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In Defense of the 914


It eschewed the traditional bug-eye headlights and fastback, “sleek-Beetle” design of its predecessors in favor of a decidedly-roadster profile. The pop-up headlights would become the foundation for more refined designs in the 924 and 928. The body lines invoke the British convertibles of the era, and were clearly the proto-1970s evolution of the Karmann Ghia, which almost looked more Porsche than the Porsche itself. (While I beg to differ) Some enthusiast don't see the 914 as the most elegant machine that Stuttgart has ever produced. But it serves an incredibly important function in VW-Porsche history that gives it incredible value and cannot be forgotten.

Starting with the performance. The top-end 914/6’s flat-six put out a measly 109hp with a 0-60mph of 8.7 seconds. Though it beats the 79hp four-cylinder’s performance by more than fives seconds, it was still relatively low for a company that prides itself on its racing pedigree.

Despite all of the criticisms, the 914 was perhaps the most important vehicle that Porsche ever built. An owner with whom I spoke at a recent car meet summed up the cars influence in one short statement:

“It was the Porsche that got me into Porsches, so [the 914] will always be my favorite.”

Porsche had previously attempted a value-priced coupe with the 912, but it was never able to fully overcome the stigma of being a poor man’s 911. Volkswagen’s Karmann Ghia - inspired and engineered with Porsche - was one of the most successful European sports coupes of the 1960s. But for the potential entry-level Porsche buyer, the VW badge simply did not carry the same spirit and je ne as quoi as the real thing.

The 914 changed all of that. It was a unique design in the Porsche lineup that stood apart from the more-expensive models, and it had a serious modern appeal for the Triumph and MG crowds. It was fairly easy to repair and modify, eliminating one of the biggest barriers to entry for potential owners. And there was no mistaking it for a 911. As a gentleman at the most recent Richmond Cars and Coffee put it, “Your never had that awkward moment of disappointment like you did when someone mistook [a 912] for a 911. They never said, ‘Oh,’ and then wrote it off.”

Ultimately, the 914 became Porsche’s best seller during its production run, shipping more than 118,000 cars and outselling the 911 by a huge margin. It set the precedent for the modern Boxster and Cayman models, and it proved that you didn’t always have to pay a higher price to have the most fun.

-Trey Fennell

1971 Porsche 914 Sisal #47 Brown Palomino


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