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356 DEATH VALLEY
120 Degrees F
.....50 Degrees Spark Advance
.....It was Early August, on the Hottest Day of Year 1997, when the Maestro got a phone call from one of his Customers, The Man from Alaska.
.....Four or Five years ago, The Man From Alaska "exchanged" out his "Normal" Engine for a MaestroMassaged SupraNormal from The Shelf. (The Shelf is where Rebuilt Long Blocks of most every 356B/C/912 model used to reside, when there was more Time. In a couple of days, they could be turned into running engines and shipped wherever.)
.....And it is Sight to Behold when an Abnormal change becomes the Normal. With a Big Bore Kit, a better cam, hemi-cut heads, (with the ports enlaRGED TO ACCEPT any type of Carburetion- Solexes, Webers or, as in this case, Zeniths on "C" intake manifolds.) Balance those C/912 rods to a tenth of a gram. Match those Combustion Chamber volumes to 0.1 cc, and you'll be surprised that it makes THAT much difference- but it DOES!! The Porsche gods appreciate that little extra approach towards Perfection, and they Reward.
.....The Best engines the Maestro's ever built had a Matched Set of Heads- ones that even after the Flycut and Conical Cut were still matched (even slightly better matched), to less than 0.1 cc as easily measured by the Most Casual Chemical Engineer with a 50ml Pipette and 10 ml Graduated Pipette to within half a meniscus. (Unless they're illegal now, like Triple Beam Balances).
.....When the Porsche gods give you a blessed pair of Heads, with Combustion Chamber Volumes so close it's scary, you know its gonna run just Heavenly.
.....And when it does run Right- oh, it REALLY runs Right.
.....The Maestro didn't worry much about this particular Normal when he shipped it off to Alaska four or five years ago. After all, Alaska is COOL, Right? Most of the time at least. Running cool is good for 356 engines. Maybe Glacier-dodging in Alaska is a learned skill, but there sure won't be a Problem with the engine overheating.
.....But the Maestro was wrong 'bout that! There WAS an Overheating Problem!
.....No, silly, NOT in Alaska.
.....Seems as though the guy (like the Maestro did when he was Young & Foolish, would take a month off from work and drive his 356 TEN THOUSAND MILES 'cross the 'country! The Lower 48. See the USA in a 356B.
.....Made for lots of Adventures. Breakdowns. Good Stories. Get your Kicks in a 356 on a 10,000 mile Trek.
.....Did I mention that the Phone Call came in on the Hottest Day of the Year in Sambo Se? Well, it did And it was hot- 'bout 100. Not a day one wants to work on a hot engine, Porsche or otherwise.
.....It was the man from Alaska on the phone, asking ifin since he the was "In the Area" and "had a Problem", could he stop in?"
....."You're in The Area??" said the Maestro. "You drove your 356 all the way from ALASKA?"
....."Oh, yeah. I've been doing it every summer. "I just came from Texas a couple of days ago."
....."You came from Texas?" said the Maestro in shock. "This Week? That means you hadda drive across the Arizona and New Mexico- the Desert. The Very Hot Desert!
....."Matter of Fact, " said the Man from Alaska. "I went through Death Valley YESTERDAY!"
....."WHAT!" said the Maestro. "You went through Death Valley yesterday? It was almost 100 degrees here in Sambo Se! Why, it mustave been what 115 in Death Valley?"
....."120 degrees," said the Man from Alaska, an expert about yesterday's High Temperature in Death Valley.
....."I got out of the car once and tried to climb up a little hill with a Big bottle of water. BIG Mistake. I think I got a touch of Heatstroke!. "
....."I can imagine, said the Maestro having personally experienced both similar and even HIGHER Temperatures in the Driver's seat of a Corvette Coupe with a BLACK interior, with an Overheating Big Block 427 Engine up front and no Air Conditioning, through 117 degree heat in Las Vegas! in Stop and Go (mostly Stop) traffic.
.....That was HOT. Must get one-gallon soft drink. Must Drink, Drink. Must refill drink container with water. Must Alternatively Drink and Pour over Head. Repeat, as Water evaporates completely in 4.27 minutes...
....."So," said the Maestro. "Just how hot did the little beastie get driving through Death Valley at 120 Degrees?"
....."Oh, Hell," said the Man from Alaska. "Almost to the Red Zone at the Far Right of the Dial."
