Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Porsche 914

Lucky Numbers Published: 9th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 914/6
  • Worst model: Poor conversions
  • Budget buy: 914
  • OK for unleaded?: 914
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3985’ x W 1651 mm
  • Spares situation: Ok
  • DIY ease?: Generally good
  • Club support: Decent
  • Appreciating asset?: Yes, an underrated classic
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Decent examples are great fun
Although a two-seater, the adverts said the car could actually take three at the front. Wouldn't try it now though! Although a two-seater, the adverts said the car could actually take three at the front. Wouldn't try it now though!
Trim taste left a lot to be desired, hard to replicate Trim taste left a lot to be desired, hard to replicate
Odd styling with XJ-S-style rear buttress treatment stood test of time well. Odd styling with XJ-S-style rear buttress treatment stood test of time well.
911 dials can play up, particularly tachos; available new still 911 dials can play up, particularly tachos; available new still
Centre console was optional only on 2-litre models Centre console was optional only on 2-litre models
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

The ‘poor man’s Porsche’ was over priced when new but 40 years on is an affordable headturning classic

Pros & Cons

Porsche breeding, handling, value
Left-hand-drive, rust, expensive to repair and to restore, not as fast as the badge suggests
£1500-20,000

Is it a Volkswagen or a Porsche? That’s always been the burning question hanging over the 914 sportster, but it’s essentially a fun sports car with the best bits from both manufacturers. A radical, mid-engined, Targa-topped roadster, designed by Porsche and funded by VW, the 914 was conceived in the late 1960s in an attempt to boost the fortunes of both fl agging companies. The world’s first mass-produced mid-engined car, it was intended, particularly in the all-important USA market, to provide Volkswagen with a sportier, prestigious fl agship model and Porsche with a cheap, entry-level car to undercut the 911 and the less powerful, 356-engined 912. Despite the best efforts of the German giants, the little roadster fl opped, simply because it was almost as pricey as 911. But today, the 914 is a brilliant and affordable chance to buck the 911 trend and indulge in sports car thrills with the reliability and easy ownership of an oldschool Volkswagen.

History

Gugelot Design fi rst penned the 914 concept in the 1960s and passed the ideas around to various manufacturers until Porsche and VW jumped on it in 1966. Volkswagen chief Heinz Nordhoff and Ferry Porsche agreed to hand the design work to Stuttgart while VW provided the fi nances and organization.To keep costs down, the car would use a plethora of Volkswagen parts, including the four-cylinder engine and gearbox from the Type 4 saloon. Styling was to be radically different to existing Porsches to distance the 914 from 911, and the new car (designated VW Type 47 and Porsche 914) would also be available with a slightly detuned version of the 911T’s more energetic proper Porsche six-pot unit.

The mid-engined configuration presented some problems, as the Type 4 underpinnings could not be installed. To solve the problem, engineers whipped the front suspension out of the 911 – longitudinal torsion bars – while a totally new set-up was employed at the rear in the form of semi-trailing arms and coil-over telescopic dampers. As was traditional with its convertibles, VW farmed out the assembly to Karmann, which carried out the entire build of the Volkswagen version, but supplied bodies to Porsche for installation of is own engine and running gear at Zuffenhausen.

Both manufacturers planned to market their car through their respective dealers, but Kurt Lotz – Nordhoff’s successor at Volkswagen – was reluctant to let Porsche happily market what he considered a VW product. As a result, VW-Porsche GmbH, was established near Stuttgar t to handle sales and marketing. Most nationalities knew the 914 as a VW-Porsche, but it was strictly Porsche only in the US, as the car was sold through the new Porsche-Audi network. The 914/4 debuted at the Frankfurt Show of 1969 and VW-engined version hit showrooms almost immediately, with the much awaited Porsche-powered 914/6 following soon after. The 1679cc four-cylinder, air-cooled, D-Jetronic fuel-injected boxer engine from the gawky but sophisticated 411LE sat directly behind the passenger compartment and the transaxle (normally ahead of the engine in the VW) was relocated to the rear. The downside of this arrangement was the arduous dogleg gearshift, with its long throw and ropey feel.

