I had been hunting for a project car for some time. Sold my D2 Audi S8 and picked up an old Jeep for a daily driver/winter/tow vehicle and all that was left was to get something old and fun. Always had a soft spot for Porsche so was looking at the 914/924/944s because that is what my budget allowed. Actually had a few 944's lined up that all fell through. This 914 popped up on Craigslist around midnight last Thursday, I saw it around 6:15am while brushing my teeth and messaged the seller immediately. Deposit put down on it sight unseen (you'll see why at the end) and arranged to meet that evening to exchange the title for some cash.
So the car... It was a California car and the owner brought it up to Minneapolis in the 80's. He daily drove it for several years, always storing it in the winter. One year his brother got in a fender bender, bashed up the front bumper a bit and the drivers side fender. After that he kept it in the garage, starting it occasionally, and then one day just stopped. That was over 20 years ago.
Fast forward to when I went to look at it Thursday night. It was surreal, it was EXACTLY like a "barnfind" in the Forza Horizon video games. Some small talk while we walked up to the garage, he unlocked the door and lifted it. And there, sitting in the middle of this run down garage in downtown Minneapolis and coated with a dim light from a bulb as old as the car, was this dust and dirt covered 914 with a dent or two and chewed up interior. I was living the dream.
I gave it a look over, about 30 seconds worth, then we went inside and exchanged the title for the cash and made the plan to tow it home. Friday I went and got it, tucked it away in my garage, and have been crawling all over it the last two days figuring out what I've gotten myself into.
So, why did I essentially buy a car from 1971 that is notoriously good at rusting out in the most important places? Well, first, the ad mentioned a bit of it's history, the whole garaged/California part. Second, the ad mentioned that the targa top can be removed and put into place with no binding, indicating strong sheetmetal on the frame. Third, $1,100. Yes, eleven hundred US dollars. Stupid cheap. Stupid stupid cheap. I knew that if the frame was too far gone I could part it out and come out ahead. Or weld up a bunch of it and make a rat with wide fenders. Fortunately for me, it gets even better.
Once I got it in my garage I immediately started pouring over it. Looking at all the common spots that these rust literally from the inside out. Which brings me to exhibit A:
This is what they call the "hell hole" It's the most common weakness of the 914. The battery sits just above this and over time acid and water ingress eats away the battery tray, and then everything that's below it. For reference, this is the corner directly behind the passenger seat. In the engine compartment. This spot weakens from battery acid and pooled up water, and this part of the chassis is the cars backbone, so once it's gone, the car is done. This car has a lot of surface rust here, this is after hitting it with a wire brush and sucking out all the loose stuff, but the whole area is remarkably solid when poked with a pry bar.
Here it is with the trunk lid removed, in my garage, next to a pile of parts and receipts and books that came with it.
Interior is bad, will need new foam and I'll recover the seats and dash.
Fender wells are clean. Dirty, but clean.
Underbody has some surface rust that will be cleaned up.
Front trunk is clean too!
My favorite design aspect of the car, the engine hatch.
Rolled it outside after cleaning it up a bit to get some sun.
And another angle, lots of sun in the lens though.
And that's where we start. Plan is to drop the engine and refresh some things, take care of any rust, rebuild things like the brakes and interior, and then just drive it.
Oh, and do a 5-lug swap.