Ray Calvo's Stories


The following story was first printed in an "Ann Landers" advice column (date unknown) and reprinted recently in "Autoweek":

A man in California saw an ad in the paper for an "almost new" Porsche, in excellent condition - price $50.  He was certain that the printers made a typographical error, but even at $5000 it would have still been a bargain, so he hurried to the address to look at the car.

A nice-looking woman appeared at the front door.  Yes, she had placed the ad.  The price was indeed $50.  "The car", she said, "is in the garage.  Come and look at it."

The fellow was overwhelmed.  It was a beautiful Porsche and, as the ad promised, "nearly new".  He asked if he could drive it around the block.  The woman said "Of course", and went with him.  The Porsche drove like a dream.  The young man peeled off $50 and handed it over, somewhat sheepishly.  The woman gave him the necessary papers, and the car was his.

Finally, the new owner couldn't stand it any longer.  He had to know why the woman would sell the Porsche at such a ridiculous price.  Her answer was simple: with a half-smile on her face, she said, "My husband ran off with his secretary a few days ago and left a note instructing me to sell the car and the house, and send him the money.  So that's what I'm doing!"



While stopped at a traffic light on Rte. 30 recently, I noticed a rather strange car in front of me - namely, a rust-free GM intermediate coupe from the mid 70's (every other one I've seen is minus a rear bumper and is solid rust below the beltline).  Looking closer at this strange apparition, a number of other items struck me:

        - The license plate was from Alabama
        - The plate said "IAMANUT"
        - A bumper sticker read "Life is too short to dance with ugly men"
        - There were two GUYS in the front seat!

I'm sure there was a perfectly rational explanation for all of this, but I didn't stop them to ask what it was.

Ray Calvo

(from the May 11 "Pittsburgh Press")

Rickey Henderson, given a Porsche by the Oakland Athletics in honor of breaking Lou Brock's stolen-base record, said he preferred a Mercedes but conceded that the Porsche "is a nice summer car".

by Ray Calvo

In case you don't know, several PCA regions in the east put on driver's schools at Watkins Glen.  Having driven there only once but wanting to go back, I started looking last spring at who would be putting on schools there.  One caught my eye - a three day school put on by Northern New Jersey (NNJ) for only $95!  I decided to give it a try.  Discussions with some more experienced driver's school instructors initially put a damper on my enthusiasm.  NNJ apparently has a reputation for being a bunch of "hotshoes" - a very aggressive collection of drivers.  Also, they throw a gigantic number of cars out on the track at a time.  Even so, the cost was still attractive. For car preparation, NNJ requires that the car be inspected by an independent shop prior to coming to the track.  The items requiring checking are similar to our checklist, although they REQUIRE a securely mounted fire extinguisher in the driver's compartment and a helmet meeting the newer 1985 SNELL standard.
The registration packet included only about three pages - the car tech form, medical form, and some info on hotels and schedule.  NOTHING about conduct of the school, rules, helpful hints, etc. that we include in our driver's registration packet.
Upon arriving at the track, I was extremely shocked to find that the total number of drivers equalled almost THREE of our driver's schools - a total of almost 225 drivers divided up into six different classes, about 35 cars per class!!
The tech line was three wide, and included checking the same items we check at our schools.  One interesting item was that the tech was repeated every day, with brake lining thickness being checked on the third day.
The driver's meeting was conducted almost in a lacksadaisical fashion, in my feeling.  The attitude almost seemed "OK, you folks all know this already, but it has to be done."  One interesting thing was their passing rules- theirs is that the car being passed stays on a normal line while the passing car gets off-line to complete the pass.  This largely has the passing car set up at the inside of a corner at the entrance if he makes a late pass, which is more dangerous than our rules where the passing car (i.e. one going faster) generally keeps the normal line.  Next surprise came when my driving session came up.  When the session started, ALL the cars in my group were waived onto the course AT THE SAME TIME in one tight continuous line.  The first lap is under yellow, so no passing is allowed.  After that, LOOK OUT - you are constantly in traffic.  Coming up the long back straight, all I could see were cars darting left and right as passes were done (all legitimately, however).  I had to drive essentially with one eye looking forward and one staring into my rear view mirror.  Just as the traffic was spread out and you could start concentrating on driving - bang, out came the checkered flag (the sessions were only 16 minutes long)!
These short sessions resulted in my next surprise.  Unlike our schools, there is no full cooldown lap.  While Watkins Glen is a long enough track in my opinion to need only the cooldown portion from the end of the back straight to the pits, I actually got the checker one time far later at a track section called the "heel of the boot" - this is probably only 1/2 mile from the pits.  So, coming back to the paddoock with still red-hot brakes and waiting until the next group cleared out so I could park, I warped a brake rotor by holding the car stationary with the brakes.  Another item is that no classroom sessions are given for the beginning drivers.  To me, if truly a "driver's education" event is being put on, these should be conducted.  I know that I was able to still get useful information from one recently put on for the ADVANCED driving groups at one of the Ohio region's schools.
In summary, would I do it again?  Not if there was another region that put on a school at the Glen that more closely matched our procedures (fewer cars, longer sessions, classroom education).  I would be willing to pay the probable $150 - 200 for a more relaxed school.
Would I recommend the NNJ school to anyone else?  If cost is uppermost in your mind and you have significant driver's school experience, then go for it.  It's largely a matter of getting what you pay for.  If you are a novice, however, I would have misgivings about their schools.  I tend to feel that you would have to concentrate too much on traffic to learn anything and the
lack of classroom sessions won't teach you the basics.  Save your money up and go to a school with fewer participants.


