Saturday, October 31, 2009


The car comes with only two speakers - this was the old school days of mono AM radio.  When I got the car, the speakers had been replaced, but they hadn't been mounted to the enclosures - they were just stuffed in place and the enclosure was screwed on.  They also distorted like crazy on the highway with the targa top off, so it's time to find some better speakers and securely mount them in place.

The speaker mounting locations on the back side of the enclosures are now non-standard.

In order to stop the metal frame of the speaker buzzing against the plastic of the enclosure, I used a strip of gasket material.  I had to use big steel washers to bridge the gap from the mounting point to the speaker frame.

And here we are, fully mounted back in place and sounding great.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Concours in Avila Beach, and The Engine Is Unhappy

Yesterday I drove the 914 down to Avila Beach for the 2009 Concours show.  My buddy Gary from G-Rides exotic car performance workshop sponsored the show and had a booth, so I couldn't resist.

The first thing that hit me when I walked onto the golf course show grounds were a pair of Tesla roadsters.  I got talking with the guys about my modest electric car project, and the J1772 new recharging connector that was just approved by the standards body last week.

 Just beyond the Teslas was the brand-new Porsche Panamera, the first 4-door sports car from Porsche.  Up close it's not as ugly as in pictures, but it is really, really big.  Can't say that I'm keen on it.

There were Ferraris everywhere, with a nice selection of classic American and European cars.  This Porsche GT caught my eye ($440K?  Pocket change!)

The local Central California branch of the Porsche club had a tent.  I told them I joined the national Porsche club on the web last week and my information should be forwarded to them soon so they can keep me up on club activities.  The lady was very sweet, telling me they didn't care if my car ran or was in pieces, they would still take me.  I told her I bought an 914 and I could see her face drop just a bit, but now that Volkswagen has purchased Porsche, we're all one big happy family!  I did buy a Porsche key chain for $10 , so now I'm official.

The downside of the trip was the engine has developed a habit of randomly stalling while driving down the highway...  It starts as a shudder, the power coming in and out rapidly.  If I beat on the gas pedal it will sometimes re-fire but I had to pull to the shoulder of the highway twice to restart.  Once it restarts, it seems fine, but it happened again several times on the way home.  The 914 forums say it could be anything from vapor lock to the fuel pump to cracked vacuum lines to the fuel filter to bad gas.  I just needed it to run nicely for a couple of months until I start the teardown for the electric conversion, but I don't trust it and I don't feel safe driving it far from home.  I don't want to put a lot of time, effort and money into fixing the issue when I'll just be pulling the engine soon, so I think I'll live with it and stay near home.  I've got 2/3 of a tank of gas to burn...

I'm refining the project task list, and researching additional parts and repair techniques.  Stay tuned!

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Body Work

I have no experience with doing bodywork on cars, but I do have a *lot* of experience shaping and finishing wood, so how hard could it be?  Ha!

So, off to Kragen Auto Parts to get a bunch of wet/dry sandpaper, sanding blocks, body filler and spatulas.  I decided to start with a surface rust/paint chip area just behind the driver's door.  It had been worked on before but needed to be re-done from scratch.  I put my wire wheel in my drill and ground away the old filler and rust, down to clean metal.  Then I mixed the filler and spread it on with a wide spatula.  I let it dry overnight and then sanded from coarse to 2000 grit.  The filler seemed to have some tiny air bubbles in it, so I mixed another small amount of filler and just topped it off.  Another overnight dry, then sanded to 2000.  I masked it off and sprayed primer and then a closely-matching silver top-coat.  I'm not worried about an exact match because I'll have the whole car painted when I get everything ready.  I have no idea why this blog software keeps rotating the picture...!  Argh.

With that under my belt, I attacked the trailing edge of the driver's door that had significant rust on the bend and even on the inside edge.  I used the wire wheel to grind off all of the rust down to bare metal.

