Stuck Here in the Middle The MidEngine Porsche 914 Ate Up With Motor — Volkswagen-Porsche 914

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Volkswagen-Porsche 914

Stuck Here in the Middle: The Porsche 914

Sometimes there’s worse than having an instantly recognizable product. How do you up an icon? Both Volkswagen and faced that problem in the Volkswagen had the Beetle, Porsche the but both companies knew these highly successful weren’t going to be enough to them into the next In 1967, they decided to on a new, affordable sports car they hoped would their market. Unfortunately, found out the hard way that the had some very firm about what a VW or a Porsche was to be. This is the story of the 1970-1976 914.

THE BEETLE ASCENDANT

In the 1960s, the Volkswagen Beetle was at the of its popularity. Despite its various infirmities, more than a million copies of the familiar were sold every in America alone. It was embraced by a range of buyers who wanted to their noses at Detroit and everything it represented. The Beetle’s put the fear of God into American who had previously assumed that cars appealed only to the fringe.

Volkswagen’s problem was an identity beyond the Beetle. The 2 Transporter (better known as the or Microbus) was almost as iconic as the but it was really a niche item, as was the Karmann Ghia sporty The new Type 3 models, introduced in had failed to set the world on fire. the Type 3 looked more it was basically a bigger Beetle in a modern shell and it only to demonstrate the shortcomings of the Beetle’s

Both the Type 3 and Type 4 commercial disappointments — not embraced by VW and not competitive with the new breed of compact that was emerging in the market. In short, without the cheeky image and distinctive VW was nowhere. If the company was to survive, it to find ways to broaden its

The Porsche 914 has pop-up headlamps, an extremely low hood line. electrically operated, although also a manual crank to raise them if the motor There are also modest-sized both front and rear, luggage space is seldom a point in mid-engine cars.

THE PORSCHE

In Stuttgart, Porsche was a similar problem. In 1964, had replaced its core product, the with the new six-cylinder 911. As VW’s Type 3, the 911 was a clear of the 356, sharing its rear-engine and distinctive fastback shape.

like the Type 3, the 911 was much expensive than its predecessor — by 50%. Although the Porsche embraced the 911 as a worthy successor to the the company was in danger of pricing out of the market. Porsche desperately a cheaper model to supplement the

Their initial solution was the which mated the 911′s with the four-cylinder engine the last 356C. Substituting the engine and deleting some equipment enabled Porsche to the price from $6,500 to $4,700. It worked for a while — at the 912 accounted for more than of Porsche’s total volume — but eroded as prices crept up. By the end of the a well-equipped 912 was competing price-wise cars like the Corvette and the E-type. which had much performance. It was too little for too much.

THE BEETLE

In 1967, Porsche’s manager, Ferry Porsche, a meeting with VW managing Heinz Nordhoff to discuss on a new inexpensive sports car. The was logical enough; Ferry’s had designed the Volkswagen Beetle in the 1930s, and the Porsche 356 had originally VW hardware. Porsche needed a entry-level model, while was looking for something to replace the Type 34 Karmann Ghia the familiar coupe, but the later, 3-based car, which was sold in the U.S.).

They came to a verbal agreement: would design the new car, a significant number of off-the-shelf from both companies, and would build it. There be two versions, one with a VW powertrain, would be badged as a Volkswagen, and sharing the same body but with a Porsche powertrain and badges.

Mechanical design of the new which was prosaically dubbed 914, was largely the work of Piëch, Ferry’s nephew, who go on to a tumultuous career at Audi and The air-cooled, four-cylinder engine was from the new Volkswagen 411, the five-speed transaxle and many pieces were borrowed the 911. The 914′s MacPherson /torsion-bar front suspension was (though not identical) to that of the the rear suspension used a arm layout like the 911, with coil springs of torsion bars.

The 914 had one novel a mid-engine layout, placing the ahead of rather than the rear axle. Mid-engine had recently become very in competition because of its superior distribution and lower polar of inertia, which provided handling. Since the 914 was a clean-sheet it presented a good opportunity for to try the layout on a production car.

The 411, known internally as 4, was VW’s last attempt to the rear-engine, rear-drive, air-cooled of the Beetle. It lent its flat-four and various interior hardware to the The Type 4 was not a great commercial and it died after 1974, by the new Golf. (Photo © 1968 01 ; released to the public domain by the

The Porsche 914 had a longer wheelbase the 911, but it was about 7 inches mm) shorter overall. Unlike the which had 2+2 seating, the 914 was a strict the mid-engine layout didn’t room for a rear seat. The new car was low-slung, only 48.4 (1,229 mm) tall, although it was than it looked, weighing 2,100 pounds (950 Like the Porsche 911 Targa, it a lift-off fiberglass roof but no true convertible was considered — the rear pillars were to maintain the body’s rigidity.