Instruments came straight out of the Porsche parts bin, but the switches, door cranks and other trinkets were obvious Beetle items. This took the edge off the £2261 914/4 and seriously cheapened the costly £3475 914/6 in 1970. The central roof section was a winner, though. It could be lifted out and clipped inside the rear boot lid in just a few seconds. As for luggage, the interior wasn’t much cop, but the boot up front could swallow plenty. The basic 914 could be improved with the optional S pack with extra bright work and tastier wheels among other plush extras, which proved popular. Seats were simple and only the driver’s chair was adjustable. To improve access to the cockpit, the handbrake, located by the driver’s sill, wa s a p s e u d o - f l y - o f f type that flopped to the floor after being applied or released. The f ront and rear disc brakes were powerful, while the standard steel wheels carried 185HR14 rubber – chunky for the time. Performance from the 79bhp VW unit was better than it might have been, thanks to the weight – a tad under 2000 lbs. 0-60mph took 14 seconds – hardly neck-snapping stuff, but slippery aerodynamics made for a respectable 110mph top speed.

A rather different proposition was the 914/6, with its 2.0-litre Porsche power. Using Bosch L-Jetronic injection for the US market, the engine had to comply with anti-smog laws – but Europe got twin triple-choke Weber 40 IDT P1 carbs. There were larger 15” alloy wheels with 165HR15 tyres, while standard trim included chrome bumper and wheel arch covers, black vinyl rollover bar, halogen headlights and sumptuous upholstery. Powe r wa s h o i ke d up to 125bhp at 5800 rpm, and torque to 131 lb ft at 4200rpm, which morphed the 914/6 into a scalpel-sharp spor ts c a r . 0 - 6 0 m p h w a s disposed with in just nine seconds – that’s Alfa and BMW league.. The near-911 price tag was the car’s Achilles heel, though and the 914/6 was dropped at the end of 1971. Just 3381 examples were built and a mere handful found their way to the UK. For 1973, a replacement of sorts was introduced in the form of the 914 2.0-litre, at a more palatable £2799. With a bigbarrel version of the VW engine, breathed on by Porsche, the 2.0-litre compromised at 100bhp and 116 lbs ft of torque and shaved fi ve seconds off the 1.8’s 0 60 time. It was known as the best of the bunch for its blend of capability and affordability, and the sorted gearshift made it all the more desirable! The following year saw another revision when the 1.7 became the 1.8. The 1795cc engine from VW’s latest Type 4 boasted an extra four bhp, bigger-bore barrels and Bosch L-Jetronic injection. Various wheel and tyre options were fi tted ranging from 185/14 to 185/70-15. Produced from 1969-75, the 914 was seen as an expensive VW rather than a bargain Porsche, and sneered at by 911 owners. But it offered decent performance, handling and reliability and good examples, especially the 2.0-litre and 914/6, are now sought after. Most UK cars will be US imports, mainly from California, where most of the originals were sold.

Driving

Even the most hardened critics will admit that the 914 is much better to drive than it looks. Thank the mid-engine layout, which is much more predictable than the rear-engined 911. Couple this with modest power and the 914 handles with the utmost precision. Engineers recorded superior cornering powers over the 911 and even now, the 914 is still a real pleasure behind the wheel. The VW-powered version is a bit of a slouch. Early road tests recorded a 0-60mph time of over 14 seconds for the 1.7-litre engine. The 914/6 is much livelier, though. In 1973 Motor managed a 0-60mph time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 115.5mph from a 914SC, and its 30-50mph time in top gear was faster than a 911S at just 10.6 seconds. For many, the 2.0-litre VW model is an ideal compromise between performance and price. All derivatives return around 25mpg. If you can stand the awful dog leg gearchange on pre-73 cars you’ll fi nd the fi fth gear fairly long legged at 23.8mph/1000rpm. This combined with generous luggage space in the boot, makes the 914 an ideal tourer. The press had mixed opinions about the car. American Car and Driver was decidedly the latter, reckoning it was a “miscast” and concluding that given its lukewarm performance, lousy gear change, poor build quality and more, the 914 was “bankrupt” and while it was half the price of a 911, it was only half as good! On the other hand Motor Trend voted it Import Car of The Year for 1970 and the UK motor noters looked upon the car more favourably (perhaps because it wasn’t regarded as a Porsche as it was in the States?), but as much as the respected Car liked the 914/4 the critical iconic monthly dammed it by saying that the 914 was essentially “an MGB class car with an E-type price”. Our own Sporting Heroes contributor Paul Davies tested the 914 back in his Hot Car days and rated it the best Porsche he had tested. Mind you that was back in 1971; in retrospect he says the car is so well balanced that it lacked excitement. You can’t please everybody!

