The brightest names of the European automotive industry – Volkswagen and Porsche share a long and quite successful history of cooperation. However, there was one dark episode in their joint history, which seriously spoiled the relationship between the two companies. And its name was Porsche 914.
Volkswagen CEO Heinrich Nordhoff had a close relationship with the Porsche family and was a good friend of the company’s CEO Ferry Porsche. So when Nordhoff shared his plans to replace the obsolete Karmann Ghia coupe, Porsche offered to join forces. The benefits for both companies were obvious: Germans were getting a sports vehicle, and Italians – a big contract and the right to release the new machine under its name. Development began in 1966, and in March 1968, Italian engineers assembled the first running prototype. The new model was a compact, mid-engined coupe with independent all-wheel suspension and a removable roof. The Italian automaker managed to build a low-cost mid-engined sports machine that was to be marketed under the Volkswagen and under Porsche brands. In addition, the prototype got a four-cylinder 80 hp from VW Type 4 and a six-cylinder with 110 hp from Porsche 911. The development process was quite successful, but unexpectedly the board faced a tragic event: Heinrich Nordhoff died suddenly in 1968, and Kurt Lotz was appointed the new CEO. The new head of VW, Kurt Lutz, did not want to recognize Italian’s right to produce the 914 models, believing that since his company finances the project, the car should be produced exclusively under the Volkswagen brand.
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During the long and difficult negotiations that brought the 914 projects to near closure, both companies came to a compromise – to name the new vehicle “VW-Porsche” and sell this model through a joint network. The very first mass-produced central-engined sports car in Germany – 914 was launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1969. Meanwhile, buyers greeted the model ambiguously: the new joint model was named “Volksporsche” or “People’s Porsche” and was not received by Volkswagen fans. Besides, the model was often criticized for the poor quality and cheapness of materials, which betrayed the “budget” origin of the car.
For the first years, the model was produced with two engine options: a 1.7-liter horizontal four-cylinder engine with 80 hp under the Volkswagen brand and a 2.0-liter horizontal four-cylinder engine with 110 hp under the Porsche brand. In models with four-cylinder engines, the ignition switch was located on the right side. Since 1973, the model went through small updates. The Volkswagen 914 received a more powerful 1.8-liter gasoline boxer with 85 hp, and the Italian version 914 received a Volkswagen engine with the same 2-liter 100 hp, which somewhat worsened the dynamic characteristics of the sports machine. However, according to the expert’s opinion, both models were excellently controlled due to the mid-engined layout, as well as due to the use of boxer engines with a low center of gravity, low weight, which did not exceed a ton, and independent suspension, which was tuned and designed by Italian specialists. In 1973, bumper pads were added to the front of the car. Models 914/ 1.7 (1970-1973) were equipped with retractable headlights, FRP removable roofs, chrome bumpers (matte black from 1973 onwards), and recessed round auxiliary headlights. At the rear, there was a gold-colored Porsche logo (an anodized black logo from the model year 1973). The wheels were also fastened with four special nuts. Models 914/ 2.0 (1973-76) were equipped with retractable headlights, removable fiberglass roofs, matte black bumpers, and sunken round auxiliary headlights beginning in 1975. An anodized black logo was attached to the rear of the body, and the wheels were fastened with four special nuts. The model stayed on the assembly line until 1976 when it was replaced by the 924, the next joint project of the two firms.
As one of the iconic sports car representatives, the 1973 release of the famous 914 model played a significant role in cinematography. It appeared in films and TV series such as Carrie (1976), The A-Team (1983-1987), Der Stand der Dinge (1982), The Gumball Rally(1976), The Fall Guy (1981-1986), The Pom Pom Girls (1976), Double Agent 73 (1974), Captain America II: Death Too Soon (1979), Beyond Westworld (1980), Roxanne (1987), The Rockford Files (1974-1980) and much more.
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