Classic Cars

The Porsche 914, an Enjoyable Entry-Level Classic

The Porsche 914 was the result of a cooperation between Porsche and Volkswagen (VW), and it was first introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September 1969. It was a mid-engined sports car, meaning that the engine was placed right behind the passenger seats, a solution that favors handling and agility due to optimal weight distribution. Such a layout resulted in a 2-seater with a removable fiberglass Targa top that, once removed, could be stored in one of the two luggage compartments, the rear one. The two storage spaces were very much needed, since the seating area was strictly dedicated to the passengers. Interior trim was quite basic. Overall dimensions were compact, with a slanted front that incorporated pop-up headlights operated by two electric motors. The design wasn’t pleasant, and it drew criticism also from the press.

The “VW-Porsche 914”, as the car was officially named, was available in two versions: the “914” (also referred to as the 914/4) and the “914/6” (meaning 6-cylinder). The 914 was equipped with the 1.7-liter (1,679 cc), air-cooled, 4-cylinder boxer engine derived from the VW 411E. The 914/6 instead featured the same 2.0-liter (1,991 cc), 6-cylinder, air-cooled, flat Porsche engine that was originally mounted on the Porsche 911T. The VW engine, equipped with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel-injection system, produced 80 hp at 4,900 rpm while the Porsche unit, outfitted with Weber carburetors, produced 110 hp at 5,800 rpm. Both vehicles were equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission as standard (“dog-leg” shift pattern with the first gear positioned left and back). The two cars featured the same independent suspensions. The 914s were fitted with solid disc brakes all around, but in the 914/6, the front discs were ventilated. In perfect 1970s style, the 914s were often painted in bold, bright colors including yellow, orange and green.

On the road, the 914/6 was clearly the better performer, providing stronger acceleration and a top speed of 201 km/h (125 mph), versus the 177 km/h (110 mph) of the 914. However, the more economical 914/4 sold better than the 914/6, but only when maximizing the Porsche name. In fact, marketing of the 914 was not the same worldwide. The 914 was marketed as a “VW-Porsche” and sold through Volkswagen dealers everywhere, except in the U.S. where it was marketed as a “Porsche” and sold through Porsche’s dealers only. The European 914s carried the “VW-Porsche” logo on the back, next to the model number (“914” or “914-6”), while the American 914s displayed only the model number on the back. The American model also had the “Porsche” lettering across the engine lid grille. No matter where it was sold, the 914 did not have the Porsche crest on its hood. Clearly, being presented solely as a Porsche was beneficial to the image of the 914, which sold particularly well in the U.S. (about 70% of the 914 production was sold here).

Although the 914/6 was undoubtedly the better performer, its sales were not satisfactory. Its price tag was simply too high for an entry-level sports car. As a result, its production was phased out in 1972.

In 1973, with the 914/6 gone, a new version was introduced in addition to the “base” 1.7-liter 914: the 914 2.0-liter. This new model was outfitted with a 1,971 cc engine derived from the Volkswagen unit. It produced 100 hp (95 hp U.S. version). The 914 2.0 was particularly welcomed in the U.S., considering that due to the local emission requirements the power on the 1.7-liter 914 had been cut down to 72 hp. Furthermore, in 1973, the gearbox shift linkage that had been often criticized was improved with the introduction of a side-shifter.

For the 1974 model year, the 1.7-liter engine was increased to 1.8-liter (1,795 cc). In addition, both 914s were now equipped with front and rear bumpers featuring protruding rubber guards that could withstand impacts up to 8 km/h (5 mph).

In 1976, the final year of production of the 914, the car was only available in the U.S., which had always been the stronger market for this particular model. In its last year of production the 914 was available only in the 2.0-liter version.

Rat Rods: The Hot Rod World’s Frankenstein

You’ve probably heard of “rat rods” or “rat rodding” or “rat rodders” before – but do you actually know what it means? To understand anything fully you’d have to go back to the beginning and for these unique vehicles, that means looking at their predecessors – the hot rods.

From HOT to RAT

“Hot rod” was a term used to describe a vehicle (usually a Ford Model T) that had been modified for racing on the street or drag strip. Classic rods were considered “hot” because of the after-sales augmentations that gave users more power and speed – rodders took a modest single carb engine with a top speed of 40-45 miles per hour (which was already nearly ten times the speed of the traditional horse and buggy) and replaced it with a dual carb single engine that let in more air and let more fuel circulate.

Hot rods were the pride and joy of many young men returning from service during World War II and afforded them an escape from the daily grind of civilian jobs and other pursuits. These cars were usually flashy (for their time) and packed a lot of hidden extras under the hood.

