It is a well-known fact that when a few car aficionados get together, projects are brainstormed and planned, and much excitement ensues. About a year ago, news started circulating in the car world that there was a new car on the block that had quite the story behind it, and it was known as “Valdy”. My curiousity got the better of me, and after asking around I was fascinated to learn that a 1967 Porsche 912 had been found on the side of the road on Vancouver Island, and had at one time been owned by the famous Canadian folk musician Valdy. It had been purchased by Port Alberni based realtor Dave Koszegi, and while his original intention wasn’t to complete a restoration on the car, once he found out about its history he decided it just might be a project he was willing to undertake after all. The seed was planted, and the wheels started turning.
Dave and I met several years ago through events hosted by the great team at Classic Car Adventures. We’ve done several rallies together, and have enjoyed getting to know each other and discussing all things cars. Knowing I was passionate about restoring beautiful cars, he contacted me to see if I might be interested in playing a role in restoring a piece of Canadian history. I was honoured that he would choose me and my team at RWM & Co. to help him transform his dream into reality, and we began to make the necessary arrangements to make things happen.
Of the course of several weeks, Dave and I ironed out the details of the project. I went over to the Island to meet with Dave and see Valdy, and to assess what needed to be done. We decided that the restoration would be carried out over a 24-month period, and on a budget to boot. Beautiful “rolling restorations” don’t have to cost an arm and a leg, despite what many people have been led to believe, and we were committed to proving that with Valdy. When it’s done, Valdy is going to be a road car, so we wanted to ensure that no matter what, it was safe and fun to drive.
Fast forward several months: the planning was done, and I was like a kid on Christmas morning! Dave and I made the necessary arrangements to for me to go pick up Valdy in Nanaimo, and bring the car back to my shop in South Delta. Only one small, minor problem: Valdy hadn’t run in eons, and we had no guarantee it would even make it back in one piece. We debated trailering the car to the shop, but decided in the end that we weren’t the type to back down from a challenge and that we’d give it our best shot. WE were up for it, but was Valdy?!?! Only time would tell. Gulp.
I was dropped off at the ferry terminal, purchased my ticket, and walked on. I was so excited and nervous – in a few short hours, I would be seeing Valdy again after talking about and planning the project for months, and bringing the car to its new home for the next 2 years. I just hoped it would behave nicely on the way home to the shop!
Naturally, the evening I was supposed to go we were dealing with a torrential rainfall, and crazy winds. The weather was so bad that I wasn’t sure if the ferry would even sail, or how rough the crossing would be, but fortunately for me it did and it wasn’t too choppy. It was a surprisingly smooth ride, and while on board I paced like an expectant father in a hospital – I couldn’t sit still, or help but wonder if I was completely insane going to fetch a car that hadn’t been driven in 8 years (save for a small jaunt to meet the Classic Car Adventures Fall Freeze participants in September 2013), in the dark with heavy rain and winds. Thankfully, I have a great office coordinator who had thought to pack me a small rolling suitcase with essential tools, a spare battery, jumper cables, and a few other bits that I might need. She was gracious enough to include some water, snacks, and my trusty Haggerty recovery card, just in case. Thankfully, I would only end up needing 2 of the 3 extras she packed.
By the time we docked, I was so anxious – we had a very small margin of time to retrieve the car and load it back on the ferry to return to the mainland, and there was zero room for it not behaving itself. Despite the inclement weather conditions, our ferry was on time – phew! One less thing to worry about.
I hurried off the ferry, red suitcase in hand, and was instantly met by Dave on the other side of the glass petition. He somehow managed to snag a yellow security vest (even though I’m pretty sure he is not an employee of BC Ferries…or is he?) so that he could whisk me away. Dave had organized everything ahead of time so I didn’t have to leave the terminal. He had brought Valdy over on a trailer from Port Alberni to Nanaimo, and had dropped it off in the boarding line-up. I was so appreciative and impressed with his efforts; it made a huge difference and kept things running smoothly.
