A lot of folks -- over 100,000 -- would eventually conclude that the Porsche 914 was worth its price. But given its VW engine, some marque fans found it hard to accept the 914 as a “real” Porsche.
Zuffenhausen was uncomfortable with that, too, and thus decided to make the Porsche 914 a real Porsche in fact as well as name. The result appeared in late 1970 as the 914/6 (at which point the four-cylinder model informally became the 914/4). Powered by the 2.0-liter 110-horsepower flat-six from the 1969-model 911T, with capacitive-discharge ignition and twin triple-choke Weber carbs, it came with 5.5-inch-wide five-lug wheels (distinctive 10-spoke light-alloys were available), plus suitably fatter tires and ventilated front brakes. Amenities were also more generous: 911-style full instrumentation (with 150-mph speedo and 8,000-rpm tach), three-speed wipers and electric washers (the latter replacing a foot-operated bulb type), dual-tone horn, and a vinyl covering for the basket handle.
The original Porsche 914 was given a six-cylinder upgrade to become the 914/6.
Built entirely by Porsche and badged as such in all markets, the Porsche 914/6 sold for better than $2500 more than the four-cylinder job -- about $6100 in the United States -- and was thus even more difficult to sell. To no one’s surprise, it was quietly canned after 1972 and only 3351 examples.
Still, the extra cylinders made a world of difference. It was hard to think of the Porsche 914/4 as anything but a VW; indeed, C/D conceded that it would have made a fine replacement for the original Karmann-Ghia, surely a case of damning with faint praise. But there was no escaping the flat-six engine’s exciting wail or that seat-of-the-pants feeling, sufficient to make clear that the Porsche 914/6 was a genuine Porsche.
It certainly performed like one. Road & Track clocked 8.7 seconds 0-60, the standing quarter in 16.3 seconds at 83 mph, and 123 mph flat out, plus 21.3 miles per gallon -- in all, typically balanced Porsche performance. Nevertheless, R&T said they’d “probably pay the extra $431 for a 4-speed 911T, with its handsomer body, better detailing, extra years of development, slightly better performance and +2 seating. For those who insist on open-air driving, the 911T in Targa form is $675 dearer or more than a grand above the 914/6. This differential, plus the technical novelty of the mid-engine package, will assure the new car plenty of buyers [obviously, it didn’t]. What we all hoped for was a true Porsche nearer to $5,000, but that’s asking a lot.”
One critical factor made any Porsche 914 less than a true Porsche: the lack of intensive yearly development accorded the 911. This might have been expected for a car that fell between corporate stools, but “it indirectly led to the demise of the 914,” in Dean Batchelor’s view.
Still, the four-cylinder cars would see a few changes over time. The ’71s had virtually none, but the ’72s gained a revised engine (designated EA-series, replacing the original W-series unit) with recalibrated fuel injection that let it run on 91-octane fuel, as required that year in California. Unusually, it delivered about 10-percent better mileage with no harm to performance.
Also new were fresh-air vents at each end of the dash, a wiper/washer control incorporated with the turn-signal lever (as on the 914/6) and an adjustable passenger seat that eliminated the footrest. The most drastic -- and unwelcome -- change was a hike in the list price of nearly $700.
As before, buyers could pop for a $311 Appearance Group on top of that. This included the Porsche 914/6’s vinyl rollbar trim and dual-tone horn, plus the aforesaid chrome bumpers, foglamps, upgraded carpeting, 165 × 15 radial tires on 5.5-inch rims, and a leather-rim steering wheel.
The Porsche 914/6 featured interior and engine improvements that finally
deemed the sports car a genuine Porsche.
More ambitious tweaks followed for ’73. The 1.7-liter engine was retained, with an even more anemic 69-horsepower setup for smog-bound California, but Zuffenhausen added spice to the recipe with an optional 2.0-liter four. Rated at 91 SAE net horsepower, it was a simple bore-and-stroke job (from 90 × 66 to 94 × 71 mm) that gave performance about midway between that of the original 1.7 and the 914/6. In fact, the 914 2.0, as it was badged, was effectively a replacement for the Porsche-powered model. Even better, base price was less lofty at $5,599 (East Coast POE) and included the Appearance Group and alloy wheels plus a center console mounting clock, voltmeter, and oil temperature gauge. Still, the 914 remained a tough sell.
At least the 2.0-liter four offered better tractability along with its extra performance, being an easy starter and revving quickly to its 5,600-rpm redline. With it, the Porsche 914/4 now roughly equaled TR6 performance. The five-speed gearbox was particularly useful here, allowing the driver to extract the most from the gutsier powerplant. Porsche had evidently changed its mind about anti-roll bars, for it fitted one at each end of the 2.0. This, in turn, permitted lower spring rates for a slightly softer ride.
As a result, the 2.0-liter seemed completely bereft of the dreaded Porsche oversteer. Road & Track had this to say: “The relative stiffness of the front and rear anti-roll bars seems to have been chosen to provide understeer at all times and under all conditions. When driven around a curve, the front end slides and the back end sticks. Apply full power and the front end pushes toward the outside of the turn. Let up on the throttle and the front end tucks toward the inside of the turn. This is very safe . . . but the sporting driver may wish sometimes for the freedom of, say, a 911S, in which an occasional ‘nasty’ trait can be provoked and exploited with skill. Perhaps the not-quite-Porsche 914 isn’t allowed to provide that sort of test and perhaps that’s why the 914/2 [R&T’s term] isn’t allowed to be the 914S [the 2.0-liter’s proposed designation, turned down by the factory].”
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