Cascade Loop Rally with PNW Drives

Image from PNW Drives Facebook Event Site

For as long as I’ve lived in the Northwest, I’ve always wanted to drove the full Cascade Loop in one trip. I’ve driven just about every section of the trip over the years, but for one reason or another, doing the full loop in one shot has never happened. When I came across PNW Drives on Facebook and saw that they were organizing a two-day rally around the loop, I jumped at the chance. This was my first time on a tour with this group but I had a great time and look forward to joining them on future drives. PNW Drives isn’t a traditional car club, more of an event organizer with any and all cars welcome. Heavy on the swag but not the typical landfill fodder you usually get…high quality hats, hoodies, custom water bottles, etc. Most importantly, good people with a passion for driving and lots of cool cars.

The planned starting point was pretty far North of Seattle and the start time was early in the morning. I decided to extend the trip by a day and I drove up to La Conner on Friday. La Conner is a cute waterfront town with good restaurants and shops and was only 10 minutes from our starting point at Twin Bridges Marina in Mount Vernon. It was nice to get away from everything, have some chowder and just watch the boats go by for a while. I did make the time to drive to the stating point so I would be prepared for the next day…had to grab a photo under the twin bridges!

Saturday morning, I woke up early and ventured out to the starting point. I was happy to find a well organized event, my all important swag bag, and a large group of friendly gearheads equally excited for the trip. We even had a superhero along for the ride! Here are some photos from the early morning meetup where we stayed busy applying decals, talking cars and sheltering under the bridges from the rain. I learned a newfound respect for anyone that does stripes, decals or wraps on cars…I was struggling and the event organizers took pity on me and helped me out.

Geared up and ready to go!

We hit the road in the pouring rain, but there was even crazier weather to come. Our first destination was the Diablo Lake Vista where we would have the chance to stretch our legs, use the restroom and admire the amazing views. Okay, I was busy taking photos of cars and people, but trust me…the views of the lake are incredible when the weather is better and the fog isn’t so thick.

Our next stop was Twisp Park in the town of Twisp but before we arrived to the sunshine, we had to drive through the North Cascades. I was expecting to still see snow on the ground but I didn’t expect it to be actively snowing. Earlier in the day a few folks were wondering if my Jeep was going to keep up but given the weather we hit, I was thinking I might need to winch a few of them out of a ditch 🙂

The weather just kept getting better and the drive even more beautiful as we made our way to BeeBe Springs Wildlife Area. We had some time to hike (okay walk) around, get to know each other and soak in the warm dry weather.

Our final stop of the day was the Icicle Village Resort in Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a quirky Bavarian style town popular with tourists all year round, but especially during the holiday season in December. After a very early start and a full day of driving, I was pretty tired. I explored the area, grabbed some dinner, talked to Meg for a while and then went to bed early.

Day 2 started at a much more reasonable time of 10 am so I had the chance to sleep in and enjoy a leisurely breakfast with copious amounts of coffee before our group meeting. We drove from Leavenworth to Stevens Pass and even with the rain, the roads were fun and the scenery was beautiful. I was once again happy to be in my Jeep and not one of the super cars with racing slicks. Fortunately the rain stopped before we hit Stevens so we could walk around without getting soaked.

We ended the tour at Lake Tye Park in Monroe. It gave us all a chance to eat lunch, stretch our legs and say our goodbyes before heading home. I drove away tired, happy, having met some new friends and looking forward to a return trip around the loop in a fun car and with better weather.

Exotics @ Redmond Town Center is back in business

On every sunny Saturday morning from April through October, hundreds of cars and even more spectators take over the Redmond Town Center for the biggest weekly car show in the country. Exotics at RTC has been operating as a free event run by volunteers for 12 seasons but last year they were unable to host any events due to Covid. This year they are back in business and we’ve been getting lucky with some great weekend weather.

This isn’t a regular cars and coffee, bring whatever you want kind of an event. They run a tight ship and have strict rules about the cars that are on display. It is still open to many, many beautiful cars, but it needs to be something special…an exotic. Inevitably this leads to some upset folks trying to show off their new Prius with flames painted on the side or something like that but the volunteers handle it all with grace. Oh, and don’t act like an ass coming into or leaving the show. The cops will ticket you and the event will ban you, otherwise they risk losing the support of the community to host such a big event.

Here are some of my favorites from opening day which had a big turnout even with the overcast day. The Magenta 911 was my favorite so I kept coming back to it but I loved the Martini inspired 911 as well. Okay, I loved them all!

My next visit was for German Car Day, one of the biggest, most well attended theme days of the year. Take that Italian Day! There were too many incredible cars to even scratch the surface but I tried to capture most of my favorites. The Magenta 911 was back again but it might have been the red RWB 911 that stole my heart this time:

Car show season is finally recovering from Covid!

While car social events are low on the priority list given the difficulties the world has faced from the Covid pandemic, I missed them so much during lockdown last summer. It’s awesome to see the progress we’ve made with vaccines and organized car events are starting to return to normal. Folks are still staying more distanced, many are still in masks, but at least we are able to get together and embrace the coolest part of cars…car culture.

Here are some photos taken at recent Cars and Coffee get together at The Shop.

Time to go full mid-life crisis?

I’m of the belief that cars should be fun…all cars. Life is too short to drive a boring car and you can make any car special, it doesn’t have to be expensive. Now sports cars really need to be fun, they have no other purpose than to bring joy. As stunning as the design of the Spyder is, I’m considering having a little bit of extra fun with it once it arrives and adding a race livery.

A livery is the specific paint scheme or sticker designs used on race cars in order to advertise sponsors or uniquely identify a car or racing team. There are thousands of different designs but here are a few of my all time favorites:

As common as it may be, Martini is my favorite and I think it accentuates the curves of the car perfectly. Personally, unless it is going on an actual race car, I think the race numbers and Martini racing team logo are a bit too much. Here are some mockups of what a Martini inspired design could look like on the 718 Spyder.

Like every tattoo I’ve considered but never put on my body, this might never make it past the design phase. Unlike a tattoo, these are just vinyl stickers that can easily be removed from the car down the road so it’s an easier risk to take and doesn’t hurt nearly as much 😁

Porsche saves the day

I’ve spent the last two weeks waiting for Porsche North America to send a more detailed communication to the 190 US car buyers caught up in the engine recall I detailed in my last post. I’ve done lots of speculating and commiserating with other impacted folks on various forums, going through what-if scenarios and trying to decide what it would take for me to want to just walk away from the deal.

Porsche had committed to a second email with clarity two weeks from the first email which left me expecting something by Saturday at the latest. Those Germans are so precise…it was two weeks almost to the minute. I woke up early on Saturday and picked up my phone to see if anything had come through. There it was, an email titled “Important: Updated Information Regarding Your Porsche”. I was a little afraid to open it. Not after reading it. I was pleasantly surprised to see how comprehensive the communication was. They had specifics for the fix, compensation details and the timeline all nailed down. Here’s the summary:

  • A new factory built engine. All fears of a rebuilt engine are gone, Porsche will be building new engines in the factory and shipping them to be swapped at the dealership. It’s pretty common to have to remove a Porsche engine to work on it so I’m not worried about this job being done well. Phew…dodged a bullet.
  • Certificate of engine exchange to show it is a matching original engine provided new with the car by Porsche.
  • 8 year warranty for the engine (an extension of 4 years). This was a bonus I didn’t expect and certainly helps with peace of mind.
  • $4k discount on this Porsche or another.
  • $1k voucher for a Porsche Experience Center or Porsche Track Experience Day.

The downside is still the delay in getting my car. I should be driving it home next week but Porsche will be doing these engine swaps between June and September. Given COVID, chip shortages and supply disruptions, I have no reason to complain, they are moving as fast as they can. They are working in order of original planned delivery so I’m not sure where mine will land yet. I’ll likely miss most of the driving season this year but I still feel like Porsche has gone above and beyond to make up for the mistake. This is a great example of a customer first approach because they didn’t have to do anything other than apologize for the delay and fix the cars. I don’t know of any other car manufacturer that would be taking such a customer friendly approach. Thanks Porsche…now get me my damn car!!

Porsche makes a rare mistake, but a big one

I’ve owned old and new Porsches and there are many things to love about them. One of the biggest advantages is you get super car like performance, street livability, a fun track car and a level of quality that no other performance car company can come close to. You can take a 600 horsepower Turbo on a cross country trip and feel confident that you won’t break down along the way…not something most people would try in a Ferrari or Lamborghini.

