May 2009 Newsletter

newheaderHigh Plains Raceway
One hundred and ninety four! That’s how many vintage racecars we had at the inaugural race at the new High Plains Raceway out by Byers. We took the ’52 356 racecar out to provide worker rides but did not race. There were only two 356s racing and we use to have six to eight. The track is 2 1/2 miles with 15 turns and lots of elevation changes. It is a technical track and we had lots of racers learning it for the first time. There were no major incidents but quite a few spinouts and off track excursions. The track was built by the local clubs that enjoy racing.

The track record was set by a motorcycle at 1:42. The 356s can run the track at 2:20. With so many turns and elevation changes it takes a lot of concentration to run consistent good laps. Spectators are welcome at Rocky Mountain Vintage Racing events.

See the web site at for racing schedules and track locations.

We completed the assembly on Jim’s ’61 Sunroof Coupe and it will go to the mechanic for engine installation and checkout.

George’s ’60 Roadster is about 75% assembled. We are waiting on parts and have to order a new top.

Kit’s ’64 Coupe will be next for reassembly. It is enjoyable to work on 356s with original parts that just need cleaning or painting. All three of these 356s had been stored for a long time. Unfortunately Kit’s 356 was stored with gas in the tank. We doubt if we can save the tank. The later 356 tanks are difficult to clean as there is a baffle that divides the tank in two. Shops that repair gas tanks have to open them up for cleaning and then re-weld them. After cleaning, some shops use a special sealing product to coat the inside of the tank. You have to be careful with these products as if not applied correctly they can break down and clog the fuel system.

We heard of one owner who had his early tank cleaned and then applied the sealer. He had the tank out of the 356 and rotated it to get good coverage of the sealant. Unfortunately, he covered up the vent holes and when installed in the 356 the fuel pump collapsed the tank!

When we installed the carpet in George’s Roadster we were impressed by the quality of the carpet kit. George had purchased this carpet kit thirty years ago and it was a lot better than those available today. It was lighter weight and had the correct number of loops per square inch.

On most 356s there was a piece or pieces of carpet glued on the back of the door panel to serve as sound deadening so you would get that nice clunk instead of a clank. With today’s carpet kits we had noticed the underlayment would show when the carpet had to be folded, like on the vertical piece at the back seat area. We took an original carpet piece from the door panel and counted the loops per square inch and did the same on the carpet sold today. There were six loops less per square inch on today’s carpet.

We do not bad mouth the 356 reproduction product available today, without them we could not restore 356s and get them back on the road. This was just an interesting observation and if we had not had the door piece to compare we would have never known.

BJ is trial fitting all the parts on the Wyoming Speedster before we take it for paint. Almost all the pieces had to be adjusted as we are sure this Speedster had been a racecar. The bumpers were not centered and the top wouldn’t latch. The side deco didn’t line up. Some of these adjustments required bodywork which would be very difficult after paint.

We did get the Speedster back on the ground after removing it from the dolly that it had been delivered on. We just made it a roller by fitting the front suspension and installing the transmission. We will let the mechanic install the new disc brake system.

The Shop ’60 Cabriolet is at the upholstery shop as we gave priority to the seats for Jim’s ’61 Sunroof Coupe. We had problems getting the top on the Shop ’60 Cabriolet to latch. The top frame was not original to the 356 and had been knocked around quite a bit. Cabriolet top frames are very hard to find and very expensive; at least $3,000. Cabriolet and Speedster top frames are being reproduced in limited quantities in Europe but are also expensive. One of our 356 friends in Europe owns a company that does business in Eastern Europe. He found some skilled metal workers in Russia that had lost their jobs and formed their own company to manufacture parts like 356 convertible top frames.

Tech Tips
There is a correct way and not so correct way to disassemble a 356. If you do this, please do not use adhesive tape to mark wires or parts. After years, the marking is illegible and the tape very difficult to remove.

When we have to protect wires prior to blasting or painting, we use aluminum foil to cover the wire and secure with duct tape.

There is duct tape and there is duct tape. We had some of the real silver duct tape used by heating professionals. We used this to cover the exterior chrome round vent window piece that is part of the latch. The silver tape is self adhesive and we applied a piece and then trimmed with an Xacto knife. This vent window piece is rusty on a lot of 356s and this was a quick solution. The silver tape could probably be used to cover other unsightly chrome pieces on a 356.

Grandpa News
BJ took Alex bowling. They have a ramp that can be positioned at the foul line for kids. Alex could lift the ball and roll it down the ramp to the pins. The first ball rolled for a strike and the game ended with a score of Alex-99 and Dad-97.