To Fuel or Not to Fuel

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Periodically in the life of a vintage iron enthusiast, you will face trials and tribulations. Vexing and perplexing situations that defy logic and leave you in an exhausted state on the edge of putting the thing on Craigslist for a few hundred bucks. This is one of those sagas. For another, see To Spark or Not to Spark from the main blog. 

This machine was not running. It cranked, but would not fire. The previous owner (PO) had tried various things and had been generally mucking about with the Throttle Position Sensor (TPS). The evidence is that he gave me 2 others in the box of assorted parts. Hhhmmmm. The first suspect is the HES. There are many stories on the forums about the strange results that can be produced by the deterioration of the HES wiring. Just like in the crime drama wher the bank heist takes place, and a just-released-from-prison serial bank robber is living nearby, it is natural to suspect the HES. It is a serial interrupter of spark. I decided to bring the HES in for questioning, but first I always check the basics. You never know, you may get lucky.

The sidestand cutoff switch was ok, the Motronic fuse was good, the engine cutoff switch was good. I swapped the horn relay and the fuel pump relay. Suddenly the fuel pump energized with the key. AHA ! Could it really be that simple ? It now cranked and cranked, but would not start. It did produce a deceptively encouraging sputter once in a while, but that was it. I checked the injectors, and both produced pulsing sprays when it cranked. So we have fuel. I checked the plugs. Both produced a spark.  At this point, I ran out of time and ordered an HES from Euromotoelectric. Great folks and they sent it out overnight for very reasonable money.

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Early the next morning, I checked the valves while the bike was cold. I found two intake and one exhaust loose, but not enough that it would not run. I changes the oil while I was at it as well just because I always do on a new-to-me machine. I did notice that there was crumbling protective sheathing over a few of the wiring bundles. I would have suspected fire/heat damage if all the sheathing was similar, but it was not. I thought it was strange that other bundles right beside them were fine. This of course was the reason cited for the HES failures, not the sensor, but the harness attached to it failing due to heat, water, etc. I replaced a few sections with some of my universal flex sheathing. This should have been a BMW recall.  

I dismantled everything, and removed the old HES.  I did have to improvise a flywheel TDC lock by bending a piece of roundbar I had laying around, but other than that no worries. The old unit had sketchy looking wiring at the senor end, and even some very small slivers of copper wiring exposed. It was dry and brittle as well. The sheathing was crumbling just like the rest that I had seen. This made sense, as it was the end getting all of the engine heat.  Under the glare of interrogation lights, I asked the HES some probing questions. Where were you when the engine was turning over and attempting to fire? Have you ever failed to fire at top dead center? How do you account for this crumbling sheathing and wiring that is attached to you? The HES refused to answer. Online forums had suggested cutting the rest of the sheathing where you would be sure to find more problems, but I saw no point as the replacement was arriving. I sentenced the old one to the parts bin, as it was not yet fully convicted.

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Fedex arrived and I eagerly put the shiny new HES in place. I also replaced the crank-pulley/alternator belt, even though the old one looked fine. With everything replaced, I reconnected the battery and paused before turning the key to offer a prayer to the appropriate deity for restarting an engine after repairs. There was an immediate stutter, then cranks but no firing. The next attempt was even more sputtering, and then about the sixth try, the engine actually fired and settled into a lumpy idle. I did the DAD (Deity Appreciation Dance) which looks a lot like an older guy mangling a dance that went out of style in the nineties, but I digress. And then it died. I did the NSF (Not So Fast), which looks a lot like the shuffling droopy walk of the crestfallen. Then it started immediately, and I was back to the DAD. However, it would not rev beyond about 2K, and would usually die just off idle.

