Disclaimer: The information in this FAQ is a compilation from various sources including the internet. The author/maintainer does not guarantee any of the information found in this FAQ. Use this FAQ AT YOUR OWN RISK and with your own judgement.
914 Frequently Asked Questions Version 2.5
Dave Darling (firstname.lastname@example.org), with help from George Hussey (Dr914@aol.com), Gary Helbig (email@example.com.EDU), and much of the Pfiles mailing list. The HTML version of this FAQ originally found on the internet was converted and compiled into .doc format by Ben McDaniel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1) What the heck is a 914, anyway?
914 is the designation given to several types of production cars made by Karmann, VW, and Porsche in the early- and mid-70's. All had mid- mounted engines, for good weight distribution and low polar moment. Most were roadsters, with a detachable Targa top. All have excellent cornering ability. Many people have called it "the square Porsche," since it departs from the traditional (Porsche) curved look of the 356es and 911s. I have also received some ribbing about not being able to tell the back of the car from the front.
2) So what is this "-4" or "1.8" or "/6" designation, then?
When it was introduced in 1969 (1970?), there were two types available. The 914/4 used a fuel-injected 1.7 liter "pancake" four- cylinder engine derived from that used in the VW 411. The 914/6 came with a de-tuned carbeurated 2.0 liter engine derived from that used by the 1969 911T. The /6 did not sell very well, and was dropped after the 1972 model year. The 1972 914/6 is somewhat rare--only about 240 were made--and was never exported to the US. In 1973, Porsche introduced a 2.0 liter four-cylinder model. Early information labeled it as the "914 S", but this was dropped shortly before or shortly after the model became available in the US. The two versions were labeled by their displacement--the 914/1.7 and the 914/2.0. For 1974, the 1.7 was replaced by a 1.8, which used a different type of fuel injection system in the US, and carbeurators elsewhere. Power was lower than the earlier 1.7s, due primarily to emissions con- trols.
3) Didn't I hear about a 914/8 somewhere?
Yes, you probably did. There were two very special 914s made by the factory, using air-cooled eight-cylinder engines from the 908 race car. You can sometimes see one of them at the Porsche factory museum. The other type of 914/8 is a "regular" 914 which has had a water- cooled V-8 engine, usually a Chevy, wedged into it. We don't talk about these cars because we're snobs. 8) The V8 question has been debated a number of times on Porschephiles. The "official" consensus is that it may be possible to do the conversion "right", but it is difficult and there are many, many bad ones out there. Also, a number of people object to the generally inelegant way of dealing with the (water) radiator.
4) Okay, smart guy, what's a 916?
In 1972, the Porsche factory made a number of cars that were intended to be a prototype for a "super-car" 914. These were the 916s. They had the mechanically-injected 2.4 liter engine used inthe 72-73 911 S, the large, boxy flared fenders from the 914/6 GT race car, fixed steel roofs, and modified front and rear styling. Some mounted front- located oil coolers and a version of the 915 gearbox converted to run in a mid-engined car. They had super-plush interiors (leather or leather and op-art fabric!) and some had power windows. They were intended to be as luxurious and top-of-the-line as possible. One even had air conditioning with the compressor behind the drivers seat! There is some disagreement over the exact number built, but the most authoritative source says that there were 11 of them.
5) How hard is it to work on the engine? That space looks awfully small!
It is possible to perform all regular maintenance on a 914/4 with the engine in the car. The Sixes are supposed to be about twice as time consuming as the Fours. [Anyone want to loan me one for a year so I can verify this? 8) ] Spark plugs, timing, adding oil, and changing the air filter are all straight-forward to do from the top. Replacing plug wires may require removing the air filter box, but that is either one bolt and a hose clamp, or a couple of wire clips and a hose clamp. Transmission, oil filter, oil drain plug, sump screen, all are easily acessed from underneath the car. It is awkward to fit a standard oil filter wrench on the 914's filter, but a BIG ol' pair of Channel-Locks works just fine! Adjusting the valves is a chore. At times, it seems as if *every- thing* is in the way of getting to the valve covers! However, it is quite possible to reach around everything and get to the adjusters. There are some things you just can't do with the engine in the car. Fortunately, it is not a difficult operation. It only took me about five hours my first time, and I'm a *complete* idiot! An experienced 914 mechanic should be able to do it in as little as 30 minutes. Most of the time is spent "getting things out of the way." Then remove four big bolts, and carefully lower the engine and tranny down and out of the car. (They come out as a unit--it's possible to do them separately, but easier to do both.) Putting the engine back into the car is even easier. It only took me a couple of hours to do on my own. Debugging all the wiring problems that I (and 20-year-old wires) caused took considerably longer...
6) What sort of options came on the 914 originally ?
Aah--I'll let someone with more experience than myself, George Hussey of Automobile Atlanta (Dr914@aol.com), answer that in is own words. >Much confusion has occurred over the so-called appearance group offered >as a 914 option. Packages were as follows:
> 1. Appearance group package '70-'72 and '73 1.7 models: side vinyl, >loop carpeting, chrome bumpers, leather wrapped wheel and shift knob, >center deposit box, dual horns, driving lights and pedrinni alloy wheels > 2. Appearance group '73 914 2.0 "S": center console with gauges, >armrest, storage box, loop carpeting, dual horns, chrome bumpers, fuchs >alloy wheels, driving lights, front and rear sway bars, leather wrapped>wheel and shift boot > 3. Appearance group '74-'76 models: center console with gauges, >leather wrapped wheel and shift boot, side vinyl, dual horns, loop >carpeting, armrest and storage box >To keep the price lower in the later years, most equipment became >optional. The 70-72 optional equipment was standard on the 914/6. Other information that I have indicates that the Factory split up the 73 group into two separate groups for 74 and later. One was the "Sport Group" and comprised of alloy wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, and front and rear sway bars. The other was the "Appearance Group" and included all the rest of the 73 "S" stuff. In 1974, Porsche created a "Special Edition" or "Can-Am" version of the 2.0L 914. This car had all of the "regular" options, above, with one or two differences. There were three choices of paint scheme--white with orange trim, white with green trim, or black with yellow trim. A different front spoiler was added below the front bumper. Specially painted alloy wheels were used, with accents matched to the trim color of the car. They had bumpers painted the trim color instead of chrome or black, as on the other 74 914s. They did not have the vinyl rollbar trim, but did come with the center console, leather shift boot, leather steering wheel, dual horns, and the swaybars and Bilstein shocks which were optional on the other 914s. These cars are less common than other 914/4s, and are somewhat more valua- ble as a result.
7) Can you compare the various 914/4's for me?
A quick run-down of the US models:
Year Displ HP F.I. Comments 70,71 1.7L 80HP D-Jet Spartan interior, non-adjustable passenger seat, non-retracting seat-belts, sloppy shift linkage, cranky window winders . . .
72 1.7L 80HP D-Jet Some interior improvements. Adjustable seat. Late 72 first gets retractable seat belts. Fuel pump moved lower in engine compartment for less chance of vapor lock.
73 1.7L 80HP D-Jet "Late 914" introduced. Side-shift transmission shortens linkage, less sloppy. Improved window winders, better interior. 73 1.7L 72HP D-Jet Ditto, but California emissions model. Lower HP from lower compression--to deal with lower-octane gas. 73 2.0L 95HP D-Jet "914S" in some early ads. Improved performance from 2.0L engine. All the optional goodies were standard. This is the one everyone wants. 74 1.8L 76HP L-Jet 1.8 engine replaces 1.7. Lower HP from lower compression. L-jetronic FI, viewed by many as less reliable than 1.7 or 2.0 D-jet FI. 74 2.0L 95HP D-Jet Same as 73 2.0, but options weren't standard. 75 1.8L 76HP L-Jet Catalytic converter added for California. 5MPH bumpers add weight, distributed toward ends. EGR on some cars. Fuel pump relocated to front of car to reduce chance of vapor lock. 75-76 2.0L 90HP D-Jet Re-worked exhaust and heat exchangers lose power and possibly engine longevity. California models get catalytic converter, 49-state get an air pump. EGR may be on some cars. Adds 5MPH bumpers as in 75 1.8L. Fuel pump in front as in 75 1.8L.