Since we were under a huge time crunch, we didn’t have much time for small talk: we got down to business immediately. I jumped in the car, turned the ignition, and was THRILLED when it started up right away without a protest. Not willing to test my luck, I waved goodbye to Dave and the real BC Ferries staff, and drove on to the ferry with a huge sigh of relief.
Once I parked, I hadn’t so much as even set foot outside the car when the questions started coming at me. Valdy attracts attention wherever it goes, and everyone who sees the car has questions about its history and the restoration plans. Once I shared a small piece of the story and the restoration plans, people started to get excited that they were seeing the “before restoration” Valdy, as it surely will be even more of a showstopper when it’s completely restored and they’ll be able to boast that they saw the car in the early days.
The ferry crossing back to the mainland was equally uneventful, but as we started to approach the shore my nerves set in again – would Valdy start as nicely again, or would I be stuck on the ferry with a dead car, forcing the other cars to dodge me as they attempted to leave the ferry? Much to my amazement, it was on its best behavior and started back up again without any problems whatsoever. I drove off the ferry, and prepared myself for the adventurous drive back to the shop.
I was prepared for the car to not run, but I hadn’t been entirely prepared for driving in a torrential downpour on new roads that were not yet on my GPS system. While I was very grateful to not have to change a battery on the side of the road in the dark on a rainy and windy night, I had quite the challenge seeing out of the windshield as the wiper blades hadn’t moved in 8 years and were somewhat resistant to the idea of being woken up. It was raining so, so hard, and they protested by smearing the screen rather than wiping it. Mental note made to not pick up a car on the rainiest night of the year ever again.
After driving Valdy for a few kilometers, I was significantly more relaxed and confident that we’d all make it back to the shop in one piece. I started to speed up a bit, and quickly realized that the seat ratchet was not going to hold my seat back without some assistance. Naturally, I found this out the hard way when I was jerked to the back after accelerating. Oops. Luckily, the brakes worked surprisingly well. Thank you, Valdy. Much appreciated.
I soon realized that in order to drive safely and to keep from springing back, I needed to drive with one hand holding the seat ratchet in place and the other hand on the wheel. No big deal, I can multi-task. However, when it came to change gears, I had to change tactics: I would be cruising along at a steady 80 km/hr, perch myself on the front of the seat, change gears, firmly grasp the seat ratchet again, and only then sit back in the seat. I can only imagine how this looked to those who passed me on the road that night.
By this point in time I was in the groove, and despite the poor visibility I was thoroughly enjoying driving Valdy. Above 2000 rpm’s it was pulling quite nicely, although I did have to double-clutch to get it to change gears since first syncro and second syncro were gone. In all fairness, if I hadn’t really moved in 8 years I would probably be a lot more difficult than Valdy was that night. All things considering, it ran like a dream for a car that hadn’t moved in so many years.
About 30 minutes after leaving the ferry docks, I cruised smoothly into the shop (without having to call for Haggerty roadside assistance, I might add) and tucked Valdy in safe and sound for the evening. After its rude awakening in the rain, I thought the least it deserved was a warm and dry parking spot for getting us back without too much drama, and I was more than happy to provide that.
Over the course of the next few days, I had the pleasure of test driving Valdy (when it wasn’t raining too heavily, of course) several more times to assess what we would be dealing with. Each time, I was pleased to experience a relatively smooth ride. However, I did find that whenever I took the car out I had to budget extra time to allow for answering the questions of all of the people that tended to inquire about the car when I was out and about on the roads. Even though the project is just in the beginning stages, the excitement is building, and rightfully so. Both myself and my team at the shop are thrilled to be working on such a beautiful car in alignment with Dave’s vision and dream for Valdy.
Once I was satisfied that I had a good grasp on how the car was running, I began the formal inspection process. What would we find when we put Valdy on the hoist? Would it be completely rusted out? Have we bitten off more than we can chew? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our rolling restoration series.