Ran When Parked: How I Resurrected A 15-Year-Dead 1977 Porsche 911S and How You Can, Too
Rob Siegel is a super human. Earlier this year he embarked on a trip to purchase, revive, and road trip 1000 miles home, a BMW 2002 tii that had been sitting for decades. Not only was the trip successful, but then he completed an entire novel about the experience, complete with lots of technical information for you to do it yourself, and self-published such an account in this amazing piece of literature.
I’d just finished Rob’s new totally awesome inspirational book when my phone rang. Good friend Manuel Carrillo III was on the other end of the line. Manuel has recently embarked on an adventure to revive his father’s old 1977 Porsche 911S that has been sitting for over 15 years. Being not quite as mechanically inclined as I am, the call was a request for assistance in the project. Perhaps still high on the exuberance and bravado of Rob’s book, or perhaps influenced by how ‘easy’ Rob made his adventure sound. I shouted “All I need is one day” into the phone and started packing my bags.
The best way to review this book is to take its practices to heart, so that’s what I did. I’ll say right now that you should definitely read it, and you should definitely use these tips to revive something that “ran when parked”.
Rob is addicted to BMW’s 2002, in particular, the tii version. He’s had dozens of them, and in fact had a couple sitting around as he was going on this adventure to acquire another. He is the perfect stand in for the every-man car enthusiast, in that the way he writes you can easily see yourself in the words. His adventures could easily be your adventures if you just dropped everything and went after a dumb old BMW that “ran when parked” and just “needs a fuel pump”. His confidence made me confident. His simple turn of phrase and colloquial writing style made all of this sound too damn easy. Let’s dive in.
Being that this is the car that brought a brand new Manuel home from the hospital as a bouncing baby boy, all these years later he’s dubbed the car “Project Stork” and is documenting the entire process on the Porsche-specific forum Rennlist (episode 1 & episode 2 available now). Being based in the greater Los Angeles area, I first had to embark on a 9-hour road trip down to Manuel’s place in order to provide my assistance, aside from 117-degree heat as I crossed the Mojave, everything went off hitch-free. Friday morning we were up bright and early. The car is housed in the workshops of Haynes/Chilton/Clymer, which made things slightly easier with access to tools and a nice two-post lift (Thanks for the hospitality!).
The car was already on a lift, and all of the spark plugs had already been removed, and the oil had already been drained. After some fresh Valvoline VR1 high-zinc was piped into the car (13 quarts of the stuff!), I conducted a compression test to verify that the engine was healthy enough to run. The pressures ranged from 145 psi to 165 psi, which is good enough for this old high-mileage 8.5:1 compression engine. Next, I checked to make sure the coil was still firing properly, and each of the six spark plugs sparked when the engine turned over. Cool, we’re doing good!
Whenever I would work on cars as a youngster, my stepfather would stand around sipping a beer saying “All an engine needs to run is air, fuel, and spark”, so of course fuel is the next one on our checklist. Thankfully, the very first thing I did in the morning was to check the fuel pump’s ability to turn. When I hooked up the pump to a battery jump box, it was 100% dead, no motion what so ever. Equally thankfully, a nearby big box auto parts store was able to get us a rebuilt Chinese unit by 2PM. I guess it really did Need Feul Pomp.
I wanted to get a good look inside the tank to see if it was rusty and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, the car was parked with about 15 gallons of fuel inside. When I pulled the fuel level sending unit out of the top of the tank, this is what it looked like.
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A fuel level sending unit is *not* supposed to look like this. #ProjectStork
While this Porsche did, in fact, run when parked, it wasn’t going to be running on the fuel that was in the tank. It was all “varnished”, and there was about an inch of sludge sediment in the bottom of the tank. I removed the fuel tank from the car and emptied it out. The tank is still out of the car sitting with a few gallons of acetone in the bottom. We’ll see soon if it is recoverable.
The fuel pump and probably most of the fuel lines were full of the 15-year-old fuel gunk as well. Being that this car is a Bosch CIS injection car, I simply pulled the fuel line off of the fuel distributor at the back of the car and pushed a whole lot of compressed air through it. Walking back up to the front of the car, this is what came shooting out of the fuel line. I kept doing this a few times until I was satisfied that it was all cleaned out. Disgusting, but necessary.
With the fuel lines cleared, and a fresh fuel pump installed, it was time. We grabbed a five-gallon fuel can, a length of clear tubing, and put a bucket under the fuel return line, then used the jump box to fire up the fuel pump, priming the system. The fuel pump would not run when the key turned, so there is likely a bad relay somewhere, but the day was winding down and I had a promise to keep. Let’s get this pig running.
Success. After a 12-hour wrench session featuring lots of fits and starts, this car ran and settled into an idle for the first time in 15 years. I didn’t even have a driver’s license the last time this car ran. It was a long and tiring day, but when that idle settled in, it was worth all of the effort. Seeing Manuel as happy as he is in this video made my entire year. So happy to have helped revive his childhood dream car.
In case you’re interested in earning the kind of confidence it requires to pull off something dumb like this, go read Rob’s book. “Ran When Parked” is an easy read, and I didn’t put it down for hours at a time. I don’t read as often as I would like, but I finished this within just 3 days of it showing up in my mailbox. I actually bought a copy from Amazon where it’s a few dollars less expensive. Once finished, I found out that Rob’s own website sells personally inscribed copies for only a couple dollars more. I shipped my Amazon copy to a friend and bought the one that will stay on my shelf for 20 bucks.
Since I reviewed his previous book a few years ago and had him as a guest on the Cammed & Tubbed podcast, I’ve become fast car-guy internet-friends with Rob, and he inscribed “Brad, my friend I’ve never met, may the spirit of Louie be with you. – Rob Siegel“. Louie is the name of the 2002tii main character featured in the book, and his spirit damn well must have been with me. Thanks, Rob and Louie. I’ll never forget these adventures.
Photos of Louie sourced from Rob’s page, book cover sourced from Amazon.com, all other photos copyright Bradley C. Brownell.