The 914 in two versions: the basic four-cylinder and the six-cylinder 914/6. The four-cylinder car the 1,679 cc (104 cu. in.) engine from the Volkswagen 411 with Bosch D-Jetronic fuel injection. It made a 80 hp (59 kW). The 914/6 had a 1,971 cc cu. in.) version of Porsche’s flat-six engine with two Weber carburetors and 110 hp (81 kW), as as more 911 suspension components. cars had five-speed manual and disc brakes all around. of the 914′s interior components from either the Volkswagen or parts bins.

NEW FRONTIERS

The fateful choice Nordhoff and made was that the Porsche 914 look like any existing or VW model. It probably seemed a good idea at the time, but the would come back to them later.

According to accounts, the basic styling for the 914 didn’t come from company, but was based on a design created by a small German called Gugelot, which had trying to sell various on a new style of fiberglass construction. and Butzi Porsche both this story, attributing the to Butzi’s in-house team.

In any a prototype was ready by the beginning of 1968, but the project suddenly awry when Heinz died a few weeks later. The with Ferry Porsche had a handshake arrangement and Nordhoff’s Kurt Lotz, wasn’t on the terms. Lotz didn’t the Porsche 914 would sell enough to make it profitable. had believed it would drive to VW dealers, helping the sales of models, but Lotz was primarily with the bottom line. He that the projected volume of the 914 enough to make it worth in the VW factory in Wolfsburg. Instead, would manufacture it, giving the factory a new project to replace the 34 Karmann-Ghia. To Ferry Porsche’s frustration, Lotz also the unit cost Porsche had to pay for body. Lotz also on revising the distribution deal.

Rather than badging the cars as VWs and selling them VW dealers, Porsche and Volkswagen a separate company, Volkswagen-Porsche (roughly, “Marketing Company”) to the cars. In the U.S. they Porsches, sold through a new distribution network; VW had acquired a interest in Auto Union in reviving the Audi name. In 914s were badged as and sold through VW dealers. were sometimes nicknamed an unfortunate sobriquet in Germany, “Vo-Po” was slang for the Volkspolizei . the border police.)

This is a Porsche 914, distinguishable by its rubber-covered bumpers front and Earlier 914s have bumpers, which could be with chrome trim most agree is better than the normal matte-black This color is called Orange.

THE PORSCHE 914

The four-cylinder 914 went on sale in February the 914/6 later that In the U.S. the four-cylinder model at $3,495, more than cheaper than the previous 912. The six-cylinder 914 didn’t as well, starting at a throat-tightening Still, the four-cylinder, at least, had met its an all-new Porsche with a mid-engine layout for around the price as an MG or a Triumph. What was not to about that?

As it turned the Porsche 914 was poorly received. it won Motor Trend ‘s Import Car of the title, the general response of the was less than enthusiastic. The problem was its eccentric styling; is not usually a compliment when about sports cars, nor are to Erector sets. The nicest anyone ever said the 914′s appearance was that it was Admittedly, mid-engine cars end up with curious proportions the contemporary Lotus Europa and the Toyota MR-S), but in any case, it take a decidedly kinky to call the Porsche 914 sexy.

Porsche devotees were that it didn’t look a Porsche. They also great offense at the fact the 914 had a Volkswagen engine. Some Porsche clubs even to admit 914 owners, declaring the 914 was not a real Porsche. (Curiously, 356s never met the same even though the 356 had had far more content than the 914, including the engine, transmission, and brakes.)

The 914 might have won converts if it had had outstanding performance, but the 80 hp (59 kW) made it rather snail-like for a car. Road Track ‘s test car took almost 14 to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) and had a top speed of 109 mph km/h) — the 914 was cheaper than the but it was also slower. The 914/6 did better, Road Track a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) of 8.7 seconds and a top speed of 123 mph (198 but the 914/6′s staggering 70% price was a lot to pay for the extra urge. For that of money, an open-minded sports car could pick up a much LT-1 Corvette. Worse, the new 240Z provided performance like the 914/6′s for less than a four-cylinder 914.

Volkswagen-Porsche 914

The Porsche 914′s engine is between the cabin and the rear accessible mainly through a behind the seats — changing plugs is not a happy task. this is a ’75, it has either the cc (110 cu. in.) or 1,971 cc cu. in.) flat-four. If this was a California car, it may have the cc (110 cu. in.) EC-series which had only 76 hp (57 kW).

The materials and workmanship didn’t either. Porsches had traditionally well finished, but the need to cut had left the 914 with a stark, ambiance. Also failing to win were problems like vapor lock, a battery that promoted vicious and an engine that was hard to for normal maintenance. The 914 was even than a 911, it rode and it was prone to squeaks and rattles. On the 356 and Porsche had gradually addressed like these, but the 914 got little after its introduction.

