A double identity
Porsche and Volkswagen joined forces in 1969 to find a replacement for the 356, which had been written off four years earlier. This entry-level model was to serve as a backup to the 911 launched in 1964.
The 914 is a two-seater coupé with a self-supporting steel body and a removable roof made of fibreglass-reinforced plastic. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / Archives et Collections.
The history of the 914 has its origin in the longstanding friendship between Heinrich Nordhoff and Ferry Porsche. The former took over the management of Volkswagen in the aftermath of the war, the company 20 years later had grown into a prosperous and powerful business. Ferry Porsche had been responsible for the car brand that carried his name since 1951, while his sister, Louise Piëch, became responsible for VW and Porsche distribution in Austria. The 914 project was initiated in 1966 when Volkswagen needed a high-end sports car to replace the ageing Karmann Ghia Type 34. At the time, Porsche had an entry-level model, the 912, which shared the same 1,500 engine with the Karmann Ghia coupé, and the aim was to replace both cars with a joint production model in the medium term.
At the 1969 Paris Motor Show, the new Porsche 914 was presented at the stand of Sonauto, the brand's exclusive importer in France since 1951. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / Archives et Collections.
Volkswagen or Porsche?
The 914 was the only car produced under the dual name of Volkswagen and Porsche. For the release of this car, the two industrial companies established a 50/50 joint venture named VW Porsche Vertriebsgesellschaft GmbH (also called VG). It was decided that the car would be distributed in the US market by the Porsche-Audi network using the Porsche brand and in Europe by the Volkswagen network using the Volkswagen-Porsche brand (type 47). An exception was the marketing of the 914 in France, which was to be handled by Sonauto, the exclusive Porsche importer in France. Although the objectives of Porsche and Volkswagen differ significantly in certain respects, those in charge of the design departments of both manufacturers agreed to retain the rear engine architecture. However, there is one important difference: the engine is no longer mounted in the cantilever, but in a central location in front of the rear axle, a technique proven by Porsche in racing. The VW-Porsche 914 was introduced on 11 September 1969 at the Frankfurt Motor Show and production started shortly afterwards at German coachbuilder Karmann in Osnabrück.
The four-cylinder engine located under the small bonnet at the rear of the 914 is particularly difficult to access. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / Archives et Collections.
The design of the 914 was mainly based on a study by the Dutch designer Hans Gugelot, who had previously worked on a similar project for a convertible with a composite body and retractable headlights. A few years later, the Porsche design office in Weissach organised an in-house competition to shape the new model. Five designs were submitted and the one by Heinrich Klie was selected. This talented designer had already designed the famous Fuchs wheels and the characteristic 911 dashboard for Porsche. The final model, produced under the supervision of "Butzi" Porsche, broke all the style rules in force at the time, in particular the front wings without headlights. The latter, of the "pop-up" type, were placed on either side of the flat bonnet, while the indicators and night lights were moved to the front. One of Porsche's main markets at the time was the west coast of the United States, with the result that the new 914 was definitely to be a convertible. Since US legislation had decided to ban convertibles without roll bars, the 914 was given a "Targa" roof with integrated roll bar, just like the 911 convertibles.
The 914's headlights are located at the front of the bonnet and are retractable, powered by electrical motors. © IXO Collections SAS - Tous droits réservés. Crédits photo © Porsche / Archives et Collections.
4 and 6 cylinder engines
The first edition of the 914 was offered with two different types of engines. The entry-level 914/4 featured a Volkswagen-derived 1,679-ccm3 four-cylinder engine (type W80) with Bosch indirect injection, developing 80 hp DIN at 4,900 rpm and maximum torque of 13.6 mkg at 2,700 rpm. The most powerful version was the 914/6, with a flat six-cylinder engine of 1,991 cm3 and 110 hp, with maximum torque of 16 mkg at 4,200 rpm. The latter version was soon upgraded by a 150 hp kit offered by the importer Sonauto for the French market. From 1972, the engine capacity of the 914/4 was increased to 1,795 cc, with 85 hp at 5,000 rpm (max torque: 13.8 mkg at 3,400 rpm), the following year to 1,971 cc, with 100 hp at 4,900 rpm (max torque: 16 mkg at 3,500 rpm). Total production of the 914 from 1969 to 1975 was 118,979 units, including 3,333 units of the 914/6 version. To these figures should be added the two 914/8 prototypes and 11 preproduction 916 models. In the US, the 914 was on the market until 1976, where almost 75% of this model was sold.
Porsche 914/6 (1970) MPG, WLTP, Fuel consumption
• Engine: type 901/36, 6-cylinder opposed flat, longitudinal, rear center
• Displacement: 1,991 cm3
• Bore x stroke: 80 mm x 66 mm
• Power: 110 hp at 5,800 rpm
• Power supply: 2 x Weber 40 IDT triple body carburettors
• Ignition: Bosch electronics
• Distribution: overhead camshaft per bench, 2 valves per cylinder
• Transmission: type 914/01, rear wheels, 5-speed manual + M.A.
• Tyres: 165/70 HR15 (front and rear)
• Brakes: discs (ventilated at the front)
• Length: 398.5 cm
• Width: 165 cm
• Height: 122 cm
• Wheelbase: 245 cm
• Front track: 136.1 cm
• Rear track: 138.2 cm
• Weight (unloaded): 940 kg
• Maximum speed: 196 km/h
A great performance at Le Mans
For the 38th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held on 13 and 14 June 1970, a Porsche 914/6 was entered by Sonauto, Porsche's importer in France, on the initiative of its then managing director Auguste Veuillet. He wanted to demonstrate the versatility of the 914, as was the case with the 356 and, more recently, the 911. The car, which carried number 40, was registered in Group 4 (Grand Tourisme Spéciale) and equipped with a 1,991 cm3 engine that produced 230 hp. It was driven at the Sarthe circuit by two regular drivers, Guy Chasseuil and Claude Ballot-Léna. The team finished 6th overall and won the GT category, having covered 3,834.260 km at an average speed of 159.761 km/h. Moreover, the 914 Sonauto ranked 4th in the performance indicator and 2nd in fuel efficiency. The following year, the two Porsche 914/6s that participated in Le Mans were withdrawn.