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Up, From Down Under

Mid-engine cars, awesome as they are, the engine sits behind a nearly impenetrable barricade of bodywork and suspension components. Otherwise simple maintenance tasks become an exercise in frustration. Even when sitting on jackstands, changing the little Porsche’s oil requires the crawling skill of a contortionist. Considering the engine requires a valve adjustment every 3000 miles, I knew I was going to have to come up with an easier way to get under the car. And here it is:

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This picture gives the author pause. Perhaps he should consider a weight reduction plan in parallel to the car.

This picture gives the author pause. Perhaps he should consider a weight reduction plan in parallel to the car.

I have no morbid desires to be crushed underneath the car. So I made the table as beefy as I could. The table’s width matches the 914’s wheel track, which allowed me to drive the car on and off the table once I lined it up straight with the ramps. I won’t lie though, getting the car up and down was a nerve wracking experience. I had to somehow convince my wife to act as a spotter whenever I needed to get the car on or off the table. She made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that she hated doing this and reminded me that I risked divorce with every oil change. A replacement would be needed sooner or later, but I didn’t really have a sense of urgency until the inevitable happened.

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I know what you’re thinking, and you’re wrong. I didn’t drive it off the end. This was far more stupid. Here’s the story. Driving the 914 up onto the table gave me access to the engine, but to adjust the valves properly I’d still have to hand crank the engine to top dead center for each cylinder. That means I had to jack up one wheel of the car while on the table, giving me something to turn the engine with.

Sketchy though it may sound, I was able to jack the wheel up and adjust the valves without any trouble. However, the process of lifting and lowering the car had gradually pushed the front wheels to the edge of the table. When I saw how perilously close to disaster I was, I started pushing the car back away from the edge. I couldn’t manage to get the car to roll back. It was still in gear and the engine compression was working against me.

So, instantaneously and with no regard to forethought, I reached into the car and slapped the gear shift into neutral. That’s when car rolled forward and off the end of the table.

Now, here’s the part of the story I’m proud of. My first reaction, the very first feeling in my mind at seeing the car stuck on the table was… endearment. I felt love for the car. I had done my first truly stupid thing with the car, something for which I would forever after have story to tell, and that gave me a strange feeling of love. The car was truly my own now. “This is my 914. There are many like it, but this one is mine”.

But, I still needed a replacement for the table. What I really needed was car lift, but those aren’t cheap. Trolling craigslist got me close to getting a used one, but I was always a day late and a dollar short. I needed a home brew solution. I got some steel square tube from Maxx Metal along with a set of 600 lb casters from Uline and welded together a car dolly. Thanks, by the way, to Heriberto for lending me his welder. I lifted the car off the table with two engine hoists, one borrowed from my neighbor Marty. Thanks Marty!

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Once the table was pulled clear from under the car, I set the car back down on the dolly. What a difference the the dolly makes. I can spin the car around and move it from one side of the garage to another. Waaaaaaay cooler than the table! Thanks to Dad for manning one of the hoists. Couldn’t have done it without ya.