It was the late 1960s, and everybody knew what a Porsche was. The beloved 356 series, with Volkswagen origins, had given way to the 911 and its variants, based directly on the sensational 901 show car of 1964. Then in late 1969, in time for the 1970 model year, Porsche unveiled something as un-911 as could possibly be imagined: A flat, angular Targa-top roadster with its twin seats nearly in the precise middle of the car, the engine and gearbox behind them. Porsche called it the 914. Some derided its undisguised Volkswagen heritage (specifically the powertrain) and variously likened its looks to a briefcase, a toaster or a Panasonic portable cassette recorder.
Porsche, however, saw things very differently. The partnership with Volkswagen, which was trying to shed the long-in-the-tooth Karmann Ghia, unquestionably helped both teams. In the 914, Porsche had its first truly international car. More noteworthy, though, was the 914’s status as the world’s first true mid-engine car to see volume production, another benefit of the Wolfsburg alliance. In its original form, the 914 did make use of the Volkswagen flat-four, but did it in packaging and a layout that gave the car almost preternatural handling and directness by contemporary standards. It also replaced the 911-based Porsche 912 in the model lineup. And that was the base model. When Porsche swapped it its own flat-six from the 911T to create the 914/6 under then-project manager Ferdinand Piech, it put an even 100hp into the flat-handling creation. The 2.0-liter, six-cylinder 914 only lasted two years, but became an instant classic among club and amateur races, especially in the SCCA’s Production classes. The 914 soldiered on until 1975, sold in respectable numbers, and still does decently well at collector auctions nowadays.