Parts is parts, and for those of us who are super-addicted to FEWC Porsches, having a parts car (or three) under a tarp somewhere in the back yard is always a good idea. The local you-pull-it junkyards generally don’t stock 944s, so getting used parts usually involves a trip to Ebay. Once place to find good used-up Porsches is Craigslist; but without access to a trailer, you’re pretty much out of luck.
I have a truck and a trailer. Lucky me.
An acquaintance told me that his 1987 Porsche 924S suffered an engine fire, and the insurance company totaled the car. Then he described it to me…two owners, 44,000 documented miles, white with linen interior, new tires, just had the AC repaired with new parts, everything works. Except the engine, which caught on fire. He was able to put it out pretty quickly, but everything plastic and rubber in back of the engine compartment was melted. The wiring harness was literally toast, and the heavy wiring from the battery shorted the starter and the alternator. There was a little paint damage on the front of the hood – and that is all the damage. Parts car or rescue puppy?
It turned into a rescue puppy.
When I picked up the car, I was astounded that it was in such great shape. This is definitely not a parts car. So I dove into the engine compartment with two goals – first to determine what started the fire, and two, make a list of what I needed to rescue this puppy. It was obvious that the engine compartment wiring harness would need to be replaced, along with the other wiring in the engine compartment. The hoses were melted, the idle air control valve was in the middle of the fire, and the reference sensor plugs were all fused together. The air-oil separator was melted, and the plastic top of the Air Flow Meter was damaged by heat. There was a lot to replace, but I remember that I have both a trailer AND parts cars.
The engine compartment was also covered in black soot. Cleaning would be important and necessary. The Universal Cleaner for Everything, brake parts cleaner, would come in handy. Better get a case.
With very little examination, it became obvious what happened under the hood that caused the fire. High-pressure fuel line failure was the culprit, but not without a little bone-headed human help. There are two lines that come from the fuel tank to the engine compartment, and in the 924S, they go under the car to the firewall, then up under the brake booster and across the intake manifold to the fuel rail. One is high pressure at 60-80 psi, the other is the return to the tank. These hoses are now around thirty years old, subjected to heat and abuse, and tend to get pinholes and cracks where they leak. The factory repair is expensive and difficult. The high pressure line is a hard line that starts at the fuel filter and ends at the fuel rail, and is around a thousand dollars from Porsche. To install it, you have to drop the rear suspension. The dealer will fix you up for about two grand. So, it goes unnoticed and unfixed.
In the case of this car, the previous owner had a leak at the high-pressure fitting on the fuel rail – a common leak. So his mechanic cut the fitting, screwed on a barbed fitting from Ace Hardware, and used a hose clamp. It worked for a while, but eventually started leaking again, spraying raw fuel on the engine. Yes, it caught fire.
So stripping the burnt parts away showed exactly what I needed. I used some parts from the “prize stash” of used parts, and purchased what I needed from the normal suppliers. The real help was from RennBay in Ocala, Florida. Travis fixed me up with a “fuel line repair kit” that replaced the rubber fuel lines by cutting the hard lines and only replacing the flexible lines – for about $100. Sweet, and something that you should think about on your car. Before it catches fire.
But then came the titling. I bought the car from the insurance company, and the Florida title says, “Salvage Rebuildable.” I could transfer title, but not register it as it was not yet “rebuilt.” Upon finishing the car, I have to get it inspected by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) to get a “Salvage Rebuilt” title. Here is a little note about this process – take photos of the damage before, during and after repair, and if you take a major body part off another car, such as a rear clip, they want to see the title and photos of the car that you cut up. Before starting the rebuild, visit your DHSMV office and get the scoop.
A salvage does deduct from the value of the car, so be careful with rescuing a car. You will NOT get full retail when you sell it. So be careful.
This project was a joy to work on and very satisfying. It only took a few weeks and a few bucks, and I ended up with a great, low-miles 924S.
Kevin Duffy is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Daytona State College in Florida and a dedicated car guy. He divides his time between teaching criminal justice topics in the online environment and working on/driving cars, particularly Porsches. Kevin is one of the principals in InspiringLifeOver50.com.