Porsche 914 History


Don’t cry for the Porsche 914. Though chided during its five-year life as an ersatz Porsche, it has lately been recognized as an interesting car that just happens to be the cheapest modern Porsche one can buy. And that’s ironic, for few would have predicted any enthusiasm for the Porsche 914 when it was abandoned in 1975 like the star-crossed child it was.

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914 debuted with a low price point to attract buyers.
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Hopes were high when the Porsche 914 was unveiled at the Frankfurt Automobile Show in September 1969. It was very much a back-to-basics car -- a return to Porsche’s roots, much as the 356 Speedster had been some 15 years before. Of course, the 914 was quite different because of the way it came about and particularly because of its mid-engine configuration (though Porsche was hardly a stranger to “middies” by then). Yet like the Speedster, the 914 was a more affordable Volkswagen-based sports car, conceived to bring the pride and pleasures of Porsche ownership to a much wider audience in the face of steadily escalating prices for the 911 and 912.

The
Porsche 912 was the car the Porsche 914 replaced, and with good reason. As the late Dean Batchelor explained: “The least expensive 912 cost more than $5,000 by 1969 and could top $6,000 if all the available options were ordered. This seems like a tremendous bargain today...but there were problems related to the reduced horsepower in a car that looked faster than it was and had a reputation for performance that many 912 drivers seemed to feel obligated to maintain...[They] had to push [their cars] harder yet couldn’t begin to achieve the performance of a 911. And, if [they] tried it often enough, the engine suffered abuse that drastically shortened its life."

“Also, too many mechanics, and some owners, thought the 912 engine was ‘just another Volkswagen’ and this muddled thinking could prove fatal...It was a Porsche design through and through, and needed good care and maintenance by a qualified Porsche mechanic or a knowledgeable owner.”

Aware of this situation, Porsche had begun planning in 1966 for a new four-cylinder model to sell for less than the 912. The need to keep price to a reasonable level, coupled with production constraints at Zuffenhausen (owing to strong 911 sales), made it inevitable “that Porsche should seek a partner in the building of such a car,” as Karl Ludvigsen recorded. A mid-engine design was almost as inevitable because it would “put Porsche in the position of being able to draw direct marketing parallels between the successes of its mid-engined racing cars...and the attributes of [its] production cars.”

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914's cockpit was roomy and elegant.

Perhaps no less important, mid-engine design was beginning to look like the wave of the future for production sports cars. All the buff magazines said so, and Lotus unveiled a roadgoing middie in 1966, the Renault-powered Europa. But though others would follow -- Fiat’s X1/9 in the Seventies, Toyota’s MR2 and Pontiac’s Fiero in the Eighties, plus assorted Italian exotics -- the mid-engine layout is still far from universal.

The reasons are well known. Though perfect for the track, the mid-engine layout is less desirable in a road car. Putting the drivetrain right behind the occupants puts noise, vibration, and heat that much closer, requiring more heroic insulation than in a front- or rear-engine design. Few production middies have succeeded in overcoming these problems, not to mention limited over-the-shoulder vision, difficult service access, and challenging shift quality, all of which tend to be compromised too. Further, a midships package is more difficult and expensive to engineer and build than a conventional one. While it eliminates the need for a driveshaft, it mandates a costly independent rear suspension and convoluted shift linkage.

But none of this seemed very important in the mid-Sixties. Midships cars were dominating the tracks, and the more adventuresome automakers expected their competition auras to work sales wonders for showroom models. Porsche was no exception, but the Porsche 914 wasn’t destined to bring buyers beating down the doors.

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914's middle-engine configuration allowed for dual trunks.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

Porsche 914 Development

In Ferry Porsche’s words, the Porsche 914 sprang “from the realization that we needed to broaden our [model] program at a less costly level [and] that we couldn’t do it alone.” Accordingly, the chief of Zuffenhausen contacted the chief of Wolfsburg, Heinz Nordhoff, who had brought VW to the peak of success by decisively making it America’s top-selling import car.

Together, they hit on an early example of what we’d now call a “joint venture.” And in this case, it was a natural. VW and Porsche had worked together for years. Both firms were German, with all the clarity of understanding that that implied. VW’s expertise in volume production was as obvious as Porsche’s talent in engineering sports cars. And as luck would have it, Nordhoff wanted a sportier model to replace the slow-selling Type 3 Karmann-Ghia, not the winsome Beetle-based original but a later, square-rigged coupe never sold in the United States (though closely related to the late-Sixties Fastback and Squareback “sedans”). A mid-engine two-seater designed around VW components by the folks at Porsche might just fill both companies’ needs.

