Are Track Cars ever finished? No way! Here is what every 914 dreams of being when it grows up... a 914/6 GT ! Follow along as the project takes shape!
This car came to the current owner with an ex D-Production 2.0 liter engine installed in an otherwise relatively stock chassis. Engines built for the insane environment of SCCA Pro Racing possess every trick known to man. They NEED every advantage to keep them together for the 40-50 minute flat out, reved-to-the-max sprints they must endure. This engine had all the goodies... except the old full-race 13.5:1 pistons. They had been replaced with more reasonable 9.5:1 slugs for more moderate DE use. The car was an absolute gas to drive...flat out! Pumping out 115HP in its "detuned" state. However, it was a rather narrowly focused brute, with a tiny high-pitched powerband and the usual Weber-carbureted unruliness at idle. If you weren't honking it, it wouldn't even squeak!
Well, if you pull the pin on a handgrenade like this too often, sooner or later it will blow. IT DID! The owner, who is very fond of the "6" in the mid-engined position, decided not to invest in another handgrenade. A suitable stock 2.2 liter engine was located, and here we go!
The first order of business was to carefully position and weld in the 6-cylinder engine mount bracket above. The Type IV 4-cylinder mounts to the side rails, but not the 6. As with all modifications, other things enter into the mix. These included repositioning the brake lines, electrical wires, and control cables for clearance. The engine was then ready to go in and its specific hookups were addressed.
One of these hookups needing attention was the oil system. It was decided early on that it would be built to ultra-low maintenance racing specs. That means aircraft "AN" style couplings and braided stainless tubing throughout. The specialized factory 914/6 pieces are not so equipped, thus they were eschewed in favor of aftermarket items.
In the case of the original engine-mounted oil cooler, this meant the mod you see at right. It made no sense whatever to find a rare and expensive original 914/6 cooler... and then hack it by welding on an "AN" fitting. The original 911 cooler was suitably modified as you see in the photo to eliminate the flimsy hose-clamped rubber line in favor of the bullet-proof braided stainless upgrade.
The line above, which is the return side of the system, was neatly routed through a well placed hole in the inner frame rail, and exits forward through an existing hole where the jack port used to be. As you can see there is some rust, but not NEARLY as much as an average 914. Normally, this area would be absolute Swiss Cheese. This car is quite solid in that respect, and much more pleasant to work with than the average rust bucket!
Here's where the system really gets going, and things get busy. Only through very careful planning and keen insight can you end up with such a clean and efficient system environment. There's a lot going on up here, and it would be very easy to make a real rat's nest of the whole affair. That's not my style!
When I first started this incremental project a few years ago, the fuel tank & front bulkhead were stock, the battery resided in the spare tire well (where the fuel cell is), and there was a small Setrab oil cooler mounted vertically behind the front panel. The first mods were to brace the towers to the bolt-in Autopower street cage. The neatly drilled brackets extended only as far as the top of the strut and the bars are removable.
Incidentally, moving the battery up front is a simple and very effective way to improve
the handling of a 914. They tend to understeer pretty bad in tight corners because there is little weight in the front. Considering a battery weighs 30-40lbs and the car only 1800-ish, that represent a fairly good percentage of weight shift! The change in polar moment of inertia, rotational axis, and front weight is fairly dramatic... and welcome!
To further improve the handling, and safety too, the owner decided the following year that he would like to replace the old steel saddle tank with a proper fuel cell. I neatly sliced out the front bulkhead and extended the tower bracing forward and across as you see it now. Incidentally, the cross brace is removable. I built a nice mount plate and moved the battery to where the oil tank is now, and built a nice holder for the fuel cell, which bolted right through the floor. The safety of a fire proof cell, and more weight shifted forward; two worthy achievements. The oil cooler stayed in its less than effective state... for the time being. That brings us to this year!