The Porsche great strength was its handling. in stock form, with tires and no anti-roll bars, it was balanced and nimble with accurate steering. The 914/6, anti-roll bars and wider was even more agile. It avoided many of the tail-wagging that could make its cousins such a handful; a driver could bring the end out in fast turns, but the 914 was generally than the 911. With rubber, more power, and a judicious suspension tuning, the 914 be made into very track car, and a fair of owners did just that.

In the 914 proved fairly successful in In 1970, it won the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le scoring sixth overall. did well in IMSA and Group 4 throughout the seventies, although in C-Production, it was regularly beaten by the powerful Datsun Z cars.

The 914′s cabin was no-nonsense, a lot of off-the-shelf components. Door and hardware came from VW, the heating and ventilation controls are the contemporary 911. The 914 had a five-speed transmission; Porsche briefly its semi-automatic “Sportomatic” as an option, but no 914s were built way. The five-speed transmission had a racing-style shift pattern, first down and to the left, a in traffic, particularly with the four-cylinder engine.

AN EARLY DEATH

Racing didn’t help the sales of the 914/6; Porsche dropped it 1972 and fewer than sales. From 1973, you order a 95 hp (70 kW) 1,971 cc four was nearly as quick as the old six for a lot less From 1974 on the 1,679 cc cu. in.) four gave way to a stronger 1,795 cc (110 cu. engine. Other changes minimal, most limited to revisions to comply with new laws. Porsche finally in the towel after the 1976 year, briefly reviving the 912 as a replacement.

The 914 was by no means a complete As much as the cognoscenti turned up noses at it, the combination of affordable and Porsche name was enough to more than 118,000 in years, highly respectable by car standards.

Although its parents off the 914, its poor reception dissuade the two companies from collaboration a few years later: the 924. Again, Porsche inevitably dismissed the new, water-cooled Volks-Porsche as heresy, but the 924 and its 944 and 968 were successful enough to into the 1990s.

Today, the 914 is nowhere near as collectible as the 356 or 911, but it still enjoys a following. Drivable four-cylinder remain one of the cheapest routes to ownership. Moderate prices also made owners willing than most to modify, and customize their Some owners have advantage of the 914′s commodious (if engine bay to convert their to V8 power, while a company Electro Auto offers a electric conversion, amusingly “VoltsPorsche.” As a mass-market sports the 914 never quite made it, but since found its true as a cult object.

Porsche a number of variations on the Porsche including the 914/8 with a engine and a much plusher model called the 916, would have been a for Ferrari’s Dino 246. built a few prototypes, but high prices meant that variants never got off the ground. did produce a few special editions, but were mostly paint and packages.

Volkswagen eventually its new icon in the form of the hatchback although the company has continued to problems establishing its credibility that core product. the Golf remains the benchmark for cars in Europe, the Golf’s in the fickle American market been mixed. VW’s record in other market has also been decidedly hit and particularly Ferdinand Piëch’s attempt to compete with with the pricey Volkswagen Meanwhile, Porsche’s image and continue to center on the 911. The Boxster — which could be as a modern version of the 914/6 better styling — has won the approval of fanatics, but un-Porsche-like products the Cayenne SUV and the Panamera sedan earned great derision.

A lot of marketing people would for the kind of brand recognition VW and Porsche have achieved, but the of the public having strong about what your are supposed to be is that you’re in danger of being handcuffed by own success.

NOTES ON SOURCES

Our for this article included the Editors of Consumer Guide, Chronicle (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications Ltd. 1995); Mike Standard Catalog of Imported 1946-2002 . 2nd ed. (Iola, WI: Krause 2001); the 914 Owners Association www.porsche914.org/, accessed 28 June and Don Spiro, “Mid-Engine Magic: entry-level 1976 914 2.0-liter car,” Special Interest #201 (June 2004), pp. Dennis Deeds of the Porsche 914 Association offered a variety of in an e-mail to the author on 6 September We also consulted “Porsche 914 Bigger 4-Cylinder engine the popular 914 a boost,” Road Vol. 24, No. 6 (February 1973), pp. and “Engine Drive — Where They Go?” Road Vol. 24, No. 11 (July 1973), pp. Information on the Electro Automotive conversion came from website, www.electroauto.com/gallery/vp914.shtml, accessed 28 2008.

This article’s was suggested by the song “Stuck in the performed by the Scottish band Wheel. It was composed by Joe Egan and Rafferty and first appeared on the eponymous 1972 debut

Volkswagen-Porsche 914


Volkswagen-Porsche 914
Volkswagen-Porsche 914
Volkswagen-Porsche 914
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