OK, this was progress. I eyed the collection of TPS units suspiciously. I took the unit on the bike in for questioning. Can you attest to the fact that your potentiometers are functioning properly?  Are you actually a new OEM unit? The TPS refused to answer. I grabbed my lie detector (some call it a multimeter) and it seemed to suggest the TPS might be innocent, even if not new. Hhhmmmm. I had air, fuel, and fire. What could it be? When in doubt, go back to the basics. The airbox was open, so I had plenty of air. Both plugs now had a healthy spark. In fact, I managed to give myself a nice little jolt to clear my thinking. Both injectors pulsed fuel. Hhhhmmmmm. I decided that the only thing I could not guarantee was that enough fuel was making it to the cylinders under load. I pulled the tank and took out the pump and filter. Now for another digression. Why in the world did anyone decide that it was a good idea to put an electrical pump and a filter inside a fuel tank? They had been external forever with o particular issues that modern engineering could not solve! Logically, it does not sound sensible to cool an electrical pump by immersing it in combustible fuel. It also adds a ton of time to the simple act of changing a pump or a filter. And why require everything to get doused in gasoline to get the job done? This is a dealer's dream and a home mechanic's nightmare where he drops a spanner and blows up his home. End rant.

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I tested the pump and it was in good working order. The hoses looked good as well. I inspected everything, changed the filter, and put everything back together. Instant start, revs to 3K, DAD, but then has a huge flat spot, NSF. I replace the plugs more out of a change of focus than process of elimination. No change. I run out of time, and decide that the next day I will take it into the one place that I trust to work on my machines.  I hate this step because it is either know when to say when, or admitting defeat. I also hate it because I will pay going labor rates for more diagnostics. However, they have the diagnostic tool, and a really good technician that I have known for decades. 

The next day I drop off the bike and they say they hope to get to it the next week. I go home and cleanup the garage in order to shift attention to the R26 which coincidentally has a fuel issue. Leaky petcock. What the heck, I might as well continue to bathe in fuel. Suddenly the phone rings and it is the service manager. These are never good calls. He tells me the bike is done. Done, I ask? Yes, work is complete and you can pick it up. What? Yes, it was a fuel hose. They went on to explain that the diagnostic tool said fuel pressure, and once they put the pump and filter under pressure, the hose connecting them sprayed fuel everywhere due to a leak. The hoses looked good, but were far from it. ethanol and the machine sitting for some time were probably culprits. They replaced both hoses in the assembly, put things back together, and problem solved. 

There was a definite mixture of emotions. Elation at a problem solved, gratitude that they jumped on it so soon, and disappointment that I was so close to the complete solution but missed it. In hindsight of course, it all makes sense. The HES being a big part of the issue, but the hose combining with it to create a more complex mystery. I can't help but go back to my rant on placing this whole aparatus inside the fuel tank. A faulty hose between pump and filter would have been diagnosed in 5 seconds. However, I did re-learn somethings. First, don't assume that you are looking for a single problem that matches all of the symptoms. You may have more than one issue.  Second, don't assume a good looking component is good. Test it. Third, there is no substitute for the right tools. You can burn a lot of time and effort without them. 

Posted on July 4, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Garage Updates.

The Rise of the Type 3

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In the late 1950s, VW determined that they needed a somewhat larger sedan to compliment the Beetle and Karmann Ghia, and to compete with more upscale sedans that were emerging. A factory damaged by fire became the secret development home for the new model. VW left the exterior of the Wolfsburg factory alone and boarded up the windows to further the perception that it was no longer in use. Work began on development in 1959, and by 1960 test mules and prototypes were in use. During this time, VW steadfastly denied the existence of any new models, including a public denial at the 1960 Geneva Auto show.

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The basic premise for the new model was the venerable air-cooled flat four engine. It was mounted in the chassis in such a way as to allow for some storage room above it in a rear compartment.  It eventually came to be known as the pancake engine because of its' flat compact packaging. Since it was a body-on-frame design, VW saw the potential for a few different body styles. They finally announced the new line in 1961, and the initial VW 1500 as they were called, was the Notchback (see Notchback). This was a basic "3 box" design which was popular for sedans emerging from NSU and BMW among others. To my eye, the Notch is one of the best executed of the 3-box cars in terms of its proportions and layout. It has simple lines and little in the way of chrome trim. The interior was also simple, with a 3 guage binnacle, and typical spartan VW beyond that. It was well received, and a year later the Variant (aka Squareback) was launched as an even more spacious "Estate" version. In 1965 the final model in the 1500/1600 series was released. It was the Fastback version (see VW Fastback), and it featured a hatchback with more room than the sedan, but less than the vast Squareback. There was also a 1500 convertible based on the Notchback.

Ironically, the more "luxurious" Notchback was never officially imported to the US, and most of those here came via Canada. The Type 3 did come to the US in the form of the Quareback and the Fastback starting in 1965. This roughly coincided with the move to front disc brakes, 1600cc and twin carbs. The Type 3 went to 12V electrics in 1967. Full automatic versions became available in 1968, along with the introduction of fuel injection, which was a first for a mass-produced car in this segment of the market. 1970 saw facelifts for the Type 3 and production finally ended in 1973. By then, more than 2 million Type 3s had been sold making it another successful model for VW.

 

Posted on June 22, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, car.

MZ Gelandesport

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Although the basics of MZ as a motorcycle manufacturer in the former East Germany have been covered here before (see MuZings) , it is time now to focus on their exploits off-road. Their greatest success was at the International Six Day Trials (ISDT), a race that had been run since 1913 and which featured nations competing in teams for a trophy. The event is a 1200+ mile test of rider and equipment in which the rider must carry out all of his or her own repairs. Today it is called the Six Days Enduro and is more of a multi-day rally. In the early 1960s, MZ (like all of the eastern block manufacturers) wanted to show that it could produce world class machines, and assigned engineer Walter Kaaden the task of building a factory racing effort for the track and for Gelandesport (off-road racing).

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One of the premiere events for building such credibility for a motorcycle was the ISDT. The team used breakthrough 2-stroke technology to create lightweight high performance enduro machines which dominated the competition. The East German team riding MZ machines earned gold medals from 1963 to 1967, usually beating arch rivals West Germany. They lost in 1968 to the West Germans who were on Zundapp machines, but returned to victory in 1969. MZ won again decades later in 1987.

  

 

Posted on June 16, 2015 and filed under Classic Vehicles, Motor Sports, motorcycle.

Of Propellers and Cobblestones

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It all started out as the brainchild of a vintage enthusiast who also owned and operated a vineyard.He decided to invite a bunch of ragtag fellow enthusiasts to come down to his vineyard to gather and talk about our cars and drink beer and wine. I forget now how many of us actually showed up, but it was maybe a couple dozen. Almost entirely 2002's with perhaps a couple of 635s and a CS. Scott called it Vintage at the Vineyards, and he and his wife did a fine job of making it feel like the beginnings of something big. There were goodie bags and a few organized activities, and of course some driving. That was a long distance award, and a patina award which went to a vehicle with no two panels were the same color or from the same car. The event grew the next year and soon it outgrew the Vineyard and was moved to a larger one nearby. Then it outgrew that, and eventually moved to take over most of the Old Winston-Salem historic district. It is now one of the premier events in the country for vintage BMWs, and attracts some of the most spectacular cars from the propeller marque. The vineyards part of the name has gone away. This no longer a bunch of ragtag 2002 owners from the mid-Atlantic region, as there are cars from Texas to Canada in attendance.

if you have been a regular reader of this blog, you are well aware that this event has provided some pretty interesting adventures regarding getting to and from the event (see proper procrastination). This one was no exception, but I will save that story for another time. Somehow, a setting of cobblestones and houses dating back to the 18th century only enhance the presentation of these cars that are from the 20th century. Something to do with being beautiful and basic and timeless. Even those with some patina (although there are fewer and fewer of those at the event these days), fit in with the well-worn streets and, after all, an iron cauldron only gets better with age.

