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The Project Stork Porsche 911: A Father’s Day Story

Project Stork 911 1

Born and raised in Southern California, it is no surprise that Manuel Carrillo III became a car enthusiast, but he took that passion and leveraged his skills with a camera and keyboard (and his bright personality) to become a successful freelance automotive journalist and YouTube star.

For Manuel though, the die was cast even earlier than most of us, because when he was born his father brought his mother and him home from the hospital in a classic air-cooled 1977 Porsche 911. The elder Manuel Carrillo Jr. had many cars and trucks pass through his hands over the years, but the iconic Porsche 911 with the vanity plate that reads "MANNYC J" had a place in the garage no matter what else he was driving.

A plumber’s Porsche

Mr. Carrillo bought the 911 new in late 1977, which is a testament to how much money a talented plumber with the County of Los Angeles can make. For nearly 20 years he enjoyed driving the Porsche hard, piling on over 100,000 miles and wearing it out along the way.

By the time 1995 rolled around (the last valid registration sticker on the car), the engine was smoking, and the car was tired, so it was parked in favor of more modern machinery. There it sat, neglected save for an annual engine start to keep it from getting stuck. Young Manuel attempted to sneak it out of the garage a few times before he was old enough to drive, but youthful enthusiasm was no match for the mysteries of a stick shift transmission. Eventually, for one reason or another, it just wouldn't start anymore

The car's long dormancy in a suburban garage had left it buried under more than a decade of dust and clutter, but thankfully in no worse condition than it had been 20 years ago. You can watch the process of extracting it from the garage on Manuel Carrillo III's YouTube: Project Stork Episode One.

Project Stork 911 2

Jump forward many years, and Haynes teams up with Manuel in Project Stork, an attempt to resurrect the vehicle that brought that newborn home from the hospital. A truck and trailer were procured and a weekend was spent digging the car out of the mess and yanking it free from the garage. Next, it was transported the 50 miles from the family home southeast of L.A. to the Haynes shop in Newbury Park, CA.

Admittedly, while Mr Carrillo may be an expert behind the wheel, he is decidedly amateur when it comes to matters under the hood (or rear hatch in this case), which means he is very much in the Haynes Manual target audience. Our manuals make complicated procedures easy, even for the novice mechanic without specialized tools, even when working on a highly engineered precision sports car like the Porsche 911. Manuel also had an ace up his sleeve in the form or his friend, fellow motor journalist and noted Porschephile Brad Brownell.

It was only a matter of a few days in the shop, and they had taken stock of the condition and needs of this forlorn Porsche and were well on their way toward making it an automobile once again. The motor refused to be turned over, by any means, and pulling the spark plugs revealed a cylinder had become filled with enough oil to lock the piston in place.

With a fresh battery and spark plugs, and time for the old oil to drain out the spark plug hole, the engine cranked properly again. A compression test revealed that all cylinders on the air-cooled six were still within spec, even after 116,000 miles of hard driving in the hot California sun.

Brad and Manuel working on 911

All the oil was changed and new spark plugs were fitted, but the goop in the fuel tank proved to be the sticking point, no pun intended. Thanks to the long production life of the 911, new fuel tanks and pumps are readily available. The best that could be done for the fuel lines for now though was to blow them out with compressed air. In any long-dormant car that has not been properly prepared before storage, the fuel evaporating into a sticky glue-like substance is going to be one of the most significant problems, and it had literally gummed up the fuel injection. 

Appropriately enough, just before Father's Day 2017 Brad and Manuel managed to clean things out enough that they could tickle the Porsche back to life. The captured that day's work in Project Stork Episode Three.

The car went to Las Vegas in September, to be displayed at the SEMA show in the same condition it had been pulled from the garage, and sadly not drivable. While they had been able to make it run, thousands of miles of oil sucked past hard, cracked, leaking valve seals had been caked inside the exhaust system meaning smoke and no power due to a clogged muffler. Once again back in the Haynes shop Bradley and Manuel went back to the Haynes Porsche 911 manual and read up on the procedure for pulling the motor.

Manuel and the 911 motor

Thanks to the highly logical engineering practices of the Germans, taking the engine out of an air-cooled Porsche 911 is surprisingly easy. Using the old mechanic's rope trick (filling the combustion chamber at TDC with rope through the spark plug hole) the springs were removed from the valves one at a time, and the old valve seals were pulled off with a dental pick. Tight and supple new seals were carefully installed, then the springs were reinstalled. The rope keeps the valve from moving off the seat by filling the space between the piston and the valve.

After a day's work, they were ready to put the motor back in and see if they once again had a car. Unfortunately, they had to run it with no muffler because of all the oil, or fortunately if you happen to like the sound of an air-cooled flat six. It started, it ran, it sounded angry, and it had quit smoking!

Manuel and Brad were so ecstatic this time that they couldn't help themselves and took the (unregistered) car for an extremely loud spin around the quiet Newbury Park neighborhood. Luckily they did not come within a mile of a law enforcement officer in the brief, high rpm, ear-splitting drive.

But the fun was short lived. The hardened fuel "varnish" still in the lines and tank is playing all sorts of trick on the quasi-mechanical Bosch CSI fuel injection system, causing it to flood like a carburetor with a leaky float at low RPMs. This makes driving difficult, and idling impossible, so going into the second Father's Day of this project, it is still not quite ready to drive, but it is getting here.

Manuel Carrillo Jr. passed on his love of cars to his son and an original copy of the Haynes manual in the front trunk of his 911. Now, with Haynes filling in the technical knowledge his father never could give him, Manuel Carrillo III is passing his love of cars on to a new young generation of enthusiast via his YouTube channel.