Prices

Porsche’s roadster may have been overpriced when new but it won’t break the bank now. Only a truly mint, concours-ready 914/6 will eke over the £20,000 mark. The vast majority of the 300 or so 914s in the UK are nowhere near that standard and are more likely to command £5 10,000. It’s a car that you really need to buy on condition instead of price as there are many ropey, ones out there and the 914 costs 911 money to fi x and restore. You have been warned.

Improvements

The 914 is still popular in the US so tuning options are plentiful. As the front suspension is from an early 911 there’s plenty of scope for uprating it to later items. Same again for the VW brakes, which can be substituted for 911 anchors – add Koni adjustable dampers to the mix and this seems to be an ideal blend. The VW air-cooled engines are pretty tuneable and well over 2000cc can be extracted with suitable barrel conversions wi thout losing that low rev lustiness. The Porsche 914/6 is tuned by the usual Porsche methods. Conver ting a 914 into a 914/6 is rarely done properly and, in the US, small block V8s have been installed – the cooling system needs a serious update, though! But as any VW enthusiast will tell you, Subaru Impreza power is the best upgrade around and there are numerous conversion kits in the US for around $1500. Even if you like your 914 stock, fitting the later Porsche transaxle from a 930 improves the gearbox no end.

What To Look For

  • The biggest worry with the 914 is rust so inspect it with a fi ne toothcomb. By far the main rot spot is around the battery tray area. It’s more than likely that repair work has been carried out already but the worst cases can spread to the chassis leg. If that’s the case then walk away says 914 experts PR Services of Essex as the leg costs around £300 and it can take up to 100 man hours to fi t.
  • Sills are a rot haven. They are three-piece affairs with an outer that’s riveted on. Some owners drill them out to replace with screws so you can gain access to liberally squirt Waxoyl in. It’s the inner box sections that can take a big, costly hit.
  • The Targa top is known to allow water to seep into the rear A post area, which will be costly to put right and may mean a new rear wing. Check for the usual evidence of fi ller.
  • Underneath inspect the chassis, especially the suspension mounts, which include the torsion bar assembly at the front and the rear trailing arms plus the area around the engine. Look for previous welding, bodging and so on. The boot fl oors are also known rust areas so check with care.
  • Front wings cost £600 plus fitting and spraying so check their condition. It’s worth giving the pop-up lamps the once over, too. Rear wings are even dearer so check around the light clusters and around the valance panel.
  • Inspect the windscreen surround for bubbling as it means the bulkhead has suffered. Windscreen and roof seals are not to be ignored either, as these can cost up to £2000 to replace perished ones! If they have let water in, check the interior for damp damage and, crucially, the floorpan.
  • Check the door and removable roof fi tting. Any door jamming can indicate that the car is sagging centrally (much like a Triumph TR), owing to terminally corroded body stiffeners.
  • Parts – many of which are still available from VW – are not generally a problem. US aftermarket fi rms produce plenty of replica spares and upgrades. The only worry is quality, which can be indifferent at best.
  • The air-cooled VW engine is typically dependable and low-revving. Chief points to watch out for are smoking, fuming, broken fins, overheating and perished hoses – including the fuel lines, most which will have been upgraded. Porsche tweaked the 2.0-litre engine for added pep.
  • Many 914s ran on Bosch fuel injection,which is reliable enough. However, when it plays up owners have been known to swap back to carbs and do it badly. Similar checks should be made to the engine although these are a lot dearer to repair.
  • Conversions to the 914/6 aren’t uncommon but few are done properly due to the sheer cost. Make sure that you are indeed buying a 914/6 if it’s what you’re after. Fours have four-bolt wheels, for instance, the Six has 911 fi ve-bolt affairs plus three-speed wipers, electric screen washers and more.
  • The fi ve-speed manual box had an awful gear change when new and when the linkages are worn. Post ‘72 cars benefi t from a better unit but just fully sorting the original train can work wonders on most neglected cars. Some fi t the later Porsche 930 transaxle. Bear in mind that the 914 used a 911 transaxle so repairs will be costly. Check for worn clutches, gear noise, loss of gears etc, and don’t instantly assume that it’s the linkages that are causing the trouble.
  • The disc brakes differ according to the car, but they should work well if they’re in good nick. VW-powered cars used 411 components while the 914/6 used contemporary 911 stoppers. Both are generally sound but check for seized calipers and worn discs (you’ll soon discover both on a test drive). Brakes aren’t overly dear to fi x though. It’s not quite identical but the front suspension is broadly early 911 so watch for wear in the torsion bars (which can be reset) king pins, bearings and so on.
  • As standard, the 914/4 rolled on simple steel wheels with hub caps; 914/6 sported tasty 911-style Fuchs alloys, although a variety of alloy styles were also fi tted. Tyre size was modest 165-185 sizes so expect good quality types to be fi tted.
  • The interior trim is typically robust, although US cars may suffer from sun-damaged cockpits. Dash tops are available but cost almost £300 – that‘s three times the cost of an aftermarket seat retrim kit. The Porsche instruments are strangely unreliable, especially the rev counters, but these are still available at dealers costing £150-£200 depending upon the model.
  • A proper right-hand-drive range was out of the question but a quality conversion was developed in the UK by Crayford of Kent but, with few buyers willing to shell out the extra £631, these are rarer than hens’ teeth. It’s thought that less than 40 were completed and prices shouldn’t be signifi cantly dearer than a left-hooker, although desirability may be higher.
  • Being left-hand-drive, expect to fi nd many with previous right hand side damage (check chassis, suspension and so on – does it pull to one side?). The electric pop up headlamps work far better than an Elan’s so if they’re wonky or then slow suspect past frontal damage.
  • Servicing is not overly complicated although it’s a good idea to have a friendly Porsche specialist work on the six-cylinder engine. Otherwise it’s the usual VW air-cooled service schedule with 3000-mile oil changes. Routine items can be accessed from above, via the narrow engine lid between back window and boot, but spark plugs are an up-and-under job and a bit of a pain.
  • Trim improved over the years – ‘72 onwards seem best as the passenger seat became adjustable but it’s the condition that counts above all else.
  • US cars are popular as most sold there but smog gear could strangle power to a measly 76bhp – and the rubber bumpers barely improved those looks. 1973 cars feature attractive covered roof buttresses, while some US cars gained spoilers and other trinkets.
  • Last word comes from PS Ser vices (07000356911 or clock on http://www.prs356. com) who says that 80 per cent of all the cars it sees are pretty ropey. Mike and Paul Smith reckon the biggest problem is the tightfi stedness of owners who won’t shell out for preventative maintenance and end up with bills of £2500 just to prep the car for the MoT and a service.

