The Porsche 914 Could Have Been A Tiny Midengine Wagon

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Illustration: Car Design Archives

The Porsche 914 was one of Porsche’s most polarizing designs, largely because it was such a departure from the traditional Porsche look, and as a result I think it tended to get unfairly maligned. What I never realized, though, was that there was a brief attempt made to alter it for the American market, partially because a designer doing contract work for Porsche didn’t like that the 914 lacked jump seats for kids or legless friends.

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So that designer came up with a 914 proposal that was, basically, a midengine station wagon.

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Illustration: Car Design Archives

The designer — who was doing headrest designs for Volkswagen and Porsche — was W. Dorwin Teague Jr., a well-regarded figure in industrial design. He managed to get approval from the VW-Porsche alliance that was developing and marketing the 914 to put together a three-person design team that would come up with some ideas for the American variant of the 914.

Our pals at Car Design Archives, who sourced these amazing images, have an interesting account from Gary van Deursen, one of the designers at Teague’s firm, about the development of this 914 wagon:

“The Porsche 914 was intended to be an entry level Porsche. It was a joint development by VW and Porsche, designed by Heinrich Klie under the direction of Ferdinand Piech, head of Porsche R&D.

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Although there were admirers of the design, there were also many detractors, since it looked nothing like a traditional Porsche 911. Sold as a Porsche in the US it was positioned as a VW-Porsche in Europe.

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The design consulting firm of W. Dorwin Teague was doing design projects for the VW / Porsche / Audi group in the US when the 914 was launched. Teague was disappointed in the design, and in the fact that it was the first Porsche to not have a rear jump seat for children. With the approval of VW – Porsche US he formed a 3 person design team.

The auto enthusiast team, consisting of Teague, who was driving a Porsche 911 Targa at the time, and had designed his first car while a student at MIT; industrial designer Gary van Deursen, who was driving an Alfa Romeo Spider and a TVR Vixen; and Peter Bishop... We squared off the roof line to create room for a small rear seat with entry through the rear hatch, and eliminated the peculiar curved section by the rear window in favor of a stainless, Porsche targa style, roll-bar. The angle of the rear window completed the integrated design and gave balance to the angle of the targa. Peter created four renderings of the design directly on yellow Crescent board.

Porsche US liked the effort and sent the designs to Germany for review, where Porsche and Ferdinand Piëch discounted the effort… along with all of the options offered by other design groups.”

As far as Porsche rejecting the proposal, a Daniel Strohl story at Hemmings gives a bit more color:

“I understand Ferry Porsche disliked it. I’m not sure what exactly was said beyond four-letter words.”

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Yikes! Easy, Ferry, it’s just a rear-facing back seat. Calm down. Plus, the re-design retained many of the body panels and the bumpers, mostly making changes from the roll bar section to the back.

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I think it’s kind of fantastic, really. Sure, engine access would have been, um, tricky, but not really all that much trickier than a normal 914, which really required you to go underneath to do much beyond futzing with the carbs or checking the oil, anyway.

I love that it’s a targa-topped midengine little shooting brake with a good-size trunk up front as well. What kid wouldn’t have loved that rear-facing seat? Or a dog? Or an adventurous adult, crammed sideways?

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Or, you could have the sports car with the most cargo room of anything on the market, too.

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I feel like this was a real missed opportunity for Porsche. Scaled up a bit, with room for adults at the back, this could have been a whole new category for a four-seat sports car.

It’s not too late for Porsche to consider this for the next update of the Cayman, though, so, you know, maybe get on it, people.

DISCUSSION

By
andyindividual

I don’t care what anybody says, the 914 is totally underrated.

Yes it doesn’t have cred with the snobby pedigree set. So what? Sports cars have been built off of all sort of mass market cast off parts, and people have enjoyed them.

Yes it was built to a price. A price people could afford and go enjoy.

Yes it was pretty crappy by today’s standards, but it held it’s own very well when compared to the build quality and mechanical sketchiness of just about every other early seventies mass produced car.

Yes, it had about the same power output as a Pinto. But guess what; it wasn’t a fucking Pinto. (note to self, new marketing tag line for a car: “it’s not a fucking Pinto”)

Yes, if you are a millennial or younger you and your entire family will die just by looking at a picture of one. Get over this safety stuff on occasion and ride a little bareback. Oversharing on Facebook shouldn’t be the only risk you take in life.

Having had the pleasure of driving a friend’s well maintained 914 a few times in the early eighties, I’m forever scarred (in a good way) by these.

If the twin forces of modding/hacking jackasses and the Earth’s insistence on returning these cars back in to base elements didn’t exist, I’d be glad to put one of these in my garage. But, alas, today’s crazy inflated prices for anything with a Porsche badge and not shot to complete shit... :SIGH: