24 June 2016

The Porsche 914, in short supply but not yet treasured

Porsche built some 119,000 of its mid-engine 914 models in 1970-76. Yet, for a model produced in abundance, they are surprisingly rare on the market.

The 914s were inexpensive to begin with, and they became steadily less expensive as they aged, hovering outside the mainstream of Porsche 911 enthusiasm. Still, despite the inevitable toll that being cheap takes on care and maintenance, diminishing supply hardly accounts for the 914s rarity, both four-cylinder and six, in the collector car market.

Maybe it has something to do with how much fun they are to drive or how easy they are to own and maintain.

Regardless, the auction market doesn’t see many Porsche 914s. In spite of their relative scarcity, 914/6 models appear in disproportionate numbers to their production. Since the beginning of 2015 we’ve seen just four 914s, a stark contrast with the five Carrera GTs, cross auction blocks in the same period. That’s how rare a 914 at auction is.

A measure of the 914’s unusual place in the pantheon of collector cars is that there was one in RM’s auction of the Bruce Weiner microcar collection in 2013. Is a 914 (a 1976 2.0 in this case) a microcar? Not by any measure. However, it’s an indicator of its appeal that it could be shoehorned into the Weiner collection’s definition of small, intriguing and innovative cars. Its price, $25,875, also represented a high point in four-cylinder 914 values.

Nevertheless, it is possible to go wrong. Bonhams sold a ’70 914 at Scottsdale, Ariz., in January of this year for $16,500. It wasn’t very good. A repaint left overspray in the wheel wells and on the suspension, and the vinyl covering on the roof panel was cracked; the original interior, however, was sound and just lightly worn.

Two months later it turned up to a much less appreciative and smaller audience at Motostalgia’s auction at Amelia Island, Fla., where it sold for a deserved $9,900. Just seven miles had been added to its odometer – and nothing to its seller’s ownership experience except the lesson that you can, in fact, lose money.

The hot 914/6 models rarely appear at auction, or anywhere else for that matter. Their owners seem to be comfortably satisfied with the cars’ rarity and performance – and the trendsetting nature of their layout and powertrain.

Auctions America set a modest recent benchmark for 914/6s at Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in April with a restored-better-than-new 1972 2.0 liter example at a price of $70,400. It was impossible to argue with its presentation or the freshness of its restoration. It also was impossible to argue with the result, a sound transaction for both buyer and seller.

In sharp contrast, Mecum offered a 914 upgraded to 2.2-liter six-cylinder power with 40mm Weber carburetors, Recaro seats, fender flares, Momo steering wheel and five-lug Fuchs alloy wheels at Houston in April. The trouble was that it wasn’t what it wanted to be – a 914/6. The bidders quit at $39,000, a telling contrast not only between real and make-believe 914/6s, but also the perils of spending vast amounts of money to make a 914 into a 914/6.

The 914 is, despite its Volkswagen origins and Karmann build location, a landmark in Porsche history. It foreshadows the immensely popular, affordable and fun-to-drive Boxster and Cayman by close to half a century. A good four-cylinder 914 is, far and away, the most satisfying, modestly priced Porsche available. It is a true Porsche, developed under Ferdinand Piëch’s project leadership, and a milestone of the marque’s evolution.

Those are attributes not to be taken lightly, especially at $10,000 to $15,000.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    James Quinn Earth June 27, 2016 at 16:09
    Original 914 6 owned 45 years. Value of good ones moves very slowly. Thanks be to manufacturers of conversion kits and component parts. Advertised sale prices are greatly exaggered. Many high priced offerings are pretty clearly poor quality. So let the buyer beware! In the meantime I'll have fun with mine. JRQ
  • 2
    stu IA/AZ June 27, 2016 at 16:38
    I saw that green 914 at Bonhams in January- I was embarassed for Bonhams that it was even there. Parked in the back where it belonged. A total POS and maybe worth 1500... I have a '71 914 since new and a '73 to join it for nearly 2 decades. Great fun and a true Porsche, even though the purists at the time didn't want it in the PCA...
  • 3
    Andrew Morsman Jenks, OK June 27, 2016 at 16:41
    Perhaps a reason that not that many 914s show up in auctions has something to do with the fact that a good number of them trade hands between people in the 914 community, or with their assistance. Also, eBay and Craigslist is the primary source of all but the most expensive 914-6s. In all honesty, it has taken so long for their values to move up that many of them simply rusted away in fields and salvage lots. Unlike Triumphs and MGs, the restoration market for the 914 didn't really blossom for a fairly long time, giving the cars a chance to die while waiting to be restored, thus reducing the number available now.
  • 4
    Marsha Barnsdall,OK June 27, 2016 at 18:31
    Just curious--have a 74 914 but it has a 1.8L engine, so does that make it more valuable, less and no difference? Thanxs
  • 5
    Glen Bradford Sexsmith,AB,Canada June 27, 2016 at 19:37
    I am the proud owner of a Porsche 914, 2 litre In great shape! What a fun car!!
  • 6
    Kevin Summit June 28, 2016 at 17:58
    Even the nice ones are going to need something. Plan accordingly. Spend 5k more than you think you want to spend.
  • 7
    Mike Chuckey, TN June 28, 2016 at 11:59
    I've owned a 1971 Porsche 914-4 (1.7L) since 2005, and it is the most fun on wheels I think I'll ever have. I'm thankful I was able to snag it while prices were relatively low, even though it was a basket case that needed a serious mechanical restoration. If you're looking to buy, buy the one that's in better shape and costs more instead of the one that's cheaper and "just needs a few things."
  • 8
    Wally Huntoon Costa Mesa, California October 24, 2016 at 22:16
    I have a 1975 2.0 that I bought in 75 and put away in 1991. I just finished having it brought back to life. It looks sensational and still a lot of fun.
  • 9
    Eduardo contreras El paso tx March 20, 2017 at 15:40
    Im not into cars but this weekend i bought a 1973 914. Has all original parts not wrecked but needs alot minor details. Im debating to keep it which will take time and money or flip it and dint buy cars again. I paid $4000. What do you guys suggest. Thank you

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