Midwest Performance Cars Prevents Catastrophe for Fresh Porsche 968 Project

Photography: Mike Maravilla

  • Midwest Performance Cars (MPC) is a European auto service specialist shop with three locations throughout the Chicagoland area.
  • The trusted shop has become synonymous with the local Porsche community, helping maintain and upgrade a generous helping of the Chicago air and water-cooled camps for years.
  • After purchasing a Porsche 968 from Hagerty Marketplace, our Managing Editor, Mike Maravilla, entrusted the car to MPC to sort out any pre-existing issues.
  • MPC’s expert eyes discovered a lot more disrepair than met the eye and, over eight, long weeks, helped Mike set the project off on the right foot.

Let’s get one thing straight right away: there’s no such thing as a used car that doesn’t need work. Anyone who doesn’t go into secondhand ownership (or third, fourth, or fifth for that matter) with a few extra shekels in their pocket is often greeted with a world of pain. The excitement can quickly fade from there, turning a project with promise into an endless pit of financial despair.

That’s precisely why my new-to-me Porsche 968 has still been in Chicago since I purchased it from Hagerty Marketplace. Instead of immediately making the trek east to me on the East Coast, the car went straight to Midwest Performance Cars (MPC) for a fine-toothed combing. Even though Hagerty’s listing was fairly transparent about the car’s lingering issues, you never know what you’ll find once you look closely at 32 years of history.

MEAN WHAT YOU SAY

Don’t let the “We are true Euro car enthusiasts” tagline deter you. The prototypical “we’re one of the guys” mantra has become diluted by the thousands of shops who wanted a slice of the pie and undeservedly ate more than their fair share without earning a seat at the table. But I’m here to tell you that MPC is one of the few specialty shops that means what it says. Walk through the front door and you’re literally in the shop. There are no pretenses, veils, distractors, or grand presentations that get in the way of you seeing exactly what MPC is doing at that exact moment. As a first-time visitor, I deeply value that transparency.

But the urban space is far from a typical shop. As a repurposed building from Chicago’s yesteryear, MPC is a beautiful space with timber trussing, original brick walls, and a large, central skylight that bathes the shop in a soft, ethereal glow. Individual workstations—there are eight lifts, an in-ground alignment rack, a tire mounting station, and a separate office area—are well-lit with high-output LEDs and well-spaced to give everyone ample room to do what they need to do. It may sound like an obvious thing, but I’ve been in enough shops that couldn’t do this properly. The effort to lay the shop’s footprint out efficiently and give each tech a dependable, breathable workspace is another testament to MPC’s commitment to its staff and the cars they work on.

LOCAL HEROES

It’s no secret why giant Checkeditout Chicago banners hang inside Midwest Performance Cars’ sprawling interior. MPC has helped the now infamous organization maintain and modify a large sampling of the 1,000+ cars—from humble transaxles like mine to a brand new 992 GT3RS—that attend the city’s annual convergence. MPC can take on the volume of work by spreading out beyond city limits and into the surrounding suburbs. While this downtown location is a certified LN Engineering installer and service and engine rebuild hub for classic to modern machinery, its Northbrook and Westmont hubs take on different specialties: the former is an air-cooled service and engine rebuilds, performance software, and custom suspension setup outlet while the latter is the go-to spot for water-cooled clients, ultra-low profile alignments, and other German (BMW, Audi, Mercedes, and Mini) scheduled maintenance. Whichever location is right for you, MPC also provides complimentary Lyft/Uber shuttle drop-off to make your service as seamless as possible.

PROBLEM CHILD

As I mentioned previously, my end-of-year visit back home to Chicago was my first chance to meet my new 968 and MPC at the same time. I arrived at Midwest Performance Cars to find my car safely stowed and waiting for a slew of OEM parts to arrive from Germany that’d fix the seeping power steering, the transaxle shaft leak, and other miscellaneous bits. But vintage car ownership can bite. I soon found out that my 968 wasn’t planning on being as nice to me as I intended to be with her. I chose to look at it in the most positive light that I could: it was already sitting at the place that could make it all right before I dived into the project. The biggest ticket item was the timing belt service. There hadn’t been a ton of mileage logged since the last one, but on this interference motor, time is more of a barometer than distance. While that was out, MPC discovered more: missing hardware on the rear timing belt cover, a cracked mounting boss for the distributor, several cooling system leaks, and mismatched hardware all over the place. It felt like I was getting bombarded by bad news, but MPC was calling it like they saw it, which I wholeheartedly appreciated.

After that was buttoned up, Midwest Performance Cars discovered that the timing belt tensioner had excessive slack and, as you might expect for such an old car, its OEM replacement was NLA. Honest as they’d been through the entire process, MPC expressed that the only way through this particular conundrum was to fabricate a custom solution and that it was going to take a bit of time to sort it out. Sure enough, a few days later I received a call from MPC saying that they’d made it happen. There was a longer, eagerly satisfied explanation for what they did, but if I’m honest, I didn’t have the wherewithal to repeat most of it back to you here. All I knew was that I was as relieved as they were to call the job done. As one last bit of “might as well” fiddling, MPC installed fresh aluminum timing gear covers to replace the failure-prone magnesium units. Mine were starting to gap between the two “shells” and had some integrity issues at a couple of attachment points.

COOL AS EVER

The lingering cooling system problems meant I had an opportunity to phone my friends at CSF. I saw that they’d recently come out with a clever high-performance radiator (7088) and a SPAL fan and shroud combo kit (8180), which is exactly what I needed. With some help from Joe Anselmo Motorsports, CSF was able to design the radiator to fit all models of the Porsche transaxle family and is a true plug-and-play upgrade; however, it seemed foolish to bring the radiator into a modern era and leave the fans behind. CSF thought so too. The low-profile dual 9-inch SPAL fans move 1180 CFM of air and the laser-cut shroud ensures that the fans can draw as much air as possible through the radiator. The bundle was a small part of CSF’s continued focus on the burgeoning Porsche enthusiast market, especially for models that are running into prohibitively expensive OEM or NLA replacement parts (like the 968).

Compared to the rest of the engine items, the CSF combo was super straightforward. The only thing that needed a bit of work was adapting the SPAL fan connectors to the OEM pieces. As you’d expect for a shop that doesn’t cut corners, MPC used fresh OEM hoses during the installation.

MORAL OF THE STORY

Itemizing all the work that MPC performed on my 968 may not been the most enthralling narrative, but it’s ultimately an important one. Without MPC’s help to fix some of the most critical bits in the engine bay, my 968 would’ve almost certainly met a catastrophic demise. Was it disheartening to discover some big ticket items before I could even drive the car myself? Of course. But as I mentioned earlier, spotting these things before they turn into even bigger ones is why it’s important to have trusted eyes like MPC’s. Although it might not have been as straightforward to work on this as it was the Racing Yellow 991 GT3 in front of it, the techs at Midwest Performance Cars are problem solvers. They admitted to enjoying the challenge of working around old car “quirks” and the satisfaction of victory after the issues were solved. I can say that feeling is mutual. Thanks again, MPC, for taking such great care of me and my humble 968 and for the Chicago community that recommended it as the perfect caretaker. Now, I can continue this long-term project with peace of mind and enjoy my 968 for what it is: the last and greatest iteration of Porsche’s transaxle era.


OFFICIAL PARTNERS

OFFICIAL PARTNERS