The following appeared in the September 9 issue of "Autoweek", and summed up my views on car washing to a tee.

Next time you get the urge to bring out the silver suds bucket, the velour rag, the baby soap, the naturally tanned skin from the free-ranging wild chamois, the specially formulated low-abrasive polish and the buffing rag hand-loomed from only the first picking of long-staple Sea Island cotton, read these seven words.  They contain all the wisdom you need about washing any car that costs less than your house:


Give it 10 minutes.  Then fire that sucker up and go for a drive.  That's what it's for.
Ray Calvo

by Ray Calvo

I'm sure many of you old timers remember the good old days, when you could do car repairs and troubleshooting with only a test light, screwdriver, and pair of pliers (also, the days when normal people could buy a NEW Porsche).  Well, before you start weeping too much, how many of these problems are occurring on the newer cars?

        - Rusting out in 1-3 years just from the morning dew
        - Not being able to drive around town without fouling the plugs
        - Having to change oil every time the temperature changed by 20 degrees
        - Worrying about blowing up the air box anytime the car "popped" (CIS owners)
        - Having an engine putting out >1 HP/cu. in. and not being able to drive it under 5000 RPM
        - Adjusting distributor points on a hot engine (distributor points- remember them?)
        - Being bothered by every gust of wind when on the interstate
        - Having every piece of rubber disintegrate in 2-3 years
        - Not having a decent heater or A/C (actually, I might take back the part about A/C)
        - Breaking a clutch or accelerator cable
        - Living with puddles of oil under the engine after 50,000 miles

So think about these things before you say "they don't make them like they used to".  All I can say is my '84 Carrera is far superior to my old '76 911S.


by Ray Calvo

I'm sure by now you've noticed that I have tried to pass on my "nuggets of wisdom" (i.e., here's how I screwed up - DON'T DO IT YOUSELF) at opportune times.  Well, the following little lessons in car ownership, driving, and repair gained over about 30 years and almost 1 million miles (see note) of driving might be of assistance to you.  If not, you should be able to at least get a few chuckles out of them.