8) What should I watch out for when looking to buy one?
I'll try to run down the problem areas--my 1.8 pretty much has all of them. (Anyone wanna buy a 914, *cheap*?) Rust. George Hussey has said, "There's no such thing as a rust- free 914." There may indeed be one or two, but they are a real rarity. If you've found a totally rust-free 914, check again. Chances are you'll find rust somewhere. Particularly prone are the battery box, on the right hand (passenger, in US) side of the engine compartment, everything below that--which includes the right-rearsuspension! The firewall in front of the battery, the jack points on the sides of the car, the longitudinal members of the frame (the inner rockers), the rear of the rear trunk floor, and just in front of the windscreen. Rust is the most common cause of body flex. You can check for flex with the "Dave's Big Butt Test." Take the roof off the car. Then, get someone of Dave's size (230 lbs) or larger to sit in the passenger's seat (the side with the battery!). With the door closed, roll the window up. Then try to open the door. If the window sticks at the top (and does not stick with the roof on), the body is flexing. Also try the driver's seat. Body flex is fairly bad news. It can be cured, but it is generally time-consuming and expensive. Oil leaks are relatively common. Some of the cures are cheap in parts, but expensive in labor--e.g., oil galley plugs. The oil pressure idiot light sender, on top near the distributor, can leak. Push rod tube seals commonly leak--but can be replaced with the engine in the car! Oil cooler seals, the galley plugs, and the front or rear main seals are also not uncommon. The engine may need to be removed to fix these. The 914 is quasi-legendary for transmission woes. Sloppy shifting is part of the car's character, especially on the pre-73 cars. Replacing the shift linkage bushings can help; these parts are plastic, and can wear quickly. Bronze replacements are available for some bushings. Some sources indicate that a short-shift kit cures the problem, while others state that it exacerbates it. Most cars will crunch going into first gear--this is generally regarded as "normal", except for a brand-new transmission. Some will also crunch going into second. This may mean a rebuild is in the near future. Another source of "transmission" grinding noises is the clutch cable. Specifically, the tube in the rear firewall that the cable goes through. Rust and time can cause this tube to break off the firewall, which will keep the clutch from fully disengaging. This causes grinding in the lower gears. The tube can be re-welded, but it may require cutting open the center tunnel. Tops leak--where the top seals join together. Not always, but frequently. Check for signs of previous flooding.
9) How about carbeurators for a 914/4? After all, the Sixes came with 'em!
The 'Sixes' also came with 6-cylinder motors. They are different. There is a popular myth that putting carburetors on a 4-cylinder 914 will improve its performance. The truth is that the fuel injection system in the 914's is very well designed, and will out-perform almost any carburetor set up. Carbureting the engine will typically reduce the power, driveability, and economy. Not to mention legality. Many states are following California's lead in the area of emisions control laws. The law says that a car must retain the original induction system. Since no 914/4's were delivered in the U.S. with carbs, it is illegal to drive a carbed 914 on the street in areas where these laws apply.It is possible to modify the car's engine enough that the stock FI can no longer supply the correct amount of fuel. At that point, you can either modify the FI, or switch to carbs. Tweaking the FI can be expensive and time consuming, but it is possible. Doing it correctly will also give you better results than any carb set-up. However, carbs are a quick and easy solution. If you'd rather use "easy" than "right", well... A question you should ask yourself if you are thinking about buying a carbed 914, even when it's street-legal, is "Why'd they do that?" There are two possible answers to this question. One answer is that the car had an FI problem that the owner did not feel like dealing with, so he/she replaced the whole induction system. This sort of attitude *may* be indicative of sloppy maintenance in general, and frequently these cars are in much rougher shape overall than cars with operational FI. However, few people are willing to admit that they trashed the FI because they couldn't fix it. Most owners will tell you that they did it to give the car more power. These cars may have other poorly-thought-out "performance upgrades". Another question to ask yourself is, "How much will it cost to convert back to FI?" In many places in the US, carbed 914s will no longer meet smog laws. If the owner does not have all the bits, it can easily cost $1000-$2000 to make the car legal.I have heard that it *is* possible to carb a 914, and do it right. Gary Helbig says, "I have even seen one example of this. But you're not likely to find one for sale."
