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Vivian Leigh played the troubled Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire. In the award winning play and movie, Tennessee Williams created a complex character driven by her inner demons, fueled by alcoholism and lust, she managed to disrupt the tempestuous household of her sister and brother-in-law. One of the great lines (and there were many) was “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”. I think that for most of us, we have had that moment where someone stepped forward and lent a hand or we were that “stranger” that provided that help. OK, maybe it was not in the same context of what Blanche was talking about…but you get the point. No matter, we have all been either on the giving or receiving end.

I had my “kindness of strangers” moment this past weekend at a Porsche Club of America Drivers Education (PCA-DE) event hosted by the North Texas Maverick Region at Eagles Canyon Raceway near the metropolis of Slidell Texas. Now I should probably point out that I have not done a PCA event in about three years, so I was probably over due. Been doing events with a couple of other organizations where I am an instructor. But to the PCA guys? I was just another driver. Fair enough, it would be a chance to just drive and not have to worry about students.

So just to catch you all up, I have been busy doing stuff to the Cayman S. Recent mods include a custom made trailer hitch, courtesy of Loran Keller at Open Track Connections ( This slick hitch is hidden behind a hinged license plate and is just plain old cool. I actually own a small utility trailer, but it had been sitting for five years and was definitely past it prime. It needed new tires, wheels, a repaint, and probably new wiring. It would have cost about $150+ to get it all done right. A new one cost $176 (with a 20% off coupon) from Harbor Freight. So you can imagine that I had to think long and hard about this decision (about five seconds). Only problem is Harbor Freight has no clue how to sell a trailer. They did not have the correct forms to sell a “titled” trailer and actually told me I would have to go to the DMV to get the correct form and bring it back for them to fill out. Totally incompetent. Turns out I knew the correct form (TXDOT form 130-U if you are wondering), went to the nearby FedEx and printed it off. I actually printed off a couple of extra and returning to Harbor Freight, and “suggested” that they keep one of file for future sales. Yeah fat chance….

It took a couple of evenings of wrenching to get it put the new trailer together, taking parts from the old trailer that held the tires and race gear to finish the project. Finished I went to Texas DMV to get it titled. It came as a surprise when they told me I could not get it titled because Harbor Freight did not have a “dealer number”. Frustrated, I called Harbor Freight and asked if they had the number. They did not. They said since they sell trailers in kit form, they did not need a dealer number. I was very polite (to a fault) in pleading my case to TX-DMV. I think they felt sorry for me and took my forms to a manager, who it turn took it to another manager. Suddenly they came back and exclaimed that the laws had JUST this second changed. Texas does not require the selling dealer to have a dealer number for trailer kits. I think they messed up and did a little CYA, saying they were just notified. Yes…just notified. Sort of like when you are low on funds at your bank and it takes them a couple of weeks to let you know….just saying.

OK, I have gotten way off track what I was writing about in the first place. Yeah, it had something to do with the kindness of strangers. Meanwhile back at the ranch, I arrived at the track and got my car ready. Saw many old friends and was looking forward to getting out on the track and getting after it. This particular track event was different, instead of two days, it was a one day format. The idea was to give everyone a lot of track time in one day. To make this happen, they combined the intermediate and advanced groups into one super group. Sweet! There would be a lot of fast cars all running together.

Went out for the first lap, taken under yellow with no passing allowed. Started to take the next lap, now under green and was working to catch up to a track buddy. We like to play and string several laps together trying to out do each other…ahhh, just like old times. On the straight leading to turns 5 and 6, I went to shift from third to forth and suddenly the engine revved to 8,000 RPM and I had no drive. My hand was on the shifter and it just flopped around in the gate, I could not shift into any gear. I braked for turn 5 and turned in coasting through 6 to the back straight. I pushed in the clutch and rowed the shifter around, finally pushing it forward where it found 5th gear. Great, that was the only gear I could grab. I pulled off line and hit the emergency lights and made my way around the rest of the track pulling into the hot pit area and coasted back to the paddock / parking area back down the hill.

I sat dumbfounded, what great luck! I thought the car was mortally wounded and that I would need a tow home. Problem is Loran and his brother were both at another track event with their trailers and my other race buddy lent his trailer to his folks so they could move some stuff into a new vacation home. ****! I figured it was a broken shift cable and when John Gladwell from Boardwalk Porsche walked by and tested the shifter we agreed my diagnosis was spot on. Broken shifter cable. Then again, he would know, he is one of the mechanics at Boardwalk. He said he could take a look at it Monday if I could get the car to his shop. Problem is, he did not know how determined I was to get it fixed and back on the track.

If you have read any of these columns for the past year and a half, you probably know that I tend to paint my wife as a Porsche Kill Joy. Someone who takes the fun out of track events, car mods and who squashes my sports car dreams. Well….I do tend to take a bit of poetic license. You know, it’s the writing thing and all, sometimes authors tend to exaggerate. Just a little bit. Sometimes. Like when you need that humorous moment. Or two. Truth be known, she has put up with my “car-guy-ed-ness” since we meet almost twenty five years ago. And she is really what most car guys dream of in an understanding wife. And you know what? I love her for it. Great! I have had to lay bare my car guy soul.

Calling one of the local Porsche dealers, I inquired if they had the shift cable. They did! I told the guy my situation and he must have felt sorry for me or something, because he marked the part down to almost cost. I called my wife and asked if she could swing by, pick up the cable and bring it to the track so I could install it. In the meantime, Charlie Lacy from Park Place Porsche (another mechanic that I have instructed before) started helping me take out all the center console trim so I could get to the cable itself. He laughed at one point saying, that although I brought a lot of tools (I did!), he was used to having Porsche specific tools to do certain things. But we got it apart in time for him to get back out on track.

A short time later, as I was disconnecting the left side linkage, I pulled the end off of the ball that is connected to the shift wheel on the transmission. This wheel shifts back and forth and actually selects the gear. Once off the ball, the wire came out of the cable housing, broken about five inches from the end. Ah, I had the culprit in my hand that had put such a premature end to my first session. I pulled the rest of the cable out of the housing and took it around the paddock to show everyone why I had not been out of the track.

Just after lunch, my wife and oldest son arrived. They had the cable and…a 12’ x 12’ pop up canopy. She exclaimed “Happy Early Father’s Day” as the three of us started to put the canopy up. We moved it into position over the car providing much needed shade (against the 95 degree temp). Wow! So my wife went all the way to the Porsche dealership, bought the cable and stopped by Walmart to buy her husband a canopy to help keep the heat down as I put the new cable back in the car. Is that a great wife or what? You better say YES!

John Gladwell ambled back over and saw me struggling to put a very thick cable into a very small space near the front engine hatch. He pitched in and helped me route the cables over the engine and connect them to the connectors at the transmission and at the sifter. But the whole time we were installing the cable, I kept looking at my watch and I figured out that maybe…just maybe, I could get the cable installed and I could actually run the last session.

With my son’s help we had the wheels back on the car, I tested the shifter and found everything worked perfectly. Grabbing my helmet, was up on the grid just before the cars went out for the last session. Amazing! I was down and out, but because of the kindness of - well not exactly strangers – but folks that cared to help a stranded fellow Porsche driver out AND my amazing wife and son, I was able to run the last session of the day. I would love to be able to tell you that I put in a cooking session and was able to string lap after blazing lap together but that was not the case. Fact is I have not done Eagles Canyon in three years and my get reacquainted session was cut very short earlier in the day. And I was exhausted. So I hit it hard for about six laps, just starting to get the mojo back and really backed off for the remaining two laps. It was great. Turns out, I am one of the few guys that brings a small trailer to the track to swap wheels, so we were among the last to leave. I will tell you, I was one tired guy when I hit the pillows later that evening. But what a frustrating and great day. I think a lot of people would have thrown in the towel and just tried to figure out a way to get their car back home. But not me, I wanted to get back out on the track. That day, not a couple of weeks later at the next event.

The kindness of strangers. Yes, people do roll up their sleeves and lend a hand when the going gets tough. It feels good to get that kind of help and it feels even better to give it. Thanks Charlie! Thanks John! And a special thank you to my wife and son. Everyone went WAY beyond the call of duty.

And on that exhaust note, see you all next time.

34,452 Posts
I'm sorry to hear that your cable snapped but your wife sounds like quite a champ, better keep her! :)

I wonder if Porsche will ever conceed that a shift cable snapping "could" be dangerous and maybe they should re-engineer what should be a simple part as it seems far too many are breaking for sheer happenstance...
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