her bearings massaged and have all of her systems pampered. It was a beautiful morning and a lovely drive the hour to Collegeville and to Bruce's shop. I only missed one turn at the end but still arrived on time at 7:00. I met Bruce and his mechanical specialist John and they got started right away. The initial diagnosis wasn't bad so we started on some smaller things like a good set of wiper blades. As the day progressed though, it became more evident that some of the major systems needed extensive work - most notably, the brakes. I spent the entire day trying to keep notes and learn as much as possible watching Bruce and John work . Alas, poor Heidi was stuck back at the B&B to wile away the hours sitting next to the pool reading and relaxing. I don't know how I'll make it up to her but I do appreciate her sacrifice. About mid-morning I was joined by our good friend Joe who had driven down from Long Island after a visit with his sister and was driving back to Denver also. He had completely rescheduled his return trip so he could shadow us and ensure we didn't get stuck hundreds of miles from home. Late in the afternoon it became pretty obvious that Eva would have to spend the night in the shop and we would have to retrieve her tomorrow. We had planned to get an early start on the next leg of our journey, but a bit more time in the shop wasn't that bad for Eva and she needed the attention. Joe, who had a completely full car, had to unload all his things into a trailer behind Bruce's shop so he could ferry me back to the B&B in New Hope. When we left poor Eva, she had two wheels up in stirrups and her tail between her legs not knowing what to expect. Turns out she would be like that for a while longer...

 

Joe drove me back and we all gathered Heidi after her long arduous day at the pool and went into New Hope for a nice dinner. I was exhausted and just about fell asleep at dinner. It had been a long day.

 

Thursday - Back to the shop and the loss of the next B&B:

 

Since the car was already in the shop we could have a nice breakfast (which I had missed the day before) before we checked out and headed to Collegeville to see how Bruce, John, and Eva were getting along. We got to the shop just before noon to find Eva in the same place we left her but with a growing pile of spent parts behind her. As it turned out Bruce and John stayed late and started early to replace the entire brake system minus the master cylinder and all four shocks and steering damper. All the old parts were completely shot and not even correct! The break slave cylinders were of mismatched sizes and the shocks were frozen and completely wrong. Bruce had a 20year old set of NOS brake cylinders he had been hoarding. It was incredibly lucky for us that he decided to use them instead of the current reproduction units. Thanks again Bruce! There were other things still needing attention. The transaxle booties were cracked and leaking and the fuel cock was still leaking. In addition there were several additional odds and ends that needed addressing. As the day grew longer, it became obvious that Eva would have to spend another night in the shop. At this point she had all four wheels off and she was up in the air on stands. Heidi had to scramble and find us a place to stay close by as the B&B was a bit expensive and would not cut a big enough deal to warrant driving the hour back. Also, we lost or B&B reservation in London, OH (our next stop) as they were unable to push us one day due to a wedding they had scheduled. She found a nice hotel close by the shop and Joe had to, once again, unload all his things so he would have room for us to drive to the hotel. We had a nice relaxing dinner that night and a nice breakfast the next morning, but we were all very anxious as to just how Eva was coming along and if she would be ready.



 

Videos:

Day 2 at Bruce's Shop

Meet Joe!

 

Friday - Our last day at the shop and a long drive to Ohio:

 

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel headed back to Bruce's shop at about 10:00am. We had really hoped to see miss Eva all chipper, back on all four tires and ready to skidaddle, but we were a bit disappointed to see her still up in the air when we arrived. Bruce and team had stayed late again and started very early, but all the work was so extensive she would still be the better part of the day. One nice happenstance was that a guy I met on the 356 Registry form was there in the morning to drop off his car and we got to meet. We would have missed each other had we not been delayed. Just before noon, Miss Eva was back on the ground and ready for her first test drive. Bruce started her up and she was idling very slowly, but steady for a change. There was still some tuning to be done, but he took each of us out for a ride. The difference was astounding. She purred like a kitten, her ride was smooth and responsive and the brakes were amazing! Just night and day. She was a real pleasure to drive. Bruce took us all out for a nice lunch and on return after another ride John noticed a bit of gas overflowing in the left carburetor. Just one more thing... The float was rubbing against the chamber wall and the valve would not seat. A fast fix for John, which would have taken me almost all day to diagnose and repair. He went into the parts bin and returned with several floats. After that and just a few more odds and ends, it was time to leave. Since we had lost our Ohio B&B, Heidi once again had to get us reservations at a nice hotel they claimed was out of the way and quiet.

 

We headed out of the shop at about 4:00pm after saying or goodbyes and thanking Bruce and John for all their hard work and sacrifice. We were only scheduled for one day in the shop and, because of our overstay, Bruce's week was shot. There were four other cars in the shop and about seven or eight outside waiting their turn. When you find folks that are willing to put themselves out for you to that extent, it is a rare find.

 

The drive to the Penn Turnpike was largely downhill and Miss Eva was still backfiring a bit and loading up. So much so that we pulled over just before the freeway entrance to call Bruce and get his opinion. He was ready to grab John and some tools and parts and head down to see what he could do. As we were talking, she settled down and was idling perfectly. I think she just didn't want to leave the spa but she realized we had to head for home now a day and a half late at this point. We decided to give it a try and we headed onto the freeway. She ran perfectly! No complaints at all. I have come to expect this from her: she loves drama and likes to wait until the last minute and then pop on stage and dazzle everyone. It is just a bit annoying when we are late and have a long drive ahead. We drove through the evening and into the night. As it got darker and darker I started to miss something from modern cars - bright headlights. You see, this car has a 6V electrical system and they are notorious for dim headlights. The gage lights were even worse. To be honest I thought her lights were just fine, but for safety sake, I will probably upgrade them and the tail lights as well as the instrument lights.