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Of course the event is also an opportunity to reunite with those who are of the original attendees, and meet new attendees. It was great to see Humberto and Mike. It was great to meet Glen and Dan and others. The cars and the stories are always priceless. I learned more about the Sahara color than anyone should be exposed to in a lifetime, and heard wild stories about how Max Hoffman influenced the cars that ended up in the USA. I also got to meet two of my favorite scribes from the Roundel. Rob Siegel (The Hack Mechanic) was there and we chatted for a while about common pilgrimages to Limerock Motorsports Park and common challenges working on multiple projects simultaneously. Mike Self was there (02 Cents) and we had a long conversation about the velour interior options for the tii and how to convert the 320i steering wheel to a 2002. There is encyclopedic knowledge in the brains of these two individuals. 

However, it is also an event about cars, and there were plenty of those. This year there seemed to be a number of ti models with their highly desirable twin carb setups, which made their way down from Canada. There was also a long line of beautiful CS cars. 2002s of every stripe adorned the streets, rendering otherwise outstanding cars ordinary. A few nice 320i cars were present as those previously unloved cars now become cool. The sharks are always out at this event, and the E30 brigade never disappoints. M cars, Alpina cars, Dinan cars, and M conversions pepper the streets with mild to wild variations. And most of the cars drove to the event, including the Canadians. The cars have now spilled over into lots on the side streets, and the swap meet area has choice items. I did not find the kidney grill I need, but I do now have one for a 320i (package deal). I did however find a much needed non rusted-through pedal box. 

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If you attended the initial events, it is hard to imagine the size and quality of this now multi-day event.  That would require a grand vision and a great deal of hard selfless work. Thank goodness that Scott Sturdy had large portions of both.

At The Vintage 2015 full album 

Posted on June 8, 2015 and filed under car, Events.

Rain

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It was hot and humid that day in the upper western midwest. So hot and so humid, that we shed our helmets and jackets just for the short stop to get gas. Paul and I finished first and rolled under the shade of a nearby tree. The gas station and mini-mart had thoughtfully placed a picnic table under the tree. I poured more gatorade into the big cup of ice and gulped it down. Paul looked due west in the direction we were headed. There was a line of thick black clouds sitting right above the mountain range. Even from this far away, you could see that they truncated the sunlight in a fairly abrupt manner. It looked like a scene from a tornado movie. Estimates were that it was a good hour and a half to two hours away. Our planned stop for the day was an hour due west. I suggested that we saddle up and get going. Mike and Greg joined us and said they were going to call it a day and let the storm pass overnight.

We had only met that morning, but had similar plans for today's destination so we rode together. The danger of that is a decision point just like this one. Not everybody agrees.  I looked at the group and tried to convince them to continue to the planned stop, and that the rain was only water.  Mike and Greg were unconvinced. Paul became unconvinced. I decided to press on. It might have been an excuse to get back to solo riding, or I may have been confident in outrunning the weather. Probably a little of both. For the next 30 minutes, the road went arrow-straight, and the conditions remained hot and humid. The air-cooled cylinders got what little cooling the passage of 100 degree air at 75mph could provide. I was glad they stuck out into the airflow. Those Bavarian engineers were right to have form follow function. 

And then I hit the front. The weather front, that is. The temperature dropped 15 degrees in what seemed like a hundred yards. It felt great. Regardless of the fact that it probably dropped from 105 to 90°, it still felt great. A few more clouds appeared, but it was still pretty hot and humid. The bad stuff still looked to be a long way away, and I pressed on. Five minutes later, there was another big drop in temperature, and this time the skies got much cloudier very suddenly. This was followed very quickly by the first big drop hitting the windshield. It was an unbelievably large single drop of rain such as I had never seen before. It was as if someone had thrown a small water balloon against the windshield. And then there was another, and another, and pretty soon they were hitting the road like some strange kind of aquatic mortar fire. I pulled off immediately and decided to rapidly put on the rain suit.

