Photo credit: Stef Schrader

I’m tired. I’m sunburnt. I’m dirty. I’m a walking cornucopia of bad smells. I’m also in a better mood than ever, because I spent a lot of time in a good car and have a newfound resolve in getting it fixed. If you need motivation to finally fix all the nagging, dumb little fixes with your project car, go drive it.

I’ve had a long list of things to fix on my Porsche 944 race car for far too long. Some are things I need to check out before racing it again, like replacing my cracked windshield and making sure the safety items aren’t out of date. Other problems, like fixing my car’s cooling issues, have been things I’ve been unable to fix, so I’ve let them slide because I’m just stuck on them.

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The 944 has been drivable and I’ve still run a good number of laps in its mildly wounded state, but I know my long to-do list is keeping me from doing anything cool with the car, like a full track weekend.

Clearly, leaving it at the track wasn’t working. The track closes too early for me to get there on most days after work, and it was too easy to forget about the big red project car that was out of sight, and out of mind.

I probably wouldn’t have cleaned up my rear-view mirrors if I hadn’t expected to drive my 944 home. Photo credit: Stef Schrader

I knew I’d have to get the car into a place where I could access it after hours, or more easily during the day. I was tired of waiting for an opportunity to tow it home. So, I drove few laps on track (hey, it was there), removed the crusty old tape over the rear-view mirrors for better visibility, and then drove the 944 home.

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On the track, my 944 was generally fine, except in one highly irritating scenario: it frequently spews coolant when I stop, which is when air is no longer forced through the radiator to keep it cool. It peed a little hot water after I ran it on track, so I had to add a bit more water, and I took more water with me for the trip home, just in case.

Homeward bound on the open road, the 944 stayed cool and happy. That part was a blast—a reminder of how much fun the car is and why I had it in the first place. Still, I noticed all the little things I had to fix—right there, as I drove it. Rust spots to repaint on the cage, the floppy shifter, the hole in the floor, noises, clunks and rattles.

Once the 944 was in town, though, every stop light was torture. Every time I came to a stop, I wondered: will this be where my car gets too hot and marks its territory with neon green liquid?

The car was OK until I stopped for coffee, at which point a solid stream of coolant came pouring out of the car’s coolant overflow hose. I was close to home, but I was sweaty and tired from driving what is essentially a convertible with a glorified canopy for a couple hours, counting the time I’d spent on track.

It’s a good thing I didn’t have a cupholder, because I had to stop and enjoy my coffee there, giving the car ample time to cool off. Fortunately, people are pretty nice about a thoroughly ridiculous car in their midst. Another person passing by even offered a rag to get the coolant overflow tank cap off for me to put in more water.

Once I had more water in there and could drive home, it was settled: I’ve got to fix the overheating issue. That stood out as the biggest source of anxiety on the whole drive. Thus, that’s my plan for Monday: see who wants to help fix this “peeing coolant everywhere” problem. I can’t not drive the car. It’s too good.

Ball of old, crusty vinyl pulled from the race car. Photo credit: Stef Schrader

Once I was home, I found myself poking at dumb little things I’d been meaning to do, just because the car was there. I even started removing old vinyls I’ve wanted to remove for months, and looking around the car to see what I could clean up, or do next. Progress!

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Maybe I should daily drive the 944 as much as possible until it gets completely fixed. There’s plenty about the car that would annoy me into working harder. I hate even driving with a window open in the car, much less driving around with no windows except a windshield. Many things inside need to be tied down somehow as a result, including my hair—which sucks. It’s really only semi-practical for moving exceptionally heavy things in its former hatch area, like it’s the world’s dinkiest, most ridiculous pickup.

There are clear limits to where I could drive the 944 as well. I’d cut myself some slack on rainy days and use a closed car, and I couldn’t drive it at night unless I reinstalled some headlamps. Any other situation, and why not? I might even get to take my Porsche to a Porsche Club event where it’s not arriving on a trailer.

Photo credit: Stef Schrader

Either way, I think I learned a valuable lesson. If you can drive your project car around somehow—check with your local authorities first, of course—go do it. If you don’t remind yourself why you have the car, and what needs to be fixed, sometimes it’s hard to get motivated and prioritize what to tackle first. Believe me, the most irritating thing will stick out like a sore thumb, telling you exactly what you need to do next.

If I don’t fix that stupid coolant issue, though, I’m going to go nuts.