It’s that time of year everyone! Whether you are a casual Porsche enthusiast or a die hard fanatic who eats, sleeps and breathes Porsche, there is a little something for everyone at the Hershey Swap Meet in Hershey, PA. Founded years ago by a small contingent of friends and business partners, the swap meet started as a small gathering of those ‘in the know’ but has burgeoned into one of the largest Porsche-oriented events of its kind in the country. This growth has been driven by the collective wealth of parts and knowledge that has gathered here, and the fact that it is largely organic growth means that core is still at the heart of the Hershey Swap Meet.
This event comes right at the beginning of the season, especially for us New Englanders where we are still getting small amounts of snow, and draws a crowd from all over the east coast. Whether you are looking for an entire car, some hard to find bits for your project, or some new parts from the many vendors that attend the event, you can guarantee it will be at Hershey. We drive down with a load of parts and several cars or display, and we try to take as little home as possible! This means some of the best pricing on Rennline brand parts and accessories you can get, and the chance to check them out in person before you buy!
The show itself is on Saturday, April 16th so be sure to stop in if at all possible! Our display cars left today bound for the Hershey Bears stadium, the site of the event, and we will be leaving tomorrow morning. This will mean that we will have limited support in the office Thursday and Friday, and we ask that you please keep this in mind if you cannot make the show and need to place an order either of those days. We hope you can all make it and we look forward to seeing old faces and meeting some new ones!
That’s because a few hour jaunt over the Green Mountains, Team O’Neil Rally School and a field full of vintage rally cars awaits. It could be -15*F at 3AM on a Saturday for all I care.
I was invited by Marc Feinstein, owner of German Performance Service and pilot of the 964 rally car you will see in the pictures. Despite a late arrival, it seems my morning is not the worst of the bunch; I’m greeted by a team working fervently to get the Rothman’s 959 replica started. A combination of an old dry cell battery and the cold weather are proving formidable opponents. I snap a couple pics, offer the battery out of my Audi, and finally decide that I’m really just annoying them, so I head up to the main building just in time to miss introductions. Apparently 5AM was too late of a start time.
Team O’Neil, located in Dalton, NH, has been providing top-notch instruction for drivers of all talent levels, from WRC factory pilots to those just looking to slide around for a weekend since 1997. The school is a matrix of gravel roads that sprawls across 585 acres of Granite State terrain featuring off-road terrain parks, snowmobile trails and tactical security training courses in addition to their signature rally roads. This diverse background allows Team O’Neil to stay a leader in the world of rally schools, and provide a huge range of offerings to their clients. Today they have put together a venerable history book of cars for us to sample with the goal of illustrating the evolution of the rally car through the ages.
I arrived under the impression that I was going to get to see some cool cars, take some cool pictures, meet some awesome people, and freeze my ass off. So you can imagine my thoughts as Wyatt Knox, Special Projects director for Team O’Neil, began running through the itinerary. Rides then drives in each of the vehicles was the plan, with the idea that we would progress chronologically through the field ending to really gain a feel for how much has changed and for how much has stayed the same. Wait- we’re driving? I would say sign me up but, almost unbelievably, I already am. Luckily I have enough auto-x, rally-x and track experience that I’m more excited than scared. For now at least…
The lineuptouches on a number of important historical innovations, beginning with the blue 2-stroke Saab. It was built as a tribute to Erik ‘On the Roof’ Carlsson’s days winning rallies for the marque. The red Saab is a later 4 stroke, and although it isn’t as ‘vintage’ it is just as cool as anything here, featuring a V4 4 stroke engine on Megasquirt standalone fuel injection with individual throttle bodies, a hydraulic e-brake, and an electronic, variable-ratio steering rack. These two represent a massive leap forward in technology as Saab was one of the first manufacturers to bring front-wheel-drive to the masses, and they found huge success in off-road disciplines with this formula.
Nextup in the evolutionary line was Charles’ Volvo 142. Charles also owns a Volvo dealership in Canada, which makes a lot of sense for a few reasons. This car has the most history of the group, as it was driven by Marku Alen in the 1973 1000 Lakes rally, and has been more or less active in international competition through today. In the drivers’ meeting Charles makes it very clear that his car is not here to be driven. It is here to be beaten. It’s dual Weber carburetors, resultant 3,000rpm idle and lack of anything resembling modern electronics confirm the nature of this beast. With a limited slip and studs, it is also the fastest car of the day. These Canadian boys came prepared.
Next up was something intimately familiar to me, what might be considered the godson of modern rally, the Audi 4000. Mechanically these cars are almost identical to the URquattro that spawned the fire breathing S1 and Sport Quattro, but without a turbo and with an extra set of doors. Same block casting, same transmission, differentials and suspension. Old Audi’s are my forte, I’ve owned 5 from the 80’s all with the legendary quattro AWD, and the red 4000 feels like an old friend as I climb in. You might expect each vehicle at Team O’Neil is stripped out and race car prepped, but this is far from the truth. In fact, this car retains much of it’s wonderful 80’s interior, right down to the dash, seats, and locking center/rear differentials.
Unfortunately I did not get a chance to get behind the wheel of the Team O’Neil E30 3 series BMW, but it was a pretty similar story to the Volvo- lots of sliding with a razor’s edge of balance between speed and spinning tires. You could tell that Team O’Neil instructor Travis Hanson has done this more than many times, as evidenced by the pin point car control and huge slip angles he was able to produce lap after lap.
Finally it’s time to get into the car that brought me here in the first place; the C2 964 owned by Marc and prepared by his shop German Performance Service in Brighton, MA. The car has already been labeled simply ‘a tough drive’ by several drivers than myself, so I’m a bit hesitant. At least I’m more comfortable than I have been all day; I’m 6’5 and Marc comes in around 6’4 making it a perfect seating setup for me. I’m sweating a bit but I’m ready.
Compared to the Volvo this thing feels completely composed. The rear-engine configuration helps grip significantly by putting plenty of weight over the rear tires, and the suspension works brilliantly. My first half lap is an exercise in building confidence, Marc can’t fit in the passenger seat as it’s solid mounted to the floor and set up for his 5’3 co-driver so I’m on my own. I’m feeling the car and it’s working great as long as I stay smooth; no sudden throttle inputs, no crazy steering angles, just tap the brakes to get the front tires to bite coming into a corner and feed it throttle to keep it rotating. But I’m no professional and halfway through the track I’m sideways… backwards… and back sideways. Two-feet-in keep me from too much embarrassment, and I go back to basics for the remaining part of the lap.
By the end of my third trip around the course I’m getting in the groove. It is just so predictable- that’s not to say it’s easy because it isn’t- but as long as I stay smooth I’m scooting around the track at a good pace. Well, good enough for me anyway. This car certainly evokes the most visceral pleasure- there’s nothing like the note of an aircooled flat-six, and the lightweight flywheel makes the gearbox sound like a metal box of rocks. To any Porsche and/or rally enthusiast, I am sitting in a little piece of heaven.
Finally I’ve made it towards the end of the line, and I’m ready to sample the Rothman’s 959 replica. I am NOT driving this one. Damon, owner of Series 900 in Sunapee, NH built this car- every body panel is hand-laid Kevlar and the entire thing is a one-off. What I love about this car is the attention to detail; it is not just a 964 C4 with a body kit. It has a completely custom fuel delivery system which mimics the factory cars, and there is an aluminum space frame to support all the body work, as well as a million little touches like the rear transmission cooler, over sized oil cooler and a ton of other racecar goods. Unfortunately the car is currently set up for tarmac, so the spring rates are a bit high for this kind of driving, but Damon does a great job getting it to rotate throughout the course in spite of this. Thanks to the AWD this thing has plenty of grip, and once it’s pointing the right direction it simply sticks and rips, even in these conditions.
Finally Team O’Neil brought out one of their top dogs for the event; a WRC spec Subaru Impreza piloted by none other than Tim O’Neil himself. Tim immediately begins hucking the car around the course, and for a mothballed rally car that hasn’t been out much in the past few years, the car takes it extremely well. With Tim at the wheel the Impreza is as entertaining to watch as the Volvo, and probably a bit faster. It seems it is in need of a bit of setup work, but overall it certainly seems to have aged well.