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Or not. It is amazing how difficult it is to put on a rain suit while in a hurry, having nothing to lean on, and while getting wet. They are designed to be put on in a controlled environment where you preferably have seating available and a few minutes. The road was mostly deserted, but I must have looked like a hopping contortionist being attacked by bees. When finished, I was yards away from the bike and trotted back drenched in sweat. It was now a steady downpour, and having no shelter, I decided to ride rather than steam myself to death. As I got underway, steam was rising from the entire road giving the surreal appearance that you were riding a ribbon of vapor rather than a road. I remember thinking that it would make a good scene for a sci-fi movie set on some strange planet. The rain came down in sheets and buckets. surely I had made a navigational error and I was now riding under niagara falls. The windshield was fogging, and my visor was fogging. I ended up sitting fully upright to see over the windshield, and left my visor open so I got a face and neck full of rain. But I could see. Partially. There was a headwind which seemed to drive the rain straight at me horizontally. The road is said to be more dangerous when it first starts raining, but in this case the rain was coming down so hard that it probably negated that effect.

The rain began to get cooler in temperature, but just as torrential. A truck came up behind me, and then crossed the centerline to pass. It released a tidal wave of water sideways, and I was almost pushed off the road. He also left a wake of spray making visibility zero for a few seconds. A few seconds of blindness on a motorcycle in these conditions is pretty unsettling (read terrifying). The sky got even darker, and the rain was heavy and relentless. My speed slowed. Time slowed. It was 30 miles to the stopping point, and nothing inbetween. My max speed was about 40mph. 

Then I noticed something. In the absence of the truck ordeal, simply riding along in a complete downpour with the cooler temperatures was not that bad. This is what pushing your limits is all about, its all relative. I slowly began to relax. Wasn't the motorcycle cool and contented compared to earlier ? Why yes, yes it was. Would I have voluntarily taken on this challenge ? No. Why were we trying so hard to avoid riding in the rain when we all had good gear that we purchased for just that scenario ? Good question. Same for my tires which have a great wet rating. Do we as motorcyclists have an irrational fear of the rain ? Aren't we trying to get closer to the elements than you might do in a car ? Yep, another good point. And another thing, how is rain able to wash all of the bug stains off the windshield, when space age chemicals cannot ? What if I had stopped with the others and had never experienced the rain ? This banter went on for a while until I suddenly noticed that the sky was, to quote Joe Cocker, a lighter shade of pale. The rain was just as steady but moderate, and the signs of the town were appearing. I considered pressing on, as there was some daylight left, and another town about 45 minutes up the road. I ultimately decided not to add fatigue to the list of factors to navigate. I reluctantly headed for the motel. Motorists gave me the look that said "you poor wet soul" or "I bet he would love to trade that for my SUV right now". I smiled at how wrong they were inside a slightly foggy helmet.

Sitting an hour later with a burger and a beer, I watched the rain continue to come down.  It was washing away the layers of dirt and dust from the dry hot days which had preceded it. The waitress said they really needed the rain. I nodded. I really needed that rain. It was afriendly rain with much to teach and nothing to fear. To the contrary, it beckoned.

Posted on May 31, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Commentary.

Carlisle Import 2015

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We have commented before that Pennsylvania has a disproportionate number of national and international quality moto events. Even in a world of cars and coffee, mocha and motorcycles, scones and scooters, the bigeer gatherings are still must-attend events. One of them is the Carlisle Import Show which takes place every May. It is a gathering of all the major brands from Europe, and a smattering of Japanese brands. It always feels like the largest show for those who do not have other large shows in the region. Porsche, BMW, Mercedes, and Ferrari, are always there, but in relatively small numbers. There is a strange ebb and flow to which brands show up in force, but some are mainstays. Swedish cars and French cars are always well represented. Audi is always well represented. Kit cars are always well represented. Nissan is usually well represented. We always see something unusual from Italy, like the Rivolta shown here. Always a worthwhile event...

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Posted on May 23, 2015 and filed under Events, car.

Bauer

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Baur came late to the motorcycle business, introducing its first model in 1936. However, like many others, they were producing bicycles prior to that since 1919 in Klein-Auheim. The first models were 75cc and 100cc mopeds featuring Ilo or Fictel&Sachs engines. Of course, their timing ws terrible, and war soon redirected their efforts. Following the war, they resumed production in 1949 with the model 150 which did fairly well. They quickly expanded to produce a variety of small displacement machines, and became well regarded for quality and styling. While they used telescoping forks up front, they continued to employ wide sprung saddles rather than adopt rear suspension. Then they made a costly mistake. They decided to produce their own engine. It was a 248cc four stroke engine. It was a success from a styling perspective, but they badly underestimated the teething problems of a brand new engine, and ran into financial problems. The banks finally forced Bauer to close the doors in 1953. The name, however, is now owned by Pantherwerke, and has remained active periodically on bicycles.