Porsche 914
Volkswagen's expertise in volume production and Porsche's sporty
engineering touch helped bring to life the Porsche 914.

In due course, Nordhoff and Ferry hatched an intriguing plan. Porsche would design a car to accept the powertrain from VW’s forthcoming upscale rear-engine sedan, the 411, in which form it would be sold by Volkswagen as a “VW-Porsche”; in return, Zuffenhausen could buy bodies for installing its own engines and sale through its own dealers. An incidental benefit was to give the Wilhelm Karmann works something to build in lieu of the Type 3 Ghia, thus avoiding employee layoffs.

Porsche was more than willing. Its dealers were clamoring for a less costly offering now that Porsche 911 and Porsche 912 prices were way above 356 levels. Even better, Porsche had recent mid-engine experience in a near-roadgoing car, the sports-racing Type 904 GTS.

Styling was deemed critical. Nordhoff didn’t want the new sportster to look like a VW, and Porsche didn’t want it to resemble a Porsche 911/912.

Again, luck was with them. Gugelot Design GmbH in Neu-Elm, located about 50 miles from Stuttgart, had been working on a front-engine prototype to demonstrate a new body material: a foam core within layers of bonded fiberglass. This “sandwich” construction interested Porsche, VW, and Karmann, as well as BMW and Daimler-Benz, despite tests suggesting it was unsuitable for mass production. But the prototype’s distinctive styling was just what Nordhoff and Ferry Porsche were seeking. A team directed by Ferry’s son Butzi, who’d created the template for the 911, suitably revised it for a mid-mounted drivetrain and the desired image. The 914 was born.


Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

Porsche 914 Design

The result of Porsche and VW’s collaboration was unorthodox, though that was, perhaps, inevitable given the midships layout. To lend Teutonic rigidity to the open, all-steel monocoque, a Targa-type rollbar (which some journalists dubbed the “basket handle”) was made part of the design; between this and the windshield header sat a removable fiberglass panel. The body was devoid of ornamentation, but the bumpers, designed to meet pending U.S. impact standards, were less than beautiful. They were normally finished in body color but looked better in extra-cost chrome.

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914 featured pop-up headlamps to meet height regulations.

Because the nose was so low, pop-up headlamps were used to meet minimum-height regulations. The headlight design was a typical piece of Porschearbeit, with every contingency anticipated. For example, each unit had an electric motor and provision for manual operation in case of power loss. Both methods were designed so that either could easily break the thickest coat of ice the engineers could conjure in cold-weather tests. To prevent catching unwary fingers as the lamps closed, Porsche provided a safety panel that would give way before one’s digits did.

Reflecting economic constraints, the cockpit had all the essentials but little warmth. Instruments recalled those of the rear-engine Porsche 901 Series, with an upright binnacle presenting a large central tachometer flanked by a speedometer on the right and a fuel gauge and warning lights in a matching circle to the left. Heat/vent controls came from the Porsche 901; door and dash hardware were cribbed from VW.

The cockpit was roomy enough for the largest occupants, although the bucket seats were criticized for being too flat. Road & Track noted the hunkered-down seating position (the Porsche 914 stood four inches lower overall than a Porsche 911) but said “vision to the rear is the best of any mid-engine car (except roadsters) we’ve driven -- the blind spot made by the basket handle is so far forward that it can’t obstruct anything that needs seeing.”

One of the more unusual touches was a pull-up handbrake mounted outboard of the driver’s seat. Ordinarily, this would have made entry/exit difficult, but Porsche thoughtfully gave it a double-jointed handle that could be folded down, out of the way, once the ratchet engaged. It was a predictive feature: Later Corvettes and Porsche’s own 928 would have one too.

Car and Driver observed that “since the [914’s[ structure is concentrated in the flat, platform floor . . . the door sills are low and the tunnel is no higher than what is required to house the shift linkage and a few electrical wires [so] almost the entire width of the car becomes available for seating. The designers like to think that, if you drop a cushion between the seats, there is a place for a third person and they’ve included an extra set of seat belts for just that eventuality.”

However, only the driver’s seat had fore/aft adjustment (and generous at that), another cost-cutting measure. The passenger made do with a movable footrest anchored to the right kick panel by a plastic strap. C/D derisively described this as “a chunk of what feels like wood, shaped like a concrete brick, covered with mouse-fuzz grey carpet. . . . If you’re tall enough so that your feet will reach the front bulkhead, the strap can be unhooked and the block stored in one of the trunks. Or heaved over the side.”

