P4-2019-07 – A Fan of Kewl Air
by Uli Gollwitzer
The story of a 2200 mile trip to the PCA Palooza in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and back.
Inspired by a friend’s encouragement to participate in the 2018 PCA Palooza, November 8-11, we decided that it would be a good idea to give our new-to-us 1988 Carrera 3.2 a proper shakedown and take on the 800 mile trip to get there. The car had been sitting for 10 years due to unexpected health problems of the previous owner. We had driven it all summer already and went through the essential mechanics supported by a local Porsche specialist. My wife Krista with her healthy attitude towards classic cars said: “What’s better than breaking down at a meet with more than 600 Porsche enthusiasts.”
With its origin in 2005, the Porsche Palooza is an ever-growing car meet and driving event with 3 days of touring the beautiful fall foliage and twisty roads of the Ozark Mountains. Several themed and guided tours for up to 20 cars at not-at-all Porsche pricing are offered and led by experienced drivers. A key to attend is to register right at the opening of the event at 6 AM (Central Time) on October 1st.
After a long final day of preparing the car and choosing on-board tools and spare parts, the big day came. There is always a bit more excitement when you go on a trip with a classic car. I checked over the engine once more and then the fan belt … No! It felt loose! Thoughts went through my head on who to contact short term for repairs. We decided to leave anyway — a new belt and tools were on board. At the first gas stop the belt felt tight. I could not understand the fact, but it convinced us to keep going. To be sure, I ordered a couple more spare parts from our hotel in St. Louis that night.
After a good night’s rest and an impressive visit of the Gateway Arch, we resumed our trip to Eureka Springs. We arrived at our home for the next few days, a beautiful time capsule of a bed and breakfast place build in 1947 and owned by car enthusiasts.
The event registration on Thursday morning was very efficient despite a buzzing atmosphere generated by 600 participants. The parking lots of the event headquarters, the Inn of the Ozark’s, was stuffed with Porsches of all eras! Starting with 924s, air-cooled classic and modern 911s, all the way to a Martini livery 918 Spyder. The owner is said to be a long timer and loves to drive his car in the event.
Our drive for the first day was the Buffalo River Tour – 165 miles through curvy roads with nice green landscapes and of course partially along the Buffalo River. Every tour starts with a very well communicated drivers meeting. A very good lesson learned was to always wait for the car behind you at the next turn, should they have lost sight of you along the way.
At the first stop, after a first hour of truly inspired driving, we made the first connection with other participants. At the following lunch break, at the beautiful and petrolhead-worthy Ozark Café, we already felt like we were road tripping with a bunch of friends. It was nice to sit with our tour guide Mike Hays, who truly understands how to efficiently move his 1990 928 S4 about. Endless tight turns on fantastic roads made for an excellent day rounded off by a social dinner at the event headquarters. Krista got kidnapped for the Ladies Tea, but quickly learned that tea is not what everyone drinks there. Later she came back with new friends and the main raffle prize. Everybody at the event, especially those from the organizing clubs – White River, Cimarron, and Ozark Regions, were so inclusive and made sure everyone had a good time!
Saturday we had signed up for a tour that went into the Boston Mountains. Jason, our guide, was leading with the pristine 993 of his mother-in-law, as his early 911 was undergoing a full restoration at the time. Talking to him at the breaks was very interesting. Again we enjoyed beautiful mountain views, driving and the camaraderie during a nice lunch. The lunch break included the discovery of our fan belt problem in a brief parking lot wrenching session: The fan wheel had been mounted wrong, not enough shims were used. This allowed it to wander enabling the half pulley to cut very deep into the hub. While we kept the car drivable, another parking lot session in the evening, supported by a retired Porsche master mechanic and other newly gained friends, was in order.
Despite our attempts for a fix, the problem resurfaced again the next day as there was no way to properly keep the fan in the center. At this point we had already made numerous phone calls to express order a new part. Luckily, we had signed up for a very short tour only and still enjoyed the highly recommended Chrystal Bridges, a gem of a museum and architecture owned by the Walton Family.
We skipped the cleaning part of the shine and show, as we still tried to find a solution to our problem that would hold for our return journey. This resulted in us placing our car with all the road grime of 5 days of driving next to a very clean example. Slightly insecure, we deployed our information for voting while thinking of the quote of Dr. Ferry Porsche, “Porsches are meant to be driven, not polished.”
By that time, I already had a good chat with Leonard Zechiedrich. He and his wife were orchestrating the event together with many volunteers from the three participating PCA regions. To me he is the coolest (and most likely fastest) school teacher in the world. Over many years of working on cars and assembling garage projects given up on by others, he has a remarkable collection of Porsches and other gasoline driven vehicles on 2 and 4 wheels (check out the911den.com). He was sure that he had a fan with fewer blades from an earlier car in his garage and said we would ‘take a look’ after the farewell breakfast the next morning.
For the night we forgot about our worries and enjoyed the festive farewell dinner. The raffle was generously supported by the event sponsors. A true surprise for us came when shop owner Brian Thomas of Rennsport Werkstatt selected us as the winner of his Sponsors Choice Award, supporting our efforts to participate in the event despite our technical difficulties. We took the opportunity to tell everyone how impressed we were to find a group of truly inclusive friends when we expected ‘just’ a bunch of cool cars and some fun driving.
After a breakfast with some of our new friends, we met at Leonard’s home where we indeed were able to fit an old, spray painted red fan wheel with only 5 blades on our car. Leonard also gave us a tour of his place and showed us some of his projects, rebuild cars, and motorcycles. After his explanations on the cars, any doubt on his statement that the fewer bladed fan would keep the car cool on our way home was gone. This was only possible due to the freezing temperatures of the season.
After a short test drive it was time to leave. We had to be north of St Louis before 2 am to avoid an approaching snowstorm along our route home, but we did not want to miss a tour of Sharon and Mike Hays’ new house (our tour guide on the first day). They had invited us to stay with them, had we decided to express ship a new fan there.
Thanks to a balanced fan wheel the car ran smoother than ever! We kept an eye on the temperature gauge and after an all-night, nonstop drive home, we celebrated our adventure with a nice breakfast in Detroit followed by a long rest in our comfortable bed. Needless to say, the red fan got returned to its home and replaced with a new one. The mangled original is destined to become a clock on the wall, a memory of our adventure.