Spare Parts and Broken Hearts- The tale of a bad decision.

The following is an actual account that both serves as a testimonial for the effectiveness of the Flat 6 Innovations team as well as what happens when the wrong decision is made concerning the purchase of an M96/ M97 engine.

The Author refers to our engine program as FSI (Flat Six Innovations) in this testimonial. Notice that when purchasing a engine from Flat 6 Innovations not just the product is superior; so is the professionalism and communication. Here we do not have the cheapest prices, but we offer priceless honesty, integrity and effectiveness. We keep our word and deliver on time and as proposed. If you would like to reach Mr. Davidson, feel free to shoot us an email as he enjoys sharing his "Broken Heart" with others. 

Spare Parts & Broken Hearts

(unedited other than adding bold and italicized text to those areas that YOU need to read and absorb)

I bought my 2003 996 C2 in late 2008 with 40k miles on the clock. The driveline was bone stock when I bought it. I added the X51 oil pan, a Fabspeed Maxflo Competition Air Intake and a Porsche short shift after the purchase. My M96 engine experience began at a Chin HPDE event at Homestead in March 2011 with the mileage around 58k.  I went out for an afternoon session and the car felt down on power. Then the CEL came on.  I backed off and headed in. As I as crawled into the garage, the low oil pressure light came on. I’d had the oil changed (Mobil 1) just prior to the event. We let it cool some and then drained the oil. It was darker and murkier than oil that fresh oil should be. There were no visible metal or plastic bits in it but it there was a slight metallic sheen to it and on the magnetic drain plug. No one had a spare filter so we couldn’t cut the existing one open for examination.

A call went out to the mechanic I used at the time who advised there should be no problem driving it the 70 miles home if I took it easy and brought it in the next morning. We rounded up a new batch of M1 and put it in. I was able to drive home on the Florida Turnpike at 65 – 70 mph with no drama and then on to the mechanic the following morning. The quick diagnosis after they removed the oil pan and something else was it had a spun bearing and the oil scavenging pump on the 4-5-6 bank side had let go and done some damage to the #5 piston and its valves. The service ticket read simply “Engine is blown”. It wasn’t a catastrophic failure – the core components (casings, crank, carrier, camshaft, IM shaft) were still good.

I was seriously taken aback by this news and didn’t have the $18,000 (including labor) for the PCNA crate engine swap out recommended by this mechanic. Thus began a search for a less expensive alternative. Internet searches yielded several outfits offering M96 rebuild programs in the $7,500 - $10,000 range. All but one was located well west of the Mississippi and I was uncomfortable dealing with someone so far away from South Florida. I went back online and did more research. The majority of the positive endorsements I read related to Charles Navarro at LN Engineering and Jake Raby of Flat 6 Innovations.  I absorbed what I could from their websites and then called them. LN doesn’t do rebuilds but my discussions with Charles taught me a lot. 

I then called Jake and he was very helpful also but his price was even higher than the crate motor option. He didn’t volunteer any detailed information on the scope of FSI’s rebuilds so I assumed (wrongly it turned out) that theirs was similar to the other outfits I had spoken to which essentially was to replace the damaged parts. My impressions after the call and after the endorsements I had read online was that FSI was very, very good at what it did and was therefore able to command a significant premium over the competition. I thought that was great for Jake and FSI but not necessarily good for me given my financial state. 

I then reached agreement with a shop in Miami to rebuild my motor for $8,900. I purchased LN’s deep sump, spin on filter and IMS retrofit kits, Fabspeed headers and SportCats and paid to have them installed.  Installation of the LN and Fabspeed components worked out fine but the rebuild did not go well. It was very difficult to get any status reports and have calls to them returned. When I did get the car back, I got multiple CELs and then the low oil pressure light started coming on when I lifted off the throttle at low speeds like when pulling into or out of the garage.  I took the car back several times in the first 1,100 miles and each time got fresh assurances that everything was fine and I should have no concerns about driving the car as I had before. The engine blew soon after, catastrophically this time -  D chunked cylinder, damaged carrier, ruined crankshaft. After much arguing, the proprietor said he would make it right by rebuilding it again once he could find a used core in good condition. That was a relief but I soon started having serious doubts about how they could get it right the second time and how much faith I’d have in the finished product. I considered selling it at a significant loss once the engine was back in it but didn’t feel comfortable selling something I had no faith in to an unsuspecting buyer.

It was time to talk to Charles and Jake again. I arranged a 30 minute consultation call with Jake one evening. I learned that there was a significant difference in scope between FSI’s rebuilt motors and the low cost option shops’ offering. I didn’t know how much of a difference at that point but my interest was piqued enough to cash in some FF miles to fly up and visit FSI’s shop to meet Jake and his team. If only I had done this in the beginning.

