You never want to be that guy at Frenzy, the one whose car is the center of attention. It seems like an annual occurrence, though: someone makes it, but the effort to get there proves too much for their Shark, and the result is a gathering of, frankly, some of the most brilliant and experienced 928 mechanics in the world, working by flashlight in the parking lot of a hotel to get someone back on the road.
Heck, some years that’s the best part.
As I said: you never want to be that guy.
At least I didn’t need my fire extinguisher.
Thursday afternoon, Sterling, Virginia...
Nearly two days earlier, on Thursday, my daughter Trinity and I landed in Sterling at the head of a convoy of Sharks. Two 928s coming from Canada and three coming from Allentown had linked in southern Pennsylvania for the last stretch. Unfortunately, Alex-from-PA’s Shark was limping in on partial power. An hour spent diagnosing alongside the road hadn’t helped, but we did make it to the hotel. Arriving at the Holiday Inn, we joined the handful of other early arrivals, and we shook hands with old friends and made introductions with new ones.
After my car coasted to a stop on the Fun Run, I emptied the cargo area, pulled out my multimeter and tested the battery: less than 8 volts.
“Alternator,” Pete said immediately. He was correct, but that didn’t solve the problem of getting the car back to the hotel. Chris volunteered to drive me to the nearest auto parts store to pick up a battery to power the car back to the hotel, and Trinity jumped into Bertrand’s car to continue the Fun Run.
“How was Bertrand’s car?” I asked her the next day on the drive home.
“It’s very nice,” she said. “So smooth. It’s also very blue, it has a blue interior. You can tell Bertrand is from Canada, because he had the air conditioner down to about ten degrees and still thought it was hot.”
“No, Carrera, you can’t sit with us”, “Not for you, Cayman.”
I drove back to the hotel on battery with Chris trailing. Greg called to let me know that they’d make sure Trinity had as good a time as possible at the Octoberfest, and got a ride back. When we made it back to the hotel, two volts were gone from the new battery, and Gary’s alternator turned out to be a late-model, which would not fit my ‘82 OB.
Friday morning was ‘do what you want’, and Friday afternoon was ‘wash and shine’ at Odds ‘n Ends, where several previous Frenzies had been held. O’n’E made us welcome and gave us full use of their facilities and free use of a lot of their products. It probably worked out okay for them, because I know I bought a bag full of stuff, and I think other folks did as well.
Back at the hotel, the parking lot was filling nicely and we were already discussing what to do with Alex’s car. There were a lot of new faces, including James and his ‘Monster’, a well-patinated blue OB; and Randy and his wife Nancy and their grandson Bentley in a maroon ‘S’. Randy was from my neck of the woods and was giving Frenzy a try based mostly on my enthusiasm.
Back at the hotel Saturday afternoon, Fraggle suggested checking an auto parts store nearby for the alternator I needed, and volunteered to help me swap it at his place. Kary, who had skipped the fun run because his car wasn’t charging, had finally fixed the problem by cleaning a corroded bulb socket in the dash pod. He’d recently done this exact alternator swap, and began calling around to find one. After calling several stores to check, we could only find the 85 amp version, not the 105 amp. We concluded that the right part just wasn’t available that night. That’s when Kary said he only lived fifteen miles away, and offered to swap his alternator into my car the next morning. I gratefully accepted.
As cars started coming back from the Octoberfest, I spent a few anxious minutes pinging GroupMe and Trinity to make sure she linked up with someone for a ride back. She ended up stuffed into the back of Alex-from-Rochester’s car. She told me later that just as they’d started to leave Lovettesville, they spotted someone with no passenger and asked if she wanted to ride back in that car. She told me, “I really did, but I was already in his car, so I said ‘no’ because I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.”
Saturday morning was cool and beautiful, and the hotel parking lot was gloriously full of Sharks. And Friday night’s empties. And a small stack of pizza boxes. Which Pete assured me had been ordered, not hijacked.
Trinity and I got to the park near the front of the pack, and we hung out and watched the cars roll in singly and in groups. Trinity quoted ‘Mean Girls’ every time something other than a 928 would pull into the lot: “No, Carrera, you can’t sit with us”, “Not for you, Cayman.”
When the lot filled, there were a few 911s, a 951, and a Cayman; but the Sharks carried the day. The array of 928s was simply incredible. More than 60 cars from 1978 all the way up to 1993, and representing almost every conceivable variation, including a cabriolet. There was a nice choice of rare colors - Coral Red and Kiln Red, Stan’s Elfenbein Perlglanz, a dark blue Paint-To-Sample - and a handful of repaints that were never sanctioned by Porsche.
“One of the most dramatic moments was when Stan pulled the distributor out in the dark."
Rob Budd and Gary Knox ran the sale tables, with Rob selling a nice assortment of custom Shark Wear, and Gary driving hard bargains to clear his table of spares (“How about $15 for this, Gary?” “How about $10?”). I threw a few odds-and-ends on the ‘FREE’ table, and they quickly disappeared.
