Monday, April 30, 2007

Step 3: Engine Drop!

Description: Disconnect and remove the engine
The basic premise is that you disconnect everything that attaches the engine to the car except the bolts for the engine bar and transmission mounts. You then put a furniture cart underneath and lower the car down so that the engine is sitting right above the cart with about a half inch between them. This requires you to take off the back wheels to get the car down quite low. This is a bit stressful and you should definitely use some 4X4 wood blocks to prevent the back break shields from touching ground. Then you remove the engine bolts, which should move the engine down to rest on the cart. Then you remove the transmission mounts from the back end. See my caveat below. At this point, you jack up the car and hopefully the engine doesn’t come up with it. Once it’s jacked up high enough, you can slide the engine out using the cart. You will need to move the CV rear axles out of the way as you pull it through. This will remove the engine, transmission and exhaust as one very big piece. Once you get it out, put the tires back on the car and lower it. That’s it.

Estimated time: 6-7 Hours

Tools Needed:
Just about everything from a metric socket and wrench set, up to 19 mm. A few screwdrivers. A rubber mallet. A socket wrench extender. A metric hex wrench set. Possibly a CV bolt remover (8 mm). Two Jacks. 3 or 4 jack stands, Some 4 X 4 wood blocks and maybe a small 2 X 4 piece. Also, something to secure your front wheels to prevent rolling while jacking the car.

This was certainly a more challenging procedure. I followed the Pelican Parts How-To Here is a link. Their checklist is also helpful.
Two other blogs have engine drop posts that helped me Here and Here. It's also good to have access to the Pelican Parts online pics for the procedure. We took several breaks to look at them, working the computer with my elbows to avoid getting it covered in grease.

-Don’t even try this with only one jack.
-I had 15” max height 2 1/4 ton jacks. These were not quite high enough and I had to improvise, which was a little stressful. I would imagine at least 17 – 18 “ jacks unless you are okay with putting blocks on them.

-Make sure you have the right tool to pull out the CV Bolts (I ended up needing only a hex wrench, but you might need a CV Bolt remover if you have 12 point bolts – if you do, don’t use a hex or torch wrench). Trying to find a CV Bolt remover at the last second at your local auto parts store is a losing proposition.

-An easier way to get all of the CV bolts off than the Pelican instructions is to unscrew the ones that you can easily reach (there are 4 on each side), then jack up the car enough to turn the wheel, which also rotates the the CV joint to access the others, then lower the car again to loosen them. Then they are all loosened before you jack up the car for the CV joint separation (Credit to Charlie for that innovation).

-There is no way to avoid ruining the little rubber gaskets when you separate the CV joint. They’re $3.95 to replace at Pelican parts, so don’t worry about it.

-Have your plastic bags ready when you separate the CV joints so you can get them over the joint before the grease pours out (This pic shows the CV axle in a plastic bag, but is from later when we tried to pull out the engine. You can see that the axle gets in the way. Good high clearance essential).

-After you pull out the little cone screws from both ends of the shift linkage bar, you might need to shift the car into a gear to get it to come out of the couplings.

-After removing the wheels, use 4 X 4 blocks to prevent the brake shields from touching bottom if you happen to lower the jack a bit too much. It’s good to practice lowering the jack before you get to this part.
-The engine bar bolt had nuts holding them in from above that you might not see. You can feel for them and they need to be held in with a wrench while you unscrew from the bottom. There is a similar issue for the smaller, hard to reach transmission mount bolts. A wratchet extender comes in handy for those.
-Make sure the tranny is resting on the cart before undoing the transmission mounts on the back of the car. Even a couple of inches can drop it hard on the cart. If you can’t get there by lowering the car, place a 2X4 on the back end of the cart to make up the distance.
-Have cold beer ready for WHEN YOU FINISH.

We had to do this over two days and spent a good 6 hours on it. If we did it again, I think we could do it in 3 hours or so. I think the 2 hour time estimate is a bit optimistic.

For more pics and some color commentary, visit my previous post here

Porsche Gutted

Sunday, April 29, 2007

One More Step to Extinction

The Porsche-saurus Rex has been extracted from its lair!

Charlie and I posing with the beast

I had problems getting to sleep last night. That engine was still hiding comfortably in my Porsche and I needed to get him out. Charlie planned to come down today so we could finish the job and I got started doing a few little time consuming tasks before he made it down, so we could get right down to the engine removal business.
The experience was exhilarating and a bit stressful. There were a few minor mishaps on the way. We had difficulty getting the engine bar bolts removed. We then went over to the transmission side to remove the bolts holding that up. There seemed to be quite a bit of space 2 or 3 inches, at least, between the transmission and the back of the cart. I tried to remedy that by placing some styrofoam on the cart. That worked about as well as using cardboard to stop a bullet. The tranny dropped down with a thud and cracked the back of the cart. As best I can tell, no damage to the transmission, but it was a little unnerving. I don't know whether getting the front engine bar bolts all the way out first would have helped or not, but I would recommend that if you have that much space between the transmission and the cart, stick a 2 X 4 on the back of the cart so it doesn't have as far to drop.

This Is an Example of a Bad Idea. My Intentions Were Honorable...

We then solved the front engine bar bolt mystery (there was a nut at the top that we couldn't see that prevented us from completely unscrewing the bolts. Once solved we had the full engine on the cart.
Now it was time to jack up the car so we could slide out the engine. This started out well. The engine stayed on the cart as the car lifted up. We started pulling the engine out and got stuck at that pesky CV bar. We needed to lift it out of the way and the various contortions we tried could not get us past it. We needed to get the car higher, but the jack was all the way at its maximum. This was a bit precarious and there didn't seem to be a good solution. I then decided to ask my neighbor if he had another jack with better clearance.
My neighbor calls himself Vanishing Wolf and he spends many hours in his oversized garage working on old-fashioned hot rods. As I approached, Vanishing Wolf was casually working under his latest hot rod with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. "Just set your jack stands, lower the jack and put a piece of 4 X 4 on the jack, then jack it back up," he said flicking the ashes from his cigarette. He had to repeat this suggestion twice more before I understood what he was talking about.
I shuffled back to give this idea a try. We did it only on the passenger side which allowed us to slide the engine sideways and get around the driver side CV arm. My friend Stacey dropped by just at this pivotal moment and was able to watch as we slid the engine out from under the car (I'd like to say it went smoothly, but it would be fair to say that in my zeal to finish the job, I failed to notice that Charlie and Stacey were a bit traumatized by the precarious nature of the jack with the 4 X 4 sitting on top of it).

I think that part of the 4 X 4 is touching the Jack. Charlie wasn't so sure.

Getting that engine out was quite the adrenaline rush, and it was nice to finally sit back and enjoy the Sierra Nevadas that Brent brought by the previous day (thanks Brent). Like a cowboy, Charlie then headed off into the sunset. Unlike our President, I think we earned our swagger today. After a couple of Sierras, Stacey and I took a hike up a nearby hill. In the distance, you could just make out tip of the old engine peeking out from my garage. I felt on top of the world. It also reminded me that soon, I will be looking down to the sea from the mountains of the Amalfi Coast of Italy. The trip will be that much sweeter with this engine drop behind me. It's off to bed and back to work tomorrow. I'll put up a "Step 3" technical post tomorrow.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Just a Few More Hours...

Well, Charlie and I got started around 2:30 and called it a night at 7:30 or so. In between we spent a lot of time cruising auto part stores after discovering the "CV bolt remover" did not fit in the CV bolts. The guys at Napa Auto Parts let us in behind the counter to look for the right tool. Covered in grease, we looked the part of a couple of car buffs who couldn't be bothered with their ineptitude.
After a lot of effort to get the right "12 star CV bolt remover" we realized that the CV bolts had apparently been switched to regular hex head bolts at some point over that past 37 years. Once we realized we had the right tool all along, a simple 6mm hex wrench, we were able to get back to work. Charlie was Zen-like in his unstoppable quest to undo the CV bolts.