Sometimes even the best screw up and this time I hit the unlucky lottery. Up until recently, everything about my order has been trending early. On or around March 17th, we started to hear rumors of a stop-sale order issued by Porsche. These aren’t common but there have been a few recently. One recent one was due to possible emissions and extra steps the US was taking on import…most people felt about a one to two week delay. There is another stop-sale impacted cars where a suspension bolt needs to be replaced which is also being handled quickly and isn’t an invasive fix. The rumors we were hearing for this recent one were different…possible issue with the 4.0 engine used in the Cayman/Boxster GTS, the GT4 and the Spyder. Uh-oh. Rumors spread like wildfire and you can see from this growing thread on Rennlist that without clear communication from Porsche, many of us filled the void with anxiety and angst (this thread is up to 1200 posts and 90K views as of 4/11)

On March 29th, an official recall notice came out by Porsche through the NHTSA:

It was confirmed and my car is impacted. Porsche had discovered an issue with the connecting rods used in a specific range of cars that can result in catastrophic engine failure and fire. This is very similar to an issue that happened to 991.1 GT3 engines that also resulted in a massive recall. In this case it is 190 cars in the US and ~800 worldwide.

On April 3rd, while my car sat at the Port of Houston, I received an email from Porsche confirming that my car was impacted and that it would take 3 to 6 months for me to receive my car. More information to come.

Simon Kuhnimhof was nice enough to take a video call with me the following Monday and I was able to express my frustration and concerns with the lack of transparency in how they were handling this. Simon was as helpful as he could be and I really appreciated his willingness to at least meet and listen. He committed to additional details in the next few weeks so I’m hoping to know more by the end of this coming week.

What I know so far. Out of the 190 US cars impacted, 19 had been delivered to customers already. These cars clearly represent the biggest risk to Porsche since the issue may result in engine self-destruction and fire…not a good look. As expected, Porsche communicated faster and with more clarity to this group offering a loaner car, $2K/month for lost time and depreciation, a trip to one of the Porsche Experience Centers and they will be swapping the engines for new factory built engines within 1 to 2 months. There was 1 additional person that had already fully paid for their car and they eventually included this person in the delivered group with this same offer. This is a crappy experience for this group but Porsche is ensuring they get made close to whole.

What is still uncertain, is how Porsche will handle the undelivered cars. In the similar situation with the GT3 fiasco, Porsche replaced all engines with factory built engines. My spidey sense is telling me that Porsche is considering a repair instead of replace strategy for the undelivered cars. Check my last post for a video of Porsche manufacturing an engine and it starts with connecting rods going in. For this 4.0 engine, any repair will require removal of the engine and a complete tear down of it, splitting it open to replace the rods before it all gets put back together. While I mostly trust Porsche to do this to the highest levels of quality possible, doing it outside of the factory, either at Port facilities or at the dealership, is less than ideal. I’m waiting to hear official word from Porsche before making any decisions but I am highly unlikely to pay for a new car that has a day-0 engine rebuild without substantial compensation to account for the time and “story” these cars will carry with them. I’m still counting on Porsche doing the right thing and replacing these engines.

Photo from the Porsche factory:

My worst nightmare (not that I expect this but still…)

My attempt at a Porsche engine rebuild with my first 911 and a patient father:

Building and Shipping my Spyder

Now that I settled on and submitted my final build to my Sales Associate, Porsche needs to do their thing to build the car and ship it to me! I enjoyed watching this process unfold when I ordered my 2016 Targa and now I get to do it again with the Spyder.

The schedule:

  • Jan 31st, 2021 – Build finalized with my Sales Associate
  • February 26th, 2021 – Planned build start
  • Late April – Estimated delivery to Porsche Oklahoma City, my dealership for this car

After Porsche finishes building a car headed to the United States, it gets moved to a port at Emden, Germany. Cars are loaded onto specialized vehicle carriers where they are shipped around the world.

In my case, Porsche beat all of their estimates. The car was built early and was ready to ship out from Emden, Germany on March 5th on the Goodwood vehicle carrier with a updated arrival estimate at the dealership for April 16th but trending early. Thanks to the internet and sites like MarineTraffic.com, obsessed buyers like myself are able to track the progress along the way.