.....Gulp, thought the Maestro. "That's pretty hot," said the Maestro, remembering well what Needles was like at Midnight- the coolest part of the day- when it was STILL a Hundred and Ten outside, so that when you stuck your hand outside to cool it off, the air HEATED IT UP, while struggling to climb that 20-mile longgggg uphill grade in a sick 356, the temperature needle very near and getting ever closer to the Red Zone at the Far Right of the dial, with the Oil Pressure at 18 psi and dropping, despite two cans of STP...)
....."How come you didn't stop and let the 356's engine cool off?"
....."Couldn't stop. Too damn Hot. Hadda get outa there!" said the Man From Alaska who just came from Death Valley.
....."But you MADE it!" said the Maestro. "Through the Valley of Death on a Midsummer's Death Valley Day, with a MaestroMassaged Engine!"
....."Yeah, but now I've got a Problem."
....."Uh Oh," thought the Maestro. "So, what's the Problem?"
....."Well, ever since my First fillup of California's New Reformulated Gas in Baker California. By the way, do you know where Baker is?"
....."You Betcha," said the Maestro, having filled there, been there, done that.
....."Anyhow after filling up with California Gas, the engine just won't idle. It keeps stalling."
....."Hummh," thought the Maestro. "So how is she when she's cruising on the Freeway at 70?"
....."At Speed, she's fine. That's how I made it here. But around town she keeps stalling. Can you look at her if I bring her in later?"
.....The Maestro is always happy to see one of his Engines On The Road Again, Running Still. Gives him hope.
.....So, at oh, 3 PM, the HOTTEST part of the second HOTTEST day of the Year, what should drive in but the 356.
....."You made it," said the Maestro.
....."Yeah," said the Man from Alaska arriving now from Death Valley, "But she won't idle."
.....The Maestro went back to the engine and eyeballed it,.
.....She was idling nicely,.
....."Huh?" said the Man From Alaska. "Why, that's Amazing, Maestro! She wouldn't idle for me at the last gas stop. Kept stalling. But she's idling now."
....."Yeah," said the Maestro. "That happens all the time here. They won't run right until 100 feet from the Shop. And then they run fine. Is it the Magnificent Aura surrounding the Maestro? Or the JP-4 from the Sambo Se Airport? Maybe the Control Tower radar at San Bosay Airport.
.....Anyhow the Maestro carefully adjusted the Idle Mixture screws on the properly rebuilt Zeniths. They only "sorta" adjusted. The engine seemed to respond a little, but the Idle Mixture Screws just didn't have that "sharp" feel a good Zenith (or any other "Good" carb), has.
.....But these WERE Good Zeniths, having been rebuild by the Maestro's Carburetor Subsidiary. (The Maestro's Carburetor Subsidiary is such an Incredibly Good Carburetor Rebuilder than of his four cars and two trucks, NOTHING RUNS! And the Maestro has to go pick up the finished carbs!
.....Yes, that's right- the Maestro's Carburetor Subsidiary is much too busy rebuilding Customer carburetors that he has NOOOOOO time to work on his own stuff. Having no running vehicle is a Sure Sign of a Good Carburetor Rebuilder!)
.....So, Supremely Overconfident after tweaking the Mixture Screws of the Masterly Rebuilt Zeniths, about how well she'd run now, the Maestro revved up what used to be a nice, even-tempered Normal.
.....She revved up quite nicely, thank you, came down to about 1500 rpm. Then dropped like a rock. And stalled!
....."Hummmh", said the Maestro. "I see you DO have a problem here! Cough. Cough."
.....So the Maestro went back to the Shop and dragged out a 12 volt battery and his Magic Timing Light. He attached the Inductive Pickup shocklessly to the #1 plug wire. (The Right Front), and expertly hooked up the Red Wire to the "+" battery post and the Black Wire to the (-) post, pointed the business end of the Relativistic Interstellar Ray Gun towards the Pulley and PULLED THE TRIGGER!
.....And there, far too far to the Left of the Mark on the Third Piece was the Pulley's "OT" Mark. It is not good to be too far to the Left (nor Right for that matter). It is much better to be somewhere in the Timing Ballpark.
.....This wasn't anywhere in the same STATE as the Timing Ballpark. This was Long, Tall, Texas Timing by the Shaman at the Chevron.
.....Twenty-five Degrees advanced at Idle!