Charlie becomes one with the CV Joint bolts.

I then worked on separating the the CV joints. Little by little, they separated, leaving an undulating explosion of grease, covered quickly by a plastic bag. It would be hard to say more about the experience without blushing.
Unfortunately, we had a lot more to take apart before we could get to the engine drop itself. It was getting a little dark and was becoming difficult to see, so we decided to finish the job tomorrow. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Saturday Drop Party

Okay, I'm going to try to drop the engine this Saturday, so hopefully I will have a nice post up Saturday evening describing a successful, minimally eventful drop. For the most part, I plan to follow the Pelican Parts how-to for dropping the engine. They include a 3 page checklist and claim it can be done by someone who knows what he is doing in 2 hours. Therefore, I will double that and shoot for 4 hours. The Haynes Manual also has a description, but it wasn't spelled out as well. However, I will need that manual to help locate the many parts that need to be dismantled (most of which I've never heard of before).
I've been out shopping for the necessary supplies and I'm starting to feel like a real car guy when I walk into these auto parts stores. I also got some nice new wrenches and screwdrivers at Sears. Man, there is just something about those "Craftsman" tools. I love the feel of them. I consider them a separate indulgence, so I won't include their cost in my conversion total. I will need to buy a couple of hydraulic jacks, though. The prices seem to range randomly from $20 to $200, so I'm learning a lot about jacks this week.
Charlie will be coming down to help out again. I believe he is still eyeing the Karmann Ghia for his conversion, and helping with mine will give him a good start. I think that the Porsche 914 and the Karmann Ghia have somewhat similar Volkswagen engines to contend with. Of course, I will need to return the favor when he gets started.
I already have one person expressing some interest in the dropped engine. He is planning to make a dune buggy and thinks it might work for him. If not, I'll sell it on Craig's List, call a salvage yard or get a hold of 1 800 GOT JUNK (in that order).
Another friend, Brent, says he might drop by with a friend on Saturday. I don't know that he is interested in an EV conversion so much as coming for the possible spectacle of this undertaking. Maybe we'll make it a little party. Perhaps pulling out the combustion engine should serve as a rite of passage - all are invited...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Step 2: Remove the Gas Tank

Description: Removing the gas tank from the front compartment.
Estimated time: 30 minutes to drain the gas, 10 - 15 minutes to pull the tank
Tools Needed: Ratchet Wrench with 10mm and 8mm sockets. One flat-head screwdriver. Also, a 5 gallon gas can and a siphon to drain the tank.
Caveats: When pulling out the tank, lift the passenger side first and keep that side tilted up to prevent gas from coming out of the bottom tubes which are underneath on that side. Best to have less than a quarter of a tank of gas in the tank.

I followed the instructions from the Pelican Parts How-to for removing the gas tank. Here is a link
As noted, I did not go with the fuel pump option and just siphoned the gas out of the car to probably less than a half gallon. I then just followed the basic instructions from Pelican Parts. Any leftover gas in the tank you can then dump into your gas can through the tubes. This was very easy. Charlie came by and helped out, which made it even easier, but it wouldn't have been too much harder by myself.

This might be a common site in the future as "peak oil" approaches and rogue acts of petrol-piracy begin in our dystopian, fossil-fuel depleted world.

