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914 FAQ Version 2.7 4/21/97

Pelican Technical Article:

914 FAQ Version 2.7 4/21/97

Dave Darling






Metric socket set and metric wrench set, a fully equipped home shop

Applicable Models:

Porsche 914 (1970-76)

Performance Gain:

Learn much about your 914 from a Porsche 914 owner and expert

Complementary Modification:

Get your feet wet by changing the oil and filter on your new 914
With help from members of the Porschephiles mailing list, the PorscheFans lists, Tim’s 914 List, and many others.

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 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 pretty rare—only about 240 were made—and was never officially 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 designation was dropped shortly before 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 carburators elsewhere. Power on the US version was lower than the earlier 1.7s, due primarily to a lower compression ratio.

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. One source ("Caught by Camera, Porsche 914") says that these two cars were officially designated "914 S".

I have also heard rumors that there is one non-factory 914/8 driving around somewhere in the US.

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. The V8 question has been endlessly debated in many places. 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 very limited number of cars that were intended to be a prototype for a "super-car" 914. These were the 916s. They had the large, boxy flared fenders from the 914/6 GT race car, fixed steel roofs, and modified front and rear styling. Two different engines were used, one being the mechanically-injected 2.4 911S motor, and the other being the mechanically-injected 2.7 Carrera motor. 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 *everything* is in the way of getting to the valve covers! However, it really is possible to reach around everything and get to the adjusters.

If you find the engine lid getting in the way, you can remove it by removing the two bolts that hold each hinge onto the firewall bracket. You can also cut the bolt-holes in the hinges into slots, and then you simply loosen them up, and slip the lid off.

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, although "book time" seems to be two hours. 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 generally easier to do both.)

Putting the engine back into the car is even easier. It only took me a few 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 ("Doctor 914"), answer that in his 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 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 valuable as a result.

7) Can you compare the various 914/4s 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
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.

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-rear suspension! 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 are also known trouble spots.

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 cooler seals. 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! The aforementioned oil cooler seals, the galley plugs, and the front or rear main seals are also not uncommon leaks. 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 center tunnel that the cable goes through. Rust and time can cause this tube to break loose from the tunnel wall, 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 tunnel.

Tops leak—where the top seals join together. Not always, but frequently. Check for signs of previous flooding.

The taillights can also leak water into the rear trunk.

The hinge pivots for the rear trunk lid can break off. This will cause the lid to sit higher on one side than the other.

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 much-debated myth that putting carburetors on a 4-cylinder 914 will improve its performance. The truth is that the fuel injection system in the 914s is pretty well designed, and will out-perform almost any carburetor set up. Carbureting the engine will typically reduce 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. Making major changes to the FI can be very expensive and time consuming, but it is possible. Doing it correctly should also give you better results than a carb set-up. However, carbs are a fairly well-understood alternative, and are less expensive than after-market fuel injection systems.

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".

If you really want a car that has been carbed, another question to ask yourself is, "How much will it cost to convert back to FI?" It may be a legal requirement in some states. I know it is in California. If the owner does not have all the bits, it can easily cost several thousand dollars 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 914/4 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 appear to 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 and is lighter, but is less civilized and has the vague tail-shifter transmission.

Please note, these rankings are my own opinion. Yours may be different.

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 sticking out on one side. It is not small, and should be 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. The throttle body on the 2.0L engine is vertical, and sits on top of the intake air distributor. The throttle body on the 1.7L and 1.8L motors sits almost horizontal, to the side of the intake air distributor.

All 1.7L and 1.8L heads have four studs that the intake runners bolt to. The 2.0L heads only have three studs for this.

A very good 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 European 2.0L engine code starts with "GB". 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" for the US model, or "AN" for the European model.

Some cases have *no* serial number. This usually indicates a Factory replacement case.

It is quite possible to build any of the four-cylinder engines on any of the cases, though some machining may be required. This means that the serial number is not a 100% correct indicator of the displacement of the engine. Check the induction system and the intake studs just to be sure.

12) What’s this about Tail-shifters and Side-shifters?

Up until the 73 model year, the shift forks on the 914 transmissions 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 evidently improved the shifting dramatically. This is called the "side-shifter" transmission.

Converting from the tail-shifter to the side-shifter is quite possible. However, the parts needed range from the transmission itself, all the way to the gearshift lever, and all the motor mounting hardware.

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.

There has been considerable discussion recently about the quality of service that Auto Atlanta has been providing. Some people are apparently unhappy about the way that they were treated by AA. This may have gotten better recently; an AA employee has mentioned a service improvement program that is now in place. I myself have no experience with them.

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 backfire. 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 investment 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:

  • Getting *to* the bloody things, and
  • 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 a bit extreme to me. Just have patience, and persevere. Some people recommend using a long feeler gauge, but I personally didn’t care for that. Try reaching in from the front, from the back, and even from below if you can get your arms in! Patience and persistance are the key.

Several methods are recommended by different sources for challenge #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. I am not at all sold on this method, as it seems very easy to break the fan blades—even if you’re being careful. My personal method is to 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. RD Rick says that he uses a ratcheting box-end wrench on the alternator pulley nut to rotate the engine.

I have put some paint marks on my flywheel that are visible through the bottom notch in the tranny bellhousing. One is at TDC, and the other is 180 degrees out from TDC. I don’t even have to get out from under the car to adjust my valves.

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.

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 driving is 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 stock-fendered 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. These are available from some aftermarket suppliers, and several wheel manufacturers 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, like the popular Riviera mags, do not have an offset that allows these. Several people have reported no problems with 195/60-15 tires on those rims. Unfortunately, there is enough variation from 914 to 914 that some cars cannot fit the 205s on any stock rims.

A good choice for the street is 195/60 or 195/65, which is close to the rolling circumference of the stock tires. At the time of this writing, I have 195/50 on my car. The improved handling and torque are very nice, but I get aggravated at having to run 3500-4000 RPM to keep up with highway traffic.

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
  • 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. I had heard rumors of a 914/VW cross-index, but that seems to have come to nothing. The 914 uses more or less the same Type IV engine that was in the 411, 412, and late Transporter (Bus, Vanagon).

I believe that the earliest motors (the "W" and possibly the "EA" series motors) are identical or very nearly identical to the corresponding 411 motors. However, the 2.0L engine is a different matter.

To quote Gary Helbig:

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.

I am told that there is a Bus (2.0L Vanagon) flywheel/clutch/pressure plate combination which works on the 914 with little or no modification, and has a larger friction area. It would therefore be stronger and possibly longer-lasting.

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 somewhat different motor (see #18 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.

I know people on each side of the hydraulic lifter question. Two of them in particular are people whose 914 knowledge and opinions I respect, and both are convinced they are right and the other person is wrong.

Stan Hanks, former ListMeister of the Porschephiles list, tried them once and had his engine blow up as per #5 above. He then checked into the engineering behind the hydraulic kits, and came away un-satisfied that all the work had been done to ensure that the kits work correctly in a 914 application.

RD Rick, well-known Porschephile/PorscheFan, has hydraulic lifters on his 76 2.0 and loves them. He has put quite a few miles (20K, last I heard) on them and reports no problems. Also no valve float up to 6000 RPM.

Myself, I decided to live with frequent adjusts and not to take the risk of something going wrong down the road.

20) How do the heater and fresh air controls work?

There are four controls for the cabin heating system. One is the little red-knobbed handle on the floor just aft of the gearshift lever. The others are the three sliders, two black-knobbed and one red, on the dash.

The top black knob controls how much fresh air is coming in. It goes from off (left) to full flow (middle) and then turns the cool air fan (up front, behind the gas tank) on low (I), med (II), or high (III) speed.

The second knob controls where the cool air goes. Left is down, to your feet, middle is the dash-side vents, and right is up, to the defogger vents. There is probably some overlap between two or all three of these settings.

The bottom (red) knob controls where the warm air goes. Selections are identical to the middle knob.

