23/02/2024 3:34 PM


If You Really

Road To Race: Going The Distance In A Porsche 914

Tim Abbot never intended to build a race car when he got his hands on this 1970 Porsche 914.

As the man behind Abbot Cars, a highly-regarded independent Porsche specialist restoration workshop in South Africa, Tim knows his way around all the classic models from Stuttgart. He’s also squarely in the ‘love it’ camp when it comes to the 914.

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Tim’s interest in the opinion-dividing model was initially brought on during a concours-level restoration of his father’s 914 in the mid-1980s. That car was ultimately sold and shipped off to the US, but Tim promised himself that he’d one day build his own.

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That opportunity came in 2005, when one of Tim’s customers decided to part with his car – this 914, then powered by a 2.0L Type 4 engine. At first, Tim’s idea was to enhance the Porsche for fast road use and the occasional track day. That sort of direction isn’t uncommon, but neither is having a project evolve into something much bigger.

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It was in 2008, when Tim, his son Douglas, cousin Donovan, and brother Anthony, who at the time headed up Red Bull Racing’s F1 engineering software division, all travelled to France for the prestigious Le Mans Classic. It was at this event that the 914’s future direction was written.

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Watching classic cars duke it out around Circuit de la Sarthe was all the inspiration that Tim – spurred on by his family in attendance – needed to build the 914 up for the very event they were all spectating.

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On his return to South Africa, Tim wasted little time researching 914 factory race cars, with the idea to build something similar from his road car. He didn’t need to look any further than the three cars Porsche built for the 1970 Marathon de la Route – a mammoth 84-hour endurance race held on the Nürburgring’s combined north and south circuits – a whopping 28.3km per lap. By the end of the gruelling three-and-a-half-day event, the three works 914/6s crossed the finish line 1st, 2nd and 3rd. The first car, driven by Claude Haldi, Gérard Larrousse and Helmut Marko, completed 360 laps, clocking up over 10,200km in the process. It’s little wonder that some manufacturers used this event to distance-test their new models.

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The car you see here is what Tim calls his ‘914/6 GT Marathon de la Route Tribute’. As expected with a name like that, many of the modifications are based off those used in the works cars, but Tim also looked to the ‘M471′ special equipment package that Porsche offered in order to homologate the 914/6 for SCCA production racing in the US. This equipment included wide steel fender flares and front valance, fiberglass rocker panels and Fuchs wheels among other things.

Marathon de la Route regulations allowed for the 914/6’s engine capacity to be increased by 10%, but the factory block had to be retained. After sourcing a 2.0L six cylinder Porsche engine, Tim increased its capacity to 2.2L by sleeving the block and fitting oversized high-compression pistons. A strengthened crankshaft was added, and the cylinder heads were ported and fitted with larger valves. The result is 10.0:1 compression.

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When carburettors are used for this type of setup, it’s normally twin 45s that get the nod, but Tim opted for slightly smaller twin Weber 40mm units. The exhaust is similar to the system used by the works Marathon de la Route cars, where two branches can be capped.

Finally, with a twin-spark ignition system in play, the Porsche 2.2L engine setup revealed a solid 180bhp and the ability to rev out to 9,000rpm.

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To take full advantage of the engine output, the 914’s 5-speed gearbox was modified with close-ratio gears suited for most of South Africa’s circuits. A lightweight flywheel and racing clutch kit were also fitted.

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Although Tim hasn’t overlooked any area of the 914, special attention was paid to the chassis preparation and weight in order to perfect the handling. The full chrome-moly roll cage ties into the four suspension points, which Tim says has stiffened up the car significantly. It only tips the scales at 890kg too, so the power-to-weight ratio is rather healthy.

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For suspension, the front end features MacPherson struts with Bilstein shocks and torsion bars, while the rear benefits from Bilstein-based coilovers. And for brakes, Tim has specced the 914 with Porsche 930 Turbo rotors at all corners, with 930 front callipers and 911S rears. Dual brake master cylinders are also fitted, with an AP Racing bias controller inside the cabin.

When it came to the wheels, Tim wanted to run a staggered setup, which goes some way to explain the mismatch. The Fuch fronts measure 15×7-inch with 205/50R15 Bridgestone Potenza RE-11S tyres, and the Performance Superlite rears are sized 15×8-inch with the same semi-slicks tyres but in a 225/50R15 fitment.

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The 914’s bodywork is one of the few aspects of the build completed outside of the Abbot Cars workshop, but Tim knew that handing the car over to Anton Dekker at Exclusive Conversion was the right thing to do. Flaring the Porsche’s steel arches in fibreglass, and using the composite material to re-skin the doors, bonnet, boot and bumpers was always going to be a big job, but it’s been executed perfectly.

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The final exterior touch came with a full respray in Porsche Signal Orange and a livery inspired by the #3 Porsche 914/6 that finished second in the 1970 Marathon de la Route with drivers Björn Waldegaard, Åke Andersson and Guy Chasseuil.

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There’s not a lot of space in the 914 cabin, especially when you add a full roll cage into the mix, but the space is used well with everything you’d expect to see in a race car and not much else. That said, Tim was keen to make the cabin as comfortable as possible, hence the carpet – a lightweight type of course. One neat upgrade is the use of 911 gauges, meaning there’s a tachometer that reads to 10,000rpm – perfect given the engine almost sees that number – and a 300km/h speedometer.

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Although Tim’s 914/6 GT Marathon de la Route Tribute was built to compete at the Le Mans Classic, he never quite got there with it. However, it has seen plenty of historic racing action in South Africa, including the Kyalami 9-Hour Retro and Passion for Speed events. Better still, Tim has shared driving duties with his son Douglas and daughter Jennifer, so racing the 914 has been a true family affair – fitting given how the car came about in the first place.

Brad Lord
Instagram: speedhunters_brad

Photos by Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzemedia