There's a perfectly good reason why a Porsche is sprawled across these pages. Actually, there are a few. This Porsche is powered by a Subaru EJ20, fresh out of a 2003 WRX. You can easily afford the car, and the engine swap is cheap too. The result: more lightweight thrust than a Lotus Exige S for less money than a Honda Civic Si. Ready to listen now?
This 1973 Porsche 914 is the stuff dreams are made of. For Ed Hunziker, at least. He had been dreaming about it for a quarter of a century before actually owning it. Imagine finally pulling into your driveway in the white Countach you've had on your wall since you got your first pimples and you'll start to understand.
It all began in 1971, when the disco-collared Hunziker found himself puttering around in a 1969 Beetle. He frequented the VW dealership as much as anyone with a 1969 Beetle did. And every time he was there he couldn't avoid eyeing the impossibly low-slung Porsche 914 on the showroom floor. Sadly, his bubble seemed to abruptly pop every time the grim reality of a $10 weekly food budget set in. It was all too clear that, for the time being, the gleaming red 914 was out of the question.
Fast-forward to 1996. Hunziker has just purchased another VW, having never realized his dream of mid-engine performance. But life has a funny way of rubbing in one's regrets. While driving his new purchase, he spots his destiny parked in a neighbor's yard with a For Sale sign in the windshield, as if mocking his new V-dub. A fear-inducing test ride with a capable owner confirms rumors about the mid-engine car's handling abilities, despite a tired old suspension. He's sold. Even though the search that produced his latest VW was to find a suitable car for his teenage son, he knew the 914 was something a teen could too easily get into trouble with. Which, conveniently, was justification enough for this new toy.
The year is 2001. For most of us, five years is enough time to enjoy a car and move on. But this wasn't just any car-it was the object of 25 years' infatuation. Rather than moving on to the next project, Hunziker wanted nothing more than another 914. Specifically, a 914 he had seen two years earlier. Sporting a thoroughly massive widebody and graphics reminiscent of the Martini Porsche cars, it was completely sorted.
Jump to the present day. Ten years of enjoying and restoring a pair of 914s have brought to light a few of the car's shortcomings. For one, the engine was an air-cooled boxer made by Porsche, which meant it leaked oil. Pulling the engine no less than eight times to fix these leaks persuaded him to find an alternate source of power.
Having sold his first 914, Hunziker prepared to swap something with a little more grunt into the widebody. He found the most popular swap was a Chevy V8, which was enticing at first, because he had a lot of experience with the Chevy engine from hot rod days he'd rather not talk about. But after more research, he found the operation would require much more than just a new engine in order to work properly.
The sheer torque produced by the domestic V8 meant the transmission would be ripped to shreds and the chassis twisted into a pretzel. In order to make it work, he would have to build a detuned V8. Any true gearhead would balk at such a ridiculous notion.
Like a sign from the heavens, his son came back from the Marines and bought a new WRX. Though Hunziker had owned Subarus in the past, there was nothing that could have prepared him for the power his son's 2.0-liter turbocharged flat-four produced. Suddenly, everything became clear. Hell, the Subaru engine was even laying down the same way as the Porsche engine.
After exhaustive internet trawling, Hunziker stumbled upon Renegade Hybrids. Though noted for V8 conversions, the company had just finished completing a WRX-powered 914. Renegade sourced the right engine from a 2003 WRX, with harness, ECU and accessories for $2800 shipped. The Frankenstein project began.
It took more than the engine swap alone to satisfy Hunziker's drive for perfection. "The car is nearly mechanically new in terms of suspension parts, plus we did do some chassis stiffening; although it really wasn't necessary," says Hunziker. "The interior has been completely changed. It's been painted inside and underneath, and every bracket on the engine has been powder-coated, as well as the intake manifold and high-temp coating for the exhaust manifold. We're still trying to decide whether to keep the same exterior paint scheme or go to something else."
So how does it all work? Let's do the math. The car weighs about 2030 pounds. The stock Subaru 2.0-liter WRX engine produces 227bhp. Even if we forget about the horsepower that the custom intake and exaust are making over the restrictive Subaru systems, plus the Cobb power pulley, we have a better power-to-weight ratio than a Lotus Exige S.
With over 1100 pounds less mass to push around, the EJ20 feels electric, revving into the boost range before any lag is detected. When the car is in boost, it's a matter of holding on to the steering wheel and shifting before banging off the rev limiter. The Porsche hulks down onto its massive 295/35ZR18 Toyo Proxes and lunges forward, its mid-engine design limiting what would be gobs of wheelspin.
And it's reliable. "The engine rarely gets above 180 degrees, which is a testament to the Renegade cooling system. And you can cruise at 80 to 85mph on the highway and get 30mpg," says Hunziker. "You can also accelerate rapidly into three-digit speeds. How long you leave the gas pedal planted depends on how much courage you have and how much room you have to stop. It has Subaru reliability and doesn't leak oil. I proved that by driving the round trip from Tampa to Las Vegas for SEMA, 4997 miles, after putting only 930 miles on the entire conversion."
Who would have guessed that an old German chassis and a new Japanese engine could conspire to out-accelerate a British Lotus for less cash than an American Cavalier?
Hunziker Porsche 914
Engine Code: EJ20
Type: 1994cc, flat-four, aluminum block and heads, turbocharged and intercooled
External Modifications: Cobb main power pulley, turbo blanket, Flowmaster single in/dual out muffler, custom exhaust, Renegade Hybrids turbo and intercooler relocation kit, custom cooling system including front-mounted Ron Davis aluminum radiator
Engine Management Modifications: Porsche 928 fuel pump, 11/42-in. fuel line, Perrin fuel rails, custom speed sensor kit, Wiring harness modified by SmallCar Performance
Transmission: Stock 1973 Porsche 914 five-speed manual
Layout: Mid-engine, rear-wheel drive
Drivetrain Modifications: Renegade Hybrids conversion package including cradle style engine mount, rubber isolators, billet engine/transaxle adaptor plate, custom 9-in. flywheel, Kevlar 9-in. clutch disc, Stage Two 9-in. pressure plate, 500hp high performance axle kit, Porsche Carrera transmission mount, J. West Rennshift shifter, custom shift bar
Front: Bilstein struts, Weltmeister anti-roll bar, 22mm torsion bar
Rear: Bilstein coilovers with 200lb/in springs, Elephant Racing control arm axles with poly/bronze bushings
Front: All German Parts Porsche 911 SC drilled and vented rotors, Porsche 911 SC calipers, Ferodo Racing pads, Precise Lines Racing SS brake lines
Rear: All German Parts Porsche 911 SC drilled and vented rotors, Porsche 911 SC calipers, Ferodo Racing pads, Precise Lines Racing SS brake lines, Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve
Wheels: 18x8 (F), 18x11 (R) Victor Equipment
Tires: Toyo Proxes T1R, 225/40ZR18 (F), 295/35ZR18 (R)
Body: Beck 934 wide body kit, chassis strengthening and Desert Hybrids boxed swing arm kit
Interior: Gauges refurbished by North Hollywood Speedometer including LED lighting, oil pressure, coolant temperature and integrated boost guage, recalibrated tachometer and recalibrated speedometer, ProCar seats, Southern Air underdash A/C/Heater unit provided by Renegade Hybrids, B-Quiet VComp sound insulation, Autopower roll bar, custom W9R1 mats from Pelican Parts