By Ron Durocher
On Thursday night March 21,, I got an e-mail from Howard Gilson, owner of Gilson Motorsports, asking if I’d like to come to one of his “Tech Sessions” in which he and his technicians, Curt Ormiston and Thor Serota, would be discussing how to corner balance a car. He apologized for the last minute e-mail (only ~2 days notice), but hoped I could make it. Lunch would be served on the house, too. I’m not a customer yet and this guy is offering tech time in his shop with free food! Let’s see..free food, Porsches, tech talk and hanging around a tuning shop? Jess, my better half, and I are in!!
Saturday rolls around and we show up 15 minutes early and the parking lot is packed already. We go to the door and there’s this young, goatee-bearded guy with a ball cap greeting everyone. Turns out this is Howard. He’s a very pleasant guy and chats with us for 10 minutes. He seems genuinely glad we could make it on such short notice. Jess and I like him immediately.
We wander around the shop. And it’s a great shop! Not huge, but not small. Great advertising posters and awards on some walls. It’s clean, but not in the antiseptic way . It has a comfortable feeling. You can tell this is a car nut’s garage by where the “waiting room” is. But it’s not a waiting room. It’s just a half dozen comfortable chairs in one corner of the shop. IN the shop. Oh, and not just that..they face a hoist that has a beige Porsche 356 being restored. What could be better than waiting to have your car worked on while watching a 356 restoration in progress?
There are 5 hoists. A Boxster being corner balanced is on one; there’s a 996 Turbo on another, in for a new clutch, there’s a 1975 911 having an upgraded suspension and a 999 3.6L engine installed. It will be wicked, this silver 911 Carrera! The 356 being restored takes up another, and curiously…a Saab takes up the last one. There are at least 3 engines on stands. The 3.6L, another 911 engine and a 4 banger from one of the 356s. There are at least four 356s in here. Jess and I look under the 996 TT..and I am positively beaming when she points out the location of the wastegate/actuators under the car. She also notes the aftermarket headers. A few guys notice, look, and realize she’s not just here for arm candy. Very nice, Jess!!
A local wheel manufacturer representative is there to tell us about his wares. The company is Formula 43 http://www.formula43.com/ They make VERY nice wheels, and Gilson is sporting a set on his black Carrera 4S.. These are quality wheels, and are built to each customer’s specs and needs. It is nice to meet a quality wheel maker…and one that’s local too.
We get to the tech session and listen to Curt speak. These guys set up track cars, and are quite good at it. They do much of the work manually and do not use typical alignment machines because the tolerances of those machines are too sloppy for their tastes…too much variance. He’s right…there is too much variance for a track car, but for a street car they work fine. Overall it was an informative and a laid back tech session. I’d say approximately 35 people were in attendance and everyone enjoyed themselves..
Oh..and Howard’s 911 is spectacular. It’s a 993 Carrera 4S and the stance is PERFECT. The 18″ Formula 43 wheels with black centers set it off awesomely. Howard is quite attached to the car, and says he’ll never sell it. He told us in great detail about the trials and tribulations of driving such a car in Michigan..where the roads are mostly horrific. The car is LOW too, and Howard reports of a near death experience with a bowling pin lying in the middle of the road. It’s an amusing story. Howard is brutally honest and says the car is likely too low and at times is a chore and a pain to drive on the streets.
All in all…this was a great way to spend a Saturday. We all learned about custom wheels as well as suspension setup for maximum street and track performance. Jess and I look forward to attending tech sessions at other shops and enjoying the 911 to the fullest.