Whether you love it or hate it, the 914 served as a very important family member in the Porsche model line-up of the day. To appreciate this fully, you need to understand the circumstances surrounding its conception, and to have an insight into the period in which this model was launched.
In the late ‘60s, it was not uncommon for Ferry Porsche as the head of his company, to agree with Heinrich Nordhoff, the General Manager of Volkswagen (VW), to carry out some engineering work for VW. Such agreements or arrangements were often verbal and sealed with a handshake, as the two men had known each other for some time. While that was great at the time, and it worked for both men and both companies, that level of trust was fast disappearing. The reality of the situation would come back to haunt Porsche as Nordhoff died while the 914 was being developed, to be replaced by Kurt Lotz who was a meticulous man and who required everything to be written down in black and white.
The 914 project was close to a disaster insofar as Porsche was concerned, because after the death of Heinrich Nordhoff, the relaxed and rather informal relationship that existed between Ferry Porsche and Nordhoff ceased to exist. Nordhoff’s replacement, Kurt Lotz, insisted on dealing with Porsche in the manner prescribed by the pre-existing agreement between the two companies which stipulated that if VW issued a work order to Porsche, then the rights to that work belonged completely to VW. The wording of this agreement would have left Porsche without their own version of the 914 which was to provide an entry level model for Porsche’s own dealers to sell.
Disaster was averted, however, once Porsche and VW had hammered out an agreement whereby Porsche could acquire 914 bodies, and the finished cars could be sold in Germany and in the USA through joint ventures set up by the two manufacturers.
But this book is not so much about the history of the 914 from a corporate perspective, rather it concerns the design and marketing of this model and how it fitted into Porsche’s model line-up. Published in 2019, the book was intended to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the launch of this largely misunderstood, underrated but nevertheless important model.
The author of this book, Jürgen Lewandowski, interviewed current head of Porsche Design, Michael Mauer, who said, “The thing is just incredibly modern,” when referring to the 914 shape. A useful chapter is devoted to this in-depth interview with Mauer, in which he explains in some detail how the design progressed from an idea created by one of the designers. This discourse offers a fascinating insight into how a design progresses from a casual idea on one day, to the final product several years down the line.
In the opinion of this reviewer, the simplicity of the car’s shape means that it is as relevant today as it was back in 1970. But the ‘70s was all about simplicity of shape, and differentiation was often established through vibrant colours. That is why the 914s and the 911s of that time appear so striking and vibrant in their styling.
Individual chapters are dedicated to the different 914 derivatives, and include: the 914 and 914/6, 916, 914 S and 914/6 GT. The history of the 916 model is especially interesting, as head of design, Anatole Lapine, showed that he was not afraid to create what some might call outlandish colour schemes and combinations. But the bright yellow 916 was snapped up by Louise Piëch, so he was obviously doing something right. The idea behind the 914 S was an attempt by Ferdinand Piëch to demonstrate that the 914 was fully capable of handling a much higher power output. With this in mind, the concept of the 916 was floated, and eleven prototype examples of this model were produced. Unfortunately the vehicle costing department put a lid on that idea, as the costs were too high.
The author also covers the two 8-cylinder 914s in some depth, one which was given to Ferry Porsche on the occasion of his 60th birthday, and the other which was destined for Ferdinand Piëch. These two special models are the only two 914s to be fitted with the 908 3.0-litre 8-cylinder engine, and are thus an important part of the model’s history.
A separate chapter is devoted to the 914/6 GT ONS cars, this model being the result of a concerted effort by Herbert Linge to get the racing authorities to accept that a speedy vehicle was needed at race tracks to serve as the ‘first response’ emergency vehicle. After meeting with significant opposition due to the additional costs, one racing body did take Linge’s advice and they introduced a high speed 914/6 GT rescue vehicle fully equipped with fire-fighting and first-aid gear. It wasn’t long before all the main racing organisations followed suit, and today we have these first response emergence service at all tracks. We take it as normal and accepted these days, but it wasn’t always that way, and we have Herbert Linge and the Porsche 914/6 GT to thank for that.
Eckard Schimpf, of Jägermeister 914/6 GT fame, gives a fascinating account of his time in this fabulous car – and it is still one of his favourites. Towards the rear of the book, a chapter has been devoted to “The successor to the 914 that never was.” This covers the project study of a model that might have succeeded the 914 – a Porsche with Audi technology for VW – but that never got going. Nor did a series of other design studies that met with a similarly low level of enthusiasm. But still, these make for interesting reading, giving an insight into what the thinking was back in the mid ‘70s.
What do you get
The book is well written with excellent imagery. It is well designed with ample white space where required, making it an uncluttered and easy-to-read publication, and is presented in a sturdy slip case. The importance of the interviews with high profile Porsche personnel, designers and racing drivers, makes this an impressive commemorative publication.
It is the opinion of this reviewer that the 914 is a model that is on the rise, and not a moment too soon either, because this is a member of the Porsche model line-up that has been underrated for far too long. Take this opportunity to acquire this publication while you still can, as the history behind the 914 model will not only entertain you, but it will also fill a much-needed gap on the bookshelf.
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