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Question Potential 914 buyer seeking advice and look at car

Hello. Like other auto forums, I'm sure you get the newbie questions all the time. I will read all the FAQ info I can, but still want to get some basic advice. Let me give you a brief summary of my situation.

I currently already have a weekend toy to play with. I have a Factory Five Racing Cobra replica. It's an absolutely awesome car, and I love it dearly. I use it for street cruise, show, autox and open track racing. Pure power. Fast, rude and crude. Costs me plenty, but it is all worth it.

However, I am also a 3 time Toyota MR2 owner. I have always loved those little midengine cars. They were slow, but I have never had a car handle like them (and I've tried the Miata, older Supra, older Vette and my Cobra). When you drive them, you can't help but smile, they are so much fun.

Since I can't drive my Cobra year round, I've been getting restless since the winter arrived, having given up my last MR2 in the spring when I bought the Cobra. The wife finally got tired of my complaining, and said I could buy another one.

During my search, the thought dawned on me, maybe I should try something else. I've always liked the 914s, I had a little Matchbox one when I was a kid (I was born in '72, so I don't remember them as new cars). I don't know a whole lot about the 914. I presume it is probably pretty similar to the MR2, in that it is midengine, lightweight, rustprone, and slightly slow.

Here are my questions.
Has anyone owned both the 914 and '85-'89 MR2 and can compare the two? I'm just concerned I won't enjoy driving the 914 as much as the Toyota.
Is it really possible to get a decent driver for cheap? As the Cobra is my true toy, I'm just looking for a driver I can use on cold days or when I don't take the Cobra. Surface rust isn't a concern for me (MR2s had the same problem), as long as the floors are solid. Cosmetics and interior flaws aren't a major concern either (my first MR2 had rusty quarters, dents and some interior issues, but ran like a top, and I only paid a few hundred bucks). I'm just looking for a mechanically sound car that I can depend on to start when I want it to.
Lastly, is there anyone in the Philadelphia area who would be willing to show me their car, so I can get an upclose and personal look at the car. I'm in Collegeville, Pa., and work in Exton.

Thanks,

Steve

Last edited by klayfish; 12-30-2002 at 04:31 AM..
Old 12-30-2002, 04:24 AM
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never owned an mr2 but we have 2 other toyotas, 3 if you count the lexus, so i know how toyota builds cars.

The 914 will surely match up to anything for driving fun. I wouldn't recommend them for anyone that doesn't work on his own cars, or that doesn't have above average knowledge of how cars work. You have to be tuned in to your car and attentive to it's needs. Heck, in my toyota's we hardly check the oil. While I can depend on my 914 to start, it may require that I crawl under it to jump the starter solenoid to do it.

And you should know that the cars you see for a few hundred bucks are probably some serious $$$ away from being the reliable fun car you seek.

but i love em!


PD
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Old 12-30-2002, 05:31 AM
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PD,
Thanks for the info. I've owned somewhat similar cars to two of the ones you listed. I had an '86 Supra (which I know was different than the '85), and I had an '80 'Vette.

I know that Toyotas are very well built cars and have a reputation for being nearly indestructable. I'm sure the 914 requires more maintainance and check ups. I'm not a mechanic, but I understand a lot about cars, want to learn more, and have a mechanic who builds Cobras, and only charges $35/hour, so I'm comfortable with it.

I probably should have been a little more clear in my first post. When I said I got my first MR2 for a few hundred, I didn't mean to say I expect to find a 914 for the same. I was just saying that I bought a cheap MR2, but it ran well and I had a blast with it. That's what I'm looking for in a 914. I know they will be more expensive. But surface body panel rust won't bother me too much, etc... Basically, as long as it runs and drives well, I can deal with everything else. What could I expect to pay for a 914 like this?

Steve

Last edited by klayfish; 12-30-2002 at 06:09 AM..
Old 12-30-2002, 06:07 AM
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I think JP owns an MR2 when he wakes up over on the left coast I am sure he can give you some comments
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Old 12-30-2002, 06:19 AM
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Yaaawn......Whut?

Mine is a second gen Mr.2, a 93 turbo. Quite a bit bigger/heavier than the first generation cars......quite a bit better looking, also
Toyoda=bulletproof (IMO). I would highly recommend a 93 or later as a DD (if you can find one). Mr.2 has 105K miles on it and EVERYTHING works. I had the belts & water pump changed at 75k
and that's it. The orginal turbo still pushes out 12 psi. Mobil 1 is wonderful stuff.