Was that “trunks,” plural? Yes, like some other mid-engine designs, the Porsche 914 had two. Up front was a deep main hold with a horizontally stored spare tire; behind the engine was a wide but shallow compartment with its own forward-hinged lid and clips for carrying the roof panel. The engine was reached, if none too easily, through a narrow lift-up hatch just behind the rear window.

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914's dual trunks offered ample space -- with a deep main hold in
front and a wide, shallow compartment in the rear.

Production economics naturally dictated shared chassis components, so front suspension -- Mac-Pherson struts, lower A-arms and longitudinal torsion bars -- was lifted almost intact from the rear-engine line. Out back were 901-type geometry but new pieces: semi-trailing arms and coil springs, the latter a first for Porsche. So little body roll occurred that anti-roll bars were deemed unnecessary at first. But springing was very stiff, so ride quality was quite hard. As a result, early Porsche 914s developed squeaks and rattles literally unheard of in a 911 or 356. The lift-off roof was mostly to blame. It also generated a lot of wind noise. Steering was rack-and-pinion, brakes solid-rotor discs all-round. VW also provided the wheels, skinny four-lug 4.5 × 15 rims from the 411. Boge telescopic shocks were standard, but gas-pressurized Bilsteins were optional.

The Porsche 914 engine was a 1679-cubic-centirneter (102.4-cubic-inch) fuel-injected overhead-valve flat four, unchanged from its 411 application, though it soon would be. The injection system, devised by Bosch under Bendix patents, allowed clearing U.S. emission limits without an air pump. Mild 8.2:1 compression yielded modest initial outputs of 85 SAE horsepower at 4,900 rpm and 103 pounds/feet of torque peaking at 2,800 rpm. The standard and only transaxle was the 901’s five-speed manual, complete with its awkward racing-style shift gate. Sportomatic was advertised as an option but apparently was never fitted.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

Porsche 914 Road Test

On the road, the Porsche 914 was initially both more and less than enthusiasts expected. In acceleration it was comparable to the antediluvian MGB, according to R&T, able to do 0-60 mph in about 14 seconds and the standing quarter-mile in a tick over 19 seconds at 70 mph. Car and Driver got somewhat better numbers: 11.3 seconds and 18.1 seconds at 75 mph. Top speed was quite good at 105-110 mph, though at nearly 2,100 pounds, the 914 wasn’t exactly light for its 96.4-inch wheelbase and an overall length two inches shorter than a VW Beetle’s. Weight distribution front/rear was a reasonably good 46/54 percent.

Porsche 914
Just a few months after European sales began in February of 1970, the Porsche
914 wore only the Porsche name -- although critics questioned whether the
sports car's workmanship and design were worthy of such a badge.

Through the twisty bits, R&T reported that for a middie, the Porsche 914 didn’t have “great absolute cornering power -- at least not yet,” this despite inch-wider wheels fitted by the West Coast distributor. By contrast, transient behavior was judged “excellent. Initial response to steering input is utterly without delay. . . . And what happens when the driver lifts his foot off the throttle in a hard corner -- this is the trickiest thing about rear-heavy cars -- is simply a mild tuck-in of the front or, at the extreme, a smooth breakaway of the rear.”

C/D had a slightly different view: “It under-steers . . . a lot. While you are making the transition from straight to curve, there is no real problem unless you have to slow down abruptly. . . . Here the 914 has the same trailing-throttle oversteer characteristics [of] the 911E. . . . Lift your foot off the gas as you enter a hard bend and the tail tries to come around. An expert driver can use this to set up for a corner, but a novice will probably never try it twice.”

Bearing VW-Porsche badges (on steering wheel and tail), the Porsche 914 went on sale in Europe in February 1970. But when it reached U.S. dealers a month later, it wore only the Porsche name (in block letters on the engine cover), plus a Zuffenhausen crest on its steering wheel (but never on nose or road wheels). This badging was deliberate -- and about all that remained of the verbal agreement between Nordhoff and Ferry Porsche.

What had happened was this: Nordhoff had passed away in April 1968, and his successor, Kurt Lotz, had changed some terms of the deal. The results were three. First, a new company called VG (Vertriebsgesellchaft “Motors Inc.”), owned 50/50 by the partners, was formed to handle European sales and marketing for VW, Porsche, and Audi (the last by now part of VW), as well as the new Volks-Porsche. For the United States, Porsche and Audi would be combined as a division of Volkswagen of America and the new middie sold as a Porsche through the separate “Porsche + Audi” dealer network.

Second, Karmann (also a VW subsidiary by this time) was to build four-cylinder 914s on a “turnkey” basis for VG in Europe and Porsche/Audi in America. And third, Porsche could still buy 914 bodies but at a much higher price than originally agreed.

Initial U.S. advertising for the Porsche 914 emphasized the advantages of its mid-engine design -- lower center of gravity, better handling and braking, increased tire life -- as proven in competition Porsches. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned from racing,” said one ad, “it’s where to put the engine. . . . So if you’re thinking about a true two-seat sports car, think about this: When you don’t get a back seat, you should at least get an engine in its place.”

Porsche 914
The Porsche 914 was criticized for its steep price, and the sports car was
dismissed by Car and Driver as "an altogether underwhelming car."

Yet neither press nor public were much impressed. A big reason was price. Though announced in Germany for the equivalent of $3,015, the Porsche 914 came to the States just five bucks short of $3,500. At that, it competed not against the MGB (to which it was clearly superior) but the Triumph TR6 (cruder but quite a bit faster), the Fiat 124 Spider (a prettier, full convertible) and -- most worrisome for Porsche -- the new Datsun 240Z from Japan, a conventional but modern closed GT bargain-priced at $175 less.

Against these rivals, the Porsche 914 seemed a so-so buy. Road & Track tested them all in June 1970 -- except the 240Z, then in a class of one and really better than the rest -- and the results were telling. Though the Porsche 914 was slowest off the line, it was marginally fastest all-out. It also equaled the Italian car and handily beat the two Brits in braking, and outdid all three in fuel economy. But its blocky styling was the most controversial of the group, and neither workmanship nor materials seemed worthy of the Porsche name -- or the price. On considering the latter, Car and Driver dismissed the Porsche 914 as “an altogether underwhelming car. It offers less performance and less comfort than its competitors and has tricky handling in the bargain. It does have a midship engine (be the first on your block!) and it would allow you to tell everybody that you drive a Porsche [but] you’ll have to make up your mind if it’s worth it.”

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

1970 Porsche 914/6

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.

Porsche 914
The original Porsche 914 was given a six-cylinder upgrade to become the 914/6.

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.

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.

Porsche 914
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].”

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

1974 and 1975 Porsche 914

For 1974, American Porsche 914s received bulky front-bumper guards to meet the year’s new five-mph impact rule. Standard power for all models was now the bigger-bore (93 mm) 1.8-liter engine from the 411’s upgraded 412 replacement. With modified rockers, combustion chambers and ports, plus larger valves, the 1.8 almost held the line against the drain of desmogging, delivering 72 horsepower (SAE net) at 4,800 rpm, four horsepower less than that generated by the 1.7.

Porsche 914
Though the Porsche 914 was built with the "people's Porsche" in mind, critics
and buyers could not get around its half-breed image.

The European version (with twin carburetors instead of fuel injection) was down a like number of DIN horses European (76 versus 80). A jazzy U.S. version, prosaically called Limited Edition, was issued with front spoiler, side stripes, alloy wheels, a choice of black or white paint, and a special interior. It was supposed to perk up languishing sales, but nothing seemed able to turn that trick.

After grafting bigger bumpers onto American-market ’75s, Porsche gave up on the 914. Production stopped at 118,947, including 914/6s -- by no means a paltry total, but not what the partners had hoped for, either. Though a “people’s Porsche” was a good idea, the car’s half-breed image and the altered marketing arrangement defeated it. As Karl Ludvigsen wrote, the “VW-Porsche [marque] had neither image nor tradition. At the same time [the 914] was both VW and Porsche and neither VW nor Porsche.”

Dean Batchelor noted that the Porsche 914 was also likely hurt in the United States by persistent hot-weather driveability woes, mainly vapor lock that made for hard -- and sometimes no -- starting and chronic overheating. These bothers were slow to be rectified. Indeed, Batchelor said “many 914 owners feel the demise of the car could partly have been Porsche’s lack of a cure for vapor lock from 1970 to 1975, when the fuel pump was moved [from near the right heat exchanger] to a cooler position up front.”

But mediocre value for money was always the Porsche 914’s biggest problem. Because VW had directed Karmann to charge more per body than originally agreed, Porsche was never able to exploit the intended economies of scale that could have made for a less costly and more salable 914/6, and which would have helped the four-cylinder cars, too.

Porsche 914
The 914 was discontinued mainly because buyers felt they got
poor value for its high cost.

However, this shortcoming was not VW sabotage. Ludvigsen quoted Ferry Porsche as saying, “They calculate costs differently in a big firm. They couldn’t consider the advantages of having a sports car in the line, the way it can attract people into the showroom.” VW looked mainly at tooling amortization, which meant a high per-body price at the 914’s modest volume. Porsche, by contrast, never applied the true cost of an individual model to that model alone. “We put them all together and divide by our total volume,” said Ferry.

There’s no telling what the Porsche 914 might have become had it been better received or treated more seriously by Volkswagen; the potential was certainly there. Porsche demonstrated it by trying a flat-eight -- the wonderful 3.0-liter unit from the Type 908 racer -- in an experimental called 914/8. Packing 310 DIN horses, it could do 0-60 in six seconds and reach 155 mph. Road & Track reported on a second “914/8,” a conversion with 283 Chevy V-8 power conceived by Californian Ron Simpson. This “Porschev” hit 60 mph from rest in 6.3 seconds and the standing quarter-mile in 14 seconds flat at 90.5 mph.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911

Porsche 914 Specials

Several other specials were based on the Porsche 914. Among them: a trio of GTs by Louis Heuliez in France, a study by Albrecht Goertz of BMW 507/Datsun 240Z fame, one by Frua, and the sensational gullwing Tapiro show car from master stylist Giorgio Giugiaro.

Porsche 914
The rare Porsche 914/8 featured a larger engine and minor refinements.

But the development that came closest to production was the factory’s own 916, a swoopy 914 evolution powered by a 2.4-liter 190-horsepower 911 engine. As Porsche’s ultimate mid-engine road car, it would likely have sold at $15,000-$16,000, directly competitive with the Ferrari Dino 246GT. And with a curb weight of almost exactly a ton, its performance would have been more than competitive. Porsche claimed a 0-60 time of “less than seven seconds,” and there was reason to believe that figure was conservative.

In appearance, the Porsche 916 differed considerably from the Porsche 914, sporting flared fenders and body-color bumpers front and rear, plus a fixed roof for extra structural strength required with the muscular engine. Inside were leather trim, 914/6 instruments, even a radio. The suspension employed heavy-duty Bilstein gas/oil shocks, stiffer anti-roll bars, 911S vented brakes, and 185/70R15 Michelin XVR tires on S-type alloy wheels. There was also a five-speed gearbox with the more conventional new gate arrangement Porsche was then giving its rear-engine models.

Sadly, the Porsche 916 was nipped in the bud just after the first press pictures were distributed. Only 20 were built (all prototypes); one escaped to America and Brumos Porsche in Jacksonville, Florida.

The 916’s premature death was attributable to price. The factory had grave doubts about sales at $15,000, especially since the 914 had been roundly criticized as overpriced. In retrospect, Porsche was probably wise to cancel the 916, but it’s a shame that a few more weren’t built.

And what of the 914? Surely it was hurt by being more “Vee-Dub” than Porsche. Had it been Zuffenhausen’s own, with a Porsche engine and looks to match, more people would likely have paid the admission price. One is compelled to recall that Ferry Porsche wisely insisted that the Porsche 911 look something like a 356. Granted, a mid-engine car has different requirements, but at least this one could have had more of a Porsche face. Then, too, four-cylinder U.S. Porsche 914s were supposed to have all the performance and quality implied by the Porsche name, and they didn’t. One can’t help thinking they would have sold better as Volkswagens. Yet VW, then suffering financial hard times, couldn’t justify spending much on development of a niche car with modest sales potential.

Porsche 914
The basic design of the Porsch 914 stayed relatively unchanged throughout its life.

With all this, the Porsche 914’s dumpy styling was simply the final letdown. Car and Driver said the Porsche 914 had “all the fluidity of line of an Erector set”; Sports Car Graphic termed it “a pleasant eyesore.” Road & Track suggested that maybe American eyes just weren’t accustomed to mid-engine sports cars. Yet just a year later, R&T noted the unchanged 1972 styling and called that “a disappointment. . . . We were hoping for at least a mild reworking of the uncharming front end.”

But let’s not forget that for all its faults, the Porsche 914 paved the way for another Porsche/VW venture that would prove far more successful in both commercial and automotive terms. It was, of course, the Porsche 924, which would lead to the even better 944 and 968.

It’s fitting that the Porsche 914 has something of a fan club now. A big reason for that is undoubtedly low asking prices, enabling thousands of folks to fulfill their dream of Porsche ownership without needing an enormous pile of cash. Of course, that may not always be true, and it doesn’t make the cars more virtuous. But it does suggest that Porsche 914s are likely to be pursued and preserved well past the millenium -- no bad fate for any car, even a “not-quite” Porsche.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356

Porsche 911

Porsche 914

Porsche 924, 944, 968

Porsche 928

Porsche 959

Porsche Boxster

Porsche Cayenne

Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see:

  • Porsche new cars
  • Porsche used cars
  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911