Restoration Wednesday, The Porsche 914 1.8 Runs… Finally

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It was warm last week in Michigan. During mid-January when it is typically the coldest month and week of the season, we saw almost 60 degrees. I decided to try my hand at getting the 1.8 running. If you recall, we last left Groosh outside his garage putting a repaired wiring harness on the old girl. It started up but hardly held idle. It was getting cold and I was looking to move operations inside to sell parts to pay for all this and figured I take this up in the spring.

With a bad idle my friend suggested adjusting the timing. It was one adjustment that I hadn’t gotten to but it was on the list. Blammo! It was the timing. The car ran and took throttle for the first time since I bought it. It was awesome. It didn’t sound that awesome. It feels like it was running on three out of four cylinders. But it was a place to start. That is, until it died. It was sputtering along at 3,000 RPM as I looked to set the timing and it just cut out. Note that for 1.8L engines, the timing is 7.5° BTDC (Before Top Dead Center) at 800-900 RPM. But since I had just dialed in my 2.0 car, I was using the wrong data. No matter it was dead anyway.

The car cutting out was very electrical in nature. I checked all the wiring and nothing looked out-of-place, disconnected or burnt. I tried a few more times and then packed it up and went inside. Later in the week I was describing the issues to my friend Rob and his buddy Brad, a mechanic. Rob interjected “yeah tell him about how you replaced the wiring harness and then found out the condenser on the distributor shorted out.” he said. “Oh yeah, after looking into this wiring harness problem for weeks and rebuilding it, the final short turned out to be in the condenser. I clipped the wire and the car fired right up.” I replied. “Wait is the condenser still cut? Did you put a new one on?” Brad asked. Not yet. “Oh then your point are burnt.” Brad said confidently. “They can’t take 12 volts, the condenser is there to cut voltage down to 8 or 6 or whatever it needs.” Huh.

I haven’t looked yet but I am sure that is the problem. I have an electronic ignition on the shelf for the car but didn’t install it thinking I would like to solve my wiring problems and have the car running. Looks like it is time.

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