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