1) Early in my teenager years, I was helping my father do some body & fender work on our '62 Buick Skylark (nice little car - all aluminum V-8, 11:1 compression, 4-speed manual).  It had been sideswiped by an 18-wheeler, and we were replacing the left front fender.  Being a little "frugal" and enterprising, my father decided that we could repaint the fender (nice simple black) with those touch-up Dupli-color cans.  Well, it never worked out - no matter what we did, kept getting runs, orange peel, pebbly/sandy finish, etc.  I forget how many times we sanded and rubbed out that fender; I think we went through about 6-8 cans of that touch-up paint.  Finally, brought the fender in to a body shop, where they sprayed it with a nice glossy black for about $20.
LESSON:  Leave body repair and painting to the experts.

2) My first car was an Austin America (for you folks born after Woodstock, imagine a king-size BMC Mini, with all of the joys of the unique British definition of car reliability).  One day, I noticed that the gas gauge just started reading "Empty".  No problem, I thought; I can make it up the road 2 miles where gas is 2 cents cheaper (this is in the days when a gallon was 29 cents).  Yeah, right - about 100 yards from the station, the car sputtered, popped, and died!
LESSON:  Like any pilot who has taken instrument flight rule training knows, trust your gauges!  And, according to the English, "E" means "EMPTY-fill up NOW"!

3) With my old '76, I could lock the doors without using a key.  Handy feature at times, but it DID get me in trouble once.  I would normally leave the car in the garage with the key in the ignition.  Once, when I had completed doing some work on the car, in a lapse of reasoning, I slammed the door and locked it. "No problem", you say, "get the spare key and open the door?"  The only problem with this rationale - the spare key was sitting on the passenger car seat (don't ask)!
LESSON:  1) Before locking the car (or the house), check your pockets for the keys. 2) Yes, you CAN break into these older models with a coat hanger.

4) Again on the old '76, as I remember I was changing spark plugs.  Now, in order to see what I was doing, I used one of these trouble lights with a 100W bulb and a metal reflector (also called a "drop light", since you will invariably drop it, destroying the bulb and plunging you into eternal darkness).  Also, as you "Shadetree Mechanics" know, you can get first or second degree burns when that reflector hits unprotected skin.  Also, it has a propensity for melting plastic - such as the fuel injection lines in the CIS fuel injection on a certain '76 911S!.  I drove the car up to an IRAC autocross at Nemacolin, and when I drove up to registration, the weakened line broke right then!  Now, with gas spraying out above a nice hot exhaust, you can imagine the results - a small flame, to put it mildly!  Fortunately, a fire extinguisher was readily available, and the flame was extinguished before any damage was done.
LESSON:  Watch when using a drop light; check anything it could have come in contact with.  Also, if you have ANY damage to a commodity with gasoline in it, get it fixed IMMEDIATELY!)
Note:  I have always been in deep thankfulness for Bob Nikel's help in getting me patched up so that I could make it home safely).

5) This was on the '84 Turbo-Look.  Decided to do one of my normal 6000 mile oil changes.  When I installed the oil filter, I read the instructions on the filter - "screw on hand-tight then an additional 1/2 turn".  OK, got it hand-tight, then got out the filter wrench and tightened it another 1/2 turn.  Well, at the next oil change, that sucker wouldn't budge!  Try as I might, I couldn't get the filter loose.  Finally I cut the body and filter element out, leaving only the flange wedged tight against the threaded pipe connection on the oil tank.  Well, I STILL couldn't get the filter flange off!  Finally had to remove the oil tank, and cut off the flange with a Dremel tool, all the time worried that one slip of the tool would destroy the oil tank lip or the brass threaded pipe.
LESSON:  Oil filters should ONLY be tightened by hand.  Have not had one leak yet.