 

We arrived at the hotel in Ohio at about midnight to find a raging bar next door and people just loitering outside the lobby door. Not the perfect environment for the car. Heidi was pretty upset because we were told it would be quiet and then to find out that they had a string of recent break-ins. After unloading the car, both Joe and I slept in our cars just to be sure nothing would happen. I curled up in the back of Miss Eva and fell right asleep until Heidi came and got me around 4:30am. I slept a bit more inside, but I was still pretty tired.

 

Videos:

First look at Eva on Friday Morning

First Start!

Franny and Bruce Return from a test ride

Back on the road!

Friday Evening Driving - Great 356 sound!

 

Saturday - Leave Ohio for the last B&B in Lawson Missouri at the end of a long day and dusty dirt road:

 

When I got up I wanted to attack that darn fuel leak problem one last time. Bruce had re-mounted the fuel selector, but it was still weeping a bit and the smell was the most annoying part of the trip. I finally determined that it was from the junction of the rear tubing connection and after channeling my inner MacGyver, I fashioned a gasket out of a bit of fuel tubing. That held long enough to get us home and really helped with the gas smell. I ate my breakfast in the parking lot and Heidi brought out the luggage. We got packed and were off on leg three of the trip. It was SUPER hot and humid; over 100deg and about 85% for most of the afternoon drive. We stopped at a Waffle King to beat the heat during a quick dinner stop. There was a fireworks stand next door with an offer of "buy one, get seven free!" I haven't seen that before... But I didn't think a bunch of explosives stowed next to a 10gal fuel tank sounded like a good idea so we passed. Speaking of fuel, the tank on the 356 up through the "B" model has the gas filler in the front trunk so you have to open the hood to fill up. The gas cap at the top of the tank is about 4" in diameter and that leaves a huge hole to pump the gas into. The plus is that you can actually see the level in the tank so you know exactly how much you have in there. There is also a "Res" or reserve on the fuel selector just incase the gage is a little off and you run too low. That will get you an addition 20mi or so. As for fuel economy, we were averaging about 32 miles to the gallon. Not bad for a 50yr old starlet that hadn't seen much work for the last 15 years.

 

We got to the turn off for the B&B at about 10:30pm but still had about 50 minutes to go. That seemed like the longest part of the trip. I was so tired. Not the falling asleep tired, but the head banging, crazed, sweaty, eyes burning tired. We finally got to the end of the road and then the road turned to a soft, lunar-like power road. I can't think of a worse environment for an air cooled car with wire mesh air cleaners. Joe hit a large branch that flew up and put a dent in his fender and Eva got a rock to the right front headlight cover cracking and breaking it. We finally pulled up in the driveway and I didn't say much. I could barely stand and Joe wasn't very chatty either. All I wanted was a shower and sleep, which I had in short order. We made it to bed by midnight or so. There was a large electrical storm at 4:00am which woke me up, but I got to hear something I hadn't heard since college: a Bob White quail. I used to raise them in high school and collage as pets and it was very nice to hear them again. A fell right back to sleep and woke up a little groggy for our last leg of the trip.

Videos:

Saturday Morning In Dayton OH Driving

Heidi Driving - Franny Commentary In IN

 

Sunday - Leave Missouri for the last leg and home:

 

Breakfast was a little late at 9:00am, but we needed something to get us going. After packing for the last time we negotiated the back roads for an hour or so and we were back on the freeway once again. The scenery was steadily changing. In Mass and NJ, Penn it was forested and very green. In Ohio/Indiana it was also green, but less forested, more flat and more hot and humid. By now the trees were thinning into the occasional grove and there was a lot of flat farm land. As we drove through Kansas and then into Colorado, it got dryer and higher and the vegetation reduced down to scrub brush and prairie grass. Our entire trip was devoid of driving rain until the driest state: Colorado. As we approached Denver from I70, we could see strong storm clouds to the south over Castle Rock and Co Springs. About 70mi outside of Denver, we hit a small fringe of the storm and it rained for the first time for about 10min. Not bad, but these older cars will rust if you just look at them funny. At least we got to try out the new wiper blades! They worked like a charm.

 

As we approached Denver it was funny to be on roads I had traveled for the last 20years yet they felt like I'd never driven them before. It wasn't until we pulled into our home's subdivision that it started to feel familiar. Very strange. I guess we had just seen so many new sights that familiar was something very unfamiliar.

 

Videos:

Sunday Morning Leaving MO

Sunday Afternoon in KS

Entering Colorado

20 Minutes from home

 

Final thoughts:

 

I would love to do this trip again someday and we may. We have talked about shipping the car out to Bruce's shop a few weeks early and then flying out to Penn to pick up the car and hit all the cool things we missed along the way. It was a shame that we had such limited time... There are so many great sights to see and now that we are more familiar with the car we can relax a bit. Next time we will plan shorter legs with a fun stop on each leg. Eva is really fun to drive and is amazingly comfortable but being cooped up in a small, loud, hot space all day is a bit draining. More swimming and less stress. More sleep and attractions and less sleeping in the car. That sort of thing. Well, we learn by doing... Some suggestions for anyone planning a similar trip:

 

 

Eva is now safe and sound in the garage. I have done a little fine tuning for the altitude and am working through a list of small odds and ends to make her even more of a pleasure to drive. We went for a two hour ride in the mountains the other evening with the top down and it was really special. I'm not a big fan of driving actually and would rather tinker with a car than drive, but Eva is special and driving is as much fun for me. She is the complete package. We hope have lots of time together with her and tour Colorado finally.

We kept a travel blog you can view here: Trip from Boston Travel Blog

 

Here are more photos in roughly chronological order. Enjoy!