Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

There was an interesting dichotomy taking place on Friday night. The fifty-five hundred square foot garage that houses Classic Car Club was split down the middle. The Clubroom was awash with the top tracks that would be playing in any of the other trendy nightclubs in Manhattan. A fully stocked bar overlooks a gorgeous Gulf liveried Ford GT40. The section is occupied by a group of young guys, patrons to the club, enjoying one of the many benefits of their membership. On the other side of the space owned by Classic Car Club's Manhattan branch was vastly different scene.

Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

Absent were the loud speakers, drowned out by a cacophony of power tools and machines. The mechanic shop on the far side of the building was inundated with the whir of impact wrenches and the crack crack crack of hammers on metal. The table in the Clubroom featured the Porsche 911 Book: 50th Anniversary Edition (an $80 value) as an aesthetically pleasing and fitting accent to the lounge area. By contrast, the workbench in the mechanics bay held the opened crankcase to a 6-cylinder engine. Just sitting there in all its glory. The rest of the 20-foot long shop table held washers, bolts, and seals as well as some newly arrived parts. Brake rotors, shocks, and newer hardware were among the list of improvements that had to find their way into tonight's project car. Which leads me back to the owner of this wonderful machine.

Aaron Brown is a familiar face around the Jalop-opshpere and is the proud owner of a maroon 944. If you hadn't read about his off-road excursion escapades, his most recent trip into the ditch left the car slightly worse for wear than before. Aaron is also part of the Classic Car Club family and was able to secure the lift to work on his car tonight. We were going to address some of the damaged parts as a result of the bumper trying to mate with the trunk of a tree. Of course while it's on the lift we were going to tackle some performance fixes. Because racecar.

I realized that the two sides to this space mirrored my own motoring prowess. I was transitioning tonight from the casual side. Sitting comfortable with my knowledge of various cars throughout history. My automotive wisdom was taken in 3rd hand by reading magazines and watching YouTube [proud Drive+ supporter]. Much like the party going on at the bar I was complacent with taking a hands off approach before. On this night I would be finally wrenching.

Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

I should preface this story with the fact that I unfortunately didn't grow up amongst friends there were really into car culture. So doing more than just changing oil was a foreign process to me. One day I changed my headlights to a set of Chinese knockoff LEDs. That required pulling off the whole front clip of my VW. Probably a 30 minute job for someone with experience, but I tidied things up 2 hours after I stared. Needless to say I had room for improvement. But the aim of tonight was to rectify that, as well as a significant coolant leak.

One of them clearly has exhaust issues as the sound of the front engine inline 4 reverberates around some of the oldest buildings in lower Manhattan.

I was too embarrassed to drive my car to SoHo, my Jetta being the antithesis of anything sporting and fun. Plus it was more convenient to take the train in and meet up with friends before the duo of Aaron and Mathias rolled in with their 944s. I arrived just before them. My Google maps giving me walking directions to 250 Hudson Street. The marker indicated that I was at my destination but I hadn't spotted the showroom floor. I was suddenly pulled out of a daze as the bright orange McLaren came into view. I knew for certain at that moment, I had arrived. Were I just a passerby I would have been enthralled by the beauty and capability of the machines housed inside. Wishing I would ever enter this domain. Yet I knew that in just a few minutes time I would be inside what I can only describe as 'Automotive Mecca', dropped in downtown Manhattan.

Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

Not two minutes after I get there the engine sounds grow louder heralding the arrival of a duo of Porsches. Two 944's are heading North up Hudson Street. One of them clearly has exhaust issues as the sound of the front engine inline 4 reverberates around some of the oldest buildings in lower Manhattan. The cars enter into the workspace and we offload the fresh parts. The game plan is set to assess the mechanical damage that came as a result of the front bumper being pushed towards the firewall. Overall the car looked okay but we could tell that the right side of the engine bay was a bit more cramped than it was a few weeks before. Next inspecting some of the bodywork mounting points, the various hoses, and ancillary devices connected to the serpentine for damage. What originally looked like a piece of fishing wire running from the bottom of the radiator backwards turned out to be a laminar stream of pressurized coolant escaping the ducting. The rubber hose has been breached because it has been pushed close to the power steering belt. The close proximity the belt running from pulley to pulley acted like a band-saw cutting right though the hose. We would have to address this problem as well.

The Porsche's suspension begins to relax as the car is jacked skyward. Aside from the bodywork the engine bay looked like it held up reasonably well. So we began on removing some of the worn out suspension components from the rear of the vehicle. Out went the old dampers, their innards barely able to contain the viscous fluid in the piston. Rattling out the factory shocks was a simple but rust filled job. The process was extremely enlightening for someone who considered themself to be worthless at wrenching.

Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

There was really nothing intimidating about the whole job. The only cause for concern was when we were changing the front shocks, as the spring needed to be removed from the suspension assembly. Disconnecting it form the control arm was a simple enough job, but then we had to break out the ominous spring compressors. The next few minutes were both meticulous and frightful. I had heard all the horror stories of compressed springs suddenly unleashing their stored energy. I was picturing the possibility of getting a severe laceration, amputation, or worse, a spring flying into one of the 20 some odd extremely expensive cars around the room. We peered around the corners of our makeshift defilade at the person who wound up undoing the top retaining bolt. I was reminded of my childhood when fireworks went wrong and someone had to go check the undetonated ordinance. Thankfully no one was severely injured in the night's events.

It's amazing to see these random bits and pieces come together into something that we all collectively can appreciate and enjoy. The way that bits of metal can rejuvenate a tired car and make it feel brand new. The fact that when you pull that car down off the lift you know you can push harder into sweepers and stop later into corners. If you really appreciate cars more than the aesthetic value they hold, there's a whole world of possibilities below the surface. That's why we envy the guy whipping the 740 wagon and scoff at the lawyer in the Gallardo whose automatic transmission is fighting with him at slow speeds. It's a combination of pride and respect.

Frankly I'm glad I live in a world where places like CCC exist.

I'm glad I was invited to come along. I would have spent my Friday night in a really meaningless way otherwise. It not only reinforced my love for cars but gave me a little bit of the tuner bug. I'm anxious to see how the time spent under the car translates to time knocked off of the autocross track. I'm beginning to fear for my bank account as more and more tabs on craigslist start to pop up on my browser. I foresee an inexpensive project car in my near future as I transition from a passive role to an active one.

Poor Man's Porsche in the Rich Man's Playground

The contrast in the different sides of the room was quite revealing about automotive culture as a whole. There we were, fixing up what we considered real drivers cars. Of course we would own any of the various machines available for use at the Classic Car Club. We simply at this point in life don't have the means to do so. We sit there and decry the extinction of the manual transmission, yet the take rate on a 'Jalopnik Special' is a fraction of a percent of the total market share. There's certainly nothing wrong with appreciating cars from a casual stance. Frankly I'm glad I live in a world where places like CCC exist. But I'm curious if we, the enthusiasts, are making enough commotion to stay relevant.

I like to think that we're doing things right when cars like the Camaro Z28 and the monstrous Hellcat are hitting the streets. I'm glad that I'm no longer taking a laid back stance in my support for absurd sports cars. But until I can afford to buy an Aston V12 Vantage without taking a second mortgage out, I'm going to be wrenching. Hopefully inspiring a new group of casual enthusiasts to take the next step. I would advise you to bookmark TireRack.com, go to Sears and buy a set of jack stands, and call up your buddy and see if he'll give you access to his toolbox. Its really not challenging to begin...just make sure you know how to use the spring compressors properly.