The cars we loved.
The story of Porsche’s entry-level 914 reads much like a prime time drama in many ways. Porsche had a long-standing agreement with Volkswagen to co-develop cars. As the 60’s was coming to an end, both companies needed new products; Porsche and entry level sports car and Volkswagen a range toping model. Although not a formal agreement, it had been a sort of pact between the two companies since before WWII. The agreement was about to expire with Porsche needing to fulfill one last obligation. Payback would come in the form of Porsche developing a small car with VW. All was going well until VW ‘s chairman died was replaced with a new leader who had very little regard for old gentleman’s agreements. The new guy even balked at the ideal of sharing development costs with Porsche on a sports car, something he felt belong to VW anyway. Meanwhile VW would eventually start development on its own sporty coupe the Sirocco.
The development of the car had been nearly complete, with prototypes created. The broken agreement meant that what was to be a simple inexpensive car suddenly changed in scope. The changes at VW put tooling and other development cost in jeopardy. Development continued anyway with Porsche holding the bag (mostly). After all the drama, the resulting car was sold in two versions, one for VW called the 914/4 and Porsche’s version called the 914/6. The differences came down to four or six cylinder engines. As a VW, the 914 was fun to drive sporty transportation. As a Porsche, it had more aggressive pretensions and filled the entry-level gap left by the 912 absence. It was also Porsche’s first mid-engine car. In Europe the 914/4 was called VW-Porsche 914/4. Both cars shared the same basic targa top mid-engine design, with only slight variations in wheels, steering wheel and interior trim. The interior on both cars was very 911-like with a business like German approach to ergonomics.
Porsche sold both versions, with the VW flat four version being the most popular due to its lower price. The 6 cylinder car was nearly as much as the departing 912E. The two cars were completely different driving propositions. The 914/6 shared 912’s running gear in the form of a similar suspension and brake setup. The 914/4 used a VW 1.7 l flat four that made 80 hp. Porsche’s versions used the 110 hp 2.0 flat 6. The 4 cylinder car outsold the 6 considerably (for Porsche also).
Initial sales in America were of both the 6 and 4 cylinder cars, imported by VW, but sold as a Porsche (per Porsche’s insistence). The American press gave the new entry-level Porsches favorable reviews. In 1970 Motor trend magazine made it the Import Car of the Year 1970, due to its innovative design and dynamic handling due in part to its mid-engine design. However, the public was not too excited by a small 76 to 80 hp Porsche that cost as much as a V8 powered Camaro (but it was a Porsche!). The V6 cars were dropped in 1972 and most 914s came with a new and improved 2.0 l fuel injected version of VW’s type 4 engine. I say most because Porsche sold both the old and new 4 cylinder at the same time confusing some customers. Horsepower was up to 95 making the mid-engine 914 more fun to drive. With few major changes, 914s have manage to keep the same basic look with only small detail alterations (usually bumper trim items).
Sales were beginning to take a dive. Porsche’s answer was a few limited editions that had started after 1974. There were mostly appearance packages with special colors and the inverted graphics that would later be associated with Carrera models of the 911. History repeated again for Porsche as VW asked it to produce and later rejected what came to be known as the 924, the 914s replacement.
Today 914 are rare, but parts can be found easily. The most sought after models are the 6 cylinder cars that were available from 19769 to 72. For those who could not find a factory original 6 cylinder have taken to dropping in engines from various other makes into the 914 rather large engine bay. Other modifications include kits to make 914s look like the prototype 916 and a full assortment of wings and spoilers to resemble racing cars. Today Porsche’s line is anchored at the bottom by another mid-engine car, the Boxter.