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Posted on May 17, 2015 and filed under motorcycle, Classic Vehicles.

A Most Important Failure

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What are some of the hallmarks of modern Audis? Front wheel drive on larger sedans, odd numbers of cylinders, etc. Well many of those attributes were introduced with the DKW F102 in late 1963. The F102 went into production in 1964, but it was a car between two eras. Mercedes ownership held onto old formats and technology, while new thinking and performance standards were already evident among the competitors. As such, the car was unibody construction, and front wheel drive, but with a two-stroke three cylinder engine. It was 168.5 inches long and weighed 2945 lbs. The engine was 1175cc and produced 69hp, along with 76 ft-lbs of torque. This propelled the car to a top speed of 84mph, and a 0-60 time of 16.8 seconds. Not horrible for the time, but far from being among the leaders. It was offered in a 2 door coupe initially, with the 4 door following six months later. Given what was being produced or designed by Mercedes at the time (Gullwing, Pagoda, etc), many believe that they were also concerned about competing with themselves.

It is no surprise that the car sold poorly with just over 53,000 units in its' short life. The public had already been moving away from 2 strokes, and there were great alternatives in the emerging class of modern sedans. Mercedes happily sold a controlling interest in Auto Union to Volkswagen in 1966, and the new owners quickly killed off the DKW brand and facelifted the F102 to make it the F103 branded as an Audi. They also inserted a four stroke four cylinder engine.  The F102 is one of those commericial failures that forced a sudden course correction and gave birth to a successful platform with many of its' attributes carried forward. 

Posted on May 10, 2015 and filed under car, Classic Vehicles.

Oleyonics

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The traditional indications of spring include flowers, blossoms, milder temperatures, and sunny skies.One of the clear signs of spring missed by those not into vintage iron is the AACA Oley swap meet. Oley is a good chance to ride something interesting or your newly completed project. Unlike The Gathering of the Nortons, You will not usually see any new bikes at Oley. This is the realm of the ancient ones. The realm of exposed valve springs and seat springs, of strange hand controls and foot levers. And then there are the bikes !

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Oley is part swap meet, part bike show, part history lesson, and it is this last that makes it such an interesting day. Chances are you can see something pre-war in action, some ancient idea that never really caught on in use, or something from an old magazine brought to life. And you can probably talk to a guy who knows more about it than the factory ever did.

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You can learn the original cost of a 1925 Indian, and how much you can pay today to buy it. For the cost of parts, use the following formula; Take the current year and subtract the year of the part you are looking at. Then multiply by 5 for the low end of the range, and 10 for the upper end. So if the part is from 1935, you have 2015-1935=80*5=$400 minimum for that tail light. Indeed, Oleyonics is a course worth taking just based on the wildly diverse content and faculty. See you in class next year.

Oley 2015 Full Album

Posted on May 3, 2015 and filed under Events, motorcycle.

A Plethora of Porsches

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The annual assemblage of Porsches old and new at Hershey in April is now an international event. You are likely to hear several different languages as you walk around, but there is one that all of the attendees share; Porsche. We have covered it here before (see Hounds of the Basketweave or Hooked on Hershey), but it is always worthy of coverage. It is a giant car show. It is probably one of the world's largest Porsche only parking lots. It is a swap meet with rows of parts, paraphernalia, and patina. It had a tractor in the Concours event. People come seeking that elusive final accesory to complete the project, while others are seeking sheetmetal to begin one. As a Porsche fan or fanatic, on a glorious spring day, you would be hard pressed to be in a better place. See the full photo album

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Posted on April 26, 2015 and filed under Events, car.