Do you ever get to a point in a multi-year project where you start to lose steam and you’re worried that the thing that used to be a car sitting on your QuickJacks in the garage is rapidly transforming into a really expensive paperweight? Lately that’s how I’ve been feeling about my Boxster. I used to love this car, but then I decided to turn it into an ambitious electrified track car and it’s been in various states of disassembly ever since. Well, over the weekend I hacked off the windshield, and I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited about moving forward with the project.
The last time I took some weight out of one of my Porsche project cars you folks in the comments section had a lot to say about it. It’s unsafe. It’s not what the German engineers intended. It’s going to completely screw up the handling! And that was just a small anti-vibration weight hanging off the engine mount of an entry level model Porsche forgot about pretty much as soon as it ended production in 1976! I can only imagine what you’ll think of me removing something actually useful like a shield for wind. I bet it’ll be similar to my mother’s reaction when I told her I’d quit my job to become a writer.
If you don’t know about my Boxster project, here’s the CliffsNotes. It’s a 1997 Porsche Boxster that I bought a few years back. Someone hit it in a parking lot and tore the front end off, so their insurance company cut me a check for about $50 less than I paid for the car. Free Boxster!
I bought a Nissan Leaf motor and a set of 996 Carrera 4 front axles and uprights. Eventually my daily driver Nissan Leaf will get a new battery array and the old one will get stuck in this car where the passenger’s seat used to be for 50-ish miles of electric range and plenty of on-track boost. Voila, through-the-road parallel gasoline-electric hybrid track car. A local electric hot rodder has been tuning up Leaf motors to around 200 horsepower, meaning this car will have around 400 system horsepower.
Eventually it’ll have a 996 Turbo engine in the back and a Tesla large drive unit in the front, but I’ll have to work out, you know, a lot of things, before that’s possible. And eventually it’ll look like this. You know, hopefully.
A few weeks ago I talked to my roll cage builder, and he said that the best move would be to remove the windshield first, to allow him better access to tie the dash bar to the chassis. I don’t actually need this car to fit any specific rulebook, but I want it to be stiff and rollover safe. I decided on a setup similar to an E-Production SCCA Miata, and the cage guy agreed that would be great for this project.
So, I grabbed a cheap windshield removal kit from the Harbor Freight and went to town. It took a bit of work, but I finally got the glass out. That weighed a whopping 26 pounds. And conveniently, it was removed from the highest point of the car!
The roll cage guy told me that from his experience the best way to remove a windshield frame from a Boxster is by burning through several cutoff wheels. Inside the A-pillar is a strengthened boron steel tube. Apparently if SawZall uses the move CUT, it’s not very effective. So, I grabbed an extra stack of death wheels from Harbor Freight and prepped myself mentally to make my Boxster essentially worthless to anyone but me.
Once the first cut goes in, there’s no turning back. He wasn’t kidding about needing to chew through discs, either, because it took at least six to get the whole thing cut through. For the first side, it was a bit of an exploration, because I’d never done it before. I went in at an aesthetically pleasing angle, but that turned out to be the wrong move, because there’s very little access from the other side. I ended up having to cut higher up the pillar to get all the way through the tube.
Eventually I’ll get around to making this more aesthetic by cutting out more of the tube and then welding a patch panel in there and painting over it. For now, I’m satisfied that I’ve got this far.
On the driver’s side, I started farther up the pillar to make the cut easier, and boy howdy was it ever. This time it took half as many zip wheels and I only overheated my 120v corded angle grinder once, instead of three times. There is still too much material on this side, so I’ll have to cut more of the pillar off later, but again, this was a good stopping point for the weekend. Once the A-pillar was removed, I was surprised to see how light it was, given its strength. With all of the trim and associated bits (like the door seal) cleft clean of the car, I weighed it to determine it was just 28 pounds all-told.
The goal is to get this chassis under 2,000 pounds before I start adding back in the electric motor and battery stack. I hope to have this car down to a track-ready weight of around 2,700 pounds.
Once I finish removing the dashboard bar and all of the fuel, A/C, and coolant lines that run from the front of the car to the back, I can focus on getting the front suspension swapped for GT3-style adjustable lower control arms, get the Carrera 4 uprights installed, pop the wheels on, and load it on a trailer for the roll cage shop. Looking at my current schedule, that feels like it’s still months away.
Anyway, it’s good to feel like I’ve made some progress. I like progress. I just wish I’d made more of it. One day I’ll get to go vroom vroom in this car again.