Here is a Before/After View

Look at this rotting carcass. Electricity is the future, baby!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Looking for Mr. Fuel Pump

The next step will be to pull out the gas tank. I was going to wait until next weekend to do it, since I didn't have the Haynes Manual yet and still couldn't find the fuel pump, which can be used to drain the gas tank. I made the mistake of filling up the tank shortly after I bought it, so it has close to a full tank. Well, I was brimming with confidence after doing step 1, so I invited Charlie to drop by tomorrow and help me out with the fuel tank. I figured I had a whole day to find the fuel pump so it shouldn't be too hard.
I noticed online that the fuel pump in '71's was in the engine compartment. Later models; I think the '75 and 76 had a special compartment in the front trunk to store the fuel pump. A search of the engine compartment turned up a couple of things that might pass for a fuel pump, but I couldn't be sure.
Then it occurred to me that the Haynes Manual might have arrived in the mail and I decided to check the mailbox. There it was. I thumbed through the pages and found a picture of the fuel pump. It was clear from the picture that neither of my two candidates was the fuel pump. They turned out to be the fuel pressure regulator and the pressure sensor (I don't know what these things are either, so I'll be glad to yank all this stuff out of there).
Unfortunately, the picture of the fuel pump was only a close-up and provided no landmarks other than the "adjacent fuel filter." I could find neither of these in the engine compartment or the front trunk area. Finally, it occurred to me that perhaps it was under the car. I got down to take a look under the car and could see what appeared to be the "adjacent fuel filter". Because the car is so low to the ground, I couldn't get a good look under there without a decent jack. I will assume for the time being that the fuel pump is also somewhere under the car. I believe this was someone's modification. There is some mention in Pelican's maintenance series that lowering the fuel pump could prevent "vapor lock." Whatever that is, it sounds serious.
Anyway, I will go to plan B with the gas tank removal and just siphon out the gas. The fuel pump is getting a stay of execution until I get a new jack.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Step 1: Porsche Uncovered

Description: Removing the front hood, rear trunk and engine compartment cover.
Estimated Time: 30 - 40 Minutes, including a coffee break.
Caveats: Need a second person.
Tools Needed: Metric ratchet wrench (10 mm and 13 mm sockets)

Okay, this was even easier than expected...

Front Hood
The front hood is connected with 4 small bolts. I unscrewed the top one on each side, then had my lovely wife hold one side of the trunk, while I unscrewed the the bottom bolt on the side she was holding. Then I went to the other side and unscrewed that lower bolt while holding the bottom of the hood with my free hand and resting the hood on my shoulder. It does slide down easily once the bottom bolt removes, so be prepared to brace it. I had some newspaper underneath just in case. Obviously, have a place in your garage prepared for these. It wasn't particularly heavy. I am keeping all the little bolts in labeled, ziplocked bags as someone suggested on another blog.

Engine Compartment Cover
It's easier to do this before doing the rear trunk, as it will expose the bolts for the rear trunk when removed. There is only one small bolt on each side. Have someone hold on to the first side as you unscrew the bolt. It drops easily into the engine compartment as soon as it's unscrewed. One of the little bolts dropped right into the "hell hole" and it took awhile with a flashlight to locate it.

Rear Trunk
Same as the front. 4 small bolts, work with a second person. It's a little heavier than the front hood.

Here's some X-rated Pics of the naked Porsche after Step 1 is complete (I think they are work friendly):

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Time To Get Started...

While I await the "6 - 8 weeks" for delivery of the kit, there are a few things I can do. The two primary tasks are to remove the gas tank and drop the engine out of the car. Both of those have me a little nervous, particularly the engine drop (even though Pelican Parts only ranks it as a 4 out of 10 in difficulty). The first thing will be to remove the front and rear hoods and engine compartment cover. This is almost too simple to divide up as a task, but I'm hoping it will be a confidence builder, so I'll leave it as "Step 1". What I would like to do is number every step and eventually link these all together, so someone could just follow what I do in a step by step fashion without reading through the rest of my ramblings. Also, I can add advice and suggestions from others who do this before or after me. So if you know of an easier or better way than I do it, add a comment to the step.
Step 2 would be removing the gas tank, which also requires draining of the gas tank. For that, I am told it is best to siphon it out using the fuel pump, so I am going to wait for my Porsche 914 repair manual so I can locate the fuel pump. Okay, I'll come clean. I don't really even know what a fuel pump is. I assume it pumps the fuel. Step 3 will be the engine drop.
I'll do step 1 by myself this weekend, other than getting my lovely wife to help me make sure the hood doesn't drop when I unbolt it. My friend Charlie has shown some interest in the project and is thinking about doing his own electric car, so I might try to enlist his help during steps 2 and 3 when I get to them. He has his eyes on a Karmann Ghia, which would be a nice electric car, but doesn't have its own kit. So he can get the basics from my project (and make sure it's worth the effort), before doing one himself.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Check Is in the Mail