The red lever to the rear of the shift knob controls how much hot air comes into the cabin. Down/forward is off, gradually increasing as the knob is pulled up/back, to a certain point which turns on the blower fan, located in the engine compartment. Without that fan, warm air is only moved by the engine cooling fan.

21) What kind of fuel should I put into my 914? I’ve heard that old VWs have to use leaded fuel.

VW has been using the "right stuff" to keep their cars running on unleaded fuel since before the 914s were made. So don’t worry if you can’t get leaded gasoline. In fact, the 75-76 California cars (and maybe other areas?) had catalytic converters, which reqire the use of unleaded gasoline!

Octane is usually measured in two ways, RON (Research Octane Number; the German-language version is "ROZ"), and MON (Motor Octane Number). It appears as if most US pumps are labeled with "(R+M)/2", which would be the average of RON and MON. There is typically an 8-10 point difference in the two rating systems for any given batch of gasoline. If you average, you’ll find the pump rating is about 4-5 points less than the ROZ rating.

Porsche listed the octane requirements for the 914 on a sticker in the front trunk. On my 74 2.0, it’s on the top of the right-side wheel well. The numbers are generally listed as "XX ROZ" or "XX ROZ/RON" (remember that ROZ and RON are the same thing).

A run-down of the octane requirements for some cars:

Year & Engine Engine Serial# Octane listed Pump Octane
70-73 1.7 "W", "EA" 98 ROZ (86 MOZ) 92-94
73 1.7, Cal "EB" 91 ROZ 86-87
73-74 2.0, US "GA" 91 ROZ 86-87
73+ 2.0, RoW "GB" 95 ROZ 89-90
74-75 1.8, US "EC" 91 ROZ 86-87
74-75 1.8, RoW "AN" 98 ROZ 92-94
75-76 2.0, US "GC" 91 ROZ 86-87

The numbers here, except for the non-US ("RoW") cars, are from the stickers in various net-fourteeners’ trunks. The RoW numbers are from a European owners manual.

Please note, these figures are for vehicles in stock trim! If your engine is modified (higher compression, advanced timing, etc.) then your fuel requirements may change.

22) I’m thinking of getting a 914, and I’d like to know how reliable are they?

The newest 914s are, at this writing, 21 years old. The oldest ones are over 27 years old. They were built before Porsche and VW started to galvanize the bodies of their cars. They use first-generation Electronic Fuel Injection systems. They tend to be driven hard, because they are definitely sports cars. Some of the maintenance is difficult enough that it is not infrequently ignored. Some owners believe that, since it’s "just a Bug", they don’t have to fix things correctly if there’s any way to do it cheaply.

If you take all of those factors into account, 914s are amazingly reliable. The fact that so many are still at all driveable is a testament to the design’s hardiness.

The 914 will not be as reliable as a new modern car. It is also not as hassle-free as a modern car. It requires frequent maintenance, and can do very expensive bad things when the maintenance is ignored.

There are several owners on the various mailing lists who report zero problems other than scheduled maintenance. There appear to be a larger number of owners who have epxerienced several breakdowns each year. Most people seem to fall in the middle, with problems cropping up every year or so.

I’ve had a lot of problems with my 914s, but if I could only keep one car, I’d move closer to work (less distance to walk) and keep the 914.

Drive one and see what I mean. JJ Slowik puts it quite well:

I wouldn’t EVER consider selling it, and I consider it to be one of the best things I’ve ever spent my money and time on. Five minutes of driving make a month’s worth of work instantly worth while. I would not recommend the 914 to someone that doesn’t like to work on their own cars, nor to someone that "thinks" that they "may" like Porsches. It’s a strange bond that’s difficult to explain, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

23) Could you recommend any 914 repair manuals?

The Factory manual, together with the Little Spec Book. It’s the best one available, also the most complete. The large fold-out full-color wiring diagrams are real works of art! Unfortunately, it’s also over $300 for the eight-volume set (plus another $10-20 for the Spec Book). It is also not the best automotive workshop manual that I’ve ever seen.

