Porsche 914 twins

By: Guy Allen - Words & Photos

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Porsche's 914/6 may not have the profile of its rear-engined cousins, but it has lots to offer the performance nut

 

Porsche 914

Every now and then I get a call from Clive Massell of Makulu Vehicle Storage in Melbourne and experience suggests that whatever he’s on the blower about, it won’t be dull. Like this time. His proposal was to grab young Mr M, of Matt Thewlis Racing, a couple of very different Porsche 914/6s and head to the hills for a bit of a drive. Sounds good so far.

The cars, while ostensibly much the same thing, were very different animals under the skin. One, in yellow, was a 1972 stocker with the 2.0lt six on board, while the other was a convincing-looking 1971 GT replica, complete with a Carrera powerplant crammed under the paint. While that may sound mad, it mimics what was done with a lot of race versions, back in the seventies.

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Before we get too far down this track, it’s worth rolling back to 1969-70 and the launch of these little monsters. The Karmann-built Porsche 914s were seen at the time as a new entry level for the marque, initially conceived with co-operation from Volkswagen. Our sister magazine, Wheels, back in March 1970 published a brief drive impression of two pre-production versions – a four-cylinder and a much quicker six.

And their impressions? "The most impressive part of 914 driving is the neutral handling and feeling of total driver control. The first few bends you corner far below the car’s optimum because your senses are attuned to normal road manners."

| Smart classics: Porsche 914

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They look similar enough, but the GT is a wild bit of gear

Look at a 914, and it’s easy to see why someone would come to that view. The whole concept screams sports car. It’s very low, with a wide track, substantial but not huge wheelbase with minimal overhangs (literally a wheel on each corner) and a mid-mounted engine.

| Comparison review: Porsche 914 v Cayman

Despite this, the production numbers for the sixes were modest and the design was soon to be overtaken by the company’s next big thing, the almost still-born 924 and the front-engine series to follow. That was shown to the public as early as November 1975.

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Everything that opens and shuts! The 914 had two boots and a mid-mount engine

Over 115,000 914s were produced – so the fours were very solid sellers – but only 3332 914/6s (aka 901/36) made it into showrooms.

Clive provides his own potted history of the series: "The first 914 was the 1.7 that evolved into the 1.8, then it became the 2.0lt. Then the Americans wanted something quick that was a little more competitive, so they developed the 914/6.

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Initially a VW-Porsche collaboration, the 914 was superseded by the 924 series

"The original 914/6s had a 2.0lt T motor in it. In order to be more successful, particularly in the IMSA series, they needed something much more powerful. So they developed a much up-rated version of that motor (good for over 200hp – Ed) and they only built a handful of the 914/6 GTs. The genuine cars are almost extinct – they’re just not around. Not many were built and they were very successful.

| Read next: Restomod 1973 Porsche 911 review

"A 914/6 GT replica in America now is an extremely sought-after car. They have many engine configurations. This particular one has a 3.2lt Carrera motor in it. It’s a tough little car.

"Carburetion is twin 40mm Weber carburetors, but ideally it should be on twin 46mm downdraught carburetors."

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Matt, who runs drive days and is a noted steerer in his own right, was clearly enjoying playing with the pair. "One is a road car and the other is a lot angrier. The yellow one is a pleasure to drive, especially at cruising speed and then you have the meaner bigger brother, which is just an absolute animal. You can see its potential in the hills but I’d love to get it on the track.

"The orange car is obviously set up for the track with aftermarket brakes and the semi-slick tyres, so it grips, handles and brakes well. A great little race car.

"The road car is pleasantly surprising. It’s a little sports car in its own right and does what it needs to do, particularly given its age. It does provide a little feedback and move on the road a little and gives the sensation you’re in a sports car. It does all the right things and is a pleasure to drive."

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Clive meanwhile has been saying for years that 914s in general, and 914/6s in particular have been underestimated. For a brief period there, they were among the cheapest mid-engine cars available.

"I think in Australia there may be three factory-built 914/6s," he explains. "It’s the most sought-after of the range, but even the entry-level 914 is slowly going through the roof. There’s a big difference between what you’d pay for one now and what you would have even five years ago. They’ve been a sleeper in the market."

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What attracts him to them? "They were different and they were grossly undervalued and a good investment. There was a time when everyone was laughing at me and saying ‘you’ve really lost your marbles buying those things’. I’m the one smiling now!"

He quotes the recent example of the 914/6 at Shannons: "I thought $80k would do it, but the bidding was absolutely fierce. At the end of the day, you were looking at over $120 grand for a genuine 914/6. Those prices are just going up and up because they’re just not available."

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Cabin space is not exactly expansive. Tall drivers need to look elsewhere

They may have become expensive, but older Porsches have a reputation for robust mechanicals, which this series seems to live up to. "They’re fairly bulletproof and not too hard to live with," says Clive.

"You forget how good these early model Porsches are. You can drive these cars. In the orange car at Sandown you’re pushing 7000rpm all, day after day, lap after lap. In some European cars, you’d be rebuilding the motor between events.

"These motors, if they’re set up right, are strong and bulletproof. It’s an absolute experience to drive one."

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From Unique Cars #444, Sep 2020 

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