Road Trip to BWR-III

Published in two parts (Dec. 2022 & Jan. 2023)  issues of “Die Porsche Kassette”

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Ⓒ2022 Technolab /

Photos courtesy: Dom Milano, Kobus Reyneke, Abe Garweg, Pedro Bonilla

I had attended this event since it began in 2019 and thought it would be the coolest thing, to drive my own Porsche on the Boardwalk.  This year I got to do it, but there's a story attached.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns I decided to restore my 1997-built Boxster back to its former glory, or better.  

She had recorded almost 300,000 miles at the start of the pandemic so it meant restoring not only the interior and exterior, but also de drivetrain as well.

By the end of 2021 the rest of the exterior had also been finished, such as completely rebuilt headlights, now converted to HID with projectors and LEDs, and a new canvas top to finish it off.  Finally, the carbon fibre hood was also replaced with a new one, since the old one (you may remember) had tried to kill me on my way to Sebring and was in sad shape.

This beauty had to be shared with 350 of my closest friends at the next Boardwalk Reunion which was to be held in October 15, 2022.  My wife agreed to come on the 2,300 mile round trip if I assured her that the car would make it with no issues.  I did!

Now I had to make good on that promise (or else!)

I had a chance to go to the Amelia Island Werks Reunion in early 2022 which was a 500 mile roundtrip and the car had been fine with the exception of a subtle clunk that I also felt on my way to Sebring and back for the 48 Hours Club Race a few weeks before.  

Front drivetrain clunks are usually drop-links or other ball joints because they take most of the abuse, so the drop links were the first to be replaced.  The clunking disappeared but would come back after 30 – 40 miles of driving, albeit a bit softer.  I decided to remove and check all of the ball-jointed parts on the front, which included the control arms, the trailing arms and the steering arms.  I found play in all of them so I replaced them all including the upper strut mounts, just in case.  Went for a long drive to test it all and she felt great!  Very sharp and crisp … up until mile 100 or so and then …. Clunk!

It was now late September and time was running out.  I also noticed that my front tires were completely worn on the inside edges (probably toe, I thought) so a new set of fronts was ordered and I booked some tire-mounting and alignment time at Vortex in Tampa since I don't have the alignment rack anymore. Bob Brooks was very accommodating and fit me in quickly when I told him I was pressed for time so I drove down on a Thursday and left it to be picked up the next day around noon.  Early on Friday Bob called me and told me that one of my front shocks was toast.  Since they had the car on a lift (with the suspension off the ground) they quickly discovered it as they started to remove the tire.  I hadn't seen it because I use a 4-post lift which keeps the suspension compressed.

Now we needed to find a new shock or a complete set of shocks if necessary.  My car had Bilstein 9-way adjustable PSS9s installed (about 150,000 miles ago) and new ones were not available anywhere.  We even thought of replacing the coilovers with OEM-style struts, but I didn't have the springs anymore and new springs from Porsche would cost way too much.  The only available option that we could get in a couple of days was a set of H&R coilovers, advertised as street-performance.  They were ordered and installed and the alignment was performed with a few days to spare, even though there were a couple of shipping SNAFUS. Bob really was instrumental in getting it done.  Thanks Bob!

Testing the suspension and alignment was from Vortex back to PedrosGarage, more or less 20 miles, mostly on the Suncoast Parkway.  The car felt fantastic!  I was now sure that I would make good on the promise I made my wife about the reliability of the car.

The day for us to depart came quickly.  We had decided to make the trip to Ocean City, NJ (1,126 miles) in three days so that we wouldn't arrive too tired and be able to enjoy the sights as well.  I figured that driving a bit less than 400 miles each day would work well.

We planned the first leg to go from our hometown in Odessa, FL to somewhere in Georgia.  On our way we had a leisurely detour through beautiful Savannah, GA and then continued to our first overnight rest, which ended up being in Yemassee, SC.

From our departure to the point where we left the highway to see Savannah, the ride had been fine, but as the roads got a bit bumpier the complaints from the right seat started getting louder.  When the road was nicely paved you couldn't have a better ride, but when it was irregular, especially the concrete bridges the car started bucking/porpoising, just like Lewis Hamilton's 44 Mercedes during the first half of the F1 Season this year.  But I figured and explained to my better half that because the springs we new, we just needed to put some more miles on them and they'd be fine. She didn't buy it.

After breakfast, we loaded-up for day number 2 and the next 400 miles of our journey.  We would stop just past Richmond that evening.  As we left Yemassee and moved through South Carolina, North Carolina and finally Virginia, the roads got progressively worse.  We're really spoiled in Florida because winter does a number on the roads up north, which we don't get to see.  

By the time we got to Ashland, VA we were both beat-up and ready for a good night's rest.  We had a nice dinner next to the Hotel and packed it in for the night.

