This is the fourteenth in a series by Howard LaPlante on his early experiences with cars.
Driving along in a hard rain, the muffler of the 1970 Audi 100LS seemed to have come off! It made a terrible racket! The rain was coming down in buckets, no use stopping. As the rain lessened we noted that the noise had also lessened. Then as the rain stopped, the noise stopped as well! After a bit I found a fairly dry spot and stopped and got out and looked under the car. There appeared to be nothing wrong! We completed the trip to Florida and back to Minnesota with no reappearance of the noise! Took the car into the dealer and explained the problem; they (of course) had never heard of such a thing! Nothing could be found! The muffler clamps were all tight! Unfortunately I did not have Gus Wilson* of the Model Garage nearby. The mystery remained for as long as I had the car and never returned!
Due to many circumstances – such as buying a 40 acre apple farm, the car trading and buying became dormant for several years. It was 1977 when the Porsche itch returned. When I first saw the pictures of the new 924, I thought that it was about the best looking car that I had ever seen. My impressions were similar to the enthusiasts magazines. Some thought the car looked like a Ferrari Daytona. The early press reports noted that it stopped traffic wherever it was driven. From Big Sur to Sunset Boulevard, everyone thought it looked “slick”!
(I want to intrude into my story and quote and contemporary reports about the 924 to note that the car that is today, for the most part, considered a poor example of Porsche automobiles, was not at all that way, when it was introduced. We must keep in mind that its reputation has been sullied by the performance of the more modern cars. We will after all, in just a few years think that our present cars were not that good.)
The first driving reports of the 924 were equally good. Several reports noted that the performance was good, the engine smooth and flexible. Road & Track said. “The car is quicker than you think, only when you note how fast you are pulling away from traffic do you realize how quick the car really is.” The handling drew raves! The rear mounted transmission gave neutral handling of a high order. What this all means, summarized Autoweek, “The 924 handles the corners better than any other car we have driven in the recent past!”
I had, over the years learned that the first year of production was not the best year. So I waited until 1978 to purchase a 924. It proved to be a good idea, there were many improvements. Most important was the increase of horsepower to 110. The car proved to be a good investment. Many miles of trouble free motoring. Good handling, good fuel economy. We appreciated having the large rear hatch – and in Minnesota, the great heater!
After many years, my daily commuter car the 1960 Corvair was getting long in the tooth, and I needed to replace it. With what? Considering the length of drive, needed something with good economy. Several cars seemed to fit the requirements. However, after driving the new VW Jetta Diesel the decision was made.
The Jetta proved to be a good choice. The mileage was outstanding, and 45 to 50 was not uncommon! It soon became a game to see just how fast I could drive. Like any underpowered cars, the driver has to plan ahead! It was always interesting that with my long commute I always managed to get to work on time, the car went through the snow with no problems!
It was however on one very cold day that the car did let me down. The early December weather had been very warm, so when I filled with diesel fuel on a very warm Friday, I put in #2 diesel fuel. But, on Monday morning when it was -20 degrees I backed the car out of the garage and started for work. I only made it about 5 miles when the engine started to buck. I knew what the trouble was, the wrong diesel fuel.
* Gus Wilson was a mythical character that solved automobile problems in a monthly column written by Martin Bunn, a pen name for several writers. The column ran from 1925 until 1970 in Popular Science.
– To be continued.