It’s hard to believe Project 914 3.6 is done. It seems like only a week ago that I sat down with Excellence editor Pete Stout to discuss a ten-part series on the build of this car. So why are we on Part 18? Well, despite my thorough planning, nothing is certain, simple, or quick when you build a custom car. The good news: The result is stunning — and great fun to drive.
You must be wondering how far over budget we went. Well, if I was a naval aviator, I’d be swimming back to the aircraft carrier. My goal was to build the car for under $30,000 (not including my labor), but the final tally came to $45,000 — and that figure reflects many credits from selling extra parts that came with the engine, the parts car, and my unused 901 transmission. Despite missing my target by 50 percent, there isn’t much I’d do differently were I to do it all again. The car was built exactly the way I wanted it, with no “I’ll do that later” projects lingering at completion.
The largest unanticipated cost — and almost half the overrun — resulted from my decision to switch to a 915 transmission after my 901 was rebuilt. I knew the 901 wasn’t for me after one test drive: Its reputation for fragility haunted me, its first-gear ratio was too short, and its lack of a limited-slip differential would clearly be an issue with the 3.6. It seemed foolish to spend money to upgrade the 901 even though the cost to acquire, re-gear, rebuild, and install the 915 was about $7,000.
The rest of the overrun was a combination of things. One was my failure to anticipate just how bad used parts look against fresh paint. While the mirrors and some trim looked great when I took the well-weathered car apart, they lost their appeal when the car returned from the paint shop. That added about $500. The textured black targa top didn’t look good on the freshly painted car, either, so it was sanded down and repainted. With new seals and latches, that cost me $1,200.
Other items never occurred to me at the early planning stage. Heated aftermarket seats (with headers, there would be no heater), the clear bra (the paint came out too nice not to protect), a car cover (ditto), and a performance chip come to mind. These added approximately $3,300, but I wouldn’t give up the heated seats at any price! Then there were the surprises, the unexpected repairs, and the mistakes, which added another $2,500 or so.
While my final price grew, my goal posts had moved, too. When the project started, I wanted to build a “driver,” not a concours-quality 914. Had I stuck to my plan, I could have saved a lot and stayed closer to my budget. But, somehow, it just happens…the project sucks you in and the time-honored “while I’m in there” gets the best of you. But I’m not complaining: I’ve wanted to build my dream 914 for 20 years, and I wanted no regrets when I was finished — and I have none.