Frankly, a pristine 914 for a DD in PA would last about 3-4
years before the tinworm reduced it to its component parts & iron ore, me thinks. The trip would not be much fun.

A good "rust free" 914 is gonna set you back 5K+.....if you can find one in your area....bout the same as a N/A 2nd gen Mr.2.
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Old 12-30-2002, 08:55 AM
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J P,
Bite your tongue, pal. The MK1 MR2 is the better car. . Seriously, I conceed the second gen MR2 is probably slightly better looking (I do think the first is a nice looking car). But I owned a '91 N/A. It was a really nice car, a great cruiser. But it didn't give me the same thrill as my '86. I didn't feel as responsive and light on its' feet. I felt the '91 was more of a classic "GT" car, and the '86 was the go cart I wanted.

I know about the whole rust issue, and I don't expect a rust free car. As you know, the early MR2s rusted badly too. I had rust problems with my first one.

I know a daily driver may rust away after several years. But that's OK with me. I've got my true weekend passion toy, the Cobra. If I only get 3-4 years of good use out of a daily driver 914, then I would have gotten my moneys' worth (so long as I paid a reasonable price for it to start with).

Do you understand what I'm trying to say? It's hard to put it exactly into words. I don't want some rust bucket that breaks every other day. I couldn't afford a second gen MR2 or real clean 914 anyway, as I spend enough to upgrade and race the Cobra. But I just want to have something fun to drive when I can't use the Cobra (which is basically now through April), and I'm trying to decide between the '85-'89 MR2 or the 914. Which is why I'm hoping someone around here has one for me to check out.

Steve

Last edited by klayfish; 12-30-2002 at 09:32 AM..
Old 12-30-2002, 09:24 AM
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I was always under the impression that the 1st gen MR2 had more power than the stock 914's especially if you had the MR2 turbo. (but I don't know forsure) One person I'd spoken to said that the turbo was so torquey that it was a real blast to drive. I've always wanted to try both.
Good luck on your search for the right car.
bruce
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Old 12-30-2002, 09:49 AM
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Ok, my experience between the Toyota and the 914 is limited to engines and drivelines, not much in the total ownership/driving experience.

For one, I love Toyotas for the fact that they build good honest transportation, and occasionally something fun (not too much recently though). My love of Porsche/VW is similar but more in the fun department. The one Toyota I currently have is an '87 Nova that was repowered with an '87 MR2 4AGE engine (yes, I'm sick). For longetivity, durability, and the 8000rpm redline, the Toyota is a sweet machine. Couple that with a slick 5-speed, a mid-engine platform and a good heater and it's going to be hard for the 914 to compare as a DD. However, the one thing I know about Toyotas is that once they wear out, they are basically worthless. They are designed to go and go, but they are good for one complete life cycle. A 914 can be built, and rebuilt over and over again (thank the Germans for using good hardware and steel on that one).

The 914 is going to be more of a "vintage" experience than the MR2, and I dare say the MR2 will be faster in most respects (stock vs. stock).

For a daily driver, get another MR2. For a second weekend toy, get a 914.

BTW, 1st gens didn't have turbos (as someone mentioned), but you could get the Supercharged 4AGZE in one, and it definitely fixed the low-end grunt problem. Yee-ha!

Just remember the MR2 was built from the Corolla parts bin, and we all know how plentiful those are. Parts are typically easier and cheaper to find (especially in PA).

Later,

G
Old 12-30-2002, 10:38 AM
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Griznant,
Yes, that it pretty sick sticking the MR2 engine in the '87 Nova, but not bad. Pretty clever. My first car was an '88 Nova, blew a head gasket at 78,000 miles. I had just finished college, so I junked it. That stock motor was just so slow, it was sad.

Yes, I'm sure the MR2 is probably quicker. As you know, above 4000 rpm, that motor sings and the trans is smooth as butter. I will always say that for the $$$, they are hard to beat for sheer fun. And they are rock solid reliable for the most part. They can be rebuilt, but it's a question of if it is worth it.

I guessed the 914 would be more of a vintage feel. Less refined and slower. But I still think it is probably a seriously fun car.

If I got a 914 (or another MR2), it would be a second weekend car. I've got a company car (piece of crap Jeep Cherokee) for my daily driver, and the Cobra as the primary toy. Basically, the 914 would only come out once a week when I either can't take the Cobra (due to the cold) or just want to drive a small midengine. I'd probably take it to an autox or two, just to see what it does. Hence why I'm just looking for a running car, because it will see so little use.

Steve
Old 12-30-2002, 10:52 AM
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I drove a 1992 MR2 Turbo for a few years. On the quality, and maintainance issue, I won't repeat what the other posters have said (yes, bulletproof, bulletproof!).

