|Vehicle:||1970 Porsche 914/6|
|Number Produced:||3,332, 914/6; 115,644, 914/4; 2, 914/8|
|Original List Price:||$5,999 East Coast, $6,099 West Coast|
|SCM Valuation:||$68,000 (for the 914/6)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$1,000 with valve adjustment|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped into the top of the right front fender under the hood, metal plate on right-side headlight housing, label at base of driver’s side windshield, label on driver’s side B-pillar door jamb|
|Engine Number Location:||Vertical fan support, driver’s side, facing left|
|Club Info:||Porsche Club of America|
|Alternatives:||1970–73 Datsun 240Z, 1969–71 Porsche 911T, 1968–71 BMW 2002|
This car, Lot 105, sold for $97,825 including buyer’s premium, at Artcurial’s Le Mans Classic auction in Le Mans, FRA, on July 7, 2018.
Porsche 914s have always been enigmatic — loved by their owners and fans and ignored by the majority. Many disparage their VW origins.
There was, however, an important split in the actual cars. The 914/4 was a Porsche-engineered Volkswagen and widely recognized as a VW despite being badged as a Porsche in the United States and sold by Porsche dealers. In the rest of the world, the 914/4 was badged as a “Volkswagen-Porsche” and sold by VW dealers. Their serial number tags said “Volkswagenwerk” at the top.
The 914/6, on the other hand, was a legitimate Porsche. Bare tubs were delivered to Porsche in Zuffenhausen, where the cars were assembled. Their serial-number tags said “Porsche AG” at the top. Of interest, per a VW stricture, there was never a Porsche badge on the hood of any 914 — despite all that you see now. The perception problem was that despite being 67% more expensive, the Porsche 914/6 looked almost identical to its 914/4 little brother. Owners of 914/6s got really tired of explaining the differences.
Porsche and VW needed a new car
The 914 was born of joint needs. Porsche and Volkswagen needed a new car. Porsche needed an entry-level vehicle to replace the 4-cylinder 912, and VW wanted an upgraded, sporty car to replace the Karmann Ghia Type 34.
Since 1948, when VW’s managing director, Heinz Nordhoff, agreed to pay a royalty for Porsche’s design of the “Beetle,” the two firms had a good working relationship. That agreement was expanded in 1953 to include design consulting. By 1969, cooperation even included joint marketing and distribution systems in Europe and the U.S. (which Porsche bought out in 1974).
Nordhoff and Ferry Porsche had especially good rapport and easily agreed on a joint venture for the 914.
Porsche would design it, VW would build it in the Karmann plant, and each company would sell their own version. Nordhoff wanted the “designed by Porsche” cachet on VW’s sporty car. That Porsche would have its own version of the 914 was agreed to with a handshake, and it was never integrated into the formal design agreement. That would become a problem later.
Porsche’s first mid-engine production street car
The 914’s exterior design was controversial — and very low and very boxy. The 914 was perhaps loosely based on a broadly shopped study by the independent Gugelot Design firm. In any case, Porsche had to hone a shape that had no visual references to earlier Porsches — and that would be acceptable to VW and Porsche customers.
The mid-engine placement was a first for a pure-street Porsche, and it was picked up decades later for the Boxster and Cayman.
Of course, Porsche designed midships engine placements in the 1930s for the Auto Union Silver Arrows Grand Prix cars and then the post-war Cisitalia Grand Prix race car. Virtually all of Porsche’s own prototype aluminum and fiberglass race cars were mid-engine, starting with the Type 550 in 1953, subsequent 550A and 718 Spyder, Carrera Abarth, 904, 906, 910, 907, 908, 917, 956, 962, GT1, RS Spyder, and 919.
Today even the “production-based” racing 911 RSR is mid-engine. And, of course, the 1948 Porsche 356 prototype was mid-engine. By the 1960s, the advantages of mid-engine placement were totally accepted by everyone — engineers, press and public.
That the 1949–65 Type 356 production car was rear-engine had a lot to do with costs and the perceived need for vestigial rear seats — promulgated by the by-then-already-very-successful Volkswagen Beetle. Porsche has continued rear engines on its street 911s to this day, which is a tip of the hat to history, engineering skills that overcame inherent design flaws, and buyer loyalty.
The basics of the 914 were good
The 914 had a 911 front suspension and steering rack, with a coil-over rear suspension dictated by chassis confines that eliminated torsion bars and big trailing arms. Its wheelbase was lengthened seven inches to accommodate the engine midships.
The 914 had a removable Targa top that stored in the rear, a roll bar built into the B-pillar roof hoop, and two stowage compartments — in the front ahead of the upright gas tank, and in the rear behind the engine. The combination held 16 cubic feet of gear as long as you gave up hard-shell suitcases. The driver’s seat had a fixed rake with four tilt positions and seven inches of fore-aft movement, while the passenger’s seat was bolted in place with a footrest block provided for short people.
The 914/6 got the power
The 914/4 got a slightly modified fuel-injected engine from the VW 411, a 1,679-cc unit that developed 80 horsepower DIN, 85 SAE. Porsche’s 914/6 adopted the 1969 Weber-carbureted 911T engine, 1,991-cc and 110-horsepower DIN, 125 SAE. A modified, flipped-around Porsche Type 901 gearbox was used.
The 914/6’s performance was good, with 46:54 front/rear weight distribution, a drag coefficient lower than a 911 (it was four inches lower, just boxy) and better skid-pad performance. The car had 1970 2.2-liter 911T-like acceleration and top speed. U.S. pricing at introduction in early 1970 was $3,595/$3,695 (East Coast/West Coast) for the 914/4 and $5,999/$6,099 for the 914/6.
VW’s pricing of the tub killed the 914/6
When Heinz Nordhoff died in 1968, the VW-Porsche 914 agreement was thrown into flux.
VW’s new chairman tried to deny Porsche their version of the car.
After negotiations, the outcome was that VW charged Porsche an unrealistically high price for the 914 tub from Karmann — even more than Porsche paid Karmann for 911 bodies. As a result, the 914/6 was priced within $500 of the 911T, and sales of the 914/6 suffered.
In March 1971, Porsche added the M471 GT package (see “914 Racing” sidebar). By early 1972, Porsche discontinued the 914/6 after two years and just 3,332 units built.
The 914/4 continued on
Thereafter, the 914/4 lived on as Porsche’s entry-level car in the U.S. and Canada at a price that attracted new buyers to the marque.
The 914/4 soldiered on through 1976. By then, 115,644 914s of all variants had been sold, 60% of them in the U.S., a significant financial help to Porsche and its dealers.
The auction car was non-matching and modified
Now, back to our subject car, a 1970 914/6, in desirable (if very common on a 914) Signal Orange. Originally a U.S. car, it had been modified with later, incorrect bumpers; a cut-down rear bumper and valence; the battery moved to the front trunk; and GT flares to allow fitting of wider wheels and tires — very common in Southern California in the 1970s.
The auction car also carried a later 2.2-liter 911T engine. The car was pretty freshly restored and reportedly presented well.
It sold for almost $98,000, which is a high price by U.S. standards for a modified, non-matching-numbers, restored car. However, 914/6s are rare in Europe, as the vast majority of them were sold new in the U.S. Verified stateside sales of very original lower-mileage 914/6s have gone to $125,000.
A stellar, all-original 1972 914/6 painted Willow Green went for just over $200,000 in Germany. Our 914 gurus advise us that the auction car was worth no more than $60,000 in the U.S., assuming almost all the details on the car were correct. With its modifications and mismatched engine, this car was well sold, even for Europe. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Artcurial.)