Stock-chassied race cars are hard to build well because space is always limited, and the components you are using are generally not designed for this specific space! The first thing to do is identify the toughest component to fit, and get it situated. Everything else will have to work around it. You guessed it... the oil tank! There was only one spot that would accommodate the 18" tall 8 quart tank, so the battery was movin on to a new spot.
I devised a simple and effective mounting system (sort of like muffler hangers!) for the tank using the large worm-type clamps you see. The center v-clamp is an o-ringed split joint that allows the tank to be disassembled for cleaning. The stainless hose curving around the shock tower is the oil line from the engine, and the blue hose is the fuel cell vent to the wheelwell. The blue nipple on top of the tank will eventually lead to the oil system vent tank in the engine bay.You can also see the mighty little Hazet fuel pump neatly mounted to the right rear upright of the cell mount bracket.
Now that the tank was situated, everything else had to find a home. Not like building from scratch exactly. More like the Brady Bunch; all sorts of new items trying to coexist together with old ones. Following the above mentioned hose around the right wheelwell brings us to the first stop for the scalding hot oil from the engine - the oil filter.
Oddly, this proved to be the toughest item to locate. It had to mount in an area with enough depth to get the lines in under the hood, and so you could get a drain pan under it. The orientation of the inlet/outlet, the spacing, the
angle, the fittings... all were critical and incredibly time consuming to sort out. The esthetically pleasing mount bracket I built was the easiest part! Thank goodness for the generosity of the local speed shop (Trackside Products - Vestal, NY) that allowed me to keep ordering fittings until I had the right combination... and then return what I didn't need! Well, the ease of filter maintenance will be worth the effort, I'm sure ...and it sure looks nice!
Next in the oil's anti-clockwise journey is the oil cooler. It originally sat behind a series of large holes in the front body panel, but there was no provision for venting the exhaust air. I'd wanted to get my hands on that inefficient kluge for a long time, and now was my chance!
The easy part is getting air in, but where to take it out? Most guys simply cut a hole in the front floor and dump it just behind the bumper. Me thinks this doesn't work very well - if at all - considering the high pressure, dirty air that is trying to force its way under the car. I devised an ingenious, multi-faceted plan!
First, I always like to protect my coolers, because nothing is
The old cooler was the same dimension and brand, but had fixed -8AN (about 3/8" ID) ports. The replacement has removable fittings so that it can be sized to ones needs - in this case larger-12AN (closer to 5/8"!) size. Here you see the cooler - oil entering into the right and exiting the left port. It is flanked by fabricated 16ga. steel walls, is rubber mounted, and angled back at 45 degrees, which provides a good compromise between unrestricted air flow in -vs- out. The top covers are easily removed for access.
That front reinforcing structure now comes into play again, and gives a very solid base for the fuel cell bracket to bolt to. The previously mentioned 1" square tube "rails" - visible running under the cell - go back to the steering rack tunnel to shore up the entire front floor area.
If you've been paying attention and planning along with me, it might occur to you to wonder where the air goes after it passes through the oil cooler? Remember, I am not impressed with the "dump it out anywhere" method. Well, the square tube structure now fulfills its third role.
The bottom of those tubes was placed at floor height, welded in, and the floor between the rails cut away. An aluminum panel was fabricated to cover the top of the rails under the fuel cell, and this panel connects to the cooler cover panels. As the picture below shows, a new floor panel was fabricated out of steel, and welded to the bottom of these square side rails. Sharp readers will note that skinning these rails top and bottom creates a 1" open passage (about 14" wide), and this hidden chamber is what I used for the air outlet!
My theory is that the air under the front bumper is very "dirty" and high pressure. This will have the effect of severely diminishing the airflow exiting the cooler by significantly disrupting or even overpowering the air going through it. Moving the exhaust point further back places it in an area where the airflow has straightened out a bit. Higher speed air gives you lower pressure. This lower pressure should not exceed that of the air flowing through the cooler, and thus allow the exiting air to flow easily. Heck... I'm not an aerodynamicist, or even an engineer, but it sounds perfectly logical to me!
