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Mark's Corner: The 914Rubber Story

Thursday, June 3, 2021 4:26 PM

Many of you may know me as Mike or Mikey, but my name is actually Mark. Years ago I started a father-son project with my oldest son, Michael, rebuilding a 914 for him to daily drive. Seeking a website where I could find parts and information for his car I eventually joined 914Club (later renamed to 914World) under the username Mikey914, which has led to some confusion over the years. With that out of the way, I’d like to share how I ended up with my first 914 and what led me to found this company.



The 914Rubber Story

 

The first car I ever drove was my friend’s Camaro SS, the year was 1984 and I was a high schooler obsessed with speed. The Camaro was fast and had immediately ignited my passion for sports cars. Unfortunately, even in the ‘80s a solid project could cost anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 plus another $275/month for insurance. After I realized the Camaro was out of my budget I started looking around for another sports car. That’s when I found a Porsche 914 for $5,900.



Having no idea what this car was, I decided to go check it out. It was a completely restored 1973 Black 914 2.0 Appearance Group. The car looked like it had just rolled off the showroom floor and I took it for a test drive. I was hooked, but could I afford the insurance? I called my insurance agent and he quoted me only $63 a month! From their perspective it was just a Volkswagen that was made in the Karmann plant with the Porsche name on the front badge and grille.



I made an offer for $5,100, which they accepted, and bought the car on the spot. It was one of the most dependable cars I've owned. The only thing I ever had to do was change the oil. That's when my obsession began.



Fast forward back to the father-son project with Michael in 2006. I had found a 1975 Zambezi Green 914 at auction and bought it for $400. The paint was mostly new, and the interior was in great shape, but the engine was pretty much gone from a prior engine fire.



914_restoration_image_1



The hard work began when we removed the engine and started cleaning the engine compartment. We had bought a used 1.7 engine and started rewiring it by splicing in part of a used harness. As we were trying to source some seals, we found out that the engine compartment split Y seal was unavailable.







I started thinking there must be other 914 owners who needed this seal as badly as I did. I had a background in drafting and engineering tight tolerance aluminum extrusions through my side-business in aluminum railing. One day while I was picking up product, I showed my sales rep the burnt piece of split Y seal and explained how I wasn’t having any luck finding a replacement for it. He looked at me and said, "you know we extrude rubber too, right?"

 

This changed everything. I made some modifications to the part which I thought would make it fit better than the factory version. I went home and posted what was to be my first Group Buy with this part on 914World. I got a lot of responses. Some groused about existing suppliers that take money upfront for poor quality parts later and others questioned who I was to be making parts in the first place. In the end, I was able to garner enough interest to pull the trigger on the tooling and make the first production run. I still remember one customer that told me the seal I made was too large and there’s no way it would fit! After I read that I worked with him to show him why the part was different and how I had installed mine. Not only did he change his opinion, but he also endorsed my part and began telling everyone it did fit better than the OEM seal. I had my first happy customer and proven product.



This company started with just me in my garage and has grown into multiple production bays with a team of employees who excel at fabrication, assembly, and customer service. I’ve never been prouder or more excited. 914Rubber has continued to provide high quality and affordable parts to the 914 community so that we can all restore the cars we love. Though I still have my day job as a pilot, my passion is using my engineering skills to redesign and produce parts that keep people driving. From the bottom of my heart I thank all of you for supporting us.

 

Sincerely,

Mark Whitesell

AKA Mikey914 on 914world

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