Immediately after lunch were the door prize drawings. I was happy to offer the first prize of the day: a Seiko 928 watch from our run of a couple years ago. The winner was Logan, who came up with his Dad, Steven. Logan strapped it on immediately, another convert.
While I went back to the car to mount up my GoPro, Trinity won a ‘928 Car of the Year’ key ring. Now she wants a Shark. But I told her if she’s going to own a Porsche, she’s going to have to learn to wrench it herself. So, I don’t know if a 928 is a good place to start. Maybe a nice little Boxster?
And then it was off for the Fun Run (or 20% of the Fun Run, in my case).
I spent the remainder of Saturday evening trying to have a good time in the parking lot, but I was anxious about the car and I ended up going back to the room early. I lost track of the number of times people pointed out that they’d seen an alternator on the sale table. (“Yeah, that was for a late model, I have an ‘82.”), and no less than a dozen people checked to make sure I had a plan to get the car running. My last resort would be to leave it behind and rent a car to get home, but I didn’t want to do that.
Even though I was fixated on my car, the real drama was happening with Alex-from-PA’s car. The troubleshooting had boiled down to the distributor (which Pete had been blaming for a while), and Stan discovered the reluctor wheel could spin freely on the shaft. He pulled the distributor out and found the roll pin had fallen out of the shaft and stuck to the magnet. He fixed it by pounding the pin back in with a rock in the lobby of the hotel.
And then something truly clever and amazing happened. As Jon recounted in a Rennlist post:
“One of the most dramatic moments was when Stan pulled the distributor out in the dark. Stan responds to those in disbelief ‘I can put it back’. After cleaning plastic bits out of the inside of the distributor Stan had the owner put the car in gear and folks slowly rolled the car forward, others with flashlights in hand, while Roger observed for TDC on the right cam gear and Stan on the crank. Then took the car out of gear and pushed the car back into its parking space.”
At this point, Stan and Sean remounted the distributor and the car fired up immediately!
Sunday was another beautiful fall day. After breakfast and bidding everyone goodbye, I followed Kary back to his house, still anxious about the repair working. I’d been reading up on the alternator and I wasn’t absolutely certain that I’d put the resistor for the exciter circuit back in the instrument pod when I rebuilt it. Kary assured me that I must have, since I’d gone over 1,000 miles after reinstalling the pod and cluster before the alternator stopped charging.
We arrived at Kary’s house with no problems and he introduced me to his neighbor, Jason, who volunteered his garage, lift, tools, and expertise. While Kary pulled his alternator, my car went up on the lift and we pulled my alternator. We swapped my serpentine-type pulley for Kary’s V-type, mounted it, and fired up the car. There was a horrible screeching as the fan blades rubbed against the case, so I went up on the lift in the car and bumped the motor with the starter while Jason nudged the fan blades away from the case with a screwdriver. After a few bumps, he gave me the go ahead and I fired it up.
And the voltmeter immediately went to 14 volts! Success!
I thanked Jason profusely, then moved back to Kary’s driveway where we topped off my transmission, which had been getting low. After that bit of crawling around on the ground, it was nearly one in the afternoon and the car was as ready as it was going to get. I thanked Kary just as profusely, promised to mail him an alternator to replace the one he’d given me, and Trinity and I rolled north.
While we had my car up in the air and then headed north, a group of Frenzy cars, including Alex-from-PA’s newly-repaired Shark, had a great time running a few laps at VIR. I had been looking forward to the VIR run, but it just wasn’t in the cards this year.
But, four hours after leaving Kary’s we arrived home without a single hiccup!
Is it over already?
I realized after I got home and got a chance to catch my breath that I hardly spent any time looking at the cars, and that’s because I was spending far too much time talking to the people. But, that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? It really isn’t about the cars. Sure, the cars are fun and beautiful. But except for a few exceptional examples, one Shark is pretty much the same as the next.
It’s the people that are amazing. Their dedication to keeping an aging supercar on the road, their appreciation for every running Shark (no matter how rough!), their willingness to help, even at the cost of their own fun, their decency and steadfast support of other 928 owners. I doubt there is a more closely-knit family of Porsche owners anywhere.
I got a lot of compliments about the progress on my car since last Frenzy, and on the stripe. That was an attempt to set my car a little apart from the other red Sharks, and only went on the week before. Either everyone liked it or those that didn’t were kind enough not to say anything. Not that it matters! I’ve decided that I like it, and it’s staying.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, you never want to be that guy. But, if you are, there’s no better place for it to happen, and no better group of people to have around you when it does.
The Rennlist 928 community is a credit to the forum, the 928, and Porsche as a marque. And what happened at Frenzy 20 - not just the repairs, but the whole shebang - is exactly why I would not own a 928 if the 928 Forum didn’t exist.
I love my 928, but I really love these people!
See you next year!