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does anyone have any good suggestions on worthwhile performance upgrades to a stock 2.0 liter. I am going to have the engine rebuilt from the ground up and would like to gain some extra HP in the proces. how much horsepower can I expect to get out of a 2.0 with performance mods?



I ususally suggest going with the European pistons and cylinders in order to gain a little horsepower and retain the stock fuel injection. This will increase your hp to a conservative estimate of 100 and your torque to a conservative estimate of 116, and is not overly expensive. These are certainly available through Pelican Parts. This improvement will give solid and reliable performance but there are other options.

Wayne at Pelican Parts  

I agree. The Euro pistons are (right now) actually cheaper than the USA ones ($475 through us) and there are no modifications required to the heads or the fuel injection.

As for squeezing some more out of the engine, you can move up to a higher performance Cams, but the car won't pass smog tests anymore. Some Cams also won't work well with the stock fuel injection, so you have to choose carefully.

I would also use the HD (heavy duty) oil pump during the rebuild. This won't buy you HP, but will help keep the motor better lubricated. Don't use the bigger sump, as this can bang on the ground and destroy your engine if you happen to accidentally make a mistake.

For building a bigger motor, see the article on our website about the 2.5L four cylinder motor:




is it worth while to have any machine work done to the stock heads?

will ss heat exchangers and bursch exhaust gain that much HP?

is electronic ignition helpful?

are webbers a good choice to replace the fuel injection?

lightened flywheel maybe?

in the end I was really hoping to get 120 HP out of this engine without boring it out. is it possible? if so, how much faster would this car really be? right now I have 145,000 on the original engine, never rebuilt, so I would imagine my 95 HP is much lower at this point.


I'll take a moment to disagree with Wayne on one point. There are slightly more-agressive cams that will work with the stock FI. A little tweaking may be needed, particularly in order to pass smog, but they do still work. These are still pretty mild cams, though.

If you can have someone flow the heads, it may help some, particularly with a non-stock cam. However, the tradeoffs with this are that any material removed from the valve ports will increase its tendency to crack--which on a 2.0 is not that small to start with. Polishing the chambers can help cut down on pre-ignition, so you might be able to run a miniscule amount more compression or more advanced timing.

A Bursch may or may not give you more power. I know one person who insists that it does, and one who insists that the stock setup is better. The SSI's and a stock muffler don't really give you anything noticeable (that I've found) over stock exchangers. The combination might or might not be better.

Electronic ignition is a major convenience, and worth it just to avoid messing with your points. Most of them won't do much for your power, though some of the hi-po ones (plus big spark gaps) might gain you a little HP.

If you can tweak the FI to keep up with any engine changes, it's probably at least as good as the Webers. Particularly for a street car, where you want driveability, reasonable warm-up behavior, etc. If all you care about is top-end, then Webers and a big cam are very good indeed.

A light flywheel won't give you any power, but it will help the engine spin up faster. It may feel like more power by reducing the rotating mass.

Speaking of which, lightening, balancing, and strengthening everything is always good. Especially if you put in a big cam and Webers--then you can spin up to 7000 RPM frequently and make good power without lunching the motor right away.

More compression is always good for power. The higher the better. If you can afford to always run on race gas, you can go up to 10:1 or maybe more! The 8.0:1 from the Eruo P&C set is good for the street, but you can fly-cut the heads for more. 8.5:1 is probably not unreasonable if you don't mind always running on premium gas.

The down-side: Making more power in a motor ALWAYS means making more heat. More heat will shorten your motor's lifespan considerably. You can get rid of some heat by making sure your cooling system is in VERY good shape, and some more by adding an auxiliary oil cooler. But even then, you usually have to live with knowing your motor won't last as long as a well-built stock one. There really is no free lunch.

Izzat enough info for now, or should I dig into my archives about esoterica like "venturi valve grinds" and high-tech coatings?



thanks for all the info dave. it sounds like
there really is no way to get the 120 HP that
I was looking for without boring it out to a
2.4 liter. I really want the car to be somewhat realiable with the upgrades I do. it does not have to last 100,000 miles though. dave, do you know anybody if the bay area who builds 914 engines?1

Daris B  

In my opinion, the best investment for you money is an electronic ignition. I've been running CompuFire ignitions in my 914 and my Bug. You can beat them for $70.00. CompuFire makes a performance model for the 050 or 009 distributors and a SMOG LEGAL (C.A.R.B. certified) model for the stock distributor.

Of course, you need to make sure that you have a good set of spark plug wires.

michel richard  


Can you be more specific concerning the benefits of the ignition system you added. How much stronger does it feel actual numbers (hp or acceleration), where is the additional power on the rpm curve etc...

Daris B  

I haven't done any dyno work, so I can't give you any actual numbers. What I can offer you is my impressions of my gains.

In principle, the electronic ignition uses magnetic or light impulses to trigger the spark. Since the parts do not move or need to be adjusted like points do, there's no wear. You replace the condensor with some type of box (depends on manufacturer and model), so you don't have to worry about a condensor breaking down. Basically, you get an strong and even impulse that triggers your coil. The end result is that you will usually get a hotter spark from an existing coil than you did with points.

For those of you that are going to comment about having an electronic ignition die on you I have the following comments. When I owned a VW parts store I only saw one unit that was bad, and the manufacturer was more than happy to test and replace it. Secondly, I don't know about you but I don't carry extra points, rotors and condensors (or even the tools to install and adjust them) in my car, so if either an electronic ignition or one of the standard parts went bad I'd be stuck either way. Most of the after market electronic units install without modifying the distributor, so you (or a garage on the road) could easily remove the unit and reinstall points in a pinch.