From the cooler, the oil flows out to the driver's side, back, and behind the fuel cell, and up into the top port of the tank. From there, it exits the bottom port of the tank, flows across and under the battery, through the wheelwell and down the left rocker panel to the engine block oil cooler pictured previously.
All in all, the oil system is a mechanically efficient and esthetically pleasing result. I surely smoked a ton of brain cells trying to figure it all out and get it to work, let alone make it look nice too. Like they say, Effort = Results, and I think the result was worth it!
more vulnerable than an under-bumper oil cooler sitting out there ready to get biffed on any curb or "agricultural impediment" that happens along. I constructed a new lower bulkhead using 1" x .125" square tubing. It's all boxed in pretty neatly.... of course, and you can see that this structure provides excellent protection for the cooler, and also provides another signature Redline opportunity - tow hooks! Nothing is worse after a long weekend at the track than trying to crawl around under the car and get your tow straps hooked up. No worries now!
In case you thought there wasn't anything else going on, well not quite. There's a bit of body work to do on this project as well.
Here's a typical place for 914s to rust. The corners of the outer cowl just ahead of the windshield are notorious for rusting, even on a solid car like this. Previously, someone had simply bashed these rusted spots down with a hammer and filled them with a half inch of bondo. Of course they were all cracked and unsightly. Now, with proper steel reconstruction, they will never be a problem again. A little careful fabrication is all that's needed to fix them for good!
Here's another "Achilles Heel" for 914s. Not only was the car rusted here where the row of vinyl c-pillar trim holes used to be, but old repairs to the battery box area had drawn the door gap completely closed. Anytime you weld metal, it draws together. In a roofless 914, this means that if you don't jack the front and rear firewalls apart when welding in new sheetmetal, the door gaps close right up when any spot between those firewalls is patched. Floors, rockers, jack points, battery trays... patching any of these will ruin your door gaps in a heartbeat.
Since there was no way to reverse the structural malformation after the fact, the solution here was to cut the edge of the quarter panel back and re-fabricate a new door gap. This repair also had to be made below the handle pocket about half way down to the rocker panel. Not ideal, but the only feasible way to salvage the door gap at this point, especially considering the tube frame suspension point reinforcement.
The owner supplied these fiberglas GT flares for installation. The photo above shows the steel fenders trimmed. The edges were then hammered and formed to fit close to the shape of the flares at the overlap to provide a nice snug fit for bonding.
After the time consuming process of forming the sheetmetal, the bond areas were epoxy primed and then the flares were secured in place with a high tech modern panel adhesive. The locating screws were then removed and the finish filling and sanding begun.
This is definitely not an easy body contour to deal with. The sharp compound curvature of the flares makes it extremely difficult to sand at all, let alone achieve any level of optical smoothness.
Here you can see the results of the first surface priming and wet sanding. The surface takes on a mottled camouflage look when the high spots are revealed by sanding off the primer. The low spots are "missed" by the sanding block and thus filled and leveled. The first sanding reveals large low areas. With successive primings and sandings, the spots become smaller as the low areas become shallower. It is helpful to tint the color of the primer in subsequent coatings to more easily track the progress of the surfacing.
Incidentally, this sanding is all done BY HAND!
Each panel was primed and hand block sanded twice before finish priming for painting. Even on a small car like this, this represents a ton of sweat, sore muscles, and effort. However, it is the only way to achieve anything even remotely pleasing. This is only a track car, and the owner has been mildly "vigilant" in terms of time spent on such things. I told him it was my car now, and he could have it back when I was done! Ya gotta have at least minimum standards!
The picture at right offers many conversion items to hunt for. Things that aren't on a stock 914. Let's see... we can easily spot the coil-over conversion, the sway bar, the header and valve cover tell us it aint no 4-banger! Sharper eyes will notice the Fuchs wheel which will lead to the five-stud 914/6 hub and 911SC caliper conversion. How about the reinforced boxed-in rear trailing arms? Really sharp hunters can just see the 6-cylinder throttle linkage conversion hiding behind the sway bar. The more you look... the more you see!
