Story and Photos by Zach Mayne
As the first mid-engine production Porsche, the 914 occupies a very important position in the German company's history. It paved the way for a multitude of other successful Porsches- from the Boxster to the all mighty 918 Spyder- that shared the 914's optimal chassis configuration. Ironically, though the model has spent many years considered to be something of a lesser Porsche, in large part do to the supersized shadow cast by the mighty 911. For those in the know however, the 914 is rightly considered one of the best sports cars ever made. It's chassis is ideally balanced, thanks to its mid-mounted layout, and it utilizes a Targa-style roof that lets the sun in. Eric Shea is one of those in the know. His discovery of the 914 can be followed back to a father who was into VWs. “Growing up there was always one or two around the house," explains Shea. "My father had a beetle he used to commute to work every day. It saved on gas back in the day and of course, back then gas was a mighty $0.36 cents per gallon. He also used to cart the entire family around on trips to the East Coast in a VW van.”
Today, Shea is a well-known fixture in the 914 world, and the classic car world in general, thanks to the fact that he runs PMB Performance in Sandy, Utah. PMB specializes in taking classic car caliper restoration to the next level, with a fastidious, near-obsessive approach. But it all started in 2003 with a 914 brake caliper. Shea saw a need for properly restored calipers for the 914. After quickly selling the first set he restored, the rest, as they say, is history. Currently, Shea provides rebuilt calipers for everything from the 914 to Lamborghini Countachs. He also now sells pre-bent hard brake lines for a variety of vintage cars.
Growing up, Shea's family wasn’t wealthy. But his dad made sure his kids had their own cars when they were old enough to drive. With a budget of $300 per car, they all ended up with reliable transportation. Shea ended up with a VW Beetle, which he promptly began working on with his dad's guidance, even performing a rebuild that cost $76 in parts from the J.C. Whitney catalog. After owning a few more Beetles, Shea came across a 1970 914 1.7-liter for sale at a friend’s used car lot. “I immediately fell into a practical love affair with that platform,” he says. It had an ideal mid-engine layout, four wheel disc brakes, a front and rear trunk and a simple but sturdy VW Type-4 motor that was easy to wrench on.
In 1996, Shea’s busy career with the music industry took him to Salt Lake City, Utah. He had been envisioning a budget 914 racer for a few years, and had even purchased a '74 914 with that end in mind. Sadly the car was too rusty to justify a build on, so he went looking for a better starting point. In 2004 he came across a stripped 914 tub for sale in the California Bay Area that would become the painstakingly built GT-inspired car pictured here. “When we stripped it down I found out how lucky I was,” he says. “The pan was perfect. The longitudinals were great, and there was only a small amount of easily repairable rust in the engine compartment.”
At first the plan was to learn to weld on the 914 and then maybe race the finished product, if indeed it came out that good. But anyone familiar with project car builds knows how these can evolve into more far reaching endeavors. Shea ended up building a car inspired heavily by not only the factory 914-GTs but by the touring version of the '73 911 RS, which featured more GT abilities over the Spartan and stripped down Lightweight versions. “Here’s one way I describe it,” explains Shea. “The 911 RS was made in a touring and a lightweight version. The 914-6 GT was really only a dedicated racecar. There were a handful of 916 cars built by the factory but that, to me, lost some of its ‘Sports Purpose’ fun with the leather and paisley clad interior bits. “
What he wanted was a GT that he could some put some luggage in and drive up to Jackson Hole for the weekend and not be completely beaten up by the driving experience of the car. “I wanted a touring version of a 914-6 GT. I wanted a car I could drive and have that feeling of oneness with the car. Good power, good suspension and good overall drivability.” Shea collected parts for the project over a ten-year period, so there are a lot of factory goodies peppering it inside and out. For instance, Shea believes that the eBay sourced steel flares were removed from a factory 914 GT. “They look to have been taken off a factory car based upon the quality of the welds alone,” he says. “The tub had some light fender damage and these flares incorporated the entire front fenders and rear quarters. I was able to draw a few lines, make a few cuts and weld them on.”
Though Shea welded the flares onto the 914, he enlisted Troy Lundquist of Troy Lundquist Restorations in Sandy, Utah to finish the bodywork. Before it was painted, the 914’s tub was soda blasted. “The tub came alive again and was telling stories as the paint came off,” recalls Shea. “You could see runs in the factory primer in the engine compartment and the best part was to see the bluing of the metal where the welders on the factory assembly line finished off various suspension components. There was even bluing around the factory spot welds. As a certified car geek, that kind of stuff excited me.” Prior to paint, a factory stiffening kit was welded to the chassis.