10) So, which one should I buy?
The 73 2.0, obviously. But since it is so obvious, the price is higher for these cars. The 74 2.0, if it has the optional equipment, is essentially identical. Parts prices for the items unique to the earlier 2.0, such as heads, exhaust and some FI parts, are more expensive as well. Second choice would be either a later (75-76) 2.0 or a 49-state 73 1.7. The former have more power and the front-mounted fuel pump, but more weight, higher polar moment, and seem to wear engines out faster. They run hotter to cut down on emissions, which also cuts down on engine life. The 76 2.0 is the very last of the 914s, and is fairly rare--only 4200 or so were built. These factors may drive the price up relative to the 75 models. Bringing up the rear are the rest. This is mostly a matter of taste. The CA-emissions 1.7 is the weakling of the lot, but it does have the interior improvements and the better transmission. The 1.8 is next in power, with all the refinements of the 1.7, but with a fuel system that is less fault-tolerant. In some ways, the L-Jetronic system is superior to the D-Jet, but careful attention must be paid to avoid vaccuum leaks, backfires, and corroded relays. The early 1.7 has more power, but is less civilized and has the vague tail-shifter transmission. Please note, these rankings are my own opinion. Yours may be dif- ferent.
11) How can I tell the difference between the various 914s?
The main differences between the different kinds of 914 are in the engine. Therefore, this is a good place to start looking. A Six will be obvious. It will have a pair of triple-throat carbs staring at you as soon as you open the engine lid. The fuel-injection system on the US-spec 1.8L engines is somewhat different from that used on the 1.7L and 2.0L engines. The air cleaner is over on the left-hand side of the engine compartment, and has the airflow meter attatched to it. The airflow meter is a plastic and metal box with a quarter-circle shape on one side. It is not real small, and is pretty obvious. The early 1.7L cars have round air cleaners, filled with oil. Later 1.7L and 2.0L cars have square air cleaners with conventional paper filters. All are located closer to the center of the car than the 1.8's. All 1.7L and 1.8L heads have four studs that the intake runners are bolted to. The 2.0L heads only have three studs for this. However, the definitive indicator of what type of four-banger you have is the engine code. The engine code is located in front of the oil filler, between it and the fan shroud, on 2.0L cases. The code should start with "GA" (for 73-74) or "GC" (for 75-76). The 1.7L and 1.8L engine codes are on a flat spot located toward the right-rear of the top of the case. You may have to push some hoses and wires out of the way, and clean off a lot of dirt to read them. 1.7L engine codes start with "W", "EA", or "EB" (for the 73 California car). The 1.8L codes start with "EC".
12) What's this about Side-shifters?
Up until the 73 model year, the shift forks on the 914 transmis- sions were on the end of the tranny case, all the way at the back of the car. This meant that the linkage had to go about 2/3 of the length of the car and through numerous interconnected parts. This is the so-called "tail- shifter" transmission. In 73, the shift forks were moved to the side of the tranny case. The linkage only had to travel about 1/2 the length of the car, and didn't have as many angles to reach around. It also had far fewer interconnected parts to break or go out of adjustment. This improved the shifting dramatically. This is called the "side-shifter" transmission. There are kits available to convert tail-shifters to side-shifters.
13) Who's this George Hussey character?
