The 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will honor the Boxster’s grandfather, the first mid-engine production Porsche, the 914! The 914 is near and dear to me, as it was the first Porsche in my family. My father and I restored an example from 1975. While it may have had the less desirable 1.8 liter fuel-injected motor, it was still incredibly fun and forgiving to drive; I occasionally miss that dogleg shift pattern! For all the lamentations of its looks and ties to Volkswagen, it still turned plenty of heads, and they are a rare sight on the road today.
Some Background On The 914
Speaking of Volkswagen, the 914 took a lot of flak from purists for its lack of power, aesthetics and not originating exclusively from Porsche’s Stuttgart facility. This reminds me of my second favorite Porsche fact that stumps more aggressive purists: The 914’s design is a direct descendant from the Gmünd Porsche, a car famous far and wide to Porsche fans, as it was the very first car to wear the good doctor’s name. Like the Gmünd, the 914 was also mid-engined, and designed to make the most of a flat four motor sourced from Volkswagen. They were just trying to keep things in the family! Oh — My first favorite Porsche fact? The first Porsche to be developed 100% totally under Porsche’s roof was not the 911. It was the 928!.
A Historical Perspective
Also, let’s keep a historical perspective in focus when talking about the 914. The gas crunch had drivers in a panic and Porsche realized they couldn’t make all the money they wanted just from racing 908s and 911s. A joint venture with Volkswagen would shave significant costs off their bottom line and prop open the door to an entry-level sports cars market. The entry level 912 needed to bow out – it was expensive compared to similar cars in its segment and was despised by 911 owners for looking too similar to their models – or rather, it made their 911s look like inferior 912s. Good thing Porsche never made that mistake again!
Ferdinand Piech, a name that should be very familiar to you, was the Chief R&D Engineer in charge of the 914, which debuted in 1968. You may know that Piech is Dr. Porsche’s grandson, but did you also know while working on the 914’s design, he was also responsible for creating the almighty Porsche 917?
The 914’s price point slid well under the 911, and sales reflected that. Younger, newer drivers were able to experience a sports car that, while not as fast as the fabled 911, still remained true to the rich technological heritage Porsche had cultivated. Those seeking more speed and maneuverability within the 914 platform could also purchase a 914/6, which used a detuned 911 motor along with upgraded suspension and brakes that all made the car a true performer.
“It was fashionable with some self-proclaimed Porsche purists to consider the 914 an ‘ugly duckling’,” said Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. “That changed very quickly. Here in north Florida the Porsche 914 found a home and willing customers through the racing exploits of Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood and Brumos Porsche who took the 914/6 GT to victory in the first IMSA GT race in history on the way to winning the first IMSA GT Championship title in 1971.”
The 914/6 was an excellent platform for up-and-coming racers as well as the veterans looking for something unique and competitive. In 1971 half the races hosted by the IMSA GT championship had 914/6 models taking first place. The nimble Porsche proved that balance was a superior attribute over the raw horsepower fielded by such competitors as Camaros, Corvettes, and Mustangs.
“The 914/6 GT was my first real race car,” said Hurley Haywood, five-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. “Peter Gregg and I shared the Championship in 1971 in my first year of professional racing. The 914 was really fun to drive and we would kill the big block Chevys and Fords in IMSA. We still have that car in our collection and use it often to give rides to our Porsche driving school customers.”
The 914 In Le Mans
The Porsche 914 made its Le Mans debut in 1970. The 914/6 GT won the GT category and finished sixth overall – an astounding achievement! . The next car to place in the GT class had more than double the displacement and horsepower of the Porsche. Remember, its detuned 911 motor was a two-liter flat six. The so-called “ugly duckling” in the Porsche family also finished three full laps ahead of the fastest 911, which made 1970’s motorsport season quite a Catch-22 for some purists.
But you didn’t have to own the 914/6 to enjoy Porsche driving dynamics: every model was used extensively (and, with moderate success) in the club racing circuits around America. I believe the 914 is notable for starting a trend within Porsche of improving entry-level platforms to the point of encroaching on the performance capabilities of contemporary 911s – before being promptly retired. In 1972 Porsche designed and built the 916, which was a potent 914 with wide fender flares and a 2.3 liter, 190hp flat six. The costs were deemed far too high to commit to production. A scant eleven models were built before all 914 production ceased in 1976
The title of the rarest and most insane 914 has to go to the 914/8. As the name suggests, engineers of this mind-blowing powerhouse furrowed their brows, tightened their lederhosen, and somehow shoehorned the 350hp three-liter flat-8 behind the driver’s seat (the motor came from a Porsche 908). Piech intended it to be a proof-of-concept vehicle, but a second was also commissioned – both gifts to the Porsche family.
“The 914 is a true Porsche with pure Porsche DNA,” said Warner. “The 914 was raced and rallied successfully all around the world and, like the 911, a cult has grown up around it. It’s time the 914 had its day in the sun.”
About The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance
Now in its second decade, the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is among the top automotive events in the world. Always held the second full weekend in March, “The Amelia” draws over 250 rare vehicles from collections around the world to The Golf Club of Amelia Island and The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island for a celebration of the automobile like no other. Since 1996, the show’s Foundation has donated over $2.5 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc., Spina Bifida of Jacksonville, The Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, Shop with Cops, and other deserving charities. The 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance is scheduled for March 13-15, 2015. For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
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