The Porsche 914 was first shown at the 1969 Frankfurt Auto Show was, as intended, a true conglomeration. The front suspension was largely derived from the 911 with some VW components, and the interior was a blend of both companies’ parts bins. The initial engine offering was Volkswagen’s 80-hp fuel-injected 1.7 liter flat four, while the 914/6 had a twin-carburetor 2.0-liter Porsche flat six tuned for 125 hp.
The 914 was designed by Gugelot Design GmbH. The tubs were to be built by Karmann (then builders of the soon-to-be-phased-out Karmann Ghia). Karmann would assemble four-cylinder 914-4s, and would also send 914 bodies to Zuffenhausen for Porsche to turn into the six-cylinder 914-6.
The car as introduced was a good product, but it had a few real problems. Perhaps because of its mixed parentage, the automotive press lambasted it, greeting the debutante with mediocre marks and some really terrible reviews.
On the plus side, the 914 was a true engineering marvel. The tub, despite being of targa-top design, had the rigidity of a 911 coupe. The car handled incredibly well. Driver comfort, by sports car terms, was wonderful. The two-trunk setup offered a lot of room for luggage, and the targa panel stored neatly in one of the trunks
The torsion-bar front suspension was lifted straight from the 911, but front hubs were VW 411 units. Rear suspension was an all-new independent, trailing arm design featuring big 11.05-inch rear discs instead of the VW 411 drums, and the four-wheel-disc brakes worked pretty well. Few other cars in this price range offered all-independent suspension, fuel injection, a five-speed transmission—and the Porsche name. At the $3500 introductory price, the 914 appeared to be quite a bargain indeed.
Unfortunately, the 1.7-liter Volkswagen flat-four was just too anemic. A Porsche with VW power and zero-to-60 times in the 13-second range found little favor among road testers of the day.
What made the car even more annoying, and contributed to the poor zero-to-60 times, was the terrible shift linkage on the supposedly glorious five-speed that was linked to the power-challenged engine. Reviewers castigated this setup, saying it ruined an otherwise good car.