Back in July, I had the amazing fun of bringing three Porsches from very different vintages to an autocross in RI. It was a blast, to say the least. It was the maiden (race) voyage for the ’73 914 and the ’86 944. And I had no idea what to expect from them. I expected the 914 to be a handful. And it delivered on that promise! The 944 was actually more of an enigma, really. Having done a bit of mending of suspension bits, I already had an appreciation for the fact that this car was driven hard and put away wet for it’s prior lifetime. I knew I was getting into a project with this one, but little did I really know. Continue reading Porsche 944 – Race, Break, Repeat
When I was even thinking about getting an old 944, I firmly intended to get it as a car to use and enjoy, not one to baby and worry about. I was maybe going to turn it slowly into a mean autocross car. Or maybe daily drive it in winter as a beater. Or maybe crazy rallycross car with skidplates and rally tires. Or all of the above at the same time! The beauty of the 944 platform is that it has a wide range of capabilities and is a fairly simple car, aside from the motor. It has great handling, no doubt, and has been many things to many people. And they are plentiful, which in the Porsche world these days makes them relatively affordable and parts easier to obtain. I am now seeing sad posts where folks are talking about not wanting to being their RS America’s to the track anymore because they are too valuable now. I don’t think that will ever happen to my 944. I got it to be “my Miata” – a small, nimble car that is heavy on fun but light on cost. I didn’t want to have to worry about it being clean or nice. It would just have to run well and be a good driver. Continue reading Porsche 944: From My Beater to My Baby?
It’s funny how at one point in my life, any car I owned that wasn’t under dealer warranty was too risky for me to have as a daily driver. I would trade in a car after only one year of owning it if I put so many miles on it that the warranty was up. Getting to work was so critical, I felt anything that jeopardized the prospect of making it was unacceptable. Definitely funny how life changes. That strategy cost me a small fortune. And it was very easy to justify it at the time.
My life is a bit different now. It’s not that I don’t have important places to be and that it is any less important that I get there. But there is now a different equation in play. Continue reading The Joy and Agony of Driving a Radioactive Isotope, an Old Porsche
Work on the 1986 944 in Copenhagen Blue has commenced. I’ve grown rather fond of the little thing these days as happens to many of my cars. This one appeared fairly complete on delivery but soon started to show that all was far from perfect. But I wasn’t looking for perfection. I was looking for a project. A car that needed some love so that I could do some learning. And I got what I bargained for. Continue reading The ’86 944 Punch List
I’ll admit to being a fan of the Wheeler Dealers show from the UK that appears on Velocity from time to time. If you haven’t seen it, the two main characters find old cars (“motors”) and try to get them back on the road, trying to sell them for a “profit”. Since they don’t factor any labor costs into the restorations, I find the numbers to be quite fictitious. Ed China, the mechanical miracle-worker, has a garage with a full lift and many specialty tools that are very cost prohibitive for a home mechanic. So I hardly find this show to be the home DIY tutorial that it purports to be. But its great fun to see the classics they source and the love they put into getting them back into fighting shape.
Here’s to finding a “cracking motor” for yourself! Continue reading Wheeler Dealers – Porsche 914
I’ve always noticed how race car tires have a very different attitude than street car tires. They are often wider and sit under beautiful fender flares. But they also seem to have a bit more tilt in them where the bottom of the tire sticks out further than the top. I’ve lately discovered this to be called “negative camber”. Camber is the tilt of the wheel around an imaginary axis line that would run either between the two front wheel centers or the rear wheel centers. When the top of the wheel moves in toward the center line of the car and the bottoms move outward, that is “negative camber”. The opposite is positive camber.
