A beautiful, but lonely road in northern California
John & Kaye Jackson and their 1987 911 Carrera
Anthologies of an Engine Rebuild
Story and photos by Redwood Region member John Jackson
This is not meant to be a replacement for the latest Bruce
Anderson book on 911 rebuilds. It is by no means meant to be technical
from a mechanic's point of view. Instead, it is the sharing of one man's
experience with his Porsche. I own a 1987 911 Carrera with a cough.
It all began with a perfect Redwood Region drive in the northern
California hills. Just as we were leaving Chico, we were suddenly
confronted with a loss of power. We were hearing the sound of only 5
cylinders instead of 6. It was not the time, nor the place we would
have chosen for that particular experience. We had just filled our gas
tank, because we told there were no gas stations or for that matter rest
stops for another 150 miles. At best we could expect to find an outhouse
to stop at, and only one of those. Suddenly Kaye and I experienced a
Bad gas maybe? Still some power at higher revs, so we kept going. We
made our next stop, Red Bluff, not exactly a Porsche center and the
outside temperature had reached 110.
At dinner all suggestions were as positive as one could imagine, maybe
it's a problem with the car adjusting to the altitude. Should we
continue the drive to Fortuna or turn back to Larkspur? Thinking only
the positive, and with high revs we enjoyed the great roads, and had a
great time. We tried to get to sea level as soon as possible and hoped
that was the answer.
Allow me to digress for a moment. When you own a 1987 911, you have
heard the stories of valve guide failures too many times. It's my
understanding that Porsche started to experiment with different metals
for their valve guides in '87, leading to an increase in valve guide
failures. Maybe they used a different supplier, or maybe it was the beer
breaks at the factory (just kidding). None the less, there have been
more than a few documented engine rebuilds on the '87 911s.
As I sped along my mind started to review the records in my perfectly
organized file of service. I remembered that we were made aware, at our
initial purchase, of oil on the #2 spark plug, and at each service in
the last 30k miles. When we bought the Carrera we were in love with
everything about the car, so it was easy to overlook a few things.
I wondered where that quart of oil went every 500 miles. I thought of
it as magic. No smoke, good oil pressure, great power and no visual
leaks. Suddenly all these things come to mind. It was like knowing that
this was that moment others have dreaded, but you hoped it would never
come for you.
After returning home we decided to play dumb. We took it to be serviced,
acted as if all was well, and pretended to be surprised at the outcome.
...and what was that outcome? But where should I go to continue this
experience. Stay tuned, there will be more to report as the story