By on August 4, 2010

“As West Germany debated last week whether it should have an army, East Germany was unmasking one.

Five thousand jackbooted, blue-uniformed toughs swarmed into the border districts to put down disturbances by farmers trying to save their homes as the Reds bulldozed a three-mile-deep isolation corridor between East and West Germany. The blue-uniformed men, part of a 100,000-man force, are called the People’s Police (Volkspolizei, or Vopos, for short).”

Oh, just the tone of that article (from TIME) makes me nostalgic for the days when American journalists kind of, you know, liked baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and freedom. Nowadays, the Times would probably “embed” somebody with the Vopos and he would enthusiastically shoot farmers while talking about the need for social justice.

But I digress. The car in the photo above is also a “VoPo” — a Volkswagen-Porsche. Styled by the consumer-goods design firm Gugelot, who were the folks responsible for the Kodak “Carousel” slide projector, it was assembled by Karmann in Germany. In Europe, it was sold as a Volkswagen; in the United States, as a Porsche. Although I’m personally a bit of a 914 fan, the car has to be understood as an aesthetic, critical, and commercial failure for Porsche. Most importantly, it was yet another episode in the strange “Inside Baseball” relationship between Volkswagen and Porsche. From the day Ferdinand Porsche started thinking about the “People’s Car” to the very last who-bought-whom stock manipulation of 2009, Porsche and VW have been engaged in a bizarre, operatic, and occasionally fraudulent relationship — and Porsche always loses. Every. Single. Freaking. Time.

The story of the 914 is too long to properly relate here — I recommend Karl Ludwigsen’s three-volume history of Porsche, “Excellence Was Expected”, for all the details — but here’s the super-short version. Porsche and VW make a handshake deal. Karmann makes the cars. The six-cylinders are finished by Porsche and sold as Porsches. The four-cylinders are finished by VW and sold as VWs everywhere but in the US, where they will be simply cheaper Porsches. The head of VW dies, and there’s nothing on paper regarding this deal. VW holds all the cards. Volkswagen then crucifies Porsche on costs, resulting in all the cars costing far more than they were supposed to, and the 914-6 “Porsche” in particular costing almost as much as a “real” Porsche 911. Sales targets unmet, quality problems abound, dealers complain, buyers moan, junkyards are filled, the car gets a second lease on life as a club racer, everybody swears to not make the same mistake twice. There you have it.

In Germany, the derisive name “VoPo” was applied to the Volkswagen-Porsche four-cylinder. With just eighty horsepower, this was not a rapid car even by the standards of the day, and it cost plenty of money. The original cars turned a 19-second quarter-mile, and that got worse once the big bumpers and smog equipment of 1972 arrived. By 1974, the 914 2.0 cost $6000 in an era when a 911S cost twelve grand and the almighty Carrera cost $13,500. Put another way… a 1974 Z28 could be had with ALL the goodies for $4500, and it would smoke a seventy-six-horsepower emissions-compliant 914 six ways to Sunday. I’m starting to think this whole “Porsche doesn’t offer value” thing has historical roots beyond the 2010 Carrera S.

To be fair, the last 914s were much better than the original ones. Over time, Porsche added such luxuries as a passenger-side sliding seat and an engine that didn’t burst into flames at the earliest opportunity. The car also had a lot of credibility with SCCA racers at the time. Even today, there are people who put everything from a modern 911 Turbo engine, to a WRX four-cylinder, or even a small-block Chevy, in the cars. The resulting 914s are notable for the way in which they are not faster than their donor vehicles, yet significantly more exciting to maintain and fix.

A flared-fender, balls-out variant, the 916, exists mostly in myth. Six were produced and only two hundred of those survive today. (I wonder if that has something to do with affordable fiberglass 916 body panels created by aftermarket producers?) Porsche realized quickly that selling a mid-engined car for the same money, but less profit, than the 911 was a losing game.

The final production numbers were telling. 118,982 were produced. 3,351 of them were “Porsche” six-cylinders. The rest were VoPos. The big winner here was Volkswagen, as usual. The 914 didn’t keep the lines at Stuttgart humming, and it didn’t contribute much to the bottom line. What it did do was damage the Porsche brand in the United States, and it accomplished that mission with zeal.

The 914 misadventure came to an end when VW asked Porsche to develop another sporting car for them. But this time, Porsche learned their lessons well and made sure to protect their own interests. Unlike the 914, which was done on a handshake and left Porsche powerless against the mighty state-owned Beast Of Lower Saxony, the 924 deal was done on a handshake and… oh, dammit. But that’s a story for another time.