Jake was very personable and gave me a tour of their shops. While unimpressive from the outside, the shops are spotless inside and filled with machine tools, dynos, test gear and M96 and Porsche air cooled engines in various states of dis- and re- assembly. The store rooms are meticulously organized. The differences between FSI and the outfit and Miami could not have been starker. He then gave me a detailed description of what constitutes a FSI rebuild (more later). Here again, the differences were like day and night. I went with the Stage II 3.8 option on my car because I planned to continue to use it on the track. Jake prepared a proposal on the spot. I signed it and paid 50% upfront. He gave me a 12/9/11 completion date, we shook hands and I left for home.

The Miami outfit subsequently reneged on their offer to provide either a working, rebuilt engine or to ship the disassembled engine plus the replacement core parts to Jake. So I was out the $8,900 plus around $4,600 for a replacement casing half, crankshaft, carrier and IM shaft. Jake, Charles and Dean spent a lot of time running down those ever harder to find parts for me at little or no markup.

I noticed another huge difference between FSI and my other experiences right away – communication. I started getting status update emails and phone calls from Jake and Dean within a week ok of inking the deal. This continued throughout the build process. This was a totally new experience for me. I had to drive back and forth to Miami (over 70 miles round trip) three times when I couldn’t get return calls from the first group I used. The update emails from FSI included photos and, later, audio and video clips and dyno reports. What a difference! 

The video file from the dyno run sounded wicked. The 319 h.p. and 284 lb/ft of torque at the rear wheels were pretty impressive also. The 11/9/11 status email reported that Jake had road tested the car for almost 300 miles, the oil and filter had been changed, the old oil tested and the car was ready to ship back to me. A month ahead of schedule! I got an invoice for the final 50%. Not a penny more than quoted and ahead of schedule. How often does that occur in the auto repair / modification industry? The car was delivered four days later and it is nothing short of outstanding.

I obviously love the car and have since I bought it. I never thought I would own a Porsche and I get a huge smile every time I walk in the garage and see it, much less drive it. The FSI motor raises it another level entirely however. It starts right up every time and idles so much more smoothly than it did before the troubles. It revs so very freely and smoothly it is hard to describe. The mechanical noises it makes at low speeds are wonderful. It is so tractable on the open road and in traffic. My road cars for the past 32 years have all been BMWs and all have had manual transmissions as does my current 135i. My wife has driven them all and drove the P-car prior to the troubles. I picked her up at the airport the second day I had it back and tossed her the keys. She drove off and into the South Florida evening traffic as smoothly as in any of the Bimmers. Completely tractable and so smooth (talking about the car here).

You would never know it is such a high performance engine -until you exert some downward pressure with your right foot that is. Then it is Katy bar the door as it gains speed in a hurry. It revs quickly and smoothly and torque increases rapidly from 3200 rpm up through the 284 lb/ft max at 4500 before leveling off. It remains above 250 past 6000 rpm.  Horsepower is extremely linear with the 319 peak coming at 7000 rpm. It is 312 or so at 6500 which is where I will be shifting on the track. Two of my track buddies have driven the car since it has been back from FSI. We swap cars occasionally (heavily modified Boxster & Caymans S’s) and all had driven mine prior to the engine failing. You have to see the looks on their faces when they climb out of mine now. It is unbelievable. The proprietor of a well known independent Porsche racing / performance operation in Riviera Beach drove the car also.  He replied simply “very impressive, very impressive” when I asked his opinion after he drove mine. This man has driven many high performance Porsche race and road cars.

My original impression of Jake and Flat 6, based on that initial phone call could not have been more wrong. The FSI program is much, much more comprehensive than any of the outfits I spoke to and light years ahead of Vertex Automotive. The cost of the new parts (that FSI includes) alone must be 2 – 3 times what the “cheaper” alternatives provide. Factor in the engineering and R & D expended developing these solutions to the additional parts, associated  additional labor, plus the crankshaft magnaflux inspection, the driveline balancing, dyno runs, road testing and first oil change and FSI’s higher cost is actually a great deal.

Don’t get me wrong, $17k - $21k is a lot of money to most of us but it represents significantly greater value than spending $10k for any of the supposedly “cheaper” alternatives. I have a very high degree of confidence that my motor will be as reliable as it is powerful. I’ll bet not all owners of M96 engined P-cars share that confidence – especially those that have had, or know one or more others that have had, M96 motor failures. It cost me 14,000 hard earned dollars to learn that lesson. Hopefully my experience can keep another Porsche 996 lover from taking a similar bath. Most impressively, Raby and the team have developed their engine program so thorougly that all my power improvements were accomplished without any ECU/ software modifications. I extend my sincerest thanks to Jake, Dean, Blake and everyone else at FSI / RED as well as to Charles Navarro and his team at LN Engineering. It is great to see American companies investing in the development of new and improved products all the while maintaining the highest quality levels and ethical business practices.

Michael Davidson

Dear Reader,

The "Flat 6 Difference" has just been illustrated to you. Make your decision and know that you will receive exactly what you pay with companies that offer cheap prices. 

Jake Raby
Founder, President
Raby Engine Development