Papa Smurf is a long standing member of the family, originally Nadine’s father’s daily driver in stock form. He is a 1974 Porsche 914 that over the years has been highly modified and fully track prepped for High Performance Drivers Education track events and PCA Club Racing. Originally running in PCA GT5 R, he’s now been upgraded to GT4 class. The team ran their first SCCA Hill Climb in Papa in 2013 and Bob has multiple class wins with him in various engine configurations. Papa continues to evolve into a very competitive, and fun to drive, all out race car.
What a long strange trip it’s been with Papa Smurf in our family…So lets start at the beginning.
Back in 1993, Nadine’s father said he was selling his 914. OK, lets go back a bit further. When I was growing up, my Uncle and Aunt had a 1970 911, and 1976 914. I always thought that their 914 was the ugliest car ever made…. So, fast forward to 1993 and when Nadine’s dad said he was thinking of selling the 914, she immediately said “No you’re not, we want it”…um…we do??
(Papa Smurf in his early years)
So, a few months later we were flying to Colorado to pick up this baby blue 914 that he left at Stapleton Airport. He mailed us a key, so we got in, and off we went to drive back across the country to New Jersey where we lived. Along the way, we ran into torrential rain storms, searing heat and all kinds of other weather. And no…the car did not perform flawlessly. We had issue after issue. Mainly it was with fuel pick up…as in the engine was not getting any fuel.
Our first attempt to fix it brought us to a tow truck driver’s house in Davenport, IA where we removed the fuel tank, trying to figure out what was going on (keep in mind, none of us knew anything about 914?s…he’d actually never seen one before). We replaced a bunch of fuel lines, hoping that was the problem, and off we went.
That wasn’t the problem… Next stop was in South Bend, IN where we met the local PCA Newsletter editor. We determined that somehow, the fuel tank was settling on the fuel lines below when the tank was full, so we propped up the tank, propped up the front decklid with pennies to clear it, and off we went, home to NJ.
Along the way, we were really surprised that this car was only a 4 speed and didn’t pull from a start all that great. For about a month after we got home, it was a 4 speed…until one day while sitting at a light Bob was messing around moving the stick back and forth and hit upon this hidden gear that was somewhere under his leg! What the heck is that? He cautiously took off from the light and HOLY COW…torque and power!! (OK, not a ton, but much more than starting in 2nd for months!) He raced home and told Nadine, who then said “oh yeah, I remember that now…yeah, 1st is down under your leg, just like 4th is in the glove box and 5th is under the passenger’s seat. Ooops…forgot!” Well, this opened up a whole new world with this car!
First thing we did was join PCA, then for the next few years, we developed the car into a pretty good autocross and track car – still maintaining the original body but having European Performance Center (EPC) upgrade the engine from the stock 2.0 liter 4 cyl to a 2.4 liter 4 cyl with nearly 200 hp! What a great engine that was!! Fast, reliable, lots of torque, etc. We put in a roll cage for stiffening and safety, seats, harnesses, upgrades suspension, etc… Won a handful of NNJR Autocross series championships and did 3-4 track weekends a year. Life was good.
Then…at Limerock in 2000…Bob rolled it. Yep, you CAN roll a 914. Going onto No Name Straight in a Northern NJ PCA Drivers Ed, he got a wheel off, spun, and the passengers rear dug into the infield hill and pivoted up, over, onto the roof, back onto 4 wheels. Wow…that sucked!
Bob was devastated. He broke his father-in-law’s car. It’s been in Nadine’s family since 1980, and he broke it….damn….
So off the car went back to EPC. While at their Christmas Party, owner Bob K showed us this 914 he had just finished putting together with this AIR body kit….WOW did that look cool! Yep, we needed that!! So we set out with a plan to repair the car and replace all 4 quarters, front/rear decklids, both bumpers and both rockers with this body kit.
It took 18 months, and we moved to Charlotte, NC during that time, but the car was finally done!
We got the car back in February of 2002. Someone during our summer party of 2002, after a few adult beverages, commented that the car was Smurf Blue “Looks like a big Smurf – Papa Smurf”..and the name stuck!
Since that time, Papa Smurf has undergone many changes and transformations. A few years into it, the 4 cylinder engine was replaced with a 2.2 liter 6 cylinder, which we ran for many years. The two tone paint idea came from Bill Dunster at Autobahn Collision, to match the paint scheme of Huey – our other 914…Upgraded coil-over suspension, multiple changes in transmissions, new/better safety and weight reduction projects came as the years went by… . We cleaned up the interior, ripped out all the unnecessary wires and stuff, and really made Papa look good!
In 2006 Bob started racing in the PCA Club Racing program and consistently won or podiumed in his class.
Starting around 2010, the little 2.2 liter engine began having issues. It started with a simple RMS leak and slowly but surely developed into full blown engine issues. We thought about just rebuilding it, but decided to ‘go bigger’ and in 2011 found a really well built 3.4 liter engine! Wow..what a difference! We used to say that Papa was more car than engine – meaning that with the engine could never overpower the capabilities of the car. NOW, with the bigger engine, it was more engine than car! Ok, maybe not more more engine than car, but you certainly have to pay attention to DRIVING it again! We put the new engine in just in time for the Oct 2011 PCA race at CMP. The engine performed great, but we actually broke the suspension console on the drivers side! Too much torque/power for the stock set up. So…we replaced the suspension mount points with a kit from Tangerine Racing and all was good.