The day is winding down, I’m frozen, tired, and still have several hours of driving ahead of me, but I hang around until the last of the group packs it in. It isn’t everyday you get to be a part of such an incredible group of people and cars in such a liberating and welcoming environment, and frostbite-be-damned I’m milking every last minute of it. Finally everyone is gone, I finish helping Marc load up the 964, and by that I mean mostly watch, and follow him back out the maze of dirt roads that surround the facility. Today was a good day.
HUGE thank you to Team O’Neil Rally school and all of the staff for putting this event together. These guys are not only on top of the rally school game, but they are some of the nicest and genuinely enthusiastic people you will meet. Also BIG thank you to Marc Feinstein of German Performance Service for inviting us, without him I wouldn’t have been able to experience such an epic outing!
As many of us can attest, life sometimes gets in the way of your favorite motorsport, whether it is auto-x, rally-x, track days, or even concours events. Patrick Munhall, a fellow New Englander, had such a break from rally-x; one that lasted almost 10 years. His triumphant return to gravel came behind the wheel of his R53 Mini Cooper, which isn’t the typical AWD monster that likely comes to mind when discussing rally racing. Built upon a solid chassis with good basic dynamics, Patrick’s success since rejoining the sport has proved the Mini is capable of succeeding in a diverse range of motorsport environments. However, that success has not come free, and this Mini has been torture tested throughout New England as the chassis, suspension, engine and under body protection have been fine tuned for competition in the New England Region SCCA Rally-X series.
Almost any experienced driver will tell you that seat time is the most important factor in dropping lap times, and although rally-x is no different, the abuse that a car takes during an event often requires additional vehicle preparation. And that is where Rennline enters this story. Patrick first tried fabricating his own skid plate, and although sturdy enough for most disciplines, during his second event at New England Dragway he managed to catch the front edge in a covered hole and literally folded it in half!
As their first season progressed Patrick and the Mini came into their own, going from 3rd in a small field of entries in their first event to a 2nd place finish by their 3rd event. Had it not been for a cone that jumped out into the middle of the course causing a penalty, they would have found themselves in first after the final run of the day. Results like that make you want more of everything, and so the modifications began piling on. To maximize grip Quaife provided one of their legendary torque biasing limited slip differentials (LSD) which can transfer power from wheel-to-wheel based on the amount of slip it senses by using a series of helical gears to transfer load to the wheel with the most grip.
To keep the engine firmly connected to the drivetrain a Valeo flywheel and clutch package was added along with refreshed axles to deal with the strain of competition. To get a rally-appropriate ride height Patrick fabricated 1/2″ spacers for the strut mounts which raise the ride height of the Mini that same 1/2″. Powerflex control arm bushings stiffen the suspension and help to retain as much of the factory suspension geometry as possible, and a BSH lower engine mount reduces the amount the engine and transmission can move as they hammer through gravel, mud, snow and muck in pursuit of victory. Most importantly these modifications were carefully chosen to compliment the already agile and able Mini chassis without adding any exotic or expensive parts to the mix.
With the handling well sorted and the mini protected, it was time to turn attention add some power by turning up the boost in this little Mini. A Way Motor Works supercharger pulley was installed which is 15% smaller in diameter resulting in a supercharger that spins faster and creates more boost pressure across the rev range. An Ireland Engineering exhaust minimizes exhaust back pressure allowing the engine to breathe easier at these power levels. Way Motor Works claims up to 20hp from this modification alone, but when you’re on rally style surfaces power is nothing if you can’t put it down. To that end Patrick runs Black Rocket Rally Tires on gravel surfaces and switches to Bridgestone Blizzaks for the ice and snow events that cover half of the year’s schedule here in New England.
Finally it was time to turn attention to the interior because to be fast you need to be in the correct environment both mentally and physically. Again a few choice modifications were planned to enhance the Mini without ruining its inherent strengths. A set of our Rennline track mats were installed to enhance footwork and keep the footwells clear of debris that could lodge itself in, behind, and around the pedals. An OMP wheel helps navigate turns faster and helps reorient the wheel when things get get a little too crazy. A Megan Racing short shifter reduces the length of gear changes and adds accuracy to the feel of the transmission. This winter saw the installation of Sparco race seats for both the driver and anyone brave enough to strap themselves in next door, which will come in handy during events like the Vermont Winter Rally which is organized by local rally legend John Buffum.