I sent "Electro Automotive" a $12,000 check by express mail today to a post office box in Felton, California, which the postman informs me is "in the Santa Cruz Mountains." I assume by what I see in the blogs that this is a reputable outfit. It is a bit of a mom and pop operation from what I can tell. It has been around since the seventies per their website. I wanted to pay by credit card and they said I could do this through paypal. However, I just set up the paypal account and couldn't make a transaction that large. I really wanted to get the money in by Friday, as they are apparently going to be out of town for the next two weeks, so I sent it by express mail, but I don't think it will get there in time, which might delay the arrival of my kit. Que Sera.
In the meantime, I have been lurking around on e-bay and Pelican Parts looking for some spare parts that I need, like a window handle, jack-hole covers, etc. I even put a bid on a Porsche 914 clock. Hopefully, I can have some fun with this project, especially since I don't have to worry about the old combustion engine (short of pulling it out of the car).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Getting ready to put in the order.

So with tax and shipping, the DC conversion kit (called a "Voltsporsche Kit" will cost me $12,400. With the $3,600 for the car, I'm at $16,000. The other bigger expense will be the batteries, which I think are in the 1 - 2 thousand range. So this ain't cheap. I'm not doing this to save money obviously, but I think it is comparable to the price of a low to mid-priced new car and that gives me some comfort. I am going for a slight upgrade in the controller, which apparently improves acceleration, which added $570 to the price. Most of it should be here within 2 months of when I put in the order (they say), and I can get started before it all gets here. Here is a breakdown from the company, Electro Automotive:

$10,340.00 Voltsporsche Kit
$ 570.00 Controller & ammeter upgrade to 500A
$10,910.00 Subtotal
$ 900.08 Sales tax
$ 600.00 Shipping
$12,410.08 Total

Note: The motors and chargers drop ship, but you could save $400 if
you wanted to pick up the rest of the kit here. Lead time from
receipt of prepaid order is about 6-8 weeks for all parts. You could
get some parts sooner and start work. The battery racks and boxes
would probably take the longest.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Pictures of My Porsche (and my embarrassing dilemma)

Okay, Here is a picture of my '71 Porsche 914:

Nice, I think. I like the color. It looks "electric". Now for the problem. I was showing it to a friend and tried to open the back trunk. I can't figure out how to get it open. I reluctantly called the guy I bought if from (see previous post) and he said "it just opens up, or if not there is a switch under the steering wheel." It doesn't just open up. I've tried pushing, pulling, jiggling. I can't get it open. The only switches under the steering wheel were tiny little things, that don't seem to have anything to do with the back trunk. When I looked at pics of other 914's on the net, they all have a standard, locking push-button right in back where you would expect it. Mine just has one long reflector. I might have to call this guy back. It is just painful to have a discussion with him. Here is a pic of the back trunk.

UPDATE: I found the button! It is a tiny little thing by the fusebox. I pushed it and "POP". Ah it's the little things in life... Thanks to the good people at for telling me where to look.

Friday, April 6, 2007

I Have a Candidate Car!

Okay, I got myself a '71 Porsche 914 today. There are none for sale in the immediate vicinity of San Luis Obispo, so I found one for sale up near Monterey (2 hour drive), by a guy I'll call "Bob." I knew Bob was going to be a problem as soon as I called and asked if the car was still for sale.
"Is it a convertible?", I asked.
"What do you want a Porsche 914 for if you don't know what it is?", was his friendly reply. Apparently, all of them are convertibles, which I didn't realize. "I just couldn't tell from the picture if it has the 'Targa top'", I said, trying to redeem myself.
"It's pronounced 'Talga', he said through a heavy East Coast accent which made it unclear what the correct pronunciation was. He then claimed he couldn't hear me well on his cell phone and I told him I would call him Friday when I got close to town.
I decided that I would not tell him about my plan to convert it to an electric car, since I was sure by our intitial call that he would not approve. This guy really had a thing for Porsches and would probably think it a sacrilege to pull out the combustion engine. Porsche 914's, by the way, have similar engines to VW's and use a lot of the same parts, so they aren't really high performance sports cars. Nevertheless, they apparently are quite fast.
I called Bob when we were about 45 minutes away and he told me he wouldn't be available for an hour and a half. My wife and I then stopped for a pleasant cup of coffee at a local cafe and waited the extra 45 minutes.
The area where Bob owned a body shop and kept his car was a heavy industrial area, crowded with large, cumbersome trucks. We pulled in and Bob came out with a spool of wire. He was trying to get the car door open.
"Sorry, you won't be able to ride the car today, he said."
"What do you mean? I drove two hours to see this car."
"I thought you were on the way up here anyway."
I had forgotten that I acted as if I was just passing through in order to seem not so desperate when I called.
"Well, we had planned to stop in Carmel if the sale didn't work out, I said (partially truthfully)."
Bob showed me the ignition key, which had perilous crack in it. If we put it in the ignition or door lock, it would likely snap. Bob then proceeded to tell me why I shouldn't buy an old Porsche like this.
"The clutch is a pain. First gear is annoying. The seats have very little padding. It sits really low to the ground. They require a lot of maintenance..." etc. He did not seem to want me to buy his car. It was bizarre, really. He let me test drive another Porsche 914 (not for sale) to get an idea of how they ride as he continued to try and get the door open. My wife spoke with him as I went out for a ride that largely involved me sitting behind huge trucks, blocking me while letting other huge trucks pull onto the road. I got back and he had the door open and my wife seemed to have softened him up a bit. In the meantime, he sent one of the many Mexican employees to a locksmith to try and get a duplicate of the bad key. The way he was treating some of his employees led me to believe that they were probably all illegal aliens, since I can't imagine anyone else taking the abuse he seemed to dish out.
We then stood around waiting for his employee to return. When he did, we were informed that all of the locksmiths had closed early for Good Friday. Bob called around and found one on the outskirts of town and sent his employee back out. He returned finally with duplicate key and we tried to turn the ignition... No luck. The key didn't fit. I couldn't believe that I was going to have to drive all the way back with nothing.
Bob then suggested that he drill out the ignition. After some rumbling in back of his office, he came back with a drill and various tools. He drilled a hole and pulled out the ignition. We could then start it with a screwdriver. I finally took it out for a quick test ride, still dodging the trucks. He was right, first gear was a nuisance. The car was in very good shape otherwise - no rust, fresh paint, good tires and decent brakes, so I told him I would take it.
"I'm firm on the $3,700," he said.
"Fine. As long as you include a screwdriver." He then agreed to drop it to $3,600 due to the ignition being removed.
"But I can't let you have that screwdriver."
"Why, not?"
"That's my 'new employee' screwdriver. I'm kind of hard to work for, he said, so I go through a lot of employees and they all start with this screwdriver." At least he knew his limitations, I thought.
Finally, we made the deal... I drove off with my wife following behind and it was a nice ride, going 80 mph - smooth. It'll be a shame to pull out the engine, but the deed will have to be done.
I'll wash it this weekend and post some pics.