.....And when the Maestro revved it up, that "OT" mark, why it-a just a-kept on a-going FURTHER to the Left.
.....So the Maestro set the Dial on his Magic Timing Light to 40 degrees to check the High Speed Spark Advance. And tried again.
.....Nope. Not Enough.
.....So he set the Timing Advance Guess on the Dial to 45 degrees.
.....STILL Not enough.
.....So he went to FIFTY DEGREES
.....THAT was enough.
.....FIFTY DEGREES HIGH SPEED TIMING ADVANCE!
.....Great green Porsche gods!
.....Fifty Degrees Timing Advance might be fine for a Texas Taurus on deceleration (maybe), but not a good thing for a 356 in Death Valley in the Summer!
....."WOW!" shouted the Maestro. "Look at this! Your Engine has Fifty Degrees High Speed Timing Advance!" Exclaimed the Maestro. "So, tell me again, who adjusted the Timing the Last Time?"
....."Well, like I said," said the Man from Alaska. "I had a Tune-Up in Texas, at a supposedly pretty good Porsche Place..."
....."Uh, well, whatever. But the Timing now is terribly wrong," said the Maestro
....."Fifty degrees advance can be DEADLY! Even 45 Degrees has Killed before."
.....So the Maestro told the Tale of the Gentle Do-It-Yourselfer (DIY'er) who had changed the points in his 356B's Distributor just before a 4000 mile trip, but didn't bother to check the Timing. Changing the points can change the timing, that's why you must check it. The DIY'er didn't and his Timing, by Murphy, was advanced- FIFTEEN degrees- which added to the 30 Degrees the Distributor added, made 45 Degrees Total High Speed Advance.
.....Which made one Piston Holey on a 10 mile-long up-hill grade in Utah, with the other three pistons not far behind. The 356 had to be flat-bedded back home, ending that vacation early, but getting the Maestro another engine to rebuild.
.....But Driving through Death Valley at 120 degrees in a 356 with 50 Degrees Spark Advance is Truly Challenging The Shadow of the Valley.
.....The Man from Alaska won,... this time- cause he DRIVES his 356! And his 356 rewards him! (You accumulate "goodie points" each time you drive your 356. Accumulate enough goodie points, and you can make it 'cross country without breaking down!
.....Then, the Maestro somewhat twisted brain flashed back four years and remembered the Pistons that were in the Man from Alaska's Original Normal Engine. Well, not quite original. Someone had stuck Super Pistons into the otherwise Normal engine, and the Super pistons failed from being very old or very ab(use)ed with all the Top Rings broken, and mature Ring Eating Monsters in three of the Pistons, which is why the Maestro remembered them.
.....Those Pistons showed hard use too- run hard and put to bed wet- from lotsa High Speed, High Temperature trips. Symptomatic of 10,000 mile Cross Country Treks.
.....And lotsa fun.
.....The Maestro would now Officially like to enter this engine in the Contest to win a "T" shirt that says: 356 DEATH VALLEY 120 Degrees 50 Degrees Spark Advance NO FEAR!
.....What a Great Contest! Merely Adjust your Timing in Texas by a Zorro at the Alamo or in New Mexico by a Shaman at the Chevron to 50 Degrees Advance, High Speed.
.....Then drive alllll the way through Death Valley, on, oh Hell- we'll be generous- ANY Day of the Summer. Come up Route 5 and be inspected at the Maestro's Shop for verification.)
.....The Maestro more closely eyeballed the Man from Alaska's Normal's Distributor. It was a Replacement, Aluminum-bodied .031. The Maestro doesn't like the ".031's" much. Their Spark Advance tend to increase with time, and it is not uncommon to find .031's with 37+ degrees Advance. (One ".031" Distributor currently holds the Record for "Highest Spark Advance in a Distributor"- 53 degrees!)
.....This .031 one had 'bout 35 degrees advance. To be sure, the Maestro replaced it with a new .050, normally not lotsa fun on a hot engine, and this one was REAL HOT.
.....But all the Maestro had to do was whistle a happy tune and that .031 just jumped right out of the engine and into his rag-covered hands. The .050 ran over, slipped an "O" ring on and jumped into the empty hole, pointed its Rotor at the 7:00 position, and rotated itself to 5 Degrees advanced, static. Even the Capacitor cleared the oil return line from the filter.
.....The Maestro changed the wires over to the .050's cap and said- "here's your old ".031". Use it as a Spare, but time it at Top Dead Center, Static.
