Monday, January 26, 2009

1969-'76 PORSCHE 914 article from Hemmings Motor News.

This article originally appeared in the NOVEMBER 1, 2007 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

Few automobile enthusiasts are as passionate about their favorite brand as are Porsche lovers. Knowing this, you'd think that anything to come out of Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen would be absolutely beloved; despite bringing hard-won racing technology to the street and adding greatly to the company's financial bottom line, this automaker's first mass-produced mid-engine sports car never garnered popular acclaim, instead fostering a small and rabidly enthusiastic fan base. Misunderstood both then and now, that car is the Porsche 914.

With 911 prices on the rise through the 1960s, Porsche management wanted to recreate the magic of the inexpensive and simple open-air 356 Speedster of the 1950s in an up-to-date package. At the end of the decade, Porsches were distributed alongside the cars of Volkswagen's newly reintroduced Audi division in the United States. Longstanding engineering and marketing ties between VW and Porsche offered the small sports car manufacturer the opportunity to source low-cost, volume-built parts to develop an inexpensive new two-seat, four- or six-cylinder-powered model, supplanting the expensive four-cylinder 911 variant, the 912, that wouldn't have been possible working alone. Volkswagen, aware that their Karosserie Karmann-built Karmann Ghia was aging, also wanted a sporting model, so the companies deemed collaborating useful.

While the initial plan called for marketing versions powered by the VW 411-sourced, air-cooled, flat four-cylinder as Volkswagens and those powered by the 911's flat-six as Porsches, four-cylinder variants in all markets aside from America would be badged VW-Porsche 914s; in the U.S., all 914s were badged Porsches, regardless of powerplant. The central positioning of those boxer engines, with their five-speed gearboxes mounted to the back, allowed Porsche engineers to create two luggage compartments, with the rear space also designed to hold the Targa-style removable fiberglass roof panel. An impressive 16 cubic feet of luggage space was available, and in early cars, the passenger's seat was fixed in place, with a movable footrest adding comfort.

The 914's aerodynamically efficient body design, with its hidden headlamps and careful detailing, allowed the 1,980-2,070-pound cars to reach top speeds ranging from 110 to 123 mph, depending on engine. Handling was the 914's strong suit, with the mid-engine layout's inherent balance and, with a full tank of gas up front, perfect 50/50 weight distribution. Roadholding was ensured by the car's independent front and rear suspensions, which incorporated MacPherson struts, lower wishbones and longitudinal torsion bars in front and coil springs and semi-trailing arms in back. Four-wheel disc brakes were standard, and steering and hub components came from either VW or Porsche, depending on engine choice.

Porsche and Volkswagen were both at capacity production, so Karmann built and trimmed all four-cylinder 914s in its Osnabrück plant, with finishing of 914-6s at Porsche's Zuffenhausen factory. In the first two years of production, the $3,595 four-cylinder 914s used electronically fuel-injected 80hp, 1.7-liter engines, while the $5,999 six-cylinder 914s used the 911T's twin Weber-carbureted, 110hp 2.0-liter engines. The 914-6 was discontinued after 1972, but the base four-cylinder 914 was joined by an optional 95hp, 2.0-liter engine in 1973, being supplanted by the VW 412's 76hp, 1.8-liter in 1974. All told, almost 120,000 914 variants were built before the 924 was introduced for 1977.

This article originally appeared in the NOVEMBER 1, 2007 issue of Hemmings Motor News.



The 914 was developed by Porsche for Volkswagen under a contract obligation and hence was already a bastard child before it was born. If you are so compelled to own one of these sub-par machines please make sure it's the 914/6 as it was the only 914 model equipped with true Porsche parts in the form of the suspension, brakes, transmission (901) and motor (all from the 1969 911T). All 4 cylinder 914's ran VW parts for all major components including the 4 just mentioned.


While 914/6s are doubtlessly the superior vehicle, referring to 914/4s as "sub-par" is a little harsh. They are good, fun-to-drive, sporty VWs--certainly better in every respect than any Karmann Ghia--that had the misfortune to be saddled with the impossible task of living up to the Porsche marque, a name they neither deserved nor asked for. But you shouldn't call an apple "sub-par" just because it's not an orange.

Adrian S

Since Porsche agreed to this union, it is a Porsche.
A bastard child, perhaps true, but the fact is a bastard child of royal lineage, although in their snobbery some refuse to recognize the truth. LOL

The 924 may have had the seal of approval with its Porsche lineage but it was an embarrassment to the spirit of Porsche.

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