For his time, effort, and dedication Patrick has been rewarded with a Mini that can go toe to toe against more powerful and grippier cars on almost any terrain. We are just happy we were able to help him in his goal of improving the reliability and drivability of this cool little car. With our ever expanding line of Mini Cooper parts and Patrick’s desire to continue improving the car and his skills, we are sure there will be another update coming in the near future. If you are attending a New England rally cross event in the coming months, keep an eye out for Patrick and his Mini atop the podium!
Here at Rennline we are lucky enough to have a devoted customer base that understands our commitment to quality parts and dedication to customer service. This relationship has grown in size and breadth over the years; it saw us expand from a small industrial space in downtown Winooski, Vermont into our current building, and now it is allowing us to build on that foundation. Both literally and metaphorically. But none of this would be possible without each and every customer, so again, we would like to thank everyone, from the smallest order to the largest, for their support of Rennline Inc. and the parts we manufacture for your Porsche, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Mini and more!
One of the most important aspects of this new space was what to name it. After a few days of deep contemplation, waterjet operator John Bombard emerged with the answer: his ‘office’ would henceforth be known as “The Jet Hanger.” Of course, despite completion of the naming process there was still much to do to finish the transformation of our addition. Plumbing and wiring needed to be run, drains, grates and filters installed in the floor to catch overflow water and filter our the garnet which is a super-fine abrasive that gets injected in small amounts to aid in water jet cutting.
Beginning to move the jets meant a lot of muscle was needed. These things keep about 10,000lbs of abrasive sand in the tank and about 8,000lbs of water (128 cubic feet)- PER JET! We had two that needed to be cleaned out, disassembled, moved and reassembled in the Jet Hanger. This was an all-hands-on-deck kind of day, but luckily we are a hearty folk up here in Vermont and the entire operation went smoothly and relatively quickly considering the shear volume of material that needed to move.
We took this expansion as an opportunity for us to add some machining capability since we are going to have sufficient additional space. We have had great luck with Flow Waterjet, so we contacted them again for one of their newer units. This was delivered in a timely manner and we began setting up our newest toy… er… machine! This puts us up to 3 waterjets in house, two CNC mills and a CNC lathe along with a couple manual mills, two huge press/brakes, a CNC Time Saver and plenty of other odds and ends to makes sure we can tackle any challenge from any job that might present itself.
Things have progressed even a bit further than since these most recent pictures; we are almost back to fully operational waterjet status and the moving/reorganizing process has begun in the existing shop. This will be a lengthy one as we add additional storage racks and finalize the overall layout to maximize space and work flow. Although this operation has already been a huge amount of time and effort and there is still plenty of work to be done, seeing it all start to come together is bolstering us for the final push in getting it done!
The holidays are a great time to bring people together, and here at Rennline we try not to miss the opportunity to bring us together as a company. A cohesive environment is a productive one, so it is a perfect time to get together, have some fun and get to know everyone a bit better outside the bounds of the workplace. But this year was different than most. Instead of a nice dinner in nearby Burlington, Vermont, Rennline shop manager Joe DeSimone and owner Paul Jacques engineered what might go down as the ultimate holiday party.
For those not from the North East, Boston is a four hour bus ride from Burlington, so arrangements were made for a coach bus to transport the team to our destination and around the city of Boston after the main event. We rendezvoused at the Rennline shop at about 9AM Friday morning, some more prepared than others. Unfortunately there were several of our staff unable to make the two-day trip. Unfortunately, CNC Machinist (little) Jake, Manufacturing Engineer (big) Jake, and Master Fabricator Gene were unable to make the trek due to scheduling constraints.
The welcome we received at F1 Boston was warm and accomidating, we would highly recommend them for your next company outing, birthday party, or just as a way to get a little track time!
The plan was to head to F1 Boston (www.F1Boston.com) for some serious go-karting! In total we had 19 people with us, the invitation was extended to significant others and several girlfriends and wives were brave enough to make the trip. Our karting session consisted of six qualifying sessions, each session was a different, randomly selected group, and each driver ran three different qualifying races. At the end of the qualifiers, the top 10 drivers in points from the qualifiers started the final with their starting position determined by their standing in points.