The Haynes manual is a reasonable alternative that is much less expensive. While not as complete as the Factory books, it does contain most of the information found in the latter. Most of the photographs are direct copies of those in the Factory book. The wiring diagrams are simply the Factory’s color ones, photocopied in black and white, with stick-on labels denoting the colors. There are some parts of this manual that are incorrect (for instance, the 1974 wiring diagram lists D-jet FI as being Non-US only) but for the most part is right on.

Probst’s book, "Bosch Fuel Injection and Engine Management", published by Bentley Books, is a good general guide to both D-jet and L-jet FI, among others. It may help you to understand some of the internal workings of your fuel system. It is not, however, a very specific guide to fixing your 914’s FI.

Finally, if you haven’t done much automotive work before, you owe it to yourself to pick up John Muir’s Idiot Book, AKA "How to Keep Your Aircooled Volkswagen Alive". It will tell you things that most manuals assume you know, such as exactly which widget to tweak so that you can adjust your ignition timing. It covers the Type IV, among others, and even has some information about FI.

24) What kind of oil and oil additives should I use in my 914?

There is a continual debate about what type of oil to put in your car. My own opinion is that, if you use a high-quality motor oil of the correct weight, it doesn’t matter which one you use.

Some people advise against putting synthetic oils in VWs or Porsches. There is a myth that they do not dissipate heat as well as conventional "dinosaur" oils. This is untrue—some of them have tested out better than dino oils. The only two reasons that I can think of for not putting synthetics in your 914 are—synthetics, especially those with low cold weights (e.g, 5W50) tend to leak out more easily than higher-weight dino oils (like 20W50). And, of course, the cost. I personally cannot justify throwing away 4 quarts of expensive synthetic oil every 3000 miles.

Oil additives look great on TV—leave them on TV. At best, they won’t help or harm your engine. At worst, they may actually increase wear inside your motor! The long version of this argument is very long indeed, but the short version is: Don’t believe everything you see on TV.

25) My buddy told me to remove the cooling flaps from my 4-cylinder engine.

Will this help my car to run cooler?

No. This is one of the most pervasive and destructive myths in the VW world. Removing the flaps will actually make the engine run hotter!

The right-side flap, when it is "open", serves two very important functions. The flap splits the air coming from the fan into two parts. It ducts one part down through the oil cooler, and it ducts the other half to the head and cylinders.

Without this flap, the cooling air flows over the top of the cooler instead of down through it. This creates a low-pressure area over the cooler, which draws warm air from under the engine. This air has been nicely warmed by the heat exchangers, and is further heated by passage through the oil cooler. Then it goes on to the cylinders and head. Not the best way to cool them.

Further compounding this is the fact that the air flow has changed to something the designers never anticipated. This means that some places get less air than they should, which leads to local hot spots—usually where they are not wanted.

Leave the flaps on.

26) Great web page! Did you do this all by yourself?

Nope. In fact, all I’ve done is to gather the info for this FAQ. The guys at Pelican have worked very hard to put these pages together for you. They’ve done all the hard work. You can show your appreciation by getting your 914 parts from them—or at least checking into their prices!

27) OK then, who are you?

My name’s Dave, and I’m a 914 nut. (Sounds like the beginning of a Fourteeners Anonymous meeting...) I’ve only owned two so far (74 1.8, now sold, and 74 2.0). Between the two cars, I think I’ve had many or most of the common 914 problems. I took to writing down some of the things I’ve done to fix those problems over the past six years, and found out that other folks wanted to know what had or hadn’t worked. I was a member of the Porschephiles mailing list for about three or four years before its demise, and Tim’s and the PorscheFans lists since then, and more recently the 914 PorscheList. Sometimes I can remember other peoples’ answers to various 914 questions that have popped up in the past, as my brain seems to like retaining various bits of 914 trivia.

I consider myself something of a "Compleat Idiot" a la John Muir. Fixing the 914 really is not that difficult—if I can do it, just about anybody can. Most of what it takes is the sheer nerve to think, "I can take this apart and put it back together again." Tools, manuals, friends who have a bit of experience, all help out—but it’s the willingness to dig into it and the audacity to think you can put it back together that are the keys.