6) Again, on the Turbo-Look.  Was driving back home from a driver's education event out at Mid-Ohio.  Dusk was approaching, so I turned on the headlights.  Well, soon noticed as it got darker, so did the lights on the car!  Just as it dawned on me that the alternator was dead, the = car died due to insufficient voltage for the fuel injection.  This was about 5 miles west of Wexford on the Green Stamp.  Eventually, thru the good graces of Ed Boozel and Ted Diehl, I got the car down to Sewickley and myself home.
LESSON:  1) Alternators can fail in modes that won't register in an alternator light coming on.  Best recommendation is when first turn on key, check the alternator light.  If it comes on then and goes out after the car starts, alternator is OK.  2) Install a voltmeter in the car as an accessory instrument (are easy to install and can get nice digital ones that are fairly unobtrusive).  If it reads less than about 14V under normal driving and less than about 12.5V anytime the engine is on, you've got charging problems.

7) This was in the 993.  Was an instructor at a Northern Ohio driver's education event at Nelson's.  Now, they didn't mandate a tech of instructor's cars, so didn't have to be at track until about 9:00.  So, figured I could leave early Saturday AM from home and still make it.  However, since I'm still normally catching ZZZZZ's at 6:00AM, I needed a coffee pick-me-up for the drive.  Stopped into local Burger King for a large, and proceeded on my way.  When I finally maneuvered the two-lanes past the lights and got on the PA Turnpike, reached down for the coffee.  Murphy's law strikes - it had tipped over and dumped the entire contents into the passenger seat and on the rug!
LESSON:  MADD is right; drinking and driving DON'T mix!

8) Again, in the 993.  I had returned from a race track driver's education event, and decided to swap the car back into "street" form.  This involves changing brake pads, bleeding/flushing the brakes, and changing tires form the track R1's to street Comp T/A's.  Well, did all that, then decided to go for a drive the next weekend.  Well, I got about 1 mile when the car felt extremely loose and was clunking over bumps!  Pulling over into the nearest parking area (conveniently, a cemetery!), I shook the front wheel, and momentarily panicked when it moved about a half inch.  As you might have guessed, I had forgotten to retorque the wheels!
LESSON:  Always double-check your work (I also have lost many misc. tools, a fuel filler cap and a college ring due to similar stupidity.  The filler cap you can imagine that; the ring had been removed when I was trying to get at an impossible nut, and was left on the engine compartment lip after I was done! Similar with tools; leave 'em scattered around the engine compartment and fail to check before closing the hood.).

9) This was early in my driving experience - the first snowstorm in the Austin!  Well, with front-wheel drive (rare in 1970), I figured I had it made.  Went out gallivanting, pushing it a little harder and harder through each snow-covered corner.  Then, at one corner, I turned the wheel - and nothing happened!  I cranked the wheel over a little more, and let up on the gas - still nothing.  Next, completely off the gas and crank the wheel nearly to full lock.  Well, scrubbed off enough speed where the tires finally bit, and then the car snapped around quickly.  Naturally, I start steering frantically the other way, nearly to full opposite lock.  About 3-5 seconds later, the car starts swapping directions again.  I kept up this pirouette for about 3 cycles, until the car stopped completely sideways.  Fortunately, I hadn't hit anything, and no damage was done except to my ego.  I then turned the car around, and drove meekly back to the house and parked it in the driveway for the rest of that day.
LESSON:  No matter how good a driver you think you are, you can still get yourself in trouble.  Slowly build up experience and don't exceed your limits.

Well, those are some of my more memorable tidbits.  Anybody have any they want to pass on (well, we all know about "Beelzebub"!)?


A million miles of driving?  Let's see, roughly in chronological order:

'70 Austin America:    120,000 miles
'76 911S:                     150,000 miles
'70 Renault 10:              30,000 miles
'75 Renault Le Car:       90,000 miles
'80 Fiat Strada:             70,000 miles
'85 VW GTI:                     6,000  miles  (AKA "the Firebird")
'86 Honda Accord:         20,000 miles
'87 Honda Accord:         70,000 miles
'84 Porsche Carrera:   100,000 miles
'90 Audi Coupe:           110,000 miles
'95 993:                           32,000 miles
'98 Audi Avant:                 5,000 miles
Misc:                                10,000 miles (parent's, friend's, rentals, etc.)
Total:                             813,000 miles! (if I added right)


Web master