The Porsche 914 will be celebrated at the 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, scheduled for March 12-15 at the Golf Club of Amelia Island at Summer Beach in Florida. The first mid-engine production Porsche, the 914 in all its variants, will be among the headline classes at the 20th annual Concours.
At first some Porsche purists lamented the Porsche 914’s seemingly humble origins. They whispered the “V-Word” – Volkswagen. The reality is that the 914 was a blood descendant of the seminal Gmund Porsche, the first car to wear the family name and the crest, a pure sports car designed around a Volkswagen-sourced air-cooled flat-four and a mid-engine configuration.
Porsche had no illusions about the technological and commercial realities of their new sports car. The 914 project started as a joint venture between Volkswagen and Porsche, who needed an entry level replacement for the four-cylinder 912. With the economies of scale brought by a production liaison with Volkswagen, the 914 could be commercially viable.
The prototype 914 appeared early in 1968 just as Porsche was poised to shed its reputation as a giant killer on the world’s race tracks. The man heading the 914 project was Porsche R&D chief Ferdinand Piech, Ferdinand Porsche’s grandson who created, almost simultaneously with the 914 project, the all-conquering Porsche 917 Le Mans endurance racer.
The lower price of the 914 brought a new clientele to Porsche showrooms. The 914 quickly outsold its pricier 911 stablemate while staying true to Porsche’s technological heritage with friendly Porsche dynamics, solid handling and, in the case of the 914/6, traditionally ferocious Porsche brakes.
Bill Warner, Founder and Chairman of the Amelia Concours d’Elegance, said, “It was fashionable with some self-proclaimed Porsche purists to consider the 914 an ‘ugly duckling.’ That changed very quickly. Here in north Florida the Porsche 914 found a home and willing customers through the racing exploits of Peter Gregg, Hurley Haywood and Brumos Porsche who took the 914/6 GT to victory in the first IMSA GT race in history on the way to winning the first IMSA GT Championship title in 1971.”
The 914/6 fell quickly and easily into the traditional Porsche role of “giant killer” winning half the races on IMSA’s 1971 IMSA GT championship calendar against much larger and more powerful Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs.
“The 914/6 GT was my first real race car,” said Hurley Haywood, five-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona. Peter Gregg and I shared the Championship in 1971 in my first year of professional racing. The 914 was really fun to drive and we would kill the big block Chevys and Fords in IMSA. We still have that car in our collection and use it often to give rides to our Porsche driving school customers.”
At Le Mans, the two-liter 914/6 GT not only won the 24 Hour classic’s GT class in its 1970 debut, it also finished sixth overall; the first GT car behind the pure prototypes that had more than twice the 914’s engine displacement and power. To the quiet dismay of the self-appointed purists the class-winning 914/6 GT finished three laps ahead of the top placed 911.
The 914, in all its iterations, enjoyed a long and productive life as a club racer in America. When Porsche built the 916 in 1972, the six-cylinder version of the 914 packed a 190 hp 2.3 liter six and wore big fenders and more aggressive Porsche styling details. But the 916 was deemed too expensive for serial production. Just eleven had been built when 914 production ceased in 1976.
The ultimate 914 was the 914/8 powered by a three-liter flat-eight Porsche racing engine. Only two were created for the Porsche family.
“The 914 is a true Porsche with pure Porsche DNA,” said Warner. “The 914 was raced and rallied successfully all around the world and, like the 911, a cult has grown up around it. It’s time the 914 has its day in the sun.”
The Amelia Island Concours 2015 will be held March 13-15th on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. The show’s Foundation has donated over $2.5 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other charities on Florida’s First Coast since its inception in 1996. In 2013 the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance won Octane Magazine’s EFG International Historic Motoring Event of the Year award.
[Source: Amelia Island Concours]