Now for the results. These are common results and I've seen them in every case.

1. You'll notice that when you adjust your timing the mark doesn't jump around nearly as much. It's pretty steady and makes adjusting the timing much easier.

2. You'll also notice that your car idles a little more evenly.

3. I usually notice that the standing idle jumps up a couple hundred rpms. I'm guessing that the more efficient spark burns the fuel more completely (resulting in more power?!?).

4. I've ALWAYS seen better readings on smog tests.

5. I'm conservatively guessing that I see maybe two or three mpg improvement in my mileage, and SLIGHTLY better acceleration.

That all adds up. When you look at the $60 to $70 cost of a good unit, you figure that you can earn that investment back pretty quickly. Also, electronic ignitions are pretty universal so you can use it on your stock F.I. engine and continue using it when you put those dual carbs on.

Hope that helps.



Daris, I think that your first point pretty much implies the rest.

If your timing mark jumps around when you're setting it, that's probably a good indication that something is worn. The points, the distributor cam--something in there.

Since the electronic ignitions replace the points altogether, and don't rely on the exact shape of the distributor cam lobes, they completely eliminate all of those sorts of problems. (Wear on the bushings or bearings can still cause you problems.)

Even if your distributor isn't worn, the electronic systems give you a nice consistent spark, and generally a higher-energy one than your points. That also helps (very slightly) in getting you gas mileage and power. Very slightly.

They also don't bounce at high RPMs, the way points can.

Furthermore, the voltage produced by the coil is a function of the RATE OF CHANGE of the signal going into the primary side of the coil. At low RPMs, the points open more slowly than at higher RPMs. This allows some arc-ing across the point gap (the condensor helps, but doesn't eliminate this!) and results in a less-steep slope on that input signal. The electronic systems are digital--they ALWAYS go to +12V as fast as the flip-flop allows. This means that there is always a nice strong spark, even at low RPMs. And this helps the idle.

The biggest pain about points is the fact that they wear. The instant you use them, they start to deteriorate. The rubbing block wears down, the minute arc-ing starts to pit and corrode the contacts, and all of that. All of this affects your spark--not very strongly, but it does affect it. The electronic systems don't wear. Period. They either work perfectly, or they don't work at all.

And you never ever ever have to adjust those (*^%Q&*!! things again.



OK guys, hold your breath now! California has passed a bill which is now in effect that make any car of 1973 or earlier exempt from ALL smog laws! Even when you first register a car or change the title you dont need a smog check. This means that if you live in California and have a 73 or earlier 914 then the skys the limit on what you can do to the engine. You'll never have to think twice about the legality of your engine again! I know this to be a FACT absolutely from the DMV. I also know from personal experience as I just bought a 73 2.0 , and did not have to get a smog check done for registration, and according to the DMV never will again, and I cant wait to get started on upgrading my motor! Your mechanic my tell you otherwise as the smog manuals have not been updated yet, according to my mechanic, but if you have any doubts check with the DMV. Finally we Californians are free of the Smog Nazis!!!

Wayne at Pelican Parts  

Hmm, lucky us that still own a 1974 car...



everybodies replies were good......but the most, cheapest and fastest to show results in performance is to put a 2 barrel carb and a nos kit on!, if you want more hp, acceleration go with nos!!!!!, i have a 73 2.0L 914 and am putting a 90-120hp wide open nos kit on my car and its only costing me $450 at the most!! GO WITH NOS!!!!!

JP Noonan  

I plan on putting a progressive 125 h.p. on my truck that allready has 300h.p. and 14 second time slips (and I'm still nervous about melting pistons). I hope you are joking, at least about it being cheap. Replacing a motor every month is not my idea of cheap. In all fairness I don't know enough about No2 on air cooled VW engines but it just dosen't sound like a very good idea. Tell you what I'll trade you my 1.7 for the soon to be a boat anchor 2.0L. This way you can melt it down and the world won't lose another set of 2.0L heads.


JP nooman.............if u are reasonable w/ the nos u wont mess up your engine. if you dont run any more thn 80shot u can run nos.......but dont be a dumbass and run 150shot............

JP Noonan  

The safe way to run No2 is to run rich, and retard timing. On fuel injection this can be done with a electric ignition retard device like MSD or Jacobs. The mixture is fattened up by blocking off the return or an aux fuel injector (dry vs. wet systems). However you plan on running a carb on a 2.0L 914. My experience with small block domestic cars with carbs and NOS is that the timing has to be retarded; no problem just buy a $200 MSD or run like a dog off the juice. Problem two is that carbs aren't as good as FI across their full opperating range, so to be safe not only do you need a fuel "jet" and solenoid you need to jet the carb rich also. Don't get me wrong nitrous is a blast, and I have thought about putting it in my 914. Just follow the installation instructions to the letter. Don't try to second guess the designers or you'll melt pistons. Relaize that a cheap nitrous system is most applicable to the drag strip, all the power at one time. Engines can handle more No2 as the RPM climbs, and on a manual tranmission car you need a manually triggered system, floor the car, activate the nitrous, let of the nitrous, shift, repeat. A missed shift or bad human timing and... WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH BOOM. One good thing about a 914 running on the squeeze is that it can probably run all day on a 10 lb. bottle.

APorsche914 car is carb, somebody replaced the stock FI with a 2 barrel motorcraft carb and an overhead intake manifold. in responce to the manual nos button i am probaly going to install the button on the gear shift so i can let in and out on the nos when i shift and when i need it or dont need it

Wayne at Pelican Parts  

This all sounds really cool; I've never played with NO2 systems. Just remember this fact: You can't get more HP out of a 914 engine without sacrificing reliability and longevity.


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