Rat rods on the other hand are the poor cousins of the early hot rods – and the owners actually liked and built them that way. They looked like hot rods that have been through a war of their own.

According to some definitions, a rat rod is basically an unfinished, junkyard hot rod. These ungainly clunkers were associated with the junkyard because most of the pieces for these hot rod wannabes were sourced from salvage yards and other found pieces. These ‘unfinished’ wannabes were usually put together in a way that screamed “not done” with the rat rod builder usually foregoing actual paint for a quick dash of primer with a liberal amount of rust showing through.

Rat Rods – the vehicular equivalent of Frankenstein?

These cars, for the most part, are all about “the look”. Builders and mechanics take pleasure in creating rat rods that looked like respectable vehicles but really weren’t. They have most of the requisite parts but with more than a few modifications – doorknobs that function as car handles, a large pair of pliers in lieu of an actual gear shift – if Frankenstein were a car, he’d be a rat rod.

For the most part, they were originally built on the frames of Model A’s and other cars that could be bought for a song or salvaged from junk yards – the early creations were put together out of necessity during the Depression and owners scrambled to find parts that were cheap and in fairly good condition (rust optional), disregarding the need for it to look “good”.

The Hot Rod vs. Rat Rod Debate

Most hot rod owners aren’t big fans of rats – however, they rank them far above those who have used billet rods on their American classic. Basically the biggest difference between a hot rod and a rat rod are that one was modified for speed, while the other for questionable “looks”.

Rat Rod Clubs

Ratters tend to stick together, forming clubs and putting on events just for their cars. Many members of these clubs choose to identify themselves from other folks in the car culture by wearing jackets and car club shirts with wild artwork and detailed designs. There is a whole style of cartoon artwork centered around rat rods as well. Artists like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth designed a his character “Rat Fink” to be the anti-Mickey Mouse. A green, scary mouse with bloodshot eyes and sharp teeth, Rat Fink epitomizes the “outsider” attitude of the scene. This style of artwork is still very popular and is seen on shirts at car conventions across the country.

Mickey Thompson’s Slingshot Dragster

This rail could not appear like abundant by today’s Hot Rodding standards however back in 1954 Mickey revolutionized drag racing forever by build the primary dragster! Mickey Thompson’s interest in drag racing (and racing generally) 1st began when he attended the first legal drag races in 1950 when Mickey saw his initial pass he was hooked! He began to work on his own cars and notice ways in which to get more power out of motors, at the time he didn’t have abundant money therefore this galvanized Mickey to try to to everything himself! He would weld his own cylinder heads inside the combustion chamber to extend compression and even grind his own camshafts! He would use these skills during the early 50?s to make his cars faster.

However by 1954 a growing problem in drag racing was the need for traction. Hot rodders where getting more Horsepower and Torque out of engines but there cars lacked traction to place this power to the bottom. Mickey being the nice thinker and innovator he was would spend his numberless sleepless nights (He apparently didn’t sleep much and worked a graveyard shift for the LA Times) coming up with ways that to get additional traction and during the day he would tinker in his garage building a hot rod soon to be known as the slingshot dragster.

Mickey had to say this concerning his thinking “Throughout my usual wakeful nights I used to ponder this and what might be done regarding it. Gradually the thought took form. The massive obstacle was keeping the motive force between the engine and also the rear axle. This needed a drive shaft of a certain length, which pushed the engine forward by that amount. Now if you would place the driving force behind the rear axle you could couple the engine-transmission assembly on to it and you would very have the main weight of the vehicle targeted on the driving wheels.”

What Mickey did was move the driving force behind the rear axle and extended the wheel base therefore the burden would transfer higher to the rear wheels. Mickeys next problem was attempting to get additional rubber on the bottom for more traction. He realized that current tires weren’t big enough to grip that much power. So he went to the A1 Tire Company and convinced them into make a newer wider tires aka the first drag slicks (Mickey invented the primary drag slicks too)!

Because the slingshot was nearing completion Mickey says the naming went like this “As it gradually took form, the results of of these ideas created me the butt of jokes Southern California. However funny issue was that it ran and one day a Santa Anna hot rodder Leroy Neumeyer said to me, “You understand what that beast strikes a chord in my memory of, Mick? A slingshot. You apprehend, the way the driver sits back there sort of a rock during a slingshot.” That was the name that stuck and therefore the configuration proved to be therefore successful, therefore unbeatable, that within a few years it became the quality of the sport.”

His new innovative design proved successful and shortly Mickey rebuilt his slingshot and another drag racer named Calvin Rice had the first slingshot drag race at the inaugural 1954 NHRA Nationals which proved to the world what slingshots could do and forever changed the face of drag racing.