I then did the filler and sanding thing again, with great results.  I must be getting better at mixing the filler because I didn't have any air bubbles.  I then sprayed primer and silver top-coat and it looks great.  Now only another 20 or so areas to fix up.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Who's the U-Boat Commander?

I was reminded of this line from Risky Business, when the young and not yet insane Tom Cruise is at the Porsche dealership after the 928 rolls into Lake Michigan.  They open the door and water starts pouring out.  Well that was me today.  I decided to fill up the windshield fluid tank and attach the air pressure line from the spare tire (I'm not kidding, that's how it works!).  As soon as I hooked up the line, I heard a waterfall inside the car.  I went around and windshield fluid was pouring out from under the dashboard in at least 3 places.  I quickly removed the air pressure hose and got some bowls.  The driver's mat got the worst of it so I took it out and rinsed it off thoroughly.  I wonder if I'm going to get dribbled on driving down the road now...  I'll have to try to clamp off the line somehow.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Google AdSense enabled... Do No Evil.

I've just enabled Google AdSense to the blog.  This is a big experiment and I hope the ads aren't too in-your-face or have no relevance.  I don't have any control over what is displayed, other than they're supposed to have some relevance to the topics discussed in the blog.  We'll see how it turns out.  If you see something you like, by all means click on it.  If not, don't click.  Any revenue collected will go directly to the conversion project.  So think of your clicks as accelerating the conversion and saving the world all at the same time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

First parts order

Well I just placed my first order for parts from Pelican Parts.  They are the leading distributor of parts for old Porsches and BMWs.  They also have great technical articles that explain how to perform many kinds of parts replacement and repairs.  I got the passenger window seal, two CV boots, lithium grease, shift linkage bushing kit and 6 instrument gauge light bulbs, all for $75, with free shipping!  Can't beat that.  They're located in Los Angeles so I should normally get next-day delivery of anything that's in stock.

Well I'm Committed Now!

I've been thinking about doing an electric car conversion for about a year. My solar power system at home has got me thinking about the impact of energy generation and consumption. I found a half-converted car here in San Luis Obispo, but the owner finally decided to complete the project rather than sell it to me to finish.

I then started looking at Craigslist, car web sites and eBay for possible vehicles to do the project on. I focused in on the Porsche 914 as there are whole-conversion kits available, along with many people who have done the conversion before me and blogged every step of the way. I'm up for an adventure, but I want to make sure it's possible before I start!

I spotted a potential car on eBay near the end of September 2009. It was located about 3 hours away (close enough), silver (best color), working well as-is (drive it home, work on restoration issues before kicking off the conversion) and is a 1973 model with the improved transmission (have to keep that to bolt the electric motor onto). I contacted the owner and it appeared to be a great conversion project car. In the end I won the eBay auction, for $4550, plus $375 in tax later to the Great State of California.

The car was just as advertised, but as it is 36 years old, has several restoration issues that I need to fix: the horn, high beams, windshield wipers, blinker light, odometer, rear-view mirror, side-view mirrors, wonky shift linkage, several paint chips and rust spots, and a few rubber gasket issues. In the end, I made up a project spreadsheet with 53 electric conversion sub-tasks and 78 restoration sub-tasks. This will allow me to track time and money spent on each sub-task so I know how crazy this idea was when everything's complete!

I brought the car home on October 2, and the first thing I did was secure the radio in the dashboard - nothing like a bouncy radio and a rat's nest of wires. I've started my first foray into body repair by working on a couple of easy paint chips and rust spots. I hope to refine my technique on the more challenging spots. Luckily there is no body damage and only a few rust spots that have penetrated the metal, needing deeper intervention.

I plan to work on the restoration tasks first, which will get me through the end of 2009. Then when 2010 rolls in, I'll start on the electric conversion. There's a federal tax credit for electric conversions that gives a credit of 10% to a maximum of $4,000, so I want to spend all of those dollars in a single tax year. The credit expires on December 31, 2011 so I have another year in case things go horribly wrong.