Getting ready to leave Emden, Germany on March 5th, 2021:

Arriving at the Port of Houston, USA on March 29th (multiple stops along the way):

Here is a video of Porsche building an engine along the assembly line as an example of what happens behind the scenes. Pay special attention to how involved this process is…it will come back in my next post 🙂

Here’s a longer (and bit boring) video of full cars being made for a in-depth look at the process.

My 718 Spyder Build

I already talked about my decision to sell the Turbo and buy a 718 Spyder and provided some background on the heritage behind the Spyder, so in this post I’m going to go into more detail about the actual car that I ordered and the reasons I configured it the way I did. The Porsche online configurator is so much fun, and you can daydream about the perfect stripped down GT3 or the most decked out new Turbo. They keep improving it…my dream would be if they would add historic models with the options back in the day to play with.

The fun and games stops when you move from daydreaming to actually having to lock down the spec you want to order. Almost all Porsche’s are custom configured. Even cars that are for sale on dealer lots have been customized by the dealer. The only real exceptions are cars that are pre-configured special editions, customized by the Porsche Exclusive group. When a customer is ordering a car, they take on the fun and the stress of deciding what the perfect car is for them. It’s a long process of research, watching videos, making decisions, second guessing and then you repeat this until the day your Sales Associate tells you it must be locked so the car can be built 🙂

Some decisions were pretty easy:

  • Manual Transmission – One of the main reasons I wanted to make this move was for a more engaging driving experience so the manual transmission was an easy one. Free choice…winning.
  • Color – Never black, ever again. I was tempted by a bright skittles color and would have loved to do a paint-to-sample but that is complicated and expensive. None of the blues did it for me and python green or speed yellow screamed mid-life crisis more than I was willing to own. I have always loved white cars and I think the white and black two-tone look matches the Spyder beautifully. I went basic white over metallic white because to me it looks more sporty and the metallic white is too cool, I like the warmer tone of the basic white. Also free…win.
  • Porsche Carbon Ceramic Brakes – An expensive option but I have them and love them on my Turbo. These are basically lifetime brakes for a non-tracked car, are much lighter for less unsparing weight and have zero brake dust. I debated painting them black but really like the PCCBs in yellow as they are intended to be so that will be the one splash of color in the build. This was not a free option…
  • 2-way Sport Plus seats – Again, have them in my Turbo and love them. Easy, simple and very comfortable. I don’t see the value in paying thousands for heavier 18 way seats and I’m too big to live with the bucket seats on a daily basis. Free…so much winning.
  • Satin black Porsche logo for the white/back theme and rebadged otherwise.
  • ”Downgrade” from track oriented Cup2 tires to high performance summer times to get my favorite tire, the Michelin PS4S, perfect for Seattle and the type of driving I do.
  • 2-Zone climate – I love the set it and forget it feature.
  • Heated seats – Yes please in the Northwest.
  • Carbon Fiber interior trim and lighted carbon fiber door sills. I love the look and it holds up better than the aluminum finishes.
  • Light design package – Here Porsche, take an extra $350 so I don’t have to explain why this car doesn’t have light up visor mirrors like every other car in the world 
  • Bose and Apple Car Play

Choices that took a bit longer:

  • Leather or alcantara wheel and shifter. I have always had leather but given the other alcantara in the interior, I went that direction this time.
  • Contrast stitching color. Yellow, red or silver (white really)…I was on the fence about this the longest. Yellow to match my brake calipers or silver for a better two tone look. In the end I went with silver because I found the yellow to be a bit busy and thought silver reinforced the two-tone look I wanted. A bit boring perhaps.
  • Headlights. I upgraded to the Porsche Dynamic Light System (PDLS) but didn’t go all the way to full LED. I like the look of the blacked out Bi-Xenon headlights over the full LEDs and they work great. A little form over function here but it also saved money on the build.
  • Color – Okay, I know I said this was easy, but every time I see a Miami Blue, a Python Green or a Yellow Porsche, I can’t help feeling like I should have gone more bold with my build.

Way more detail that anyone likely cares to know, but that’s true for this whole blog 🙂 Here’s my official Porsche build code where they maintain all of the options I picked although I don’t know how long until they recycle these numbers – Final build.

Here are some configurator photos…a far cry from the real thing but they give you an idea of how things will look when it all comes together.