Rare Rides: A Prototype 1970 Porsche 914 Murene, by Heuliez
Today’s Rare Ride is the second vehicle in the series designed by French coachbuilder Heuliez, and was a one-off as part of a Porsche 914 styling competition.
The 914 was a joint Volkswagen-Porsche project and entered the Porsche lineup as the brand’s entry-level vehicle for the 1970 model year. There were two basic versions available, the base 914 with a 1.7-liter flat-four, or the 914/6 with a 2.0-liter flat-six. The former mill was a VW engine, so was derided among the Porsche purists of the day. The six-cylinder came from Porsche and thus was more acceptable, but the 914 was still tainted with the dueling auras of cheap and Volkswagen.
Before the 914 entered production, Porsche decided to have a contest to see who could restyle the rather plain-looking 914 into something better. An early production example was originally obtained by a company called Brissonneau et Lotz, who planned to implement a 914 body of their (employee’s) design. The 914 edit idea came from employee Jacques Cooper, a designer who was a former employee of Raymond Loewy. But B et L had some money troubles, and couldn’t afford to start the project. It didn’t progress past the design sketch stage, which Cooper penned.
The 914 build was passed on to designer Henri Heuliez, who was still new to the automotive design industry. Cooper managed the transition from Brissonneau to Heuliez, and Heuliez started work immediately. The 914 rework went from a paper sketch to a driving prototype in 10 weeks, as Heuliez was eager to prove he could complete a quality car body in short order.
Nearly all original panels of the 914 were replaced, the boxy shape tossed in favor of a wedge with upswept lines toward the rear. B-pillars were widened and included cooling gills that were formerly found on the hood above the midship engine. There were also taillamps unique to the Murene in place of the Porsche units. Perhaps most notably, the 914’s coupe form was edited into a hatchback.
The Heuliez design took the stage for the first time at the Paris Motor Show of 1970, where it was one of three wedge-shaped 914 design exercises completed that year. ItalDesign completed another under the direction of boss Giorgetto Giugiaro that was called Tapiro. A third take was designed by Eurostyle Torino. The Heuliez design received an official name that fall at the Geneva Motor Show: Murene.
After the show circuit and per agreement, the Murene was the property of Brissonneau. Porsche decided to drop the 914 restyling idea for unstated reasons. Brissonneau didn’t hold on to the Murene for long, and Heuliez bought it from them in 1971. Heuliez immediately repainted the Murene from light brown to a super Seventies two-tone orange and beige and put it in his personal garage. Heuliez owned the Murene through 2012 (near the time of Heuliez’ closure) and restored it before its sale to a third private owner.
The Murene sold to its fourth happy owner in August 2021, for $159,914.
Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Writing things for TTAC since late 2016 from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find me on Twitter @CoreyLewis86, and I also contribute at Forbes Wheels.
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