I will note that the MR2 turbo was absurdly fast. Its faster than a 914. You need to drop a 200 hp + engine in the 914 before you will get a better power to weight ratio than the MR2 Turbo (this is a rough guess). I understand you had a previous generation, non-turbo MR2 so the accelleration between a 914 2.0 and your car may be similar. I cannot say. That said, the 914's often feel faster than the Toyota's because you are less insulated from the car's sounds and vibrations. Whether that is good or not is your own personal call. Which brings me to the second issue: Rawness.

The late 1980's MR2 is far more refined. This is a function not of brand, but of age and technology. The late 1980's Porsche's were equally, if not more refined. A 914, almost 20 years older, is a raw, raw beast. This is what I like about the car. Others may not. But be forewarned: The MR2 is quick and powerful, but with impeccable table manners. The 914, especially those with flat 6 transplants, will drink too much, scream at the waiters and tear the tablecloth.

Douglas
Old 12-30-2002, 11:31 AM
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The 2nd gen Mr.2 T weighs 2800 lbs or so....according to this book I have.
The 200 hp turbo pushes it along fair to middlin'.
ulf weighs around 2100. The 2.7L gets bout 210hp (both are SWAGs).....no contest.
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Old 12-30-2002, 11:51 AM
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But be forewarned: The MR2 is quick and powerful, but with impeccable table manners. The 914, especially those with flat 6 transplants, will drink too much, scream at the waiters and tear the tablecloth.
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Old 12-30-2002, 11:55 AM
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mechanic...35/hour? until he has to adjust the valves or trouble shoot the d-jet...I would not work on my car if I had a mechanic @35/hour. Valves should take 30 minutes...$17.50 what a deal, hey adjust them twice
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Old 12-30-2002, 12:33 PM
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"However, the one thing I know about Toyotas is that once they wear out, they are basically worthless. They are designed to go and go, but they are good for one complete life cycle. A 914 can be built, and rebuilt "

I hope not, i'm into a 6cylinder 5mge rebuild right now. hoping to get at least two cycles out of the motor. I lilke this motor, though, a jaguar dohc copy, hemi cross flow head, belt driven cams but a non interference design. I actually did the measurements once to see if I could put it into a 914
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Old 12-30-2002, 03:02 PM
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Douglass,
You want rawness, take a ride in my Cobra. It will punish your kidneys with every bump, scream in your ear from every stoplight, and leave you smelling like a gas station after a ten minute ride, and I love every second of it. Not only will my Cobra drink too much, scream at the waiters and eat the tablecloth, it will throw that waiter through the damn table, then go puke in the bathroom from alcohol poisoning. Civilized it ain't.

From what I'm hearing, it's what I thought it might be. Kind of a "forefather" to the early MR2s. Less sophisticated and cruder, but still a blast to drive. And like I said, I can deal with some crudeness, I want to enjoy the driving experience. If I want smooth and sophistication, I'll drive my wife's Acura 3.2TL. Now THAT'S smooth.

Norustscott,
Yes, $35/hour!! It's a thing of beauty. And he's no bottom barrel chewing gum and tape mechanics. He builds Cobra replicas from the ground up and maintains a lot of them. He is very meticulous in what he does.

I know about the rust. What is routine upkeep like? If I find one that is in good mechanical shape, should I expect to spend a lot to keep it good, or are frequent oil changes and check ups what it needs to keep going?

So now I'm getting excited. I'd really like to see one up close. Does anyone know where there is one around Philadelphia? I'd like to see if I do want to really search for a "driver" I can enjoy kicking around.

Thanks for all the replies.

Steve
Old 12-30-2002, 04:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by hardflex
[B
I hope not, i'm into a 6cylinder 5mge rebuild right now. hoping to get at least two cycles out of the motor. I lilke this motor, though, a jaguar dohc copy, hemi cross flow head, belt driven cams but a non interference design. I actually did the measurements once to see if I could put it into a 914 [/B]
Not so much the engines, I was referring to the body and suspension mostly. Being in Texas you probably won't see the rust monster like we see up here. These cars literally disintegrate in 10-15 years. The thin metal used is a pain to try and weld on, and the hardware usually breaks off.

The engines, however, are great, and the straight six in the Supra/Cressida is just sweet. I've always wanted to stick a twin-turbo 3.0L with a 6-speed into a gray Cressida.

Later,

G
Old 12-31-2002, 06:35 AM
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HERSHEY 2003

You MUST make a trip to Hershey, PA this April for the Porsche only meet. You'll start to see some talking and planning of hotels and meeting locations in Feb/march on the Pelican board and the rennlist.