The third leg would be the shortest and we had decided to get off I-95 because it was so bumpy and also because we didn't want to fight the bumper-to-bumper traffic around Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD so we took US 301 through Dahlgren, VA into Maryland, a piece of Delaware, and finally New Jersey.

The “drivers, start your engines” command is given and a PACE Car takes the first 50 arrivals behind him in single file, escorted by an Ocean City Police SUV.  Immediately after the 50th Porsche, a second PACE Car follows pulling along another line of 50 more Porsches, and this goes on until Pace Car #7 takes with him the last group.  All totaling 354 Porsches!

The parade of 350+ Porsches through the streets of Ocean City is incredible. Police are on the route to make sure that the long line gets through with no issues.  Little kids on street corners are in awe as they wave to the never-ending line of cool cars!  One of them just kept yelling to every driver: “Cool car, Mister!”

After everyone parks their car (around noon) we get to mingle with the crowd, answer questions, shop, have lunch or attend one of three Tech Sessions held at the Music Pier Auditorium right next to the featured Speedsters and Roadsters which were highlighted this year.

I decided to keep the original color (Glacier White) and had her painted.  At the same time I started to work on the interior.  I wanted to honor the old Porsches that had those wonderful plaid-covered seats and interiors.  I had been searching for a specific pattern which had come in my 1987 Golf GTI and I had just found it with the caveat that I could choose the highlight color!

But the torture was over (for a day or so) and now we'd get to enjoy the Boardwalk Reunion!

The Boardwalk Reunion is one of the best-organized Porsche events I have attended (and I've been to quite a few). The organizers, Ellen Beck and Bob Gutjahr, count on an army of well-trained volunteers that make the event run like clockwork.

Friday evening is the Volunteer reunion where last-minute information is disseminated and any issues get resolved.  

Saturday is when the actual event takes place.  From very early on, you can see Porsches of all ages and models being prepped as if for a Concour d'Elegance at he main hotel's (The Flanders) parking lot.  The cars are to be marshaled at the Municipal Airport where Ocean City, NJ Police are standing by to lead the caravan of cars through some city streets and then onto the Boarwalk, but that won't happen till 11:30AM.

Cars start filling up the section of the airport designated as our grid.  Rows and rows of beautiful examples of Porsche design and engineering are now lining up and getting ready.  Still, some give it another buffing, check the chrome and make sure that the glass is perfect.  Others stroll up and  down the rows of cars, meeting new friends and catching up with old ones.

Local participants from NY, PA, MD, DE, NJ, and other nearby States, start arriving at the airport as well but it all moves in a very coordinated way and each car gets parked quickly and efficiently.

Each participant then goes to the registration table to get their goodie bag and credentials for the Boardwalk. As we get closer to 11:00AM, our fearless leader Bob climbs on top of the logistics truck and holds a full driver's meeting, giving everyone all the information they need to be safe and enjoy the rest of the day on the Ocean City Boardwalk and seashore.

Once on the Boardwalk the cars are organized in two lines down the center of the boards and the two lines go from 6th Street all the way down to 14th Street.

Photo: Kobus Reyneke

Photos: Dom Milano

I was very honored to have been asked back for the third time, as a presenter.  My topic for 2022 was: “TOP 10 DON'Ts with your Porsche”. The second Session was by John Paterek titled: “An American Roadster” and the third one by Dom Milano: “Photographing your Porsche”.

Next year's Boardwalk Reunion IV will be held on October 14, 2023, number V on October 19, 2024 and number VI on October 18, 2025.

After a long day, my wife and I had a good night's rest, because we knew what was ahead of us.

The cars stayed on the Boardwalk until 4:00PM when we carefully drove off the boards and headed back to our respective hotels.  I was staying at The Flanders Hotel where the Saturday Night Social and Dinner was held.  Great dinner with friends at the perfect venue for this event.  A truly enjoyable way to cap off the Reunion.  

The scenery was absolutely stunning!  The drive was unbearable!  

Even I was uncomfortable and I'm used to track set ups for the suspension.

Photo: Abe Garweg

After one week where my car has been parked I've decided that this suspension MUST go!  Looking now for a new set of the same Bilstein PSS9s and the H&R Coilovers will be returned.  

It'll take a lot of sweet-talking to get my wife back in the Boxster for another extended trip, but I'll convince her again.

BTW, now the odometer reads 304,400 miles (and counting).

When we were packing the car on Sunday morning, we agreed to do the return trip in just two legs.  Sunday we drove 12 hours to Florence, SC mostly on I-95, passing through the heavy traffic of Baltimore, MD and Washington, DC.  

The ride was awful.  The suspension I think got worse.  It really felt as if instead of shock absorbers the car had solid links with zero rebound and zero damping.  Those 12 hours were exhausting and we knew that after that we still had another 7-10 hours (depending on traffic) until we got back home. We did make it back in one piece, shaken, not stirred.