.....The Maestro confidently fired up the Engine once more, fully expecting that NOW the rebuilt Zeniths would certainly idle better.
.....The engine fired up. And immediately STALLED!
.....The Maestro cursed the Omnipresence of Murphy, especially in the Presence of a Customer. And had the Man from Alaska fire it up again.
.....She was a bit hard to start. More than a bit hard to start. Unusually hard to start for a MaestroMassaged Engine. But she finally came through.
.....THIS time the Maestro KEPT her running. And set the .050's High Speed Timing to 33 degrees Advanced. Then he ever so slowwwwwwwly let her come down to idle.
.....The .050's spark timing dropped like it should, to about 5 degrees Advanced at idle.
.....Not too bad- much better than TWENTY FIVE degrees advanced at Idle!
.....Then the Maestro ever so carefully adjusted the Mixture Screws of the Zeniths. Again, they adjusted sorta, but still not that "Sharp" way they do when they really "ADJUST".
.....The Maestro adjusted the Zeniths again. And Again. And AGAIN!
.....All in the Hot Sun on a Hot Engine on the Hottest Day of the Year. What a WONDERFUL way to make a living.
.....But no, the Maestro was studying a Perplexing Porsche Problem.
.....Was it the Newfangled Reformulated Gas California has now (At $1.76/gal) and that you'll soon get hit with- right in the Pocketbook and your Fabric Fuel lines! For while the Maestro was changing distributors, he noticed that the Man from Alaska's Inlet Fuel Line to the Fuel Pump, purchased from a Large, Midwestern Porsche Dealer four years ago, was wet with California Reformulated Gasoline. Almost like a sponge, and in dire Need of Replacement. A Word to the Wise. Watch those Fabric Fuel Lines! Especially on those 356's parked in the Garage, next to the gas-fired Hot Waster Heater!
.....Or maybe, this is just how the New Gas is affecting old Engines with 50 Degrees Spark Advance on 120 Degree Days!
.....The Maestro pondered these questions out loud to the Man from, Alaska 'cause it wasn't clear what the Problem really was.
....."Are you staying overnight," asked the Maestro?
....."Oh, no," said the Man from Alaska. "I hope to be North of Santa Rosa by nightfall."
....."OK," said the Maestro, knowing about Cross Country Binge Driving, and went back to "adjusting" the Zeniths.
.....So, another hour and another gallon of sweat later, the Maestro STILL hadn't gotten it to idle much better than it did when it first came in.
.....But at least the Timing weren't no 50 degrees no more!
.....The Maestro took the 356 out for spin. It was a 1962 366 B with the aforementioned SupraNormal Engine. Once you got going, it had An Acceptable amount of Power with good throttle response. It just wouldn't idle. Stop and go traffic will be a Bear, thought the Maestro, but the Freeway is Fine. And it's pretty much all Freeway to Washington State.
.....The Maestro also promised the Man from Alaska another Zenith Rebuild once he gets back Home before the Glaciers, and sadly sent him on his way, his idling problem unfixed.
.....That night the Man from Alaska calls- to say that he was in Willow, up I-5 about 100 miles North of Sacramento.
....."So, you made it," said the Maestro. "Any problems?"
....."No, but driving through town is sheer HELL! It stalls and is harder and harder to start."
....."Hummmmh said the Maestro thinking of Vapor Lock. Or fuel pump failure from the California reformulated Gasoline.
.....He suggested that ONCE THE ENGINE COOLED OVERNIGHT, the Man from Alaska might take off the side cover of the Zenith, being prepared for the Float Bowl's Entire Contents of California Reformulated Gasoline to run out all over your hands. If the Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether doesn't knock you out, pull out the Idle Jets (the top ones) with a BOX end 8 or 9mm wrench and blow them out with a can of WD-40 cum nozzle. Make sure you mop up all the gas before fire-up."
....."And maybe pull the plugs and check the Valves too, which the Maestro was not about to do on that 100 Degree Day in Sambo Se on a hot air cooled engine from Death Valley. Nosiree!
.....The Man from Alaska did just that the next morning and called the Maestro back.
....."Well, said the Man from Alaska. "I think I found our problem."
....."That's GREAT," said the Maestro- what was it? A clogged Idle jet in the Zeniths?"
