1974 Porsche 914 2.0 from North America
Best car for the money
The newest 914s are still thirty years old, and things will fail. On the other hand, parts are fairly common and some are interchangeable with VW parts. If you can't or don't work on cars, don't even consider a 914. Part of the joy is tinkering with it yourself. With the exception of the fuel injection, the engine is blissfully simple and straightforward. It's a joy to work on, once you get used to the cramped engine compartment.
Most of all, spend your first few months with your "new" 914 figuring out what good and bad things the last owner did to the engine. Some will need to be corrected.
The shift linkages in the earlier years (70-73, I think) make shifting kind of vague. They're much better 74 on (but check where the linkage meets the tranny, if it still feels loose).
The 2.0 is much better than the 1.7 or 1.8 (the latter is actually slower than the former, because of emissions equipment).
Check for rust underneath the battery tray and on the suspension pieces below that. There will be some, so figure out if there's too much. Also check that the car's not sagging altogether, indicating that the longitudinals are rusted through.
Overall, realize that the car's old and even with good maintenance there'll be rust. Check the net for a buyer's guide, as there are several good ones.
There are few comparisons to the 914. Like many old Porsches (and some new, I've seen), in mature hands it goes like mad. In rash hands (like mine in the first I drove, at age 18), it's borderline dangerous. The mid-engine layout makes it very agile, but once it gets beyond the limit of the tires, you must be wise and quick to keep up with physics of the rear end. It is notoriously underpowered, but on short tracks it makes up for this by handling so well that you can conserve speed much more effectively than in a larger, front/rear layed out car.
It is a true sports car, not a sedan tweaked for performance and not an unhappy marriage of performance, comfort and safety. It is cramped, loud, sometimes smelly, it vibrates, and I imagine in a serious collision it probably folds up like a paper cup. But oh man, there is only the barest degree of mechanical separation between you and the road. When you go really fast in a 914, you know it, but you'll like it, too.
Overall, this is the best car I've ever owned, and I deeply regret having to sell it. When I get the disposable income together again, the first thing I'll do is buy another 914.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th April, 2008