It was on September 11th 1969 when Porsche unveiled their first mid-engine sportscar built for the masses. The event was the Frankfurt Motor Show and the car was the VW Porsche 914 . It is now 40 years later and there are rumors flying around that both Porsche and Volkswagen are bringing back the lightweight two-seater . The German automakers sold over 115,000 examples of the 914 and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the more affordable Porsche, enthusiasts will have the opportunity to view the extremely rare 914/8, given to Ferry on his 60th birthday, at their new museum in Stuttgart .
Press release after the jump.
Everything remained very quiet when today’s Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG established VW-Porsche-Vertriebsgesellschaft mbh, the VW-Porsche Sales Company, together with Volkswagenwerk AG, as it was called at the time, in April 1969.
Holding stock capital of DM 5 million, the new company launched the strategy of success for two sports cars still carefully held back from the public pending their final presentation: the VW-Porsche 914 and 914/6.
The establishment of the VW-Porsche Sales Company marked the beginning of a true story of success – and the fortunate end of a dramatic development. Back in the mid-60s VW was looking for a successor to its then rather outdated Type 34 sports coupe, better known as the “Karmann Ghia”. At the same time Porsche was striving to expand its position in the market with a sports car in the promising segment beneath the 911.
Facing this challenge Ferry Porsche and VW’s CEO Heinrich Nordhoff agreed in spring 1966 on a joint venture destined to benefit both parties: Porsche was given the assignment by Volkswagen to develop a low-cost mid-engined sports car intended to enter the market as a Volkswagen with four cylinders and as a Porsche with a six-cylinder boxer engine.
With the development process continuing at a good pace, the Board of Management of VW was suddenly confronted with a tragic change: Heinrich Nordhoff died unexpectedly in 1968 and Kurt Lotz was appointed the new Chief Executive Officer. Lotz rescinded the contract agreed verbally and insisted on Volkswagen receiving the sole and exclusive sales rights for the car being developed by Porsche. After long and tough struggles bringing the 914 to the brink of failure more than once, the two companies agreed in a compromise to call the new car the “VW-Porsche” and to market this new model through a joint sales network.
The VW-Porsche 914 was presented at the Frankfurt Motor Show on 11 September 1969 as the first mid-engined sports car built in Germany in series production. The combination of the two brand names Volkswagen and Porsche nevertheless turned out to be an image problem for the new model series commonly referred to by the press as the “Volksporsche” or “People’s Porsche”. This was a particular disadvantage for the 914/6 powered by the two-litre flat-six carried over from the 911 T 2.0. For despite its outstanding performance, the 914/6 was hardly accepted by most of Porsche’s existing customers.
The four-cylinder VW-Porsche 914, on the other hand, became a genuine success in the market, accounting for a production volume of 115,631 units until the series ceased production in spring 1976, and thus becoming the best-selling sports car of its time.
Most of the cars built were exported to the United States, where the 914 was marketed as a genuine, fully-fledged Porsche without the VW prefix.
Today the VW-Porsche 914 is acknowledged as a popular classic supported by numerous 914 clubs the world over. Particularly the 914/6 built only 3,338 times is one of the most sought-after collector cars from Porsche.
The Porsche Museum is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 914 model series with a rare special exhibit on display from 9 April – 10 May 2009: the Porsche 914 /8 with its 300-bhp eight-cylinder racing engine once owned by Ferry Porsche himself. With only two of these cars ever being built, one was presented to Ferry Porsche in 1969 as a special gift for his 60th birthday.