As Shea tells it, he’s not a fan of color changes on classic cars. Only problem was that he wasn’t the biggest fan of the factory Saturn Yellow that the 914 was painted originally. He pressed ahead anyway and had the car resprayed in its original color using Glasurit paint. “Once all was said and done, I’m very happy I did,” he admits. “The color just pops with the matte black bumpers and the rocker panels. I absolutely love the color now.” The hood, bumpers and rocker panels are all lightweight fiberglass. Dig deeper and the 914’s details continue to amaze. A real set of French taillights were sourced, which complement the NOS French driving lights that adorn the front of the car. “The rear fog light was another difficult treasure sourced through friend and fellow 914 enthusiast Tom Bliznik,” adds Shea. “The light itself isn’t really difficult to find but, the proper vintage lens and the mount for the back of the 914 is. Tom stepped in with the vintage lens and loaned us his bracket so we could take it to a local metal fabricator for reproduction.”
The 914’s suspension setup is as equally well thought out. At the front, 911 A-arms work with factory 19-mm torsion bars. There are also Koni struts with raised and gusseted spindles. “The new Koni inserts are set on full soft for street duty which I find to be perfect for that firm European ride,” he notes. A rare 18-mm front sway bar from a 930 was also installed, which attaches to the chassis with Tarret Engineering RSR-style arms and adjustable drop links.
“In the rear we have stock 914 rear control arms with our PMB strengthening modification which includes two 1-inch tubes welded through the arms laterally to increase rigidity by over 50% with almost zero weight gain,” says Shea. “The shaft tubes on the stock arms are gusseted and the suspension mounts on the body are strengthened with custom heim jointed rods that transfer load directly to the firewall.” Konis from a 914-6 GT were also installed which work with 150-lb springs. PMB-rebuilt calipers handle the stopping duties. Harvey Weidman of Weidman’s wheels provided a set of 15x7-inch front and 15x8-inch rear Fuchs that have been shod with Pirelli rubber.
“The engine started as a factory no-number sand cast 2.0-liter case,” reveals Shea. “I mistakenly bought a used race motor, which, in the end, turned out to be a good thing. It needed everything. My engine builder, Jeff Hine’s of Edmons, Washington, made me a key chain out of one of the spun rod bearings. On the back he stamped ‘I will never buy a used race motor again.’” Stock rods actuate 90-mm JE pistons that have a 10.5:1 compression ratio and which turn the engine into a short-stroke 2.5-liter beast. A set of 120/104 Webcams, basically a modified 906 grind with a longer duration, were also installed. The heads have been tweaked with 38-mm intake valves and have also been twin-plugged. “The car has a front oil cooler with exact replicas of the factory brass hard lines running up the driver’s side longitudinal,” says Shea. “All of the lines are in the factory location as per the original GT’s. Oil soft lines run through the cabin at the driver’s feet and wind their way into the front trunk and into a GT style shroud.” There is also a ‘72 911S oil cooler, 917-style thermostat and numerous other GT-style touches in the cooling system.
Fuel delivery is handled by two Weber 40IDA-3C carburetors. “The engine was originally built for 46 IDA-3C’s but with the smaller ports the 40’s actually perform a little better at my altitude of 4,500 feet. The stock 914 gas tank has been modified with 100-mm filler neck from a ’55 VW Beetle. And just like the factory GTs, the Bosch fuel pump had been relocated to the bumper support in the front trunk. Aaron Burnham Performance provided a twin-plug distributor. There is also a custom, twin-plug wiring harness from 914 Network.
The exhaust was kept relatively conservative, in keeping with usable, Touring nature of the build. A pair of factory heat exchangers was bolted to a sports exhaust. Shifting duties are taken care of by a 5-speed 911/02 gearbox from an early '70s 911S that was rebuilt by Thomas Spretke. In order to improve the shifting action of the gearbox, Shea installed a short shift kit and a Level 3 linkage kit from JWest Engineering. “This kit performed miracles in transforming the rather vague 914 shift pattern into an amazingly tight and crisp feel, he says. "This is the best shifting vintage Porsche I’ve ever owned.”
The 914’s interior is as Spartan as you would expect, with custom, GT-style door panels as well as custom GT-style seats. “The seats are actually stock 914 seats cut, trimmed and molded to be prefect replicas with the corduroy for the inserts supplied by Auto’s International,” reveals Shea. The upside, he says, is a seat that bolts right up to the factory seat rails and adjusts just as a factory 914 seat. Lightweight carpet adds a breath of civility, and the race vibe is continued with GT-inspired gauges. “When you duplicate as many of the factories modifications that they performed on the GT chassis, you really get an understanding of what they were doing back in 1970," says Shea. Shea's pretty busy running PMB and raising a growing family, but despite his busy life he still finds time to indulge himself in a Porsche hobby that's been a part of his life for many decades. After seeing his perfectly executed 914 GT homage, we're happy he does.
PMB Performance • 162 W. 9240 S., Sandy, UT 84070 • (855) 786-7101 • www.pmbperformance.com
Autos International • 1236 'B' Simpson Way, Escondido, CA 92029•(760) 737-3565 • www.autosintl.net
Weidmans Wheels • 1675 Wyandotte Ave., Oroville, CA 95966 • (530) 534-7903