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77 Comments on “Porsche’s Deadly Sin #2: 1969 914 1.7L “VoPo”...”


  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    “Nowadays, the Times would probably “embed” somebody with the Vopos and he would enthusiastically shoot farmers while talking about the need for social justice.”

    The terrible thing is that I’m not entirely sure that was a joke.

    Either way, though, it’s not particularly funny.

    If it -was- a joke, the 6 made/200 survived line makes up for it and more. If not, then… Maybe audit a political science class? I dunno.

    • 0 avatar
      phantomwolf

      Lol, one of my old buddies from back in the day worked for the Times for a little while. You would be surprised by how accurate Jack’s statement is, and how hilariously put. Bravo!

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      Maybe you should take a journalism class and see what they teach, and also grow a pair.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I’m supposed to believe that people who work at the times would gladly murder people in the name of communism? Please.

      If your assertions were anywhere near true, we’d see an outpouring of support for President Mugabe from the left wing. Hell, there the farmers are even rich and white! The liberal elite should be lining up around the block to join up woth Mugabe’s thugs!

      Oddly, though, that is not the case, because being liberal does not make you a wannabe murderer. The fact that you guys seem to sincerely believe that it does is beyond a little chilling.

    • 0 avatar
      MikeAR

      PeriSoft, you need to learn some history and you are a little naive, look up the name Walter Duranty. You will see that Jack wasn’t really joking.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      .

    • 0 avatar
      Libertyman03

      Why must people turn EVERY article on this website into a political argument? You clicked on this article to read a humorous article about Porsche’s 914, right? Then why are you hung up on a part of the article where the author even admits that he is digressing? Leave it alone, and let’s talk about CARS. Go figure.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      Then why are you hung up on a part of the article where the author even admits that he is digressing? Leave it alone, and let’s talk about CARS. Go figure.

      If Mr. Baruth didn’t want political comments, he probably shouldn’t have said that liberals want to murder people.

      I have no love lost for the US left’s propensity to, for instance, whitewash Hamas’ terrorism while condemning Israel’s self defense. But saying that anyone left of center would gun down civilians with glee is kinda beyond the pale.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      PeriSoft, Jack is right on the money: a quick Google search would tell you the NYT has been more than complicit in totalitarian genocide via Walter Duranty. I don’t think they have become more conservative in the subsequent 70 years.

      Reminds me of the joke NYT headline “World to End Tomorrow; Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.”

    • 0 avatar
      Revver

      ^ Parisoft, you’re beating your head against the wall with one dimensional thinkers. Duranty? Fonda? Jeez, lets get a list together of all the right wing support for horrendous dictators (who gleefully slaughtered their own) that happen to “do business” with the US and have a good ‘ol time.

      I think the point that political cheap (make that distasteful) shots have no real purpose is pretty clear.

      A couple of points back to the 914. On its release it was very modern. Remember the Midget, Spitfire, TR-6, MGB were all very much in production. Motor Trend Car of the Year (for what that’s worth).

      The 914/6 was an excellent car. They made over 3,300 of those BTW. In 1970 one finished 6th at Le Mans which took the Corvette until 2004 to match.

      I think the 914 suffers most from the fact we’ve all seen too many faded-paint rusted out beaters. But put a good shine on one, slap on a nice set of wheels, a couple of cheap performance mods, and you’ve got yourself one nice el-cheapo fun-to-drive classic.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Wow, more commentary on the NYT swipe than the cars. Let’s lighten up, eh?

  • avatar
    SomeDude

    I’ve got a suggestion for JB. How about a Honda’s(+ Acura’s) Deadly Sins?
    Plenty of candidates here. The CR-Z alone will outweigh all half-baked Porsches.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      Plus 111111eleventy111!!

      Just pulled the plug on my ’96 Accord earlier this month. She was just getting started, too, 215+k.

      Would have given anything for a newish compact Civic hatch with a capable, reliable engine and a decent suspension. Then I went to my Honda lot. Hell, I would have settled for a Fit if they had included the finish.

      Note to the dealer: it is not ’90s, your product line doesn’t necessarily speak for itself, now that you are targetting the lowest common denominator Venza market.

  • avatar
    TwoTone Loser

    I like the 914. It looked fresh in the eighties, it was low, light, minimalist, and everybody could work on them. From the factory, yes, it could be said it was terrible, given the badge on it. But some cars, and we all know examples, were great cars after the fact.

    I cannot think of a finer chassis to apply ones knowledge to make it better, to finish the job, so to speak.

    I guess that can sum it up, a good car that politics ruined. If you were keen enough to make it better, I think the sins of the fathers would be much outweighed by it’s inherent averageness.