I am hope to be there, with or without my 914. I was there in 2001 and loved every minuite there.

Kerry
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Old 12-31-2002, 07:52 AM
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Thanks Kerry,
I saw that was coming up. I only live about 2 hours from Hershey, so I am planning to make the ride out there and check it out. There are also HUGE shows at Carslile, Pa., too, and I'll try to get there as well.

With all the bad weather we've had so far this winter, I think maybe we should be part of the "rust" belt too up here. Maybe that's why nobody around here is admitting to owning a 914 (or MR2 for that matter).

Steve
Old 12-31-2002, 08:29 AM
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I know about the rust.

With all due respect, I don't think you quite appreciate the "rust" concept as it applies to 914s. From what I can tell, the MkI MR2 holds up to rust a heck of a lot better than the 914. Surface rust in a 914 usually isn't a problem, ironically enough. It is very often the case that a 914 has no visible (from the outside) rust at all, except possibly some bubbles in the paint. The problem is that the main structure of the car is rotting. And it will--the car is completely non-galvanized and Karmann seems to have installed rust at the factory.

On the east coast, a "driver" 914 is likely to either require structural repairs soon, or to cost a whole bunch. If you're willing to travel (say, FL or to the Southwest) you may be able to pick up a car that is not going to fold in half.

Even if you do, driving the car on roads that have been salted recently will kill it in very short order. The 914 has many pockets that trap salt-laden snow or water, and a good number of them are in or right next to important structural areas.

Rust is a really, really big deal with these cars. Quite a bit more than any Toyota product that I know of...


What is routine upkeep like? If I find one that is in good mechanical shape, should I expect to spend a lot to keep it good, or are frequent oil changes and check ups what it needs to keep going?

Upkeep is a matter of doing some pretty extensive maintenance at frequent intervals, plus fixing anything that goes wrong. Oil changes should be done every 3000 miles, plus when the car goes into storage, plus when it comes out to play if it was stored for more than a couple of months. Valve adjusts are every other oil change. (Take a look at where the valve covers are; try to visualize reaching around the exhaust and the suspension pick-up points to get to them.) Ignition and such is all straightforward and reasonably easy to access. Oil leaks are a fact of life, and can be a pain to fix so most 914s wind up with "wet bottoms".

What breaks and how often will vary a lot from car to car. Some people drive for years, performing only regular maintenance to the cars. Some have something reasonably major break every couple of months. In general, the worse the maintenance has been through the life of the car, the more likely it is to break--but good maintenance does not seem to guarantee everything keeping together.

Parts will generally be more pricey than Toyota parts. "Paying 911 prices for VW parts" is an expression that is often heard about 914s. (Check the catalog section of this site for more on prices.)

The shifting is not great. I'm not sure what the Mister Two is like, but compared to a Miata the shifting is like stirring a stick in a bucket of bolts. If the bushings (or some of the metal parts) are worn, you guess, grab a gear, and hope you have the right one. The brakes are usually at least slightly spongey, and unless in tip-top shape they do not inspire a ton of confidence. Power is somewhat lacking... The 1.8 and 2.0 seem to be able to get out of their own way, but a tired 1.7 that I drove had trouble doing that.

You sit on the road. You'll be looking at the hubcaps of 18-wheelers and Expos with "bling-bling" wheels (i.e., 22" or 24" monsters), and every single car on the road will have its headlights aimed directly into your rear-view mirrors. You will be able to tell the date of any coin you run over on the road, providing the coin doesn't scrape the floorpan of the car. (OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little.) Your brain will be directly coupled to the front of the car; all you will have to do is think "I want to go left" and the nose will be pointing to the left. You can't break the rear end loose with power unless the pavement is wet, but you can by lifting in a hard-enough corner. Understeer is usually just a throttle-stomp away, so you can balance the car with your right foot in most circumstances. Grip is amazing; particularly when you consider that most 914s can't even fit 215-width tires under them.


...My first thought is that the MkI MR2 will probably make a more suitable car for your needs. It's also a known quantity for you, which is a help in a not-my-primary-fun-car role. The 914 is an addictive little sucker, though... If you think it would work for you, go for it. Don't be completely surprised if you one day find that the F5 has a layer of dust on it...

BTW, I've been reading GRM articles on the F5; it sounds really very nifty. I know more than one person who has checked into the hows and wherefores, and at least one who seems to be going ahead with it!

--DD
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Old 12-31-2002, 09:09 AM
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