The first major wrenching project on “Signal”, the Porsche 914, is one of convenience really. I had the parts in a box and I knew it would be better when done. I thought it would be a fairly quick and easy way to get to know the car. Turns out it was a good way to learn about the car. But it was not so quick nor so easy. Continue reading Project Porsche 914: Dodgy Steering No More
The last two days involved getting most of the bits that came with our purchase of the car. The prior owner is a very nice and clearly quite diligent person who carefully acquired the many items needed to convert a 914-4 to a 914-6. Having just watched Van Svenson’s 40+ page tutorial on how to rebuild a 914 motor in gory detail, I’m starting to understand the “signal” that I have much to learn and that real motor work is not for the faint of heart or budget. At least it was a good primer for me to think long and hard about what to do with two 1.7L motors and a 2.7L 911 motor…
Here are the bits that are now stored away. Everything except the 911 motor is present and accounted for.
Nearly forgot two headlights (confirmed to work) and a pile of articles, books, and 914-specific documents. The second one on top caught my eye immediately – how to fix the shift feel of the 914 so it is crisp! Looks like I have some work to do.
When we picked up our little 1973 Porsche 914, she looked remarkably good and fairly correct. I was having misgivings about her potential to become a track car or a 914-6 replicar. Even with steel flares and a 2.7 911 motor in hand, I was having trouble with the idea of molesting a fairly nice, original car.
As I poked and prodded, photographed and documented the car, I got the feeling she is not quite as original as I thought at first. Continue reading Originality Is Fleeting
The more I read about the 914, the more I’m realizing that even simple cars are really not simple. With a fairly short production run from 1970 to 1976, and not too many running changes in the car, I would guess that the 914 is a good introduction to “classic cars” – that is the fun that is chasing down rare parts, odd issues, and figuring out whether something is really even an issue or if it’s supposed to be that way.
In the wacky things column, I’ll have to put the windshield washer setup. In the 4-cylinder cars, it appears that the spray function is not run from a pump or something normal. To build pressure to squirt fluid onto the windscreen, they hook the fluid tank up to a rather interesting source of pressure – the spare tire! I guess it works and was a funny strategy used often by VW. You’ve got a pressure vessel stuck in the car already, so why not use it?
A well-known, crazy thing is that the battery sits in the engine bay right under a grate that provide for engine cooling. It gets hot in the engine bay and batteries don’t love heat. Or cold. Or anything or anyone, really. They also don’t benefit from being spritzed with water periodically. I know, surprise! Electricity and water aren’t friends! And they leak a bit of battery acid onto the support below, the “hell hole”, which rusts and breaks and is probably the most known flaw of Porsche 914s.
Luckily the 1973 we have is a later car, but up to 1973 the passenger seat was fixed. Generally sounds like no biggie but the passenger compartment in a 914 is pretty good sized for what it is. And a passenger might want to steady themselves using their feet sometimes. With a fixed seat, its not possible. So Porsche made some wacky little foot rest thingy and clipped it in there for a while until finally coming to their senses in ’73 and making the passenger seat move. Ours slides forward and tilts back even – giving it some recline. Not bad stuff, actually. But foot rests? I thought only Rolls Royce ever thought those were a good idea.
I want to put lack-of-braking-power into this category too! It is crazy to stomp on the non-loud pedal and wait. And wait. And hope. And pray. And wait some more. Before finally coming to a stop. It certainly keeps speeds down. But also makes for exciting driving everywhere when you know you can’t do a panic stop if you have to. They sure lived on the edge in 1973!
I think it’s a little crazy to have so little info about what’s going on in the engine too. Our car has an odd option mix, it seems. It didn’t get the “appearance package” which would have included a nice center console with more gauges (oil temp, volts, and a clock!). So we just have rpm, speed, fuel level, and some lights (oil, handbrake, generator). I’d really like to know oil temp.
Fitted on the car now is a period aftermarket steering wheel – made by Raid/Racemark who worked on it with Mark Donohue. That makes it pretty special right there. I guess there was a squabble and Racemark wasn’t allowed to keep Mark’s signature on it. Ours doesn’t have the signature on it unfortunately. It’s still work a few hundred quid on its own, from what I can gather from eBay listings.
I’m sure I’ll find more oddities to come but that’s enough for now.