Then in Sept 2012 while at Roebling Road Raceway, Nadine heard a sound in the engine which upon examination turned out to be a spun rod bearing. the bearing was worn completely off, allowing the piston to hit a valve, break a rocker, and jam the rocker into the cam housing thus destroying the little oil supply tube in the process. So the engine got torn down, resurfaed the scored crank, replace the needed parts, and back in business. On advice from MANY race shops, we sent the crank to CCR which at the time was in California. Armondo from CCR is supposedly the “end all-be all” when it comes to Porsche cranks (more on that later). He did the work in about 4-5 weeks, good to go.
5 months later, again at Roebling, Bob was on lap 2 of my practice session for the PCA Club Race and all of a sudden “BANG”. Uh oh…. got towed in. Back at the shop, this time, that same rod that spun last time had now broken. so…tear down, replace ALL the rods from Carillo to Pauter (long story there) send crank to Armondo – 4-5 weeks get crank back, rebuild with all new bearings, check everything out, etc. all good.During the down time, we worked on some aero for the car, installing a wing and splitter:
First full weekend out at Road Atlanta, Papa performed Perfectly!!
We also did another DE at CMP, and an SCCA Hillclimb. All good….Then in July 2013 we make the 9 hr trek to Mid Ohio for the PCA Race. Again..on Bob’s second lap of his first practice – BANG. This time..its really bad. Oil everywhere. Broke a different rod which: busted a hole in the case, broke a couple valves, destroyed the GT3 oil pump, damaged a piston and cylinder, etc, etc, etc…. At this point we are obviously thinking WTF??? (OK, we’ve been thinking that all along but now…really????) so we look back on everything and see what we’ve done and what we can do different:
We had been running a stock 914/6 oil tank all this time, mounted in the normal 914/6 position. Maybe not enough oil? Knowing we had this monstor GT3 oil pump ($1800 pump btw) maybe the flow was too great, the lines too small (same -12 lines we had with the 2.2 engine…heck with the old 4 cylinder engine too to/from the cooler) and we were foaming the oil or starving the engine because not enough oil to keep up??
So…now we needed to do a COMPLETE rebuild consisting of new case, new P&C’s, new oil pump, couple new valves, this time a new crank…and of course while we were in there, we ported the heads, increasd the valves sizes, better springs, new cams, etc. We decided to back it down to a 3.2 but increased the compression and valve sizes, thus getting more HP & torque, but more easily sourced parts if need be….We had Armondo offset the rod journals and put bigger race bearing in (supposedly a trick way of getting more torque). All was back together and good, finally right?
Nope. First weekend out at VIR in Nov 2013, Nadine was on lap 2 (see a patern here?) and heard that tell-tale knocking noise. Again…another spun bearing! Seriously???…this is getting absolutely crazy! This time, however, we found the problem – the oil line from the tank to the engine had collapsed on one of the bends, thus again starving the engine for oil…Can we ever catch a break???
And after all that..here’s where it gets REALLY frustrating….
Just before Thanksgiving 2013 we send the crank back to Armondo, who has now moved to Texas. Our normal process is: we send the crank, he calls to say what’s wrong and what it will cost, then 4 weeks or so later he gives me a final total with shipping, we overnight a check, he ships, all good. As you can see above, we’ve done this numerous times so we have a very good relationship going here (unfortunately). He had told us he feels so bad for the issues we’ve been having that he would give us a big discount and only charge for the outside work he has to pay for (nitriting) and the bearings. Fair enough. Just after New Years, we get a message from Armondo on how much we need to send him a check for. So we overnight a check and assume we would see the crank in a week.
A week goes by…no crank. We call him, leave a message. Our mechanic Lou calls him…message. 2 weeks go by….we finally get him in early February!! and he says he is working on it now and we will have it by the end of Feb!! WTF? We get a sob story about how expensive the move to Texas was, and he needed my money to pay for the nitring and bearing BEFORE he got it done, not after like normal. We’re pissed, but he said he should have it done in a few weeks, we wait.
Early March…no crank. We will spare you the daily commentary of lies we got, but after 2 more months of “I’m working on it today and will ship tomorrow”, we had a buddy of ours go to his place and pick up the crank, gears and bearings…at THE END OF APRIL!!! We had him ship it all to Pauter and was told it would take 2-3 weeks to get the work on the crank done.
3 months later, with almost the EXACT SAME responses to our questions every week (“working on them now, will be out this week”) we got everything back from Pauter in early August!!! yes…August 2014 for a spun bearing in November 2013!!
While we were waiting, we did major changes to the oil system: All the lines from the tank to the engine are now 1? hard lines, new oil cooler, bigger (-16) lines from the engine to the cooler, added a small oil supply feeder resevior just before the engine as recommended by Peter Dawe that holds about 2 qts immediately before entering the engine, changed some of the engine wiring to have a different start up procedure (turn the starter with no ECU/Fuel/spark until there’s oil pressure, then kick on the rest of the power to start the car), redirected the engine and oil tank vents, and much more …..
Our first weekend out was the end of October at CMP. Everything worked perfectly (yes, we made it past Lap 2!!!), though we broke a brand new CV joint. Back home, we drained the oil – no metal!! Positive sign!!!
Here’s a video: CMP 2014
Late November we take the car to a very cold VIR. Good three days (except broke a shift rod…another story for another day), but engine was good. Needs dyno tuning, but performed strong and solid.
Another video: VIR 2014
So there you have it…The little 1974 2.0 914 has grown from a daily driver in Colorado to a full blown race car in Charlotte. There have been a lot of stories along the way, some bad, mostly good, but Papa is part of the family and here to stay forever!