George Hussey is the owner of Automobile Atlanta, also known as "The 914 World Headquarters". This is possibly the largest depository of 914 "stuff" anywhere. The AA catalog is full of useful information, from "tech tips" about how to keep your 914 running, to exploded diagrams of almost everything. Every piece that ever existed for a 914 is available from Automobile Atlanta. This completeness has its price; you can get parts elsewhere cheaper. But there is considerable knowledge at the other end of the phone, and you can't expect to get that for free. George himself is a confirmed 914 lunatic. Case in point: He traveled thousands of miles, cash in hand, to purchase a 914-6 because he wanted the car with that serial number. (It was the last one made.)
14) How can I adjust my valves? Why should I?
You should because it's on the maintenance schedule for the car. And because mis-adjusted valves can cause big problems. If they're too loose, the car will run rough, stumble, get poor gas mileage, and may back- fire. This is especially bad for 1.8L-owners. If the valves are too tight, you can have poor running, poor mileage, and the valves may not properly dissipate heat, leading to burned valves. This is expensive. A small in- vestment in money or time (pros can do it in 90 minutes--at least, that's what they've charged me for!) can save you lots of time, money, and grief down the road. The two biggest challenges to adjusting the valves on your 914 are 1) Getting *to* the bloody things, and 2) Rotating the crankshaft to get each piston to top-dead-center (TDC). There is no easy answer to #1, short of taking the engine out of the car. Removing the roadwheel on the side you're working on can help, a bit. Some people recommend dropping the exhaust off the car. That sounds extreme, to me. Just have patience, and persevere. Use a long feeler gauge. Try reaching in from the front, from the back, and even from below if you can get your arms in! Several methods are recommended by different sources for #2. The Haynes book suggests rolling the car back and forth in gear, which sounds pretty absurd to me. An old 914 Owners' Association magazine recommended wiring up a remote starter switch and using the starter to turn the engine over. Doctor 914, George Hussey of Automobile Atlanta, recommends using a screwdriver on the *rear* part of the fan blades, where they attatch to the fan. The spark plugs should be removed for this, so you don't have to fight the engine's compression. My personal method is to remove the plugs, put the car in gear (5th for best torque), jack only one side up into the air so the rear wheel on the other side is still on the ground, and turn the wheel that's in the air to turn the transmission to turn the engine. If you do take the roadwheel off the car, put two of the lug bolts back on so that you can use a prybar against them to turn the wheel.
15) You made a big deal earlier about "D-jet" and "L-jet" FI systems.
What are they? Two of the earliest forms of Bosch Electronic Fuel Injection. For a good description of theory and general practice, see Probst's book "Bosch Fuel Injection and Engine Management", published by Bentley Books. This is a good book on Bosch EFI systems, and is highly recommended. Both fuel systems are designed to get the correct amount of fuel into the combustion chamber at the right time. The "correct amount" depends on RPM, engine load (almost but not quite == throttle position), engine temperature, and other factors. The main difference between the two systems used on 914s is the method of measuring engine load. The D-Jetronic system measures the air pressure in the intake manifold. The pressure sensor lives on the right-hand side of the engine compartment, below the battery. It looks like a small metal pineapple with one hose and one bundle of wires going to it. This system is less accurate at determining engine load than the L-Jetronic system. It was used on all 1.7 and 2.0-liter cars. [editor's note: Kjell Nelin provides a very thorough D-Jetronic maintenance and repair guide here on the web page] The 1.8 US-market cars used the L-Jetronic system. It measures engine load by measuring incoming air. Intake air pushes against a spring- loaded flap, which is deflected more by more air. A potentiometer measures the deflection, and feeds it into the FI computer. It is more accurate at measuring engine load, at least below about 4200 RPM--which is where most around-town drivingis done. The two main problems with this system are 1) Vaccuum leaks, and 2) Backfires. Vaccuum leaks allow un-metered air into the system. The "brain" doesn't know about this air, and doesn't command enough fuel to be squirted into the combustion chamber. This makes the car run lean, which makes it run hot, which tends to burn valves and otherwise shorten engine life. Backfires can cause a back-pressure wave to go through the intake. This wave can warp the flap that measures the air, causing it to stick at one or more places along its travel. This leads to poor running, and can also cause a lean condition like a vaccuum leak. With careful maintenance, the L-jet FI system does a very good job, and is reliable. In fact, modern 911s use an FI system based on the L-jet system. Just remember the "careful maintenance" bit.
