3. On the road at last…

With a new MOT and all the paperwork sent off to DVLA (UK registration authorities), I hoped it would be a quick and easy process to get the car registered for use on the road. It wasn’t. I had sent the forms to DVLA's offices at Swansea by ‘signed for’ post, along with a postal order (remember them?) to cover the £55 first registration fee. A quick check on line showed the package had been delivered, so I sat back and waited…and waited… You can do an on-line chat with DVLA, so in an affort to see if there was any news, I gave it a try.

 

The results weren’t encouraging as there was no record of my application in the system. ‘It can take a few weeks to go through,’ said the faceless voice of DVLA. Oh great, I replied. I e-mailed DVLA, having managed to get a case number out of them – but that didn’t make me feel any better as I was informed that my application hadn’t even been received! When I pointed out that it had been signed for by the DVLA mail office, the response was to the effect that it hadn’t actually been signed for by DVLA, but just a mail centre in Swansea. It was suggested I reapply, at which point I lost my cool asking how that would be possible as my original submission included the car’s US title, the bill of sale, the NOVA forms – and my money.

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Next, though, came the news that the car would need to be inspected! I decided at that point that staff at DVLA hated me, hated Porsches and probably hated cars in general. It took a further two weeks for SGS, the company used to carry out inspections, to send their man to the house where he spent an hour or so looking round the car, taking photos before readily admitting that he didn’t have a clue what he was looking at. But at least he did agree that the VIN number matched the paperwork, so all was good. It took a further ten days for the system to churn out a registration number, meaning that I was finally able to drive the car legally. Not that I had driven it illegally, of course… All in all, the process had taken six weeks – six long exhausting weeks.

 

I had a list of things I wanted to do to the car, starting with trying to make the throttle pedal a little easier on the foot. The cross-bar linkage fitted when I imported the 914 was not a great design and I worked away at trying to improve the alignment of the throttle cable in an effort to make the pedal feel lighter. In the end, it was clear that the throttle cable itself was part of the problem, so I bought a new one and set about replacing it. Now, if there’s somebody in your life you really dislike, ask them – no, force them – to replace the throttle cable on a 914 which is fitted with a centre console. It is the very definition of being a PITA. You need to remove the console, the footboard behind the pedals, the carpet, etc, etc, and then work blindly as you thread the new cable down the centre tunnel from the rear of the car. Having small hands helps, but of even greater use was an eBay-purchased endoscope attachment for my iPhone! This allowed me to look down inside the tunnel to make sure the cable was correctly routed. Sadly, the end result was a throttle pedal that felt just as bad as it did before… In a bid to improve matter once and for all, I contacted my friends at CSP in Germany and they kindly sent me a bell-crank linkage which was designed for using a Type 4 (or 914) engine in a Beetle. With some work, I got it to fit and the throttle action is vastly better. There is still room for improvement, but it is a whole lot smoother than before.

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One major improvement has been to install a new pair of seats to replace the originals which were badly split at waist level on each side. This is a common problem on 914s, and many other cars of this era, as the vinyl becomes brittle with age and exposure to sunlight, meaning the seat’s side bolsters are easily damaged getting in and out of the car. Remarkably, a pair of near perfect seats appeared for sale on Facebook Marketplace, of all places. They were being sold by someone who was rebuilding their 914 as a trackday car. A deal was done and the seats arrived about a week later, their condition far exceeding my expectations. Another job crossed off the list…

 

When imported, the 914 was fitted with a set of four-lug Fuchs wheels shod with 195/55 tyres. I have to be honest, I have never been a great fan of four-lug wheels on any car, and had already planned to change the wheels for five-lug Fuchs, or similar. I bought a set of 14-inch Fuchs from eBay, which need a mild refurb, but a conversation with Jonathan Sage at Group 4 Wheels convinced me to purchase a set of his excellent 15-inch Fuchs replicas. The natural choice would be to use 6J rims, but after some time spent looking on 914world.com, I decided to go for a set of Group 4’s ‘7R’ rims, which can – I am assured – be made to fit under the stock narrow body, assuming you don’t go too crazy on tyre size. Watch this space as I had a change of heart later...

 

In the meantime, those 195/55 tyres were clearly wreaking havoc with the overall gearing, meaning the car felt very under-geared on a long drive. I had a set of 195/65 Vredestein tyres lying around from my El Chucho 912/6 project, so decided to fit those as a temporary ‘fix’ ahead of a planned trip to Germany. The ride was far better, and the final drive ratio closer to the original factory spec for more relaxed cruising.

One thing I had spotted early on was that the top mounts of the two front struts were in wildly different positions, side for side. I have no idea why this should have been the case, but the right (passenger) side strut was set as far back as it could go, giving massive caster on one side of the car. You could hear the tyres scrubbing at low speed, suggesting all was not right. I booked the car into Williams-Crawford to have the alignment checked and adjusted, where it was found that it was well out of whack in just about every way possible. This smacked of the car having been reassembled at some point (following its repaint, maybe?) but never realigned. The difference was remarkable, although there is still work to do as there is far too much camber on the left rear of the car, meaning the inside of the tyre rubs slightly on the inner wheel arch when the car is pushed through a right-hand turn. Resetting the camber requires the use of camber shims, which we didn’t have to hand, so a trip back to the workshop is on the cards soon. I’ve done a whole lot more since the above, culminating in a 2000-mile trip to Germany and Belgium. It’s great to own an old car again – one that I can actually work on myself. Unlike the Cayman…