Another of the many items requiring attention was the shift linkage. The 6-cylinder engine actually places the transmission 1/2 inch closer to the firewall than the old 4-cylinder. As such, the shift rod must be shortened. Just visible under the CV boot flange is the joint where the solid rod end slips into the hollow shift tube. Careful measurement suggested shortening by 1/2 inch would be perfect. Everything was carefully marked to maintain proper alignment, the spot welds were cut, and the rod end repositioned and re-welded into its new location.
There was plenty going on in the interior of the car too. The owner had purchased the CNC cut floor board you see at right. It is a big mistake to go without one, as anyone who's ever tangled his feet under the pedals will attest! It bolted right up to the stock location, but did not include the mandatory throttle stop, which I had to make. I also made the matching dead-pedal that cured the problem of not having anyplace comfortable to brace your left foot. The pedal cluster was also rebuilt with all new bronze bushings and a new throttle and clutch cable installed. I also always take the opportunity to enlarge the opening where one is supposed to be able to access the clutch cable clevis and throttle linkage. Anyone who's ever fooled around in there knows how tight a spot that is!
Here's some more stuff top-side. You will note that most of the original padded dash is gone. The lower section remains for knee protection. These dashes are usually quite decrepit at this age, and with all the openings gutted of hardware the whole deal looks pretty ratty. The solution is to hack it out and replace it!
In this case, I made a nice, simple, easily removed (only 2 screws!) aluminum panel that covers all the redundant openings and also receives the gauges that used to reside in the factory center console. Not only was the console flimsy and in the way, but the gauges were not easily viewed.
Speaking of viewing the gauges, the dash pad also provides cover for the main cluster. I fabricated a mold and made this neat hood from fiberglas to keep those gauges glare free. In fact, it looks so "right" that if you weren't really paying attention, you might not even notice it! Again, two screws and it's out.
The photo at right shows my remedy for one of my major technical gripes against 914 owners who track cars without cages. To mount their shoulder straps, most people usually drill a couple holes through the rear fire wall and use big washers on their eye bolts.
John's here to tell you that such an owner/driver 'aint quite half smart, and/or he has a fool for a fabricator!
This car previously had all four mount points rendered in this manner. The deformation of the floor around the eye bolts from this method was SIGNIFICANT... and this car has never even hit anything!!! This car's lap belts are now mounted back in the reinforced factory holes where they belong!
Also, you 914 owners take this opportunity to check the structural rigidity of that rear firewall panel you are entrusting the mounting of your shoulder belts - and shape of your face - to. I'm tellin ya... it 'aint nearly what you'd call stout. I could literally pull it back and buckle it with my bare hands, and I'm no Hulk Hogan!
Although yet another stealth installation doesn't allow you to see it, these eye bolts are mounted in a piece of 1/4" thick angle iron that I sectioned into the rear firewall. The picture at left shows a frame tube in the engine bay, running behind the same firewall from side to side. Said angle iron mount is welded to this crossbar to provide a super stout mount for those shoulder harnesses.
I wouldn't ever want anyone to get hurt, especially because of a poorly executed setup, and the owner of this car is far too dear to me to leave such things to chance.
And here we are in the final stages, during and just after painting. The car looks resplendent in rare 914 Olympic blue. The owner had a few things to do to finish the car, and as soon as we can get back to the track after this long winter, I'll get some proper portrait shots of the finished product.
Here's the car in the pits at Watkins Glen. Things always get so busy that the first time I thought of getting pictures was when we were sitting around enjoying a post-event brew! It looks beautiful even on the trailer!
Often times, clients are inclined to try and do things as cheaply as possible. I always tell them that there is an initially hidden but ultimately large sense of satisfaction in owning a car that is built right. This is an intrinsic quality that makes all of one's life better, and should be strived for in everything one does.