Porsche 914 Buying Guide
Don't rule out the Porsche 914. Here's how to find a prime example – but watch out for the 'hell-hole'...
How much to pay
• Project £3000-7000 • Good £9000-11,000 • Concours £15,000-25,000 •
Running costs ★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★
When Porsche sought to extend their range and Volkswagen wanted to add a two-seater ‘people’s sports car’ to their brochures, the first mass-produced, mid-engined sports car was born – in the shape of the 914. A practical, twin-trunk convertible sports car for the aspirational, it was the shape of things to come.
With a body built by Karmann, the shape was far from curvy, attracting attention from purists as ‘the square Porsche’. Sold as a Porsche in the USA (via Porsche/Audi dealers) to make it more attractive than the VW name might have suggested, various Bosch fuel-injected VW and Porsche sourced engines were fitted between 1969 and 1975. The 914 also appeared in rallying and at Le Mans, eventually becoming Formula 1’s first safety car at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix.
The 914 was only available in left-hand drive from the factory. The few 914s that arrived in the UK were treated to mph speedos and a few options as standard. A handful of right-hand drive conversions were offered by Crayford. Add £10,000-20,000 to the price guide for the Limited Edition ‘Creamsicle’ red on white and ‘bumble bee’ yellow and black versions and the 1969–1972 Porsche 914/6
Essentially the forerunner of today’s Porsche Boxster, VW went on to replace the 914 with the Scirocco and Porsche with the advent of the Porsche 924.
Your AutoClassics VW Porsche 914 inspection checklist
Depending which engine you choose, the 914 can absorb your money in upkeep costs should it not be running properly. The early 1.7 engines were similar to the units VW fitted to the VW 411 and 412, and even some of the fuel injected Type 2 buses. Parts for these are plentiful.
The 1.7 was replaced by a similar 1.8 motor from 1974. From 1973, the 2-litre VW engine option became available. Some parts for these will be more expensive and harder to track down. The 2.0 VW engine was actually the replacement for Porsche's 2.0-litre flat-six engine, fitted from 1969 to 1972; these engines need to be treated akin to 911 engines of the time and will sap more of your cash to maintain and rebuild.
As with all air-cooled engines, you need to ensure the thermostat control and cooling flap system on fan housing is correctly fitted and operational. Many USA survivors have missing parts or inoperative cooling. Often the Bosch fuel injection system has been removed and replaced with carburettors, which can lead to inefficient running, unless you can change to the camshaft specifically suited for use with carburettors.
If the fuel injection system has been removed it could point to previous problems, such as vacuum leaks, or the previous owner has simply stopped trying to repair it. Returning to fuel injection can be a lengthy and time-consuming hunt for parts. It is worth remembering that 1.7 and 2.0-litre injection parts were not interchangeable.
The five-speed gearbox of the 914 has some woes. For starters, the dog-leg first gear takes some getting used to. Although fitted with the 901 gearbox from the 911, 914s up to 1972 were notorious for vague gear selection. The 914 has a selection linkage that travels to the rear of the car and the furthermost part of the gearbox. The selection rod is contorted into an array of bends, and through engine mounts, in order to accommodate selection. The weak linkage was improved from the 1973 model onwards, which adopted a side-mounted gearbox linkage.
The plastic linkage bushes will need to be replaced and maintained; cheap enough and easy to do, they should be on your shopping list in order to trace any other selection issues. Synchromesh wear is common, particularly on second gear.
Suspension and brakes
The front suspension was taken from the 911 parts inventory, featuring a torsion-bar with front hubs from the VW 411. At the rear was independent suspension employing trailing arms.
All 914s came with front and rear disc brakes. Seized brake calipers are highly common on the 914. Often the piston seals get left out of a DIY rebuild or the seals get pinched by the pistons. Rebuilt calipers can be purchased from 914 specialist suppliers. Upgrades are available.
The handbrake is infamous for issues relating to the balance of the off-set cable system and the weakness of the handbrake pivot and mount on the floor between the driver’s door and seat. This mounting area is also known for rust issues where the mount meets the floorpan.
The 914-6 used the disc brakes from the contemporary Porsche 911.
The first thing you will hear about when it comes to buying a 914 is the ‘hell-hole’; the space beneath the battery area. Rust is plentiful on the 914, however rain water passing down through the engine bay via the battery created substantial rot, which passed through the rear suspension mounts and inner structure. More likely than not, the battery tray has been replaced and you will need to investigate how much of the chasm below has been devastated by rot.
You will see many 914s with ‘broken backs’, almost folded double as the middle of the car has collapsed, due to a rotten structure partly caused by the water/battery situation. One way to check this is to open both doors with the roof removed and sit in the car before trying to close the doors again. This might show up the weakness of the structure if the door fouls on the door lock. Likewise, check for the uniformity of the panel gaps. The cost of restoration can be astronomical as the wings and body panels don’t un-bolt and hidden inner skins can go unnoticed on first inspection.
Rear light lenses aren’t cheap, so make sure that they are intact and usable. USA cars will normally have all red rear lenses and rear turn signal, so factor in replacing the lenses for European use.
A number of interior fabrics were offered throughout the production run of the 914, including vinyl, basket weave vinyl, corduroy and a striking tartan scheme. Porsche construction of the 1970s meant using flimsy trim clips and staples to attach interior materials. Some interiors may have been repaired long ago and are often mismatched. One option on the 914 was a ‘middle seat’, which was no more than a seat bolster with a lap belt option. Don’t be fooled by this option, they were totally impractical; a 914 is not a three-seater.
Expect to find cracks in the dash tops of most 914s, particularly if they have arrived from sunny climates. Dash recovering is an option, but needs to be costed as part of a purchase.
- 1968: In March the first prototype, designed by Gugelot, is presented.
- 1969: Production begins at Karmann in Osnabruck, Germany. The 914-4 1.7 and 914-6 2.0 flat-six Porsche-engined cars are offered.
- 1970: Some left-hand drive 1.7 and 2-litre (Porsche engine) 914s arrive in the UK and the USA. In the UK, the 914-6 was £1000 more than the flat-four version.
- 1971: An expensive right-hand drive conversion is made available from Crayford. Eleven are ordered. After motor sport success a large-engined model 916 is proposed and 11 cars are built before the project is cancelled.
- 1972: The last year for the 914-6. Late 1972, the door mirror and rear valance redesigned.
- 1973: The 914-6 (Porsche engine) model is replaced by a 914-4 with a 2-litre flat-four VW engine; referred to as the 914S. There is an adjustable passenger seat, an improved design gear linkage and US cars get front rubber bumperettes.
- 1974: The 1.7-litre flat-four powerplant in the 914-4 is replaced with a 1.8-litre engine with little change in performance. All cars have vinyl ‘sail’ trim. US cars get front and rear rubber bumperettes. Special Edition ‘Can Am’, also known as ‘Creamsicle’ and ‘Bumblebee’ 2.0 litre models, are offered in the USA.
- 1975: Front and rear bumpers are redesigned to meet US impact bumper requirements and offer square driving lamps. November sees the launch of the 924 in Europe.
- 1976: The 914 2-litre is only sold in the USA. The replacement 924 isn’t ready, so the USA gets the one year only ‘stop gap’ model with the 914 2-litre VW flat-four engine in a Porsche 911 body. The 912E.
If you want a Porsche that is a little bit different, then the 914 is worth considering. Parts supply is excellent, but prices for body panels are high and cars with excellent bodywork and structural solidity are hard to find.
Porsche 914s were, for many years, an extremely cheap way into Porsche ownership. As such there are many out there that have served a long and hard life on the road as every day transport, with little love.
Six-cylinder, Porsche-engined models are significantly rarer, and values are also considerably higher. Check engine codes and chassis numbers for authenticity. The standard 914-6 also had a rare big brother in the 914-6 GT, a low number run model and kit of parts and flared steel arches were offered with motorsport in mind. Leaving the more exotic 914-6 out of the equation, to many the most desirable specification would be the 1973 2-litre 914-4 (914S).
Buy a car with the original fuel injection in place and with a genuinely rust-free body and you will own an increasingly desirable example of the Porsche family.
|914/4 1.7 (USA) 1969 - 1973|
|914/6 2.0 (flat six) (USA) 1969-1972|
|914/4 2.0 (USA) 1973 - 1976|
|914/4 1.8 (USA) 1975 - 1976|
Picture courtesy of Porsche