Why I’m Here – An Introduction by Kris Clewell

You must be wondering why I’m here. I’ve been bitching, whining, pointing fingers, and complaining for years. The scene was different 12 years ago but I’ve always been a dissenter. I’ve always had an opinion. They say opinions are like assholes, and people definitely have pinned that label on me in the past. I try not to get too personal, but I’ve still made enemies for life based on what I think.  I’m passionate about this, but I’ve become confused over the last several years. What was a once a private experience between a car, owner, and a few close friends has exploded into a worldwide stage. The ability to garnish valuable peer approval has gone from difficult to easy mode. Being someone who grew up impressing people the hard way, its been an internal struggle to accept the evolution of the scene and culture. I used to think there would be a backlash, that people would return to their roots.

My roots began at a young adolescent age as rolling around in a gravel driveway or concrete garage slab, in a below-zero temps, fixing domestic daily drivers with my grandfather. Similar to how I often walked up hill in a blizzard both ways to and from school, I saw most of this as a chore. I would complain about seeing my breath and what I thought surely must be frostbite.  I complained that the radio never quite came in. The whine of the AM frequency drove me nuts. I often couldn’t wait to get out from under the car I was working on. If I’d known then what I knew now, I would have valued that time, reveled in it, as it was some of the best and most valuable moments of my childhood. I learned that if you fixed it yourself, it’s like you got paid to do it. Not only in dollars, but in pride. Putting value on your own time invested in a project was taught to me as invaluable. Whether the reason was pride, passion, or necessity, you did it for yourself.

As time went on, I left my vw rabbit at home and went off to college. I don’t think it was until I returned I was struck with the passion I have now. Perhaps I missed the time I spent with my grandfather. Maybe I just needed a hobby. Cliff notes is that I ruined a local car club because I’m a dick, so I started a new place: Eurowerks. Its now the most successful show and club in the midwest, and its still growing. My first car back in 1997 was a 1983 Volkswagen Rabbit Diesel.  Other than a mistake with a BMW, a few Volvos, and some random daily drivers I’ve owned almost nothing else. My last Volkswagen I built was a 1977 Volkswagen Scirocco with a 1.8T engine swap. God only knows what happened to it as it’s out on the east coast now. The other notable car is Jersey, a 1979 VW golf I built for my wife Jes.

Currently I’m driving a 1983 Porsche 911. It’s the car you see here. It’s the culmination of a few cars I saved, built, and flipped for cash. And while I miss them, none of them are a satisfaction of the dream I had as a kid. I didn’t want to wait until I retired to finally get one. Not only is that decades from now, but who knows what a vintage 911 is going to cost in 2042, or if you’ll even be able to buy gas. Maybe before I die I’ll be able to drive my 911 through a sub culture city buried beneath Oakland a la demolition man. Either way, I had to have it now. It was a big risk. I bought it sight unseen. My friend Aaron Hatz that owns Flat 6 Inc. here in Minneapolis, explained: “every 911 is a $30,000 car. It’s just pay now or pay later.“ I decided to pay later. And I did.

Some idiot thought it was cool to screw the spoiler to the rear deck lid with wood screws. After all, turbo’s are the coolest 911’s EVAR, right? I figured it was better to have a bunch of holes in my rear deck lid, than be a poser. Unelected American government departments have found a way to make an abomination out of most European vehicles since the 70’s. This was no different. It had US headlights and bumpers. When I see the classic 911 body, not only do I see it without a spoiler, I see it with Bosch euro H4 headlights, and euro bumpers. The latter coming later this winter.

One of the most glaring issues with old 911’s is head studs. The head studs in question are made of a steel alloy called Dilavar. The Dilavar alloy has similar thermal properties similar to aluminum and magnesium. The thermal expansion coupled with the strength of steel would in theory help solve head studs from pulling out of magnesium cases. Unfortunately for owners, the early Dilavar studs break. A lot. Mine broke. A lot. We pulled one of the covers. Of course a head stud and barrel nut fell onto the shop floor. I drove the car for a few more days. An unseasonably mild winter had gifted me with great driving days in January. I did get the joy of ripping it up a bit on bald tires in a snowstorm but once they salted the roads, the gig was up and I parked the car. Over the winter I pulled the engine, and rebuilt the top end with invaluable help from Aaron over at Flat Six Inc. Hardware was re-plated. Heads were rebuilt. One needed a little more work than the others, since I found impact marks of a phillips wood screw that had made its way into the combustion chamber. Gee. Where did that come from. Assembly is always more difficult that dis-assembly. The flat six engine is exponentially more complicated than any VW engine I’ve built. The modular design is misleading. Nuances and things only experience and mistakes can teach wait at every turn.  Thanks to the guidance and help from Aaron all went well. I’ve put 5000 miles on the car this summer and there’s still a lot I’d like to do. While I can’t afford to make it faster, I can make it cleaner. Better. Come spring I may even mess with the stance. Just a little.

Every time I turn a wrench on a car I think of my grandfather, and how he unknowingly inspired the biggest part of my life. Cars, and their culture. That’s why I’m here, and that’s why you’re reading this. However I am who I am, I’ll be here telling you when things suck. I’ll be here pointing out good work when I see it, and hopefully bringing you some good photography and words to go along with it. Respect your roots. Less is more…. blah blah blah. Carry on…


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