....."Nope. But it did seem to run a bit better after I cleaned the jets. And two of the spark plugs were a little fried too, but what was REALLY wrong was when I went to adjust the Valves-
.....ALL FOUR EXHAUST VALVES HAD NO "VALVE GAP"!!!
.....Negatory on the Valve Gap, Good Buddy.
.....POP! Went the Center of Higher Reasoning slapping itself aside the Maestro's head! WHY, OF COURSE! WHY didn't I think of that?"
.....Driving through Death Valley in 120 degrees outside Temperature, with 50 Degrees Spark Advance and the temperature gauge nibbling at the Red Zone, caused the EXHAUST VALVES to overheat and Strrrreeetttccchh! Stretch so much that they closed up the .007" exhaust valve gap entirely and then some- went to NEGATIVE GAP which kept the exhaust valves open.
.....Now, ifin you wanted to Win a Valve-Burning Contest- where the First One to Burn an Exhaust Valve Wins, keeping the Exhaust Valve OPEN- off its seat- would be a good strategy.
.....Keeping the exhaust valves open also caused a rather erratic idle:
.....Like it WON'T Idle!
.....And when the Man from Alaska ADJUSTED THE VALVES, he found, amazingly, that the Zenith's Lack of Idle Problem cease to be a problem.
.....With the Exhaust valves were adjusted, the Idle Mixture Screws on the Zeniths adjusted as they should- SHARPLY!
.....Because ALL FOUR exhaust valves were held open, the engine would easily stall if given the chance, as the Maestro so expertly noticed.
.....AND, once stalled, the engine would be hard to start 'cause of the low compression caused by the partially OPEN exhaust valves. (After all, look at most any farm engine from the Twenties- they had NO ROCKERS on the Intake Valves- The Intake Valves had only a very weak valve "spring", and when the Piston went "down" and created a partial vacuum, the weakly-sprung Intake Valve would open and allow Mixture to enter. All they needed to control was the exhaust valve! Keep the Exhaust Valve Open (or closed), and the engine won't run.
.....And that's what was a-happenin'' to the Man from Alaska's engine- the Exhaust Valves were being controlled by Murphy- thanks to much Valve Stem Stretch (conservatively estimated at over 0.010") thanks to Death Valley Heat and 50 Degrees Spark Advance!
.....The Maestro wouldn't begin to hazard a guess about how much the Death Valley Proof Testing that lengthened the Exhaust Valves shortened their lives. By 10,000 miles? By 50,000 Miles? 100,000 Miles? Nothing? A Pool anyone?
.....Or are Ate 3043 non-Sodium 356A/B Exhaust Valves as tough as the Maestro thinks?
.....Only Time will tell. And a few more 10,000 mile yearly trips.
.....Finally, with Gap on the Exhaust Valves, Zeniths running fine and the Timing on the .050 Distributor in the good part of the 33 degree Ballpark, the Man was once again going North, to Alaska. To conclude his 10,000 mile Trip.
.....But the Maestro thought you'd just like to know that ifin you ever decide to drive to Alaska by way of Death Valley on the Hottest Day of Summer with FIFTY DEGREES SPARK ADVANCE you'd best be Blessed or be Real Damn Lucky. AND don't forget that MaestroMassaged Engine. Don't leave home without it.
.....Or just be a 356 Owner who DRIVES HIS CAR! The More you drive it, the Luckier you get. And the More Rewards. The Man From Alaska almost ALWAYS wins the "Longest Distance Traveled" Award at the 356 Holidays!
.....And Remember- you might win a Free "T" shirt. 356 DEATH VALLEY 120 F 50 DEGREES SPARK ADVANCE NO FEAR
.....To enter the Contest: Merely have your Timing adjusted by a Zorro at the Alamo in Texas, or a Shaman at the Chevron in New Mexico, to 50 Degrees Advanced, High Speed.
.....Then drive alllll the way from Texas or New Mexico through Death Valley, on, oh Hell we'll be generous, ANY Day of the Summer. Refill with California Reformulated Gasoline in Baker. Come up Route 5, through the Central Valley to the Maestro's Shop for evaluation of Authentic Exhaust Valve Stretch.
.....And get your free "T" Shirt!
.....And, no, the Maestro will NOT enter this contest! The Maestro already knows what would happen ifin he tried driving through Death Valley in a 356 with 50 degrees spark advance. The Porsche gods would make damn sure that he'd STILL be IN Death Valley!
.....That's his 356 Faith!
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