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It was just after the November Elections, mere months before the Millennium, when the Maestro figured he'd better do The Last Tune Up on his OWN car!

What- the Maestro work on his OWN car? Is that even Possible? Was business that slow?

No. Business was busy as Hell, but something told him it was Time for a little Maintenance on his 1965 356SC, the Near Virgin in Off-White.

He checked the sticker on her Driver's door. The last time he changed the Oil was over a YEAR ago! Yep, the Cobbler's kids sure do go barefoot.

And though it be Synthetic Oil- Castrol 5W-50 Syntec- that went less than 3000 miles, the Maestro figured he'd better do a better job this time, after all, if the Religious Nuts are right and this year is The End, it might be the LAST time he'd get to do a Tune up on her!

So one Saturday when the phones were relatively silent, he pulled the Near Virgin in Off White into his Shop (after first pushing engineless Trusty Rusty OUT of the Shop), and began the Ritual.

(It should be noted here that the Maestro's Engine in the Near Virgin in Off White IS the Hot Rod Engine Originally from Trusty Rusty that was intended to last only 6 months before a suitable replacement engine could be built... almost 15 years ago!

As a result, it was built with ah, "expendable" parts that wouldn't be missed much ifin they got destroyed. The Case was a 1963 356 B Normal with a Quarter-size hole in its top from the typical End Of Life Failure most Normals experience- a broken Cam Follower Head that's driven through the Case by the Crank.

But this Cam Follower Head went through a NON-Critical area of the Case, so a little Aluminum Devcon in the right place and the Case was almost as good as New.

Being a Normal, it had a PERFECT Case Bore, and being a 1963, it had the Tangs and Oil Grooves in the Middle Main, so it could take ANY type of Crankshaft. So the Maestro stuck a Second Under 356C crank inside, again, not a terribly valuable crank at the time.

Add to that a New, Ubiquitous NPR Big Bore Kit that were so common back then in the Good Old Days, and a Calculated & Measured 9.3:1 Compression Ratio, fed by a set of so WILDLY ported 356B Heads (with matching Intake Manifolds) that the Manifold had to be WELDED on the outside to take the wild porting- otherwise there would have been HOLE there.

With 44IDF Webers, all this made for a VERY exciting engine- one that has lasted almost 100,000 miles and a dozen fun-filled years.

Not bad for a 6-month engine!

But I digress.

Anyhow, the Maestro first pulled off the Valve covers to adjust the Valves- and each Valve Cover left half its gasket on the Cylinder Head. Which meant that it was Time to replace the Gaskets. (Actually, he replaced the Valve Covers too- with nice Industrial Engine Valve Covers that had intact Gaskets!)

Fortunately, he found only one valve only a thou tight. All the others were OK, gap wise. Good Oil, that Syntec.

Then he checked the W225-T7 Side-Gap Super-90 Spark Plugs. Still Perfect after all these years.

Then he check the Timing. Opps- a bit retarded. So he checked the Points in the .050 Distributor. OOPS- a bit of a Tit on the Points- after only 1.5 Decades! But a little time with a file and the tit was twiggy-like once again.

Then he popped off the drain plate- finding a BOLT in one hole which he NEVER uses on Customer engines anymore. Why? Because the bolt may FALL OUT and let all the oil DRAIN out, leading to much Unhappiness!

This time, he'd replace the bolt with a Stud.

Then, just as he was removing the Drain Plate, he felt something fall into his hand.

He thought: "What is this? A Gift from the Porsche gods? A little Cylinder of Gold, perhaps? Platinum? Or Plutonium?

Not, it wasn't Gold. Nor Platinum. Or Plutonium. In fact it was wasn't even Silver- though it was Silvery in Color. It was cylindrical, a bit more than an eighth of an inch in diameter, and not quite a quarter inch long.

So, what was this thingie that fell into the Maestro's hand from the sump of his Engine? And what does it mean?

THAT is the Question.

At first the Maestro stared at the little cylinder in Disbelief and Denial. How could this be? In HIS engie! Then, Reason & Curiosity prevailed and he began to analyze this alien part.

It appeared to be about the diameter of a Dowel Pin from the Crankshaft or Camshaft, but about half the length. More careful analysis showed it to be its full length- like I said- about the same diameter of a Crankshaft or Camshaft dowel pin, but about half the length.

So what was it? And what does it mean?

OK, I'll give you another hint. It wasn't made of Steel.

It was Aluminum.

Give Up. OK, it was:

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It was a "Soft Plug" used to plug an Oil Passage!

An oil passageway in the Case?

No, the Maestro checked all the oil passageway plugs that the Factory uses to plug the oil galleries after they drilled them.

It was the wrong size for ANY case "soft plug"

So, where did it come from?

It came from the CRANK!

It was one of the Crankshaft "Soft Plugs", use in post-1962 356 B/C/SC/912 Late Super-90 Cranks with the "cross drilled" cranks. Whenin they drill an offset hole through the SIDE of the Rod Journal into the Main Bearing Journal.

Then they drill a hole through the center of the Rod Journal that intersects this hole- and Voila- a TWO- outlet oil hole in the Rod Journal (earlier, pre-1962 cranks had only ONE oil hole in the Rod Journal. Having two holes gives you Double Redundancy and more oil more evenly distributed. It's a better Idea.

So, what does that mean when a "Soft Plug" falls into your hand when you change the oil?

It means that ONE drilled hole in the Crank that was plugged by this soft plug ain't plugged no more!

And that means that the oil- she a-done be a-squirting out of the end of the crank! Producing a prodigious oil spray and maybe starving that rod journal for oil!

How long has this been going on?

The Maestro knows not. The last time he dropped the sump, George Bush was President.

So, the Soft plug may have come out years ago! Or Yesterday. Who knows? only the Porsche gods. Or Murphy.

So what's the Maestro gonna do about it?

Well, he COULD pull the engine and rebuild it. Right. HAH! With all the work he has- he's gonna do THAT on his OWN car? don't make me laugh!

The other choice is not to drive it until he has time to fix it right!

NOT drive the Near Virgin in Off-White??? Why, that would be HELL!

So, by default, he's gonna conduct an Experiment. He's gonna find out far can you can drive your 356 after losing a Soft Plug in the Crank!

With his trusty Oil Pressure gauge stuck in the Oil Line going to the Oil Filter Can, the Maestro measured the Oil Pressure. It was down about 5 psi from a year ago- to about 45 psi at 3000 rpm cruise, and Idling at 40 psi.


The Maestro took the soft plug over to Jay, proudly showed him it, and asked. Where did he think THAT come from.

Jay immediately said- "Hummh, sure looks like a Crankshaft soft plug."

"EXACTLY," said the Maestro.

"Yeah, so and so had one of these come out of an Alfa a while ago. He said the only thing he noticed was that the oil pressure suddenly dropped 5 pounds."

Why that's Amazing, thought the Maestro, the Porsche gods and the Alfa gods have a Corporate Contract to deliver the same missing soft plug oil pressure loss.

The Maestro will keep you posted ifin you:

Keep the 356 Faith




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