WORKING THROUGH THE LIST
A niggle here, a niggle there, plus some rather larger issues, like defunct air con (no fun in LA) and the need for a major service and new dampers and other components, and Matt Stone's Carrera 3.2 is in the workshop for the long haul
My '89 Carrera had been nothing but generally solid during my first several years of ownership. But its list of minor needs was getting longer, and I had no records of its last major service or tune up. Not to mention I needed to do something about its long suffering and mostly inoperable air con system. Try owning a black car in Los Angeles, no fun during summer. So I'd begun making 'The List,' and started checking in with our local Porsche community about who would be properly qualified (technically and attitudenaly) for a detailed, thorough, bumper to bumper major service. I wanted every fluid refreshed, every filter changed, a comprehensive tune, new shocks, new tyres, a four wheel alignment, and the damned AC fixed. The names of two shops continued to be circulated, and I reached out to them both. The first said they were so busy that they were not taking new clients. The second, Callas Rennsport, was willing to talk about my car and the job, so I made an appointment with Anthony 'Tony' Callas to show him the car and talk over my service needs and expectations. Callas, a longtime Porsche racing team mechanic and Le Mans class-winning crew chief, interviewed me as much as I did him. He liked my car and assured me that his work wouldn't be fast or cheap, but if I'd give him the time and empowerment, he'd make my car "just bitchin'." I also liked that his shop was organised, and filled with great Porsches including several race cars, an authentic 911R just back from the paint shop, and at least one 959. Callas turns down more work than he accepts, and is known as a picky perfectionist. Perfect, exactly what I was looking for.
So I left the car and caught a ride home with a friend. His 30K mile major service covered everything I knew I wanted done plus a few things I didn't even think of. He spotted a swirly grease stain on my engine lid, and bet me that my AC problems would come down to replacing the seal on the fan belt end of the compressor. We discussed shocks, and he recommended Bilstein high performance pieces, and agreed to let me get my own tyres in order to save me a few dollars. I decided on Continental ContiTracs in the factory 16-inch sizes. He assured me that my car was in good hands, and that it would be protected and well cared for. He accepted my wants and needs list as a starting point, promising that he and at least one other tech would go over the car with the proverbial fine tooth comb in order to come up with their recommended job list and costs. Callas and his squadron of master techs began the basics of the major :service, and highly detailed recon mission. Tony and his team assembled a list of faults and fixes far more comprehensive than I would have dreamed to check. And each bit and process was itemised into parts and labour, with items coded red, yellow or green in terms of necessity: translating to "this car will not leave this shop unless we do this" to "no biggie, fix it if you want, now or later" with much of the rest of it being "recommended" in between. Callas spent an hour with me on the phone one night, and we line-item vetoed a few things that really didn't matter much, and greenlighted the rest. He asked for another month, or two, to finish the job, and I agreed with the full expectation of a "right and bitchin" car when it was all done. He also came up with reasonable solutions to semi complex problems, one being that the holes and plastic brackets that mount the center console to the floor were all broken out and the little centre box designed to hold cassette tapes (remember those?) was also broken out and missing. A new factory console would cost a king's ransom, so Callas was able to locate a clean used replacement; once installed it would be solid and look right. It is and it does. Prior to changing to my second aftermarket exhaust system, I had the catalytic converter replaced with an aftermarket MagnaFlow piece, but Callas wasn't happy with the welding and mounting job done at the muffler shop. So he wanted to take the whole system off, and remount and reweld the cat so the mufflers would hang right and proper. Which he did. Also on the list were new front and rear hood and decklid struts, as the old ones were shot and would no longer hold up their end of the bargain, and a hundred other small fixes beyond detailing here. I smelled a $10,000 tab in the offing, and I wasn't far off.
Fortunately the rest of the service proceeded with few surprises, every fluid was flushed, every filter on the car was changed, the front brakes were replaced as were the tie rods (with 930 Turbo units) and the 3.2 got a full tune including air/fuel mixture setting and valve adjustment. And Callas was right about the seal on the AC compressor, which further frustrated me that none of the goons that previously worked on it spotted or fixed it. The car had, along the way, been converted to R134A refrigerant, which Callas recommended we switch back to R12, which even though isn't as greenhouse gas friendly, is much more efficient, especially for a factory system of moderate capability to begin with.
Tony reconverted everything to old style R12 Schrader valves, evacuated the system, changed the seals, and guess what — it makes cool air. For the first time since I'd owned the car! The question remained "how long would it hold charge" which of course was completely. As we neared the end of the third month of my car's residence at Callas Rennsport, our punch list grew shorter and shorter, and I dreamed of the day I'd get the car back, fully operative and road ready. Finally we made a date for the car's delivery back to me, and I caught a ride to Callas' shop that morning feeling every bit the expectant father. I was pleased to see the car parked in front of the office door, and detailed to near show quality. Callas insisted upon a walk around and test drive before I paid the bill or left with the car. All of the flotsam and jetsam from my trunk, back seats and glove box was neatly placed in a box on the front passenger seat, and all of the used parts were equally boxed up for me to keep or bin as desired.
As I drove home, I was on the verge of tears at how good the car was. Everything was as Callas promised it. the now 25-year old, 52,000 mile Porsche driving as if it were new. The tyres, shocks, tie rods, and alignment simply transformed the steering and handling, the console no longer rattled, and the engine sounded strong and crisp again. And, as Tony Callas and service manager Tom Prine promised, it was bitchin'. PW