The final was a much longer race than the qualifiers and provided several surprises. The first of which was veteran PCA instructor, experienced track driver and Rennline owner Paul’s absence. Due to a rash of penalties resulting from aggressive passing, Paul found himself sidelined for the final race, having missed qualifying for the final by a few points.
The real-time position display provided the spectators with the ability to watch the exchanging of positions on track, despite most racers being unrecognizable in their race suits and helmets. By the midpoint in the race, Engineering Consultant Jamie was holding off the rest of the field, but it was not to be. Sales and Marketing representative Shawn Christianson capitalized on a mid-track pile-up, pulling a quick maneuver to avoid the pile up and gain two positions, taking first place. With a clear track ahead, he went on to set the fastest lap of the day along with the highest top speed of the day, and clinched the overall win.
As the karting came to a close, we retired to the bar for a post-race drink and to exchange stories and glories from the time on the track. The anonomity provided by the suits and helmets made for some awesome post-race banter, with some coming clean regarding questionable passes, “gentle nudges” and penalties that should have been.
From F1 it was time to hit the hotel for much needed showers, more banter, and for some a couple more drinks before dinner. Paul and Joe pulled out all the stops and booked the entire crew at W Boston, a beautiful hotel in the heart of downtown Boston. Although it was a task in and of itself to find a restaurant able to accomidate the entire group, Joe again knocked it out of the park securing a table for everyone only minutes walk from our hotel.
Unfortunately, the details of the rest of the evening belong to our crew, but know that nobody was wanting for more fun: we won Boston. No one was harmed in the making of these memories, and no damage of any kind resulted, so we can at least assure you the night was an unequivocal success. One last time, from myself and the rest of the Rennline crew, we would like to thank Paul Jacques, Rennline owner for making what will go down for many of us as the most epic holiday party to date. A huge thanks to Joe DeSimone for not only having the idea, but for taking his time to ensure that everything ran flawlessly. It would be hard to imagine a better group of people to enjoy this kind of an event with!
Thanks to all of our loyal customers who continue to support our pursuit of top-notch Porsche, Audi, VW, BMW, Mini and more parts, we are lucky enough to need more space! Our existing building in Milton, Vermont was built so that we could make the move from a cramped city space to a larger facility capable of handling our new machining centers, second waterjet, and rapidly expanding staff. Now, four years later, we have reached the same point where expansion has become necessary, again thanks to all of our wonderful customers.
Initial construction of our current facility circa 2011
This is going to be a significant improvement for the Rennline shop. As anyone who has run, worked around, serviced, or even seen a water jet can tell you, they can be a little messy! This new shop space is going to be almost solely committed to ‘jet operation, which will free up a huge amount of space and allow us to spend less time scrubbing. We are also adding a third water jet, bringing our total to three in-house, which will massively improve the speed with which we can turn out your favorite parts!
We are hoping that this additional space will allow us to carry a larger supply of current Rennline parts and also to continue expanding our line of parts for Porsche models as well as Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Mini and others. In the past year we have been able to significantly expand our offerings, specifically for VW models by releasing our RS Style Door Pulls, billet license plate mounts, tow hooks and GoPro mounts and more for the MK4-7 Golf, GTI and Jetta, and we cannot wait to flex our engineering muscles on some more parts for these cars!
We hope to be moving into this space in January if everything goes smoothly, just in time to begin stocking up on parts for the race season. This also means that with our increased production capability we should be churning out a host of new parts for the new year! Look for continued development of the new 991 chassis and new lines of VW products to lead the way.
Last, but certainly not least we would like to take the opportunity, once again, to thank all of our customers who have made Rennline’s success possible. Since our opening we have worked hard to bring the best parts possible to market, and luckily we hit a niche with a lot of great enthusiasts who are passionate about speed and quality. Whether you’ve ordered $10 or $10,000 worth of parts from us, we would like to thank each and every customer for supporting us and making this all possible!
Even in an industry where most things are pretty cool, every once in a while you get to be involved in a particularly awesome project. One of these came along recently in the form of this beautiful 964 pictured below. Marc Feinstein, owner of German Performance Services approached us with the concept of building a classic 964 911 for competition in Rally America’s Stage Rally series.
Even if you haven’t heard of German Performance Services by name, you are probably familiar with their work and some of their friends. They have prepared everything from ALMS GT2s, to classic 901s, and the Audi S4 piloted by American rally legend Ramana Lagemann at the 2014 Mt. Washington Climb to the Clouds hillclimb set in the beautiful White Mountians of New Hampshire.
Marc is a seasoned racer, having competed nationally in various SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and NASA (National Auto Sport Association) events with huge success. When he decided it was time to take to the stages, he obviously needed something German to take on the ubiquitous Subaru WRX/STI and legendary Mitsubishi Evos that dominate American rally racing. Marc got in touch with us along with Braid Wheels, whose line of motorsports quality wheels are also available on our website.
Stuttgart is closer to our hearts than the Pleiades, but here at Rennline we are a precision machine/motorsports shop just down the street from Vermont Sportscar. They are the shop that prepares the Rally America and Redbull Global Rallycross cars for Subaru Rally Team USA, and we regularly collaborate on production parts. This has made us intimately familiar with the brutal nature of rallying, and perfectly suited to the needs of this particular 964.
To handle the incredibly rough and tumble surfaces on stage, Marc chose a Reiger damper setup to ensure he had plenty of suspension travel and proper valving. He added a Rennline strut tower brace up front which serves the two purposes: stiffening the front strut towers to maintain proper camber settings, and providing a convenient mounting point for the dampers’ external reservoirs.
The unique challenges of listening to pace notes while trying to barrel 10/10ths down a narrow dirt road at triple-digit speeds means driver confidence is key. So we provided Marc with a set of our Full Race Track Mats, a dead pedal, and one of our famously precise steering wheel quick disconnects. A set of our CNC machined floorboards give the co-driver something to brace off and keep the area behind the pedals free of debris.
For safety’s sake a set of our all-steel tow hooks, the same ones used on Subaru Rally Team USA’s cars, were added front and rear. A whole host of other Rennline goods decorate the suspension, engine and interior, and in his first outing in the car he finished 2nd in Group 5 (higher power 2wd cars) and had zero mechanical problems. This was a completely successful event for all the guys at German Performance Service, by any measure, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for this stage monster.
Much conversation and controversy surrounds the move by Porsche towards an almost entirely turbocharged lineup. The visceral scream and responsiveness of the current naturally aspirated engines are already being lamented. But what does this move actually mean for the line up? While the effects on overall chassis balance, drivability and power output are still speculation, we feel confident in making a few assumptions. First is that Porsche has a stalwart commitment to increasing speed, so we are confident in saying the new line of 911s will be faster than the existing models.
Turbo lag is the biggest drawback associated with positive manifold pressure, but it is important to note how far technology has come since the original 911 Turbo aka the 930 debuted. That car featured a single K26 turbo charger based on 70’s turbine technology and had a deserved reputation for building boost in a non-linear way.A simple look at dyno graphs of today’s turbocharged engines should quell some of those fears. A new VW GTI, for example, makes an almost unbelievable 270ft/lbs of torque at just 2500rpm- from just 2.0l and a single turbocharger. With significantly more displacement, Porsche has the option of fitting two smaller, even more responsive turbochargers meaning the torque curve will be much closer to that of a new GTI than the 930 of yesteryear. This should add up to an even more responsive mill with vastly more accessible power and torque all throughout the rev range.
It is true that the lineup will likely loose some of the howl it is known for, but for many the whistles, whines, and wooshes of a turbocharged engine at full tilt- made famous by the Group B rally monsters of the 80’s- might just be enough to satiate those cravings. Personally, the sound of a turbo at full boost, the wastegate screaming extra exhaust gas and a bypass/blow off valve purging excessive pressure between shifts has a strong appeal.
Our point is this: change almost always causes apprehension. It happened when the 996 was introduced and Porsche strayed from its aircooled roots; again when the 991 swelled in size from the 997. But all these cars were improvements on their predecessors, and we have faith that Stuttgart will ensure the new models will be just as Porsche as ever. And almost certainly faster. We like faster.