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The Maestro's Summer Quiz: HEADS THAT WON'T COME

The Maestro builds lots of engines each year. So he needs to buy "core" 356/912 Porsche engines from all over the World. Industrial Engines from Europe. A few at the loco swap meets or ads in the "Registry". Many fewer from "Panorama". Even a couple from the Sambo Se Quicksilver. But NEVER on e-bay!

Over the years, he's learned a thing or two about buying engines- things like buying good, used Porsche engines in California is Problematic. Practically Impossible! Not because there aren't any- actually, half the Porsche 356 Production went to California. Quantity is not the problem. QUALITY is the problem.

Because in California, people DRIVE their 356's. Year round usually. Which means that the engines eventually WEAR OUT and must be rebuilt.

Which means that, since the Chances Are your 356/912 will be rebuilt right varies from fair to poor (zero to infinitesimal, actually) most weren't rebuilt right. And they failed again. Early. And were rebuilt even poorer the next time since the owner was now REALLY deep in the hole. Upside Down.

Which means by this time everyone has given up on the engine, and it's time to sell it, what's left? Usually, very little.

So, if California is the WORST place to buy a used Porsche engine from, what's the BEST place to buy one from?

That should be Part 1 of the Quiz, but I'll give you the answer:

The BEST place to buy a 356/912 engine is that area of the US of A that has the WORST weather! Where Mass Quantities of SALT are used on the road through the Horrible Winter. Where HonDatToys rust out in three years, large 'Merican Cars in 7 years, and peek-up trucks in 10.

THAT'S where you want to buy used Porsche Engine from.

Why? Because if the Porsche lasts 10 years, at 10000 miles per year, that's "only" 100,000 miles.

Give me an 100,000 mile ORIGINAL 356/912 engine any day over ANY "Rebuilt" engine (except for those the Maestro's personally done, of course. Cough, cough.).

Anyhow, last week, two REALLY defunct 912 engine from REALLY Rusty East Coast Cars appeared at the Maestro's shop.

You can always tell an East Coast Engine- especially an East Coast 912 Engine- they have large, flat area where salt water sits and RUSTS. The big Rear Plate. The Side Horizontal Sheet metal, etc. are always rusted beyond belief or repair.

But the underlying engine is usually so covered in grease that the Case and internal parts are usually well-protected. (The worst Cases from back East are those where the owner has taken the car to a car wash each week- and the highly basic cleaners react with the Aluminum Case with corrosive results. Ironically, the CLEAN Cases ones are the ones most corroded- the oily, greasy, Cosmoline-like encrusted ones clean up the best.)

Anyhow, of the two engines, one was a 1966 912 and the other the Hated, Dreaded 1968 912.

The first candidate, a 1966 912 engine, was spread out on the floor, a Rusty Challenge indeed.

The Maestro couldn't get to it for a few days, but finally he took his boy, Andrew, now 13, over to teach him about the Real World and maybe become a Doctor or Internet Investor (or, heaven forbid- an Engineer), instead of having to ask "would you like fries with this"?

The Maestro told Andrew to take off the big Rear Plate and watched sympathetically as any attempt with The Largest Possible Screwdriver failed miserably.

Finally, his flowing robes flowing, the Maestro made his appearance before Andrew, with a gift from the gods- a Special Tool- a Sears Impact Screwdriver. Place that puppy inside what's left of the screw's slot, and whack it pleasantly with a hammer, and there ain't no screw that won't come out, eventually.

A few demos of the Impact Screwdriver impressed Andrew immensely.

As did the amount of Rust on everything- "Wow Dad, er, Maestro you were Right! Things DO rust a lot on the East Coast!"

The Muffler was some El-cheapo "Sport" exhaust with a much smaller cylinder and two pipes out of the middle. And Rusty. It had an Infinitely Strong Bond with the "J" Tubes, making intact removal practically impossible.

Fortunately, both "J" tubes were completely rusted away, so there was no need to disturb that Infinitely Strong Bond.

Only four little 8mm nuts to remove and that awful muffler pops right off.

Four broken exhaust studs later, (a 100% failure rate), the Maestro noticed that THIS end of the Engine must have been the end exposed to the Elements. The Flywheel end "J" tube to head nuts all came off easily.

This engine had the intake manifolds filled up to the Carb base with Red Stuff.

Actually, the Red Stuff was PEPTO-BISMOL colored!

A Color the Maestro can't stomach.


The Maestro went to pop off the Head nuts and got seven of them off. But one top head nut "spun" - thanks to the previous East Coast rebuilder not using Head Nut WASHERS under the TOP rod of head nuts.

