Archive | August, 2006

Picking the Right Car

30 Aug

Times have changed since the days of “car for sale” ads in the newspaper classifieds.  Nowadays, if you’re hunting for a particular car, you have to go online.  I found www.craigslist.com and www.thesamba.com most helpful.   Check beyond your immediate area to give you an idea of the going price range.

Another helpful resource is www.pelicanparts.com.  Here’s a link to their official guide to buying a 914: http://www.pelicanparts.com/914/How_to_buy_a_914.htm.  They also publish lots of technical guides for this vehicle.

One important decision to be made at this point is, “how much work and money do I want to put into the new car”?  Remember, the last 914 was made in 1976, so they’re all at least 30 years old.  Therefore, this is a two-pronged project, i.e., restoration and conversion.  So, do you want to buy a rolling tub, a fully restored beauty, or a partially completed one?  914’s have a strong following, and many are racers.  That means souped up engines, something that you have to pay for but don’t really need.  At the other end of the spectrum are the project cars or junkyand rescues.  They’re cheap, but do you have the time, money and technical/mechanical skills that something of this magnitude requires?

Caught within these parameters, I chose to search for a partially restored one.  My patience (or impatience) was shortly rewarded, for I found a candidate about 80 miles away.  Relatively rust free, except for evidence of prior repair in the usual “hell hole” underneath the battery tray, this car had a fuel injection challenge, something that I really didn’t care about.  A cracked windshield also contributed to the discounted price, and I got a truck full of parts as well: new twin Weber carbs, springs with Koni shocks, the old bumpers, wheels, tires, rotors, wheel hubs, etc., etc., etc.  eBay will be happy.  As is typical in most restoration projects, the prior owner got back approximately 60% – 70% of the parts that he just put in, not counting his labor.  More important things, like college, sometimes changes ones priority.

Here are pictures of the car:

Why a Porsche 914?

25 Aug

After deciding to do a conversion, the next step was determining which type of vehicle to use: a truck, sedan, boxy 2-door, or sports car.   I searched the web, and looked at dozens upon dozens of pictures, postings, descriptions, forums and wharthaveyous.  Each has it’s own pros and cons, it all boils down to what you want and need. 

In my case, the truck’s out, since I already have a Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.  The VW Rabbit and Geo Metro, popular conversions, just don’t appeal to me.  The early VW bug is attractive, but lacks space for batteries.  Since I’m a solo driver 99% of the time, and my commute to work is 10 miles round trip, I chose the sports car option.

Within this category I considered the Honda del Sol, Datsun 240, the Toyota MR2 and the Porsche 914.  I drifted towards the mid-engine  MR2 and 914 for the potential battery weight balance that this configuration provided.  The fact that a conversion kit for the 914 is available told me that others have done it before.  An active 914club.com forum with parts and technical advise clinched the choice for me: it’s the Porsche 914!  Plus it’s a really cute car, and I love the history of this bastard, oops, I mean love child of the 60’s between VW and Porsche.

A good reference at this juncture of the project is a little outdated but still relevant book by Bob Brandt, Build Your Own Electric Vehicle.  I was able to get a copy from Amazon.com for a pretty good price.

Want to see how a 914 looks like?  Here’s a picture from  www2.uol.com.br/bestcars/ph/108a.htm

Porsche 914      

vw-porsche-9146-signalorange_203__36022_20.jpg

How it all began …

24 Aug

OK, I’m a slow starter.  My interest in electric vehicles go way back to the late 1980’s.  Back then I worked for Pacific Bell in San Ramon, California.  Even in a building complex with 5,000+ employees, one gets to notice a bright red Karmann Ghia whose owner isn’t very shy about promoting the fact that it is battery powered.  Heck, it even had a hair dryer serving as window defroster!  Way too cool!  So, I joined the Electric Auto Association, with the intention of converting a cool donor car to electric.  I procrastinated, and eventually my interest waned, just as my membership with EAA expired.

So, what renewed this interest, hmmm, ~17 years later?  My 2.1KW rooftop solar power plant installed in 2003 is a big factor.  Selling excess power to the utility during the day and buying it back at a steep discount at night to “fill ‘er up” is way too tempting.    Plus my commute to work is now a whopping 10 miles a day, round trip.  Add another 10 – 20 miles if I do errands or see clients in town, and now, we’re talking.  An electric vehicle now makes perfect sense.

Even clean power needs cleaning:

Cleaning  A Clean Power Plant

Here’s the inspiration: