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Porsche 914 History

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

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