East Coast Rebuilders ALWAYS seem to lose a few Head Nut Washers. But thinking they are smart, know that the Lower Row of Head Nuts inside the Rocker Box of post-1960 engines MUST have washers underneath them or Big Bad Things will Happen.

However, to the unknowing "mechanic", the TOP row of Head Nuts don't seem to need Head Nut Washers underneath them. So, ifin they lose any head nut washers, then one or more of the Top Row head nuts won't get a washer.

They think nothing bad happens, and usually it doesn't. But what occurs when you try to take OFF the now rusted-on or Loctited-on Head Nut? Without the 2mm thick Head Nut Washer underneath, the Head STUD protrudes that much further through the Head Nut. Which means that ifin the Head Stud is there, the 10mm Allen Wrench can't be. And ifin the stud is sooooo far through the head nut that the Allen wrench can't get in "enough" to get a good grip on the head nut, the Allen wrench spins internally, rounding off the internal corners of the Head Nut and making it now IMPOSSIBLE to remove!

So, how DO you get the Head off when one of the Top Middle Head Nuts is Impossible to remove? "So, how you gonna get the Head off now?" asked Andrew THAT'S the Summer Quiz! Keep the 356 Faith Maestro And what was that Red Stuff anyhow? ***************************************************************

So, how DO you get the Head off when one of the Top Middle Head Nuts is Impossible to remove? The Maestro was IM-pressed by the Response to this quiz- several people suggested several different ways of removing a stripped Head Nut. Some practical, others a little scary. They included: inserting a 10mm Allen wrench, cut to about 2 inches in length, into what is left of the Head Nut. With your trusty mig welder, weld the wrench to the nut being careful not to hit the aluminum with the hot wire. Let cool, put on a 10mm socket with a breaker bar and voila! Not bad, but of no use for those of use withOUT a Welder. (The Proper Solution requires only commonly available tools. And Ingenuity.) But thank you Doug Dutton. The Maestro liked the "The Italian hammer method": Get a screw extractor. Grind the small tapered end of the screw extractor to be slightly smaller than the diameter of the stripped Head Nut Allen. Tap the tapered end (a la Italian Hammer mode)into the head of the stripped Allen nut until it locks up solid. Get on your knees and pray to your god to absolve every sin you have ever committed. Repeat after me: in a low voice, ideally in Italian or Latin: "Please god, allow me to turn this nut....Please god, allow me..... " Do this at least seven times or wait for a cloud to break a beam of light down from the heavens as a sign. Or a Thunderclap. If you are a sinner (hey- welcome to the Club) your screw extractor will pop off repeatedly. You will then find yourself throwing the hammer across your shop! If you throw your hammer and scream profanities at the top of your lungs THE NUT WILL FEAR YOU and eventually come loose. This is the Italian Method. In the Maestro's case, however, Murphy intercepts all prayers to the Porsche gods and provides torque in the wrong direction. Then there's the semi-destructive technique of forcefully driving a chisel into the Head Nut (and possibly the Head) until enough of a slit is formed to remove like a screwdriver. Or JAMMING a "bit" driven by an Impact Driver into the existing hole. Yes, it will usually chew up the bit a bit. And the Head maybe. But that's too Brutal. And then we have cutting the head stud in two using a small abrasive cutter wheel in a die grinder. Then installed a replacement stud, from Mike Robbins That's probably the best and easiest way. However, Andrew was not yet checked out on Rapidly Rotating Equipment that can Eat Fingers and/or other appendages, and wouldn't be for a few years.

So, that leaves the following Technique:

Fortunately (?), the Eternally Stripped Internal Head Nuts are always on the TOP. The lower row never strips, which is good, because they'd be damn near impossible to remove.

Being on the Top you'd think it might be possible to get a hacksaw in and cut the Stud off. But you'd find that it's impossible to get a hacksaw in there. But it IS possible to get a hacksaw BLADE in between the fins of the Cylinders and CUT THE STUD IN TWO!

Don't worry, you can replace the stud later. But you're right- there's not much "stroke" available for the naked hacksaw blade.

But there's enough. Takes about half an hour or so, and you'll have sore fingers afterwards, as Andrew did, but when that Head finally pops off, the Feels of Achieving Something Worthwhile kicks in to overcome the Pain. Partially. Now, with the Heads removed, there appeared a Pepto-Bismol Sculpture inside- a Semi-Solid spongy mass of pink-colored deposit almost filling up the Net Squish volume of one combustion chamber. Something Picasso might have sculpted had he been a Sculpture. So, what was that Pepto Picasso anyway? ******************

What was that Pepto-Bismol Schulpture? And what was that Reddish liquid filling up the intake manifolds? Was it rusty water?

No- it wasn't water at all- it was Organic! It was Automatic Transmission Fluid!

And it had been poured into all FOUR intakes, filling them up to the base of the Carburetor!

