6. (More) wheels and (another) exhaust…
If there was one positive side to the pandemic-induced shutdown, it was that April proved to be the hottest on record. This meant I was able to leave the 914 outside my house so I could work on it at leisure, rather than having to temporarily retrieve it from the garage, which is a 10 or 15 minute walk away, and then put it away again later.
The first task, was to swap out the Dansk twin-tailpipe 'sport' muffler I'd fitted a few months ago – along with a costly pair of SSI heat exchangers – for a new custom-made stainless muffler from our friends at Vintage Speed in Taiwan. The quality of this company's products has to be seen to be believed, with welding that wouldn't look out of place in an art gallery. I'd specified a similar two-in, two-out design to the Dansk, with the spacing of the tailpipes precisely matching that of the Dansk as I'd previously trimmed the rear apron to suit. I had also specifically requested that it be as free-flowing as possible yet more mellow in tone, as the Dansk had a rather metallic rasp which I found unpleasant.
After much back and forth of e-mails and photos showing dimensions and flange details, the system arrived and fitted like a glove. The result is a beautifully finished, highly polished muffler which sounds far nicer (well, to my ear at least) and matches the Dansk for power output. With its 44IDF Webers, fitted in place of the original very tired 40IDFs, the 914's 2056cc engine now produces bang on 130bhp.
Considering that is more than Porsche quoted for the original 914/6 (the 2.0-litre engine of which is said to have produced just 110bhp, although many dispute this, suggesting Porsche played down the figures to make the 911 seem more appealing – or is that just wishful thinking on the part of 914/6 owners?), and the four-cylinder model is some 40kg lighter than its six-cylinder counterpart, it comes as no surprise that the performance is better than that of my old 914/6 in every respect. All it lacks is that lovely 911 sound…
I then decided it was time to spruce up the interior, with a new carpet set from Lakewell in Belgium, as the original carpets were looking a bit sorry for themselves – grubby and a little threadbare in places. Now was the time to strip out the interior completely and take a good look at what lay beneath the carpets – it was not all good. I knew there was some rust around the pedal assembly, the result of water entering the car due to a broken drain tube leading from the fresh-air box under the scuttle, but I hadn't appreciated how bad it was. No wonder the pedals felt like they were moving if I pushed the brake pedal hard.
Then, behind the passenger seat, the bottom of the double-skinned rear bulkhead was looking a little the worse for wear. It was perforated in a few places and when I poked a screwdriver through the holes, it went all the way through both inner and outer panels. The floor itself on that side was clearly not in good shape, either, as it looked like a previous owner had driven over a rock, badly denting the floor under the passenger seat. Time for some repairs.
Ben Lewis down at Chacewater near Truro drew the short straw and attacked the repairs with gusto, cutting out the rust and making panels from scratch to repair the bulkhead, both inner and outer. The floor was repaired using a panel from Restoration Design, supplied by Karmann Konnection. The extensive surgery meant that it was possible to take a look at the inside of the passenger-side chassis leg, which is vulnerable to corrosion if the dreaded 914 'hell hole' is breached. Fortunately it was in remarkably good order, with no sign of corrosion. Prior to sealing it all back up, it was treated to some rust preventative, something which the factory seemed reluctant to use on the 914 when first built…
The final bill fo all the rust repairs wasn't cheap but hopefully this will ensure I don't have to get too involved with the dreaded tin worm for a few years – I doubt it will be the last time the 914 needs to see the welding torch, but it should be keep things at bay for a while.
The Lakewell carpet set is very good, fitting well and looking to be very hard wearing. It has made a tremendous difference to the look of the interior. I've tried my utmost to make sure that water can't get into the interior, but it does seem like a losing battle at times. Sorting out the drain tubes from the fresh air box has kept it all dry around the pedals, and I've made sure the rear window doesn't leak (another favourite 914 weak spot), but water still gets past the door seals on the passenger side despite all the seals having been replaced soon after I bought the car.
Rain tracks down the inner door seal (there are two seals on each door – not a good sign!) and puddles on the sill, from where it runs down to the floor. I've pretty much solved the problem now by modifying the seals, and nothing gets in the car when driving in the wet. Only if left outside in heavy rain does some water still get inside. I refuse to turn this into a fair weather car that never sees rain (I was advised not to use a 914 in the rain by someone on an American internet forum…) and will continue to find a solution.
The other major change I made was to swap the Maxilite Fuchs replica wheels for a set of Group 4 Wheels' Torq Thrust replicas. I absolutely love these wheels, which hark back to the US hot rod scene of the 1960s and ’70s. They are superb quality and balanced well, without the need for a ton of weights. I opted for a set in semi-matt Anthracite spokes with natural-finish aluminium rims, and they have completely changed the look of the car. I love them!