16) What size tires and rims can I put on my stock 914?
The widest wheels I've ever heard of anyone putting on a 914 are seven inches wide (7"). There are a lot of five-bolt 7" rims available; most are from 911 or 944 applications. Four-bolt 7" rims are less common. The are available from some aftermarket suppliers, and several wheel manu- facturers will make wheels to order. Conventional wisdom is that the largest size tire you can fit under the stock fenders is a 205/60-15. These only work with wheels designed for the 914. Many aftermarket rims, such as the popular Riviera mags, were designed for the VW Bug and have the wrong offset for the 914. Several people have reported no problems with 195/60-15 tires on those rims. I personally think that the 205 "balloons" a little more than I'd care for, so I use 195/50-15 on stock Fuchs alloys. The speedo is inaccurate with these smaller tires, but it doesn't really bother me.
17) How can I improve the performance of my 914?
The number one best improvement you can make to your 914 to make it go faster is: Driver Improvement. Go out, Autocross, take a Drivers Ed event, or take the car out to one of the Big Tracks and go Time Trialing! You will get much more out of the car than you ever thought could possibly be in there! This is also an upgrade that you can take with you to other vehicles. Try *that* with a DME chip! If you are or want to be racing your 914, the first step in any program of modifications is to get the rulebook and read it. This will tell you what modifications are legal in which classes, and may suggest things that you didn't think of. The next thing to do is to talk with the *fast* 914 drivers. They will have good suggestions; most of them have been where you are! The 914 may feel a little underpowered, but the best modifications you can make (especially for the $$) are in the areas of handling and brakes. Engine modifications tend to cost a lot of money for a little improvement-- or none at all. Some of the obvious upgrades are:
Wider, lower-profile tires
Sticky (soft-compound) tires
Wider wheels for the wider tires
Stiffer front torsion bars and rear springs
Stiffer front swaybar (no rear or very loose!)
Competition-type brake pads
19 mm brake master cylinder
Racing bucket seats & 5- (or 6-) point harness
18) Can I use VW parts on my 914?
Yes, you can. Quite a few of the parts are VW parts. Someone is rumored to be working on a cross-reference for 914/VW parts. The 914 uses more or less the same Type IV engine that was in the 411, 412, and late Transporter (Bus, Vanagon). Unfortunately for us, it's somewhat "less" than "more". To quote Gary Helbig again, >The motors are identical, except for the following items: >1. Case. Stronger, better finish, oil filter in different spot. >2. Flywheel. Cut for larger clutch. >3. Crankshaft. Wider journals, hardened, balanced. >4. Pistons. Higher compression, better quality. >5. Heads. Different port layout, better flow. Better valves (sodium > filled on 2.0) >6. Cam. Different profile. >7. Distributor. Different timing curve. Vacuum retard mechanism > added. >8. Fuel Injection. Bigger injectors, subtle changes to controller.
19) What about hydraulic lifters? Are these a good thing?
This was actually done on some of the Type IV Buses--but those used a different motor (see #17 above) in a different application. There are some good things about the conversion, some bad things, and one real bad thing.
The good things:
1. Never have to adjust the valves again.
2. Quieter valve train.
3. Slightly better valve control (timing).
The bad things:
1. Loss of power, especially at higher Rpm's.
2. The engine was not designed for them, so the oil galleries have to be modified to make them work properly.
3. More frequent oil changes, as the lifters are sensitive to dirty oil.
4. Requires special cam shaft.
The real bad thing:
5. A "normal" valve adjust more or less destroys a hydraulic-lifter equipped engine.