Dave Darling

Comments and Suggestions:
emcg412 Comments: I just bought a 73 2.0 and am having a problem finding a fuel tank. I'm not sure that it is bad, but it has been sitting and am trying to put together a parts list.
October 31, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I’m not the best with part numbers.

Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Dan Comments: I'm a 4 day proud owner of '74 2.0 914. Drove it home 1300 miles and loved it. Now as I start to research, I wondering where is the best information I can get on all my gauges? There are five circular clusters in the dash and 3 in my center console.
May 30, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: What type of information are you looking for? parts or repair?

Thanks for sharing your installation process and experience. These type of comments add so much to the Pelican tech community.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Dgraves Comments: I was trying to contact Dave, but the email came back undeliverable.

I just read through the forum regarding the 914's. Great info. If I may, I'm looking at getting a 1975 1.8 that looks to be in pretty good shape, however after reading your blog I'm not thinking the 1.8 is a good idea. Other than the forum comments about vacuum leaks and backfiring, should I stay away from the 1.8's. I live in Montana and I'm looking at a car in California. Is it possible to remove the smog equipment and solve some of the issues with the 1.8. We have no smog requirements up here.

Best regards,

Dan Graves

April 6, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The 1.8 is a fine choice. One thing to keep in mind. It is against US regulations to remove smog equipment from an engine. I would try to find something that fits the era of your model, with no smog controls. If you are looking for that feature.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dollar Bill Comments: I'm considering a 1975 914 in Burgundy with a cream interior being sold by a car dealer in Syosset NY. It's a 1.7 liter and a beauty with only 17,567 miles on it. The interior is all original. Virtually no wear. I haven't seen it in person but the extensive pictures show no rust. the vin is 4752901632. The car was repainted it's original color at some point, but it was a quality job so it looks factory.
My question is: Since the car is from a dealer too far away for me to bring it to for regular service, and I live in a condo with garage parking but can't work on the car according to condo rules, would you recommend I find a good independent mechanic, or spend the extra cash to go to a Porsche dealer for tune ups and valve adjustments. I make 6 figures, so I have the cash, just want to treat this baby as well as she has been all these years.
December 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would ask your local Porsche club to recommend a local mechanic. They usually work on more of the older models than the dealers. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Saturn 63 Comments: Great info, now that these cars are 40 yrs old is there any new information people need ie prices for good examples etc..
July 27, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Not much has changed. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Chuck Comments: Hi Dave,
I bought a nice 914 4 1.7 a couple of years ago and enjoy it. I am to the point of needing the fuel injection trigger points and am unable to locate a supplier. Do you have any suggestion?
June 19, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can help you find the right part.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
A FOOL AND HIS PORSCHE Comments: miss stated what my problem can,t get targa top off stuck sitting outside 3yrs do i need to use silicone lubricant needs headliner great info complete and no b/s also given with no .pressure to buy anything a big plus iwll be buying as soon as isee what parts i need again wonderfull reading material look forward to picking up more knowledge from future and felow 914 owners thanks again
April 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Silicone spray may help. I would spray it, let it sit for a day or so. Then see if it frees up. Are you sure the latches are disengaging? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
A FOOL AND HIS PORSCHE Comments: I was recently given an 1973 914 1.7 taking it too a shop to see what mechanical issues it has no rust in the front boot or rear trunk after reading your notes i did see rust on batt.tray otherwise body is straight my problem is getting the targa top cars been sitting for 3yrs. seems stuck dont want too damage it also do you know what material the head liner is made of and does pelican offer it for sale
April 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I saw your second questions, answered you there. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Crazy Craig Comments: Yikes! I just bought a 1972 1.7 with 94,000 miles.
I was the "lot boy" at a Porsche dealer 40 years ago and always wanted one. No mid-life Miata for me! It only has 2nd, 4th and reverse. I'm thinkin' linkage bushings. Any wise owner who can help tell me what to buy? I'm a decent wrench.
July 28, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It could also be motor mounts or engine position - Kerry at Pelican Parts  
Jim Comments: With regards to the cooling flaps. They also aid in the engines ability to quickly and evenly warm the engine up on cold mornings. When the engine is cold the flaps prevent air from flowing thru the oil cooler and cylinders. As the engine warms up the thermostat will open and allow the flaps to open gradually until the full open position.