  • avatar
    Vega

    “and Porsche always loses. Every. Single. Freaking. Time.”

    Um, only if you ignore the 356. In fact, Ferdinand built his whole company on KDF technology (which he admittedly developed, but which was funded by the state pre WW2).

    • 0 avatar
      Paul Niedermeyer

      +1
       
      The relationship between VW and Porsche can not be seen in simple win/lose terms. It’s also hard to understand the relationship if you’re not a Kraut; it’s a German thing.
      They’ve been utterly intertwined in various ways since the get-go.Porsche was utterly dependent on VW for a long time, and even after it was a viable concern, Porsche benefited greatly from all the development work it did for for VW.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    And I have bit of a soft spot in my heart for the 914. And the very next car on my CC list was going to be a lovely original early 914 I shot just before going on summer hiatus. It’ll make a nice rebuttal.
    The 914 took Porsche back to the original 356 formula: VW components; excellent handling yet not harsh riding; simple; easy to fix and keep running; and easy to upgrade and improve. It speaks to me, and I’d rather like one. I actually could fit in one: unlike most mid-engine cars, the 914 has a pretty roomy cabin too. And two luggage compartments! How great is that!
    The best of both VW and Porsche: cheap VW parts, and Porsche handling. What’s not to like?

    • 0 avatar
      newcarscostalot

      Hi Paul! Glad to see you on the site! Hope everything is well. I saw a great vehicle for a future Curbside Classic. A Ford Centurion! I could not figure out what C-350 Classic stood for until I saw Centurion on the hood. I did not think any existed in the wild. Come back soon, I miss your articles! ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      impala

      Hi Paul, don’t know how many VW bits are in it but your description of the 914 sure sounds a lot like my ’07 Boxster. ;-)

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I’m not entirely sure the 914 damaged Porsche in the US. Maybe. I’m too young to remember the James Dean era of Porsche. I do remember the 914. Yes, they were VWs, but they had a Porsche badge, and as Paul points out, they handled well (times being what they were) and were easy to fix. It was sort of a starter Porsche.

    I’ve never paid much attention to Porsche since the 914 disappeared for the straightforward reason that I’ll never be able to afford one. It’s just an unobtainable low volume super car.

  • avatar
    Otto Krump

    Only car I’ve owned that caught fire while driving. Not fun to check the rear view mirror and see a plume of black smoke billowing out of the engine cover.
    Definitely damaged the Porsche brand in my books.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Well, at least they make for an excellent donor vehicle for conversion to electric power. But these days, if I wanted an old midengine, I
    ‘d look for a 20-25 year old MR2.

  • avatar
    findude

    The other VoPo is the VoltsPorsche: http://www.electroauto.com/gallery/vp914.shtml

  • avatar
    threeer

    Issues and pedigree be damned…I still want one! Something about the car’s simplicity is appealing to me.

  • avatar
    findude

    The 914 was likely the first, if not only, Porsche most teenagers drove in the 1970s. From that perspective its accessibility alone made it a better Porsche than its more expensive stablemates–one friend’s dad would let us use the 914, but another friend’s dad would not let us near the 911.

    Though they did rust like crazy in later years, they definitely outlast the one contemporary car that handled better from the factory–the Fiat X1/9 which would outdo the 914 in any canyon run.

    From a 1970′s teen perspective, the best fun for the money was an 8-20 year old MG or Triumph if you liked seat-of-the-pants open-top driving in the canyons or a mod-your-own V8 Mustang/Camaro/Mopar if you liked driving fast in straight lines. I don’t think teenagers today can have nearly as much fun for so little money except maybe in an older, slightly modified Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      EChid

      No we can’t. Our options are limited to the aforementioned Miata or a rare but somewhat affordable SAAB 9-3 Viggin. Since I find Miatas of the 90′s to be a little too cutesy…I guess I’m limited to oddball Swedes.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      The Viggen? Affordable?! Sure, until something breaks, at which point you’re in for some suffering.

      I would hazard you have a few choices before invoking the Viggen. The Mustang comes immediately to mind, as does the zillion eminently chippable Volkswagens and Audis (not more reliable than the Saab, but easier to find help on). After that, you get into easily bolt-on-upgradable Hondas, the SVT Focus, the Neon and PT SRT variants, the Cobalt SS.

      I’d sooner build a Caterham than inflict a Viggen on a teenager with limited income.

