When Volkswagen and Porsche launched their joint-venture 914 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1969, the idea of a small mid-engined sports car was relatively new, but the Stuttgart firm already had a rich history with this configuration.
The Auto Union racers were designed by Ferdinand Porsche and dominated European racing in the mid-’30s.
In fact, Porsche had exploited the middie layout with a list of track stars that included the 550 Spyder, the 904, the 906, the 907 and the 908.
Contemporary road testers were already noting the merits of the approach, with journalist Denis Jenkinson reporting: ‘I cannot remember which was the first mid-engined coupé I saw, but the 904 was the first I drove and about which I became convinced this was the best layout for the sports car.’
In a time when open-tops prone to scuttle-shake prevailed, the 914 was noted for its rigidity. That came thanks to deep box-section sills, a stress-bearing tunnel that added torsional strength to the body and a roll-over bar that helped structural integrity. The result was a sports car that tackled crash tests of the time with ease.
More important was the handling, the fettling of which was completed at Porsche’s Weissach research and development centre – where the car was fine-tuned to respond predictably in both wet and dry conditions. In C&SC May ’02, Richard Heseltine noted its delightfully fluid steering, its extreme composure and its crisp turn-in.
Sadly, Heseltine wasn’t the only person to notice the little Porsche’s undeniable charms and a car that could have been picked up for around £4k then has steadily risen in value.
So much so that this LHD example will set you back nearly £10k. It’s in stunning condition, though, having spent much of its life in the US. The car has since been shipped to The Netherlands, is free from rust, includes Fuchs-look alloy wheels and has the desirable 2-litre engine.
There can be issues with the pint-sized Porsche, though, and parts are expensive. The gearchange (the Achilles heel of the 914) is not super-precise, but should be neither wobbly nor graunchy. Parts for the original fuel-injection system are hard to find so many have been converted to twin carbs, but poor set-up can cause erratic running plus huge thirst. Rust can break out anywhere, but pay particular attention to the battery tray and the chassis leg below, if that’s affected – walk away.
For a shade under £20k, this car has to represent a worry-free ownership proposition, although it does come with the least desirable – and rather slow – 1.7-litre engine. Positives are a fittingly lurid-green finish and an incredibly low mileage.
But for enthusiasts wanting more poke there can be only one choice – the rare 914/6GT. This car may have a ‘price on enquiry’ tag, yet it represents the best of the breed, with a shell that was completely stripped, plus a refurbished gearbox and engine. Unlike the standard 914, the GT was built on the same production line as the 911 and packs a detuned version of its 2-litre flat-six.
So, the bottom-end Porsche that was also a VW has become one of the most sought-after models of its era. It may not be the cheapest, but with our printable guide under your arm, you could end up with one of the best cars of its time and one that sent Porsche in the direction of the world-beating Boxster.