Are you missing your lower cooling shroud flaps? They are important as well. They prevent back-flow into the cooling stream air being drawn into the shroud from the fan.
January 5, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
914 P.E.I Canada Comments: thanks for the tips I just bought 1971 914-4 out of main .usa 78 is last inspection. she was away for over 20 years good shape to me turning over fire to the plugs no fire to the fuel pump serching for wire break down what direction
December 29, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would check the fuses, the coil and the voltage to the coil first... - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Steve'o Comments: You should be charging for this! Everything is put in terms that are easy to understand and the information comes from many hours of real life experience! Thanks and your page will be in my Favorites!

Thanks again
June 28, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
zioo Comments: Great read on a great car. I owned from new a deluxe version 1.7 liter 914/4 in lime green. I changed the rims to four spoke alloys sourced from Pasadena Porsche dealer and put Porsche alloy center caps in the wheels, plain. I put 94,000 miles on the car in four years and raced it once in a PCA Willow springs Novice event and managed 5th out of 11; I was penalized for hitting Chicane pylons otherwise would have been third. I drove that car hard with top on and off all the time. The car never complained and never vapor locked and was always returning 34 mpg on the road and 23 mpg or better around town. That car just never quit. Parting with it was mandatory at the time. Wish I still had it. Zioo
August 5, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Phulc Comments: Thanks for the hints, dave.

But one more thing I´d like to know:
* What are the differences between EA and EB?
* How is the lower compression achieved?
* Can I easily rise compression or make the EB work like a EA?

July 27, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Tom Wilson's book on rebuilding VW Engines goes over all of this in detail - it's a very good reference book. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
914WannaBE Comments: Great Q & A...

I'm in the market and torn between buying a 914 that's near mint and paying up for it... Going middle of the road and enjoying why I upgrade when repairs are necessary... or find one where all of the serial numbers match and buying it cheaply enough to have my awesome back yard mechanic do it for me... any advice
June 19, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Buy the best car that you can afford, as it will be cheaper in the long run. Or, buy a project if you think you will one day do a 914-6 conversion. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Scotty Comments: I picked up two 914s this last weekend, a '73 1.8 and a '76 2.0 "Parts Car". After a close inspection I think I can get them both going with some part seaches and a bit of patience. I love the way the 914 looks and bet they'll leak a bit of oil on the garage floor just like my '66 Mini.
I'm happy Now....
Scott Sheldon
February 15, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like a fun project. Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Taylor Pita Comments: Hi ,
i am looking at a 72 914-6 yellow .
it has not been driven for 26 year
their are some things in the interior that are in a 914-4
the key is not on the left but on the colunm.
can you tell me more about this year car,

December 17, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the key is on the column, then it is not an original 914-6, unless there was something screwy going on at the factory. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
911 tweaks Comments: Thx Dave for your excellent write up on the 914 series car!!
Where can I best find the "real" street value today for a 71 914 I bought a few days ago?? I need to sell it due to unforeseen changes in my life. Thanks! Bob
November 8, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The best place to sell is in our classified ads on the forums: Sorry to hear about your troubles...- Wayne at Pelican Parts  
etienne Comments: Hello,

I'm juit reading all your very interesting comments.
Thank you very much for all thes informations.
I'm reading you from Belgium.
I juist bought a car ...from Texas. 'She' arrived 2 weeks ago.
It's a 914/4 2 liters from 1976 Jeff Mc Allen from Boerle car.
Our objective is old cars racing.
Have a nice WE,
July 4, 2009
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Neat car, looks just like mine, except mine's a 1974. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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