Porsche 914 & 914-6
The Early Years
Larry A. Morris
In 1969, with the corporate efforts of Porsche and Volkswagen at their new joint location in Ludwigsburg, Germany under the name of VW-Porsche KG, the 914 and 914-6 was to become a reality. As you might remember, there was considerable corporate and engineering politics involved with this model, even down to what it would be called in the different worldwide markets. In Europe, it would be called the VW-Porsche 914, in America, simply 914 and 914-6. The latest Type 4 Volkswagen 1.7 liter engine was the engine for the 914, thus the "4" prefix in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The 914-6 received the engine from the 1969 911T and it received a 914 VIN prefix.
With this troubled beginning, identification badging on the car itself also became an issue. None of the vehicles produced utilized the Porsche crest on the hood, although many were dealer installed in the various markets. And how would/could they market and differentiate these two dramatically different vehicles that looked so much alike? Externally, only the expert could distinguish the "6" added to the rear 914 logo, the wheels with Porsche hubcaps hiding the five-bolt wheels and the larger chrome tailpipe extension in a slightly different location on the premier model. There simply were no other external visible differences! Of course, the price was a big difference between the MSRPís of each model, $3595.00 vs. $5995.00 in 1970.
To add to the complications, Karmann, the manufacturer in Osnabruck, Germany was the sole body manufacturer, and they were contracted to build the complete four-cylinder version along with the Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia models. The 914-6 body shells were completed there as well and then shipped to Porsche in Stuttgart for all of their mechanical component installations. The 1969 2.0 liter 911T engine (1970 911Tís got the 2.2 liter Zenith carbureted engine) used in the 914-6 got a new oil cooler and sheet metal among the major changes to fit it into the new mid-engine design. The Porsche 901 five-speed transmission was utilized in both variations with an initially terrible design for the four-cylinder shift linkage, a perfect example of the engineering disagreements between VW and Porsche. (That problem was finally corrected in model year 1973). Of course instrumentation was unique to each model, but even here eliminating traditionally accepted gauges cut costs. If you were looking close in the interior, you noticed that only the 914-6 received a carpeted footstool retained by a strap and clip to the passenger floor. Even the very early 914-6 didnít get the fog lights, but later in 1970 the factory made these as an available kit.
In 1969, each US distributor received a prototype four cylinder 914 for review, testing and analysis. I still remember that exciting day when we received our Signal Orange 914. The new Porsche+Audi franchise had its first inexpensive sports car! The only significant difference from the production version I remember was the lack of fender seams as they were leaded in. After a short product review period, this newest Porsche was returned to Germany.
During my trip to Stuttgart and Osnabruck in May 1970 as a Service Manager from one of the 14 Porsche+Audi USA distributors, I was able to go behind the scenes, participate in technical meetings, quality control discussions and view various aspects of these new vehicles. Initial quality with these new vehicles left much to be desired, and several problems resulted as a result of the new federally mandated recalls. Fuel lines, battery covers, air cleaner modifications, cold start problems, door glass breakage, paint defects and electrical relays were but a few of the many ongoing early problems. Technical changes were continual with running production changes ongoing.
Parts availability was another major shortcoming, and in my geographical area, most dealers had at least one "donor" car that they utilized to rob parts from to satisfy their customers. The distributor I worked for had one 914 that each employee was able to drive for a few days for product knowledge and indoctrination. To take it on a dealer visit was a mistake; it usually made the return home missing some component. The day after I finished my session in this particular (exchange parts) 914, it developed a fuel leak and burned to the ground! At least one dealer had stripped their own car so badly that it was impossible to rebuild it; it eventually became an SCCA race-car. In early 1970, I had a 914-6 as my assigned company vehicle that either was kept at home in my garage to keep it from being cannibalized or not driven overnight anywhere! To say parts availability was critical would be an understatement!