Three Of A Kind

Toyota MR2
Toyota MR2
Very similar in concept and design, the MR2 mixed proven Carina mechanicals with cutting-edge targa-topped design and a mid-mounted engine, to great effect. The jagged MkI set the scene and the softer MkII followed in 1990 while the brilliant MkIII is perhaps closest to 914 of them all. Most are hugely dependable, though MkIs rot like mad. Barmy grey import turbocharged models demand 911-like respect.
Porsche Boxster
Porsche Boxster
For the price of a top 914 you can grab the modern equivalent – the Porsche Boxster. Another mid-mounted engine means great balance and sweet handling with poise reminiscent of the 914 and a whole lot more power, especially in S form. The earlier 2.5-litre option was considered a tad lethargic, but it’s ample enough plus there are lots of specialists around to help with maintenance. Prices have largely bottomed out and it can’t be long before values start to rise, so don’t delay.
Fiat X1/9
Fiat X1/9
Like the 914, the X1/9 always lacked the power to tax an excellent mid-engine chassis but a good example is still great fun. The original 1300 is the best looker but the 1.5 added extra power and a welcome fi ve-speed gearbox. Like the 914, the X1/9 represents low power targatopped fun and prices are still cheap. Most are pretty ratty by now though, so choose with care. The Fiat Uno Turbo engine solves the sluggish performance, but makes for lairy handling.

Verdict

The 914 may have been better received if it had replaced the VW Karmann Ghia, but it could, in fact, be considered as something of a 30-year forebear of the Boxster. Perhaps the car’s real defi nition lies somewhere in between, but there’s no doubt that a good 914 now makes for excellent low-cost entry into Porsche ownership. Certainly this mid-enginedcollaboration has a lot going for it – particularly at MGB prices – so before you buy that MR2 or MX-5 and take one for a spin.. Is it a real Porsche though? That’s for you to decide.



User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe