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Porsche 914

Porsche 914 Published: 28th Mar 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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Part Porsche, part Volkswagen, the 914 might not have been a sales success due to lack of pedigree and pace but as the father to the Boxster it’s desirable today, says Chris Randall

At the beginning of the 1970s British buyers after a two-seater sports car could choose from favourites such as the Triumph Spitfire and MGB, but if they fancied something a little more exotic there was the car you see here. It was intended to provide Porsche with a replacement for the 912, and VW with a model to replace the stylish Karmann Ghia, and was the result of an agreement between Ferry Porsche and then Volkswagen director, Heinrich Nordhoff.

That it was little more than a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ would later be the cause of some tension and the possibility that the car would never see the light of day; Nordhoff passed away in 1968 and his successor, Dr Kurt Lotz, was rather less keen on the project and its production arrangements. But with the issue resolved, the 914 was launched at the 1969 Frankfurt Motor Show. The design work had been led by Porsche and their stylist, Heinrich Klie, and the new model was to be available in two distinct forms – the 914/4 with a VW engine and the 914/6 with a Porsche unit. The former was the 1.7-litre flat-four borrowed from the 411E, and with Bosch fuel injection it produced a modest 79bhp which translated into a top speed of just over 100mph and a 0-60mph time of around fourteen seconds. For those after more punch the 2.0-litre flat-six was borrowed from the Porsche 911T, the triple-carb motor managing a useful 108bhp which meant a 0-60mph time of less than nine seconds. Both engines drove through a five-speed manual gearbox, although there was also the option of Porsche’s four-speed ‘Sportomatic’ clutch-less manual.

It was a simple enough range, then, which contrasted with the rather more complicated production process which involved bodies being constructed by specialist, Karmann, with fourcylinder cars then assembled by VW at Wolfsburg and six-cylinder models put together at Zuffenhausen. And that wasn’t the only difference, with 914s sold in North America being badged as Porsches (distancing them from the VW connection) while for the Rest of the World markets it was sold as the VW-Porsche. It wasn’t exactly straightforward, then, and perhaps partially explains why the model was never quite the sales success that such an accomplished recipe deserved; around 115,000 fourcylinder cars were made, a large number being exported to the US, while only around 3300 six-cylinder models left the Porsche factory.

And then there was the price. Only a relative handful were officially imported to the UK, the cheapest being the 914/4 at £2261 while the 914/6 cost a whopping £3475 – second-hand 911 money – that’s dearer than a similar in concept Lotus Europa and not far short of a new E-type, and when you consider that the Triumph or MG mentioned earlier cost less than £1500 you can see how few British buyers would have been tempted. Which would have been rather a shame as the compact two-seater had plenty to offer.

For one thing, it arguably looked the part thanks to tidy proportions and the sleek, pop-up headlight nose, and it was well put together. The cabin might have been a bit austere with its sea of black vinyl but buyers would certainly have appreciated the sound driving position and solid build quality, and it was decently spacious, too. Okay, so the optional centre seat cushion that was intended to make it a threeseater didn’t really work, but at least there was a useful amount of luggage space in the nose and tail.

And the 914 handled really well, too, the mid-engine layout endowing it with almost ideal weight distribution (certainly an improvement over the tail-heavy 911 reckoned Porsche engineers). With accurate ZF rack and pinion steering and independent suspension that combined struts and torsion bar springs up front and coil springs at the rear, drivers could certainly make the most of the performance on offer. Disc brakes all round added further confidence, and with a kerb weight of little more than 900kg (opting for the six-cylinder engine added 40kg) the 914 would attack a twisty road in enjoyably agile fashion. And for those in less of a hurry it only took a moment to take advantage of the removable glassfibre roof panel, cruising to the accompaniment of the pleasing air-cooled burble.

Over the following years the neatly-styled sports car would receive a number of updates, many of which centred on the cosmetics and improvements to trim and equipment levels. However, the mechanicals would come in for more wide-ranging revisions, the 914 adopting a 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine for the 1973 model year, followed a year later by a 1.8-litre unit. But none of the changes would save it from the corporate axe, and with Porsche readying its new entry-level model in the shape of the 924 production of the two-seater ended in 1976. Fast forward to today and it shouldn’t prove too difficult to secure a good example. There’s a reasonable number for sale in the UK at any one time, although richer pickings can be found if you widen your search to Europe – not a problem given that all 914s were left-hand drive. As for prices, you can expect to pay somewhere in the region of £15,000 for a good example with Porsche’s flat-six engine, with fourcylinder cars fetching £3000-4000 less. You can double those values for a car in excellent condition, but given that’s still an awful lot less than you’d pay for that other air-cooled car with a Porsche badge we can’t help thinking that it represents a rather alluring proposition.

Why we love them

Half a century on the 914 packs a real feeling of sophistication to the design (that Fiat emulated with its X1/9). Thanks to the mid-engine layout, which is much more predictable than the rear-engined 911, 914s handle so well that factory engineers recorded superior cornering powers over the 911 because it boasted a better basic design… True, VW-powered ones are slouches but the last-of-the-line 2-litre isn’t and all featured five-speed gearboxes. The central roof section was a winner and, combined with generous luggage space, makes the 914 an ideal tourer.

A retrospective look by Supercar Classics in 1990, concluded that the 914 undeservedly received a bad press, and called it a Teutonic X1/9. “The 914/6 could have gone on to become a great car… had the 914 subsequently received as much development as the 911.” It might not have been the runaway success that either VW or Porsche envisaged, but it would be a satisfyingly left field choice today.



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