It’s impossible to talk about sportscars without mentioning Porsche. In fact, for decades, cars that come off Zuffenhausen’s assembly line have been considered the segment benchmark. And the 991 and the Cayman still continue to set new standards, which every other sportscar maker struggles to emulate. As infallible as the Stuttgart carmaker seems today, even Porsche has had its share of failings. In the mid-Sixties, a deal was struck between Ferry Porsche and Volkswagen’s Heinz Nordhoff to jointly develop a sportscar that was more accessible to everyone than the 911 and would replace the 912. The result was the 914, which began production in 1969 in two separate plants.
On paper, it looked like an ideal sportscar — light-weight, mid-rear mounted engine, a fully independent suspension, a five-speed manual transmission, and even a targa top. It also boasted two trunks to appeal to the masses. And the handling characteristics were decent, too. But despite all these factors that should have made it a huge success, the 914 proved a failure. And what let it down was the engine. In base form, which was obviously the cheaper and more popular version, the 914 was powered by an asthmatic 80bhp unit borrowed from the Volkswagen 411. There was a slightly more powerful 2.0-litre flat-six taken from the base 911, but even that couldn’t redeem the car.
Further damaging the perception of the 914, was the death of Nordhoff in 1968, after which Volkswagen didn’t honour the agreement to market it only with a Porsche badge. So from then on it was sold in Europe as the VW-Porsche 914, retracting further from its appeal.
It was nowhere near as successful as it was expected to be, and in 1976, after fewer than 120,000 units were produced, the 914 was discontinued, much to the relief of hardcore Porsche fans.