  • avatar
    phantomwolf

    It’s so true. Cars are too complicated and expensive now for the young to get into. When I was younger you could pick up a ten year old 911 with some miles for a decent price. 914′s I do remember those running around parts of Westchester, and indeed in some of the more middle class parts of town. They were cheap but the few who met that had them enjoyed them. Now-a-days you can’t even get a ten year old civic that has few wires than the space shuttle. Sad to see the day has come when cars truly are appliances.

  • avatar
    Morea

    On the track today in vintage racing 914s (retrofitted) with 6-cylinder engines routinely beat 911s of the same vintage.

    Porsche’s big sin was not the 914 but failure to develop a line of mid-engined cars. We’d have to wait for the 924-944-968 and 928 eras to end before Porsche would develop a mid-engined car again with the Boxster and Cayman.

    So far both of Jack’s Porsche sins can be traced to protecting the 911 franchise at all costs (wimpy 914 and water cooled rear engined car). So much for a forward-thinking engineering-driven company. Doubly true since the very first Porsche protoypes were mid-engined. The 911 has the engine in the rear to add more cabin space, same reason as the VW bug.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Agreed. The 911 is the brand’s namesake but time and time again Cayman reviews heap praise but end in the same refrain: “this car needs more motor”. Porsche needs to let the 911 take on the role of the iconic GT and pass the reins of performance to the infinitely better balanced mid engine cars.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    “Oddly, though, that is not the case, because being liberal does not make you a wannabe murderer. The fact that you guys seem to sincerely believe that it does is beyond a little chilling.”

    Jane Fonda sitting in a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun kinda gave that impression.

    Or when you hear liberals quote Lenin, with a sly grin, “you have to crack a few eggs [in order to bring about social justice]“.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      You seem to be confusing left-of-center Americans with hardline communists. Surely you’re more intelligent than that.

      I also don’t recall ever quoting Lenin with glee in support of autocratic government policy. Perhaps that means I’m really a republican, then?

      Cherry-picking the most extreme leftists in order to paint US Democrats as murderers and communists is as absurd as saying that people who don’t think you should kick your dog are no different than the guys who blow up science labs and burn down loggers’ homes.

      I’m fine with tough political debate, but making generalizations so wild that they completely defy existing terminology does nobody any good.

  • avatar
    pauldun170

    ” The resulting 914s are notable for the way in which they are not faster than their donor vehicles, yet significantly more exciting to maintain and fix.

    A flared-fender, balls-out variant, the 916, exists mostly in myth. Six were produced and only two hundred of those survive today. ”

    lol

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Yeah, other than Porschophiles on track day, I really can’t see why any normal sane person would pick up a 914. I like the looks but I can think of a 1/2 dozen other cars that would make better “cheap upgradeable” cars for youngsters. Entry level performance if you will.

  • avatar
    crc

    Growing up, the 914 was always one of my favorite Matchbox cars.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, you sometimes can’t resist tossing out a piece of red meat. Since I know that you’re bright, sophisticated and anything but simple-minded, I suspect that this cheap journo trick must still have legs in your mind. The Niedermeyers never seem to stoop to this and most readers nonetheless appear to hold both in high regard. Is it too early to make a New Year’s resolution?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Hi Jeff,

      If you are referring to my comment about the NYT… well, I don’t think anybody would deny that the Times would no longer refer to communists as “thugs” or even “Reds”.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Yeah, they’d be “militants”.

    • 0 avatar
      cackalacka

      As a liberal, I don’t mind the lame quips and generalizations.

      I rather enjoy reading alternative POVs, particularly when a site contributor is attacked by White House flacks, or when right-wing economists are kind enough to live-blog. I won’t agree, but I’ll learn a thing or two.

      It’s the indignation some folks have, whenever someone more thoughtful than the author, points out a lazy, humorless political generalization; that’s when things get teatarded and boring.

  • avatar
    ComfortablyNumb

    “…such luxuries as a passenger-side sliding seat and an engine that didn’t burst into flames at the earliest opportunity.”

    Currently mopping up the coffee I spit all over my computer when I read that.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I had a friend in Houston who bought one of these new, or nearly new in 1973. It spent more time on blocks in the shop than on the road. Although partly to blame was the fact that, while in the shop, someone boosted all four wheels. They were expensive alloys and the red tape associated with the insurance was considerable.

    I know I a guy who still drives one. It runs . . . sort of.

    IMHO all these discussions about Porsche and its “preposterous, insulting-to-the buyer” behavior lose sight of a fact that, in the 1970s, Porsche discovered one immutable fact: its “brand” was as a rear, boxer-configured engine sports car. Change that, and there’s not much to differentiate Porsche from any number of expensive low-volume European sportscars. IMHO, the real damage to Porsche’s brand was not the 914. The 914 was just a failed implementation of a sound concept: let’s build a Porsche that’s less expensive than the 911 but that embodies the Porsche DNA.

    No, IMHO, the real damage to the Porsche brand was the series of conventional, front water-cooled engine sports cars that began with the execrable 924 (which had an Audi engine). Unfortunately for Porsche, A.G. these cars came on line head-to-head with the Datsun/Nissan 240Z and suffered by comparison, until they reached rather elevated pricing levels (928; 944 turbo). The 944 was a good car, and the 944 turbo was even better, but neither had Porsche DNA. Same for the 928.

    It’s easy to be derisive of buyers who are using 2/10ths of the car’s performance potential and are buying “image,” but those are the majority of buyers and they are the people who keep the manufacturers afloat, so that the minority of owners who are weekend racers can have their fun. (And how many of them have the $$$ to buy one of these cars new off the showroom floor?

    Call it “image,” call it “heritage” whatever — but that’s the essence of any luxury good purchase, not utility. People don’t buy a Rolex watch because it keeps better time than a Seiko (it doens’t) or because it’s cheaper to own than a Seiko (it isn’t; mechanical watches require regular cleaning and lubrication). They buy it because it’s a Rolex, and if you notice the Rolex ads, that’s what the company promotes: all of the cool people (explorers and such) who own Rolexes. If Rolex made a quartz watch, it wouldn’t sell . . . because Rolex’s heritage is mechanical-movement watches. So, if the Porsche heritage is a rear-engined, air-cooled sports car, the buyer of a Porsche — any Porsche — needs to feel that connection in the car that he buys. The company walks away from that at its peril.

    That said, the company’s belated sign-on to the SUV fad (the Cayenne) and attempt to enter the semi-exotic sedan market (the Panamerica) in competition with, say, Maserati may or may not succeed. (I predict failure for the SUVs. They are the bumblebees of the automotive world: the amazing thing is that they can fly, albeit awkwardly. Other than the small core of true off-roaders, the rest of the buying public is waking up to how stupid the original SUV concept is; and “ultra-performance” SUVs like the Cayenne are stupid on steroids.)

    It’s probably also worth mentioning, which I say as someone who began his adult life in them, that the 70s were a generally fucked-up time. Name me a decent car — by any manufacturer — from the 1970s that performed well, didn’t rust out quickly and was reasonably reliable.

    You can’t. The famed BMW 1600/2002 was developed in the late 1960s. As the ’70s wore on, that car’s performance and appearance suffered. The Datsun 240Z fails the “rust out” test, although it passes the others. Most cars of the era fail all 3 tests.

    So, it’s kind of unfair to single out the humble 914 as being exceptional in that regard. It wasn’t.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    While Mr. Baruth’s probably correct in his assessment of the VW-Porsche gestalt in the early ’70s, his assessment of the car, IMO, doesn’t do it justice. I mean, who really gives a flying f*#k about the whole VW-Porsche gestalt thing, anyway? 914s are damned righteous cars, and that’s all that matters.

    I owned a ’74 914 2.0 Limited Edition “bumble bee” (black/yellow graphics) model from ’85-’88 as my daily driver. Loved that car, learned to auto-X with it, which was its true calling. It was roomy for a two seater, easy to drive, easy to work on. My wife even stole it from me when she could to drive it to work on nice days sans top. I will own another one day, this time a -6, with a 3.6L 993 engine & G50 gearbox transplanted in the engine bay.

    Always felt 914s were well ahead of their time, if imperfectly executed. This was proven true when some 22 years later Porsche debuted the Boxster, also imperfectly executed.

  • avatar
    Jeff Waingrow

    Jack, I was referring to your NYT “imbed” comment. If it was meant to be tongue in cheek, then it falls rather flat. As hyperbole, it seems somewhat dim. Am I missing something here? Perhaps I am.

    • 0 avatar
      PanzerJaeger

      How can someone this easily offended successfully navigate the internet? I would hate to see the reaction to an actual opinionated political editorial.

      It was just a humorous narrative tool linking the nickname of the car to something bad, thus setting the tone of the editorial. It’s really rather common.

      And while the author’s fleeting point about the mindset of today’s journalists versus those of the past was quite apt, I don’t think he really believes that Times employees would willingly shoot farmers. It’s called exaggeration, and it’s another one of those narrative tools that shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      PanzerJ,

      Maybe Jeff is just disappointed that Jack didn’t complete the story – that the NYT reporters are cannibals and eat the dead farmers Hannibal Lecter style – with some fava beans and a nice glass of chianti.

  • avatar
    obbop

    a small-block Chevy……….

    I know where it won’t work!!!!!!!!!!!!

    in space aboard the station!!!!

    Well, it will, until the limited oxygen is consumed.

  • avatar
    nikita

    I hated the 914 the first time I set eyes on it at the LA Auto Show. The styling and overall “cheap” feel of the thing was shocking to a VW owner and Porsche wannabe at the time.

    A few years later I had a 1.7 VW bus and learned to hate the engine as well.

    Much later I realized how difficult all mid engined cars were to repair, but until the Porsche’s Deadly Sin #1 article, I didnt know the Boxter has a sealed engine compartment.

  • avatar
    Libertyman03

    As always, Mr. Baruth, great article. I love reading what you have to say about these cars…any cars, really. And, I even learned something! I had no idea that 914s were sold as VWs everywhere else. Of course these cars are way before my time, but I always thought they were Porsches through and through. Although, how often does that really happen?

  • avatar
    cdotson

    I once had the privilege to ride on a short jaunt in what must be one of the 194 “extra” 916s. A former co-worker of mine built it from his 2.0 college driver and had outfitted a 911 6-cyl engine, cage, racing seats etc and ran it in PCA events. The passenger side at the time was still the stock seat with 4-point harness while the driver’s side was a racing bucket with 5-point. He drove me a couple miles down the road at lunchtime and went through the McD’s drive-thru, having to shut down the engine to hear the speaker etc. Turns out the premise for the ride was he needed a drink holder, provided by my hands, and the drive-through was necessary to minimize the hassle of entry/exit through harnesses and cage. He was average height and very slim while I’m 6′-3 and on the larger side, but I still fit adequately (but wouldn’t were I to don a helmet). It was pleasant-sounding but deafening blasting down the 4-lane county road at 45 in 3rd gear feeling every bump on the road, and it seemed to have more body roll than such a small/light and stiffly-sprung car should have, but it was an interesting experience in what truly must be a rather unique vehicle.

  • avatar
    cc-rider

    DC Bruce makes some excellent points about 70s cars in the “parlance of those times”.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I guess I’m not one of the faithful, but the only Porsches which have ever interested me don’t have their engines hanging out behind the rear axle. Personally I think that Porsche should have kept pushing the envelope first established by the 924 and then the 928. Engine in front, transaxle in back makes for a brilliantly balanced chassis.

    • 0 avatar
      Morea

      Engine in front, transaxle in back makes for a brilliantly balanced chassis.

      And they were late to that party

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/curbside-classic-1975alfa-romeo-alfetta-gt-coupegtv/

      (Lancia had it in 1954, Alfa in 1972.)

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    Designed by the people who designed the Carousel?! That explains a lot….

    Any car executive who approves any car design done by people outside the auto industry should be summarily fired.

    The 914 now joins the Kaiser Henry J in my books.

    I have to wonder what non-automotive company was responsible for the Pontiac Aztek, though?

    What is it about mid-engine cars? The Pontiac Fiero had a nasty habit of going up in flames, too. It was at least honestly named…

    As for the Porsche vs Volkswagen thing – well, perhaps it has to do more with size and money than anything else? Or perhaps it’s kizmet (another word meaning something like “karma”).

    VW and Porsche are like two argumentative, selfish, co-dependent spouses who refuse to even consider a divorce, and the rest of us get to watch the show even if we don’t want to….

    BTW, the Vopo was EVIL. What’s the functional and real difference between Nazi germany and East germany? Not a lot when you are in your bed at 3am and the polizie are at the door ready to take you away so nobody you know ever sees you again.

    http://www.tridentmilitary.com/New-Photos8/egphoto1.jpg

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      “designed by the people who designed the Carousel?! That explains a lot….

      Any car executive who approves any car design done by people outside the auto industry should be summarily fired. ”
      Then you would truly appreciate Brock Yates’ line in Sunday Driver where he describes the 914 as looking like a transistor radio.

  • avatar

    I pretty much agree with the poster from Carolina (Cackalacka) on the political discussion here, and I’m coming from the same perspective.

    The NYT shouldn’t be dragged through the mud for a reporter’s actions during the first half of the last century. Nonetheless, the paper gets a lot of stuff wrong, and its shoddy reporting (by Judith Miller) may be partly responsible for enabling the last administration to get us mired in Iraq.

    Anyway, very interesting account.

  • avatar
    ttacgreg

    Seriously Mr. Baruth,
    I can’t even make sense of your political segue. Maybe you are cribbing the ignorant and borderline lines of reasoning and linguistic mangling some on the far right are practicing. Your being “nostalgic for the days when American journalists kind of, you know, liked baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and freedom.” is a weak statement.
    I am nostalgic for that time too, because journalists back then were far better journalists, unlike today where by and large they are blathering, ignorant, tabloid, and ideological.
    Clearly the time frame for your nostalgia is post WWII. The USA emerged from WWII with the New Deal intact and in full force. The tax structures were far different from now, and at that time (50′s and 60′s) a vibrant and ever increasingly prosperous middle class arose, and far less economic stratification in society existed. By today’s “standards” The tax, economic, and social structures were indeed “COMMUNIST!!!” :0 Except at that time the USSR existed, and compared to that genuine total government economic ownership and control, no free enterprise legally allowed, we looked and indeed were, quite free market and capitalist.
    We have a plutocratic system in place now. Narrative, not facts matter. We have dismantled the New Deal, and now we are suffering a raw deal, unless of course if you are in the top 10 or so percent on the economic pyramid.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Interesting post, especially the bit about narrative v. facts. Too bad it ended with a class warfare statement. New Deal dead? Huh? FLSA setting max. work hours, Wagner Act supporting unions, Social Security… You sure you know what the New Deal was?

    Anyway, I don’t see the 914 any more as Porsche’s deadly sin as I do the 924. The 924 looked the part, but until it became the 944, it was a wannabe.

    I guess if you think a Porsche means having the engine behind the driver, then sure, nothing but the 911, Boxster and Cayman are Porsche’s. Not even the vehicle that saved Porsche’s bacon – the Cayenne.

  • avatar
    Jack Baruth

    Guys (and gals), I’m kind of torn here. Clearly the throwaway segue generated a lot of anger, but I don’t want to abuse the editorial privilege by haranguing our readers on either side of the fence.

    I’m not here to make people politically agitated. Also, I have no idea where people get these weird ideas about me. Apparently, some journo was holding forth at a press event about “that trust fund baby Baruth” and talking about how I was about to get drummed out of automotive journalism. You have to be kidding.

    A quip about the Times is not an attack on liberal America. I would suggest that the NYT is considerably left of your average American liberal anyway.

    There’s a lot of venom thrown at “Faux News” on this site, including a comment yesterday where the poster explicitly preferred Al-Jazeera to Fox. Well, the Times is the blue counterpart to Fox News, like it or not.

    The fact that so many of you were outraged, rather than amused or indifferent, about the first paragraph makes me think we are closer to a real truth than I meant to be. If I said, “Fox News is planning to have Obama killed,” I don’t think anybody would take that seriously, except perhaps the Secret Service.

    • 0 avatar
      jkross22

      Jack,

      No matter what you say, there will be some that get upset with you. That’s just you. Remember the spirited criticism directed at you after your “How to speed” series? Well, this is equivalent to that, except it’s your words and not your actions that has some bothered.

      Some people can only take a joke or an exaggeration when it offends only those they disagree with. No sense in losing sleep or censoring yourself because of that. You’re an oddball, and that makes your writing very interesting, and yes, sometimes controversial.

      Your writing is one example of what makes this site so sticky… write on.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Look, I’m as liberal as it gets and even I wasn’t offended.

      It was a reasonable comment on how you feel about the rise of moral relativism. Which was always there, but becomes more obvious when you get a haircut and a real job. (jab intended)

    • 0 avatar
      Revver

      “Well, the Times is the blue counterpart to Fox News, like it or not. ”

      Current top 3 headlines on NYT.com:

      1. ‘Static Kill’ Appears to Be Working in Well, BP Says
      2. Kenyans Vote on New Constitution
      3. Intel Settles Claim on Anticompetitive Behavior

      Current top 3 headlines on FoxNews.com:

      1. Gov’t Workers caught double-dipping benefits
      2. Abortion clinic prayer charges dropped
      3. Is White House rewriting World War II history?

      Jack, pop quiz: which are actual news, which pander to a political bias?

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      The fact that so many of you were outraged, rather than amused or indifferent, about the first paragraph makes me think we are closer to a real truth than I meant to be.

      What? Come on, you’ve studied literature; surely you know that’s a load of crap. If you wrote in your article that Jews kill Christian babies and drink their blood on passover, I’d be pretty pissed – but that hardly means you’d have struck ‘close to a real truth’.

      Beyond your initial quote, though, what bothered me were the commenters who apparently really do think your statement is literally true.

      Either way, the Times bit was separate from the segue, which was on its own quite good. You could have mentioned the VoPo and the East Germans without dragging the Times into it, and I think we can all pretty much agree – even us liberals – that the Stasi were pretty much just flat out bad dudes.

  • avatar

    C’mon people grow up – this is about cars, not politics.

    And dammit, these articles are wonderful. I love Porsche but I also hate them (just like my wife?) – these articles take me away from the Kool-Aid and into the reality, dare I say . . . the TRUTH about Porsche Cars.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    The fact that these POS’s sold at ALL is proof of the potency of the Kool Aid.

  • avatar

    Forgive me for repeating this, but as a wise man once told me: there are two things you don’t talk about at the bar… religion and politics.

    I have a relative who regularly indulges in the annoying habit of bringing politics into damn near every possible conversation. I’m becoming more and more adept at changing the subject when we talk, and I think he’s finally catching on.

    I have other acquaintances from across the political continuum who can’t seem to control themselves, either. Does each and every exchange have to veer into strident commentary about the oppressed, whomever the prez is, the gov’t? Does every conversation, no matter how benign, have to include thinly-veiled political content and petty sniping? Sadly, the answer seems to be yes.

    Then there are the various business (including car dealerships and repair shops) who regularly insist on alienating half of their potential customers by proudly displaying their religious and political views on their storefront. I suppose it helps me to know who to avoid giving my business to, but I really despair when I see it… the continued erosion of a pluralstic society and the slow, tortured death of tact, diplomacy and tolerance. The ascendancy of the boor.

    I am tossing in my (admittedly quite tiresome) two cents because I’ve noted a pronounced uptick on TTAC in this kind of behavior in both articles and comments over the last few months. It’s gettng tedious enough where I’ve considered going elsewhere to satisfy my automotive web jones.

    My suggestion to all involved: If your political or religious contribution isn’t germane to the immediate discussion (i.e. red light cam legal developments, impending regulations, etc.), I’d recommend thinking twice about posting it. Don’t feed the bears.

    Hey, how about that 914, huh? I’ve wanted to electrify one for years now.

    • 0 avatar
      PeriSoft

      I normally adhere to your basic policies, but make two exceptions: One, when Obbop blames the US’s problems on women and brown people, and Two, when the article itself is the troll. All bets are off in either of those situations.

      Beyond that – yeah, the lack of actual debate is pretty depressing. It seems that there’s very little interest in politics aside from winning and demonizing the “other side” – as if it’s a war over territory. Politics should be about debating to choose policy, not accusing your ‘opponents’ of more and more outlandish acts until half of the country hates the other half.

    • 0 avatar
      The Dark One

      “The g-damn Germans got nothin’ to do with it!” – Buford T. Justice

  • avatar
    dadude53

    Until about `74:
    Porsche=Volkswagen
    Volkswagen=Porsche

    No Porsche-no Volkswagen
    No Volkswagen- no Porsche.

    Simple.

  • avatar
    The Dark One

    I ordered EMPI 8 spokes for my old Beetle, but the stock lugbolts BARELY screwed in deep enough to hold them on. The guy who owned the local VW parts store/wrecking yard recalled that 914 bolts were the same size, only longer. So he yanked a set of a junked “Porsche” and they fit perfectly.

  • avatar
    friendlyjoe

    I agree with the observation that the article itself was the troll.

    It’s super easy to flame pretty much any subject as long as you’re at liberty to butt puke venom, ignore achievements, and are not obligated to do any pesky fact checking.
    Designed by Gugelot? Not.

    Hans Gugelot’s design studio was famous for very clean industrial designs. The Braun shaver, a toaster, the Kodak Ektagraphic slide projector. They get credit in many circles for having drawn the 914, but factory sources disagree.
     
    Heinrich Klie, then head of the Porsche Design Studios designed the car at Porsche Design Studios.
     
    http://www.togobeyond.net/914klie.html
     
    Said Ferdinand Alexander Porsche:
    “Gugelot never did anything to the car! They had a car that had a few similarities with the 914, that’s all. The most one could do is to point out those similarities, but Gugelot had nothing to do with the car…”

    It was also such a complete failure that it not only won its class at the 1970 24 Hours of LeMans, but continues to win to this day, most recently claiming the 2014 SCCA FP Solo Nationals Championship.

    Oh, yeah. It sold 118,978 units. Easily more than the 911 of the time.

    Also, it fascinates me that so many people are willing to rip on a vehicle that they’ve never operated personally.
    A ’73 or ’74 2.0 is plenty fast enough thanks to light weight, handles brilliantly, and is a blast to drive.

    Maybe the author should consider posting to the “Sloppily Researched Self-Indulgent Diatribes About Cars” blog instead.


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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
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