| Anyone who has the opportunity to drive an early 914 knows the true meaning of what is politely described as a "vague" shift pattern. My 72 914 was no exception. A clipped reverse on a shift into second, finding second when I hoped for 4th (ouch, that one hurt). With a little bit of experience, I was able to fairly regularly shift each gear in sequence, but to say the shifting was enjoyable would certainly be stretching the point.
What were my options? The most obvious, but also the most radical was completely replacing the transmission, engine mount, linkage, bushings etc etc with a 73 or later side shift. Considering myself cost conscious (some people including my wife call me cheap), I decided to carefully look at the tailshift mechanism to see where most of the free play was. Certainly Porsche would not build a car that shifted like mine! What must it have been like when it was new?
As I disassembled the shifting linkage, I looked for obvious problems and signs of wear. The first problem I encountered was a cracked plastic ball cup connecting the gear shift lever to the linkage. Replacing it was my first step. Quickly reassembling it, I found nearly half of the vagueness gone! Success! With that being so easy, I thought to myself, with a little more work, I'll have this thing shifting like a ....... er, like it was meant to.
Looking a little farther down the linkage, I found several bushings, one on the bracket that supports the ball cup, one on the bulkhead. Wiggling the shaft in both, more of the dreaded slop! Surely new bushings will further improve the shifting. In go new bushings on the ball cup bracket and the bulkhead. Another new bushing on the transmission support bracket. Quickly grabbing my Haynes manual, I realigned the shift linkage all the while thinking of the crisp and tight shift pattern I was surely going to have. Into the drivers seat, clutch to the floor, reverse slides nicely into gear, first feels ok, second feels....., hum, remarkably like reverse. Back to the drawing board!
What's left. There are two ball and cup joins used to link the forward shift linkage to the back. Having my willing wife wiggle the gear shift, I saw more signs of slop. Surely this must be the cause of the remaining scourge. Out comes the back shift rod, and on go two new balls. Hum, they seem about as loose as the old ones. Reassembling everything and not anticipating much improvement, I was not surprised.
The final assembly I had ignored up to now is the rather ingenious shift finger and cage mechanism at the transmission. Lateral movement on the transmission shift lever is generated by a ball like pivot against the sides of the shift cage. Forward and back movement is transmitted by means of a finger inserted between two parallel rails on the bottom of the shift cage. Once again prying my willing assistant gracefully from her needlework, I watch carefully as the gear shift lever is wiggled. I could quickly see three wear points. The first is wear on the rod as it passes through the bushing on the bracket. The second is wear on the pivot ball, the third is wear on the shift finger and cage. Strategically placed shims confirm my suspicions, I've found the remaining slop. Now what to do about it.
Again pulling off the rear shift rod, I can quickly see asymmetrical wear on the rod where it passes through the bushing. Looking at the pivot ball, two flat spots stand out. Further wear is obvious on the end of the shift finger and parallel rails on the cage. A friend who is a welder by profession offered to see what he could do. He filled in the wear on the rod with brass, filed even the wear on the cage, and built up the flat spots on the pivot ball and shift finger. A little final sanding and filing and back it went into the car.
The result? Most of the vagueness is gone. Each gear has a distinct gate. So far, I am quite pleased with the shift pattern. To date I have not missed a gear. The shifting, although not perfect, is now quite crisp. Total cost, about $20, a few hours of my time, a few owed favors to my friend the welder and the promise of a couple minutes of undisturbed needlework time for my wife.