Well, Hell thought the Maestro. "It's a lot better than WATER! And if you are NEVER gonna run the engine again, it's not a bad thing to do!"

But Automatic Transmission Fluid is RED, not Pepo-Bismol colored! Ah, but this time a LOT of water had gotten inside, and reacted with the AFT to form a Semi-Solid spongy mass of pink-colored deposit almost filling up the Net Squish volume of one combustion chamber. Mustave been some Wild & Crazy Automatic Trans Fluid/Water/Salt solid emulsion.

But it was clear that the Automatic Transmission Fluid prevented the pistons and cylinders from locking themselves together forever in a lover's embrace, requiring a CHISEL (or cut-off saw) to separate. (And the Maestro's been there. Done that. Not a lot of fun.)

The cylinders actually popped off after only a little coaxing- unlike many others with serious water infections.

So, Automatic Transmission fluid DOES have a use in 356's! Keep the 356 Faith Maestro

It was clear that the Automatic Transmission Fluid prevented the pistons and cylinders from locking themselves together forever in a lover's embrace, requiring a CHISEL (or cut-off saw) to separate. (And the Maestro's been there. Done that. Not a lot of fun.)

The cylinders actually popped off after only a little coaxing- unlike many others with water infections. Automatic Transmission fluid DOES have a use in 356's!

But then the Maestro noticed something Interesting on one cylinder.

It was the FLOOR!

He was locking at the FLOOR through the cylinder wall!

Did the Maestro suddenly gain X-Ray vision? Had he finally purchased those X-Ray glasses?

No, the Cylinder had a Crack in it- a BIG crack! A crack that went ALLLLLLLL the way down the cylinder! And had opened up nearly a quarter inch gap!

Hey- another Mahle "912 Adjustable Cylinder"! Just put a couple of big Radiator Clamps around it and you can adjust your Cylinders to fit the piston! Another Million Dollar Maestro Invention.

This is one for the Collection, thought the Maestro as he eyeballed the Cylinder. There, underneath it was the one quarter-millimeter shim, now VERY Tightly bound by the expanded, split cylinder! Ah, what a Trophy thought the Maestro- and a tribute to Porsche Engineering. Not only does the copper base gasket seal the cylinders- it also holds them together when they split!

The split cylinder was actually GOOD news!

How so? How can a split cylinder be GOOD news?

Because the split cylinder must have made a HELLACOUS noise when it failed- spewing raw exhaust gases out its side. It must have sounded TERRIBLE- like Terminal Rod knock or something!

That got the 912 a trip to the junk yard right there.

But this MIGHT mean that maybe, just maybe, the Lower End of the engine was in Good Shape!

(Technically, it was unlikely the Lower end would be in good shape because this engine had been overhauled before. Both it and the '68 engine were missing that little "Lifting Lug" that means so much. When it's there, it's a 90% chance the engine is Original. Virgin. Not opened since it left the Factory.

And when it's NOT there, it a 100% chance the engine's been Apart. If it's been apart, there's a 90% chance it was overhauled badly. Ergo,...)

So the Maestro pressed on, showing Andrew how one piston had a seized wrist pin thanks to water getting inside and the resulting rust.

Not wanting to bend the connecting by driving a recalcitrant wrist pin out "in situ", the Maestro showed Andrew how to use a two-foot extension on the socket wrench to reach inside the Case and loosen the connecting rod nuts. Not take them off fully- just loosen them up a few turns.

Then use an appropriate tapping device to tap the loosened rod nuts. This "splits the rod at its parting surface, while protecting the threads, and the beam half of the Rod pops out with the piston attached. The cap end rotates around the crank and falls into your hand- if you're cognizant and quick.

Anyhow, the Maestro and Andrew eventually split the Case- to find a still-Standard crank with Porsche Bearings- possibly indicating a Dealer Overhaul!

And though the Magnesium Cam gear had turned to Milk of Magnesia at the bottom of the Third Piece, it had sacrificed itself to the Electromotive Series gods and kept other more important parts from corroding (the Maestro would like to think).

This was proof that water HAD come down from the Oil Filler/Breather Can inside the Third piece- to eat the Cam Gear and form the stomach-turning Milk of Magnesia.

The Case itself looked pretty nice inside. That along with the Standard Crank, good Rods, Heads, Cam and cam followers made this engine the better of the batch.

Ironically, the Crank in the 1966 engine was a late style 1968/1969 crank. This made up for the crank in the 1968 912 engine being a 1966.

Beside Irony, the gods love Strange Symmetry.

The second engine made up for the first. Now at last, the Maestro can build one pretty nice engine and have a few decent left over parts left over.

This things happen sometimes when you:

Keep the 356 Faith




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