Never before had a manufacturer dared to make a car’s front and rear ends looked so similar, until in 1969 Porsche and Volkswagen teamed up to produce the delightfully symmetrical Porsche 914. However, by the looks of things, both companies seemed to think they were designing the front. Or back? Hard to tell, but that’s not where the confusion ends with the little 914.
As the ’70s rapidly approached, both Porsche and Volkswagen were in desperate need of some new cars to shill to the unsuspecting masses. Volkswagen needed a new flagship to replace the Karman Ghia, and Porsche’s entry-level 912 was also beginning to look a bit long in the tooth. Volkswagen had a long-running contract with Porsche and needed to contract out one last project to them to fulfil the agreement, so the two German power-houses decided to team up. Originally the 914 was to be sold as two variants; one powered by a flat-four engine, which would be badged and sold as a Volkswagen, and the other powered by a flat-six that would be branded as a Porsche and be called the 914-6. However, Porsche worried that this would damage their brand and persuaded Volkswagen to let both be sold as Porsches.
This was all fine and dandy until the head of Volkswagen selfishly went and died, ruining all of Porsche’s perfect plans. The new head of Volkswagen was a man called Kurt Lotz, and from Kurt’s perspective unless Porsche would share in the tooling expenses, Volkswagen, who had all rights to the model, had no incentive to share it. Porsche obviously buckled, and as a result, the chassis of the 914-6 became much more costly and consequentially the price of the 914-6 went up quite a bit. So much so that it was only a little bit cheaper than the least expensive full-fat 911 at the time, the 911T. Predictably this meant that the semi-skimmed 914-6 sold poorly, making them somewhat of a rarity today with only 3,332 produced.
History lesson over, what’s the 914 actually like? Well, it’s lightweight, small, mid-engined, rear-wheel drive, and the front looks about as different from the back as the 992 generation 911 looks from the 991. Jokes aside, it is genuinely an attractive car, at least to my eye. It also earns bonus points by firstly having popup headlights, which help in the game of spot the difference between the back and the front. Secondly, it has a Targa top, so any potential owners could feel the breeze caress their bald middle-aged accountant scalp. Finally, its curb weight of less than 1000kg and it’s mid-engined layout helped make it pretty good at handling, and although they’re not exactly bursting with horsepower (figures range from 80hp to around 100hp for the 4 cylinder cars and 110 for the 914-6) they are proper little drivers cars.
If you’d like to buy one of these symmetrical mid-engined sports cars, then you won’t have a very hard time finding one because with almost 120,000 914s produced the classifieds are littered with them. Unfortunately, finding one for the right price and in the right condition is a harder task. Prices range from around £5,000 to £30,000, but the sweet spot for a useable, clean car, albeit not a Concours-winner, is probably somewhere in the middle, around the £20,000 mark. If you want a 914-6 then you’ll be paying a lot more, with cars being advertised for as much as £100,000. Whatever you pay, it’ll probably be a safe investment, as anything with a Porsche badge these days is like catnip to petrolheads, and the prices reflect that. However, if you’re paying that much for a 914-6 that old question arises again – wouldn’t you rather just have a 911?