(note: this profile
appeared in the Oct. 2005 issue. Photos courtesy Porsche NA)
As the sixties progressed, a
strengthening Mark and escalating prices presented a Porsche with a dilemma: Did
it want to abandon the "affordable" sports car market due to cost pressures,
or should it develop a new model to pick up the enthusiast the now expensive
911/912 left behind?
The problem was, of course, that affordable translated into large production
runs in order to achieve economies of scale. Porsche had neither the
capacity nor the desire to produce that many cars. So, to make a long story
short, they teamed up with Volkswagen, who was looking for a replacement for
its aging Kharmann-Ghia. Together they developed the 914, and each got their wish. Sort
of. In Europe this creation was sold as a "VW-Porsche". In North America,
it replaced the 912 and was marketed as a Porsche, presumably because they
thought we were too dumb to know the difference.
The car itself was novel and technically impressive for its modest price.
Mid-engine, fully independent suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes were, for
the time, exotic car features. A lift-off targa roof gave passengers
a convertible feel while maintaining chassis rigidity.
Almost immediately, though, troubles and criticism mounted. The motor, a
1.7L flat four lifted out of VWs "premium" 412 sedan, offered anemic
performance. It was uncomfortable. The gearshift was vague. Handling was not
up to expectations. And finally, no one seemed to like the way it looked.
Heck, even Road & Track, a Porsche apologist if there ever was one, was
lukewarm at best over the thing.
Overall, it sold reasonably well but it never won the hearts of Porsche
enthusiasts, or even enthusiasts in general for that matter. Improvements
were made over the years but not at the pace you would expect from Porsche,
probably because in reality they were the junior partner. VW was more
concerned with improving profits, not the car.
Porsche was acutely aware of all of this and tried to address these
shortcomings from the beginning. The most obvious fix was shoehorning in the
2.0L six from the 1969 911T. It transformed the car, but also made
it almost as expensive as the cheapest 911, and more than a Jag E-type.
Because of this, demand and production were quite low for the three years it was
available. It is a prize today -- expect to pay 15k+ for a good one, much
more for a pristine example. Many lesser 914s have been gutted and
re-created as 914/6 models, so make sure you know what you're doing when
In `73 a new performance version was introduced to replace the 914/6 -- the
914 2.0. Again, the 4-cylinder engine was from VW but this time it made
enough power to bring performance to an acceptable level. Handling benefited
from softer springs and anti-roll bars front and rear.
A 1.8 liter four replaced the 1.7 as the base motor in 1974, but it offered
no performance gain and has the somewhat more troublesome Bosch L-jetronic
fuel injection system.
Emissions controls, unfavorable exchange rates, and some newly arrived
competition from Japan in the affordable sports car market began to take
their toll. By `76, the 1.8 was gone and horsepower was down to 81 on the
2.0. It would be the 914's last hurrah.
So, what should you look for? First and foremost, get one without rust. That
probably means you'll be looking down south or out west, but a surprising
number of rust belt cars are in good shape, too -- perhaps because many were
used only as summer toys. Pay close attention to the battery area, as
corrosion prompted by leaked battery acid in this area is rather common.
Make especially certain that the suspension to chassis mounting points
around here have not been compromised.
Cosmetically, the unique trim and body pieces are becoming harder to find
and are quite expensive, so if you're looking at a car that is not complete
in this area you may want to double check your budget.
Mechanics are important, too. Economy Porsche or not, it's still a Porsche
and any shop that knows what theyre doing doesn't come cheap. Common
maladies: vapor lock was a problem in hot climates until Porsche moved the
fuel pump from near the heat exchanger to a cooler position up front, carbs
on the 914/6, and of course, the dreaded head studs. Do not buy
anything that needs major body or mechanical work. In very short order, you
can easily sink thousands into one of these -- and you'll never get it back.
It's why you see so many low-priced 914s for sale.
The Market Today
Over the years, the 914 has slowly gained greater acceptance in Porsche
circles. Maybe grudging acceptance is a better term. In any event,
4-cylinder 914s are very affordable. Good 1.7s and 1.8s can be readily found
under $5,000 (really). The `73-'74 2.0s are more, ranging from $5,000-$7,500
for decent examples. The `75-'76 2.0s are slightly less. As we mentioned earlier,
the 914/6 is far costlier than the 4-cylinder cars, but they have a strong
following and always
seem to have buyers.
Year by Year
914/4 and 914/6 debut. Sold in U.S. as a Porsche, in Europe as a VW-Porsche
Production: 1.7L: 13,312 914/6: 2658
The 5.5 inch wide wheels on the 2.0 were avalable from the factory on
4 cylinder cars
Production: 1.7L: 16,231 914/6: 4
Passenger seat now adjustable
Interior ventilation improvements
Washer/wiper controls moved to steering column
Last year for 914/6
Production: 1.7L: 21,580 914/6: 260
New 2.0L 4cyl model arrives. Features standard Appearance Group
(chrome bumpers, center console with gauges, fog lights, alloys), deluxe
interior, anti-roll bars.
Improved shifter linkage on both versions
Big rubber bumper guards in front
The 1.7's oil bath oil bath air cleaner is replaced by a paper unit
Production: 1.7L: 14,786 2.0L: 12,874
A 1.8L engine replaces the 1.7
Big rubber bumper guards in back
Previously standard 2.0 equipment (see 1973) moves to the option sheet
A new model, the "Limited Edition" joins the lineup. It has special
wheels, stripes and interior and comes only in white or black.
Production: 1.8L: 10,786 2.0L: 10,593
Heavy rubber bumpers now on front and rear
Fuel pump move to front
Production: 1.8L: 10,786 2.0L: 10,593
1.8L dropped, last year for 2.0L