Leno: The Porsche 914/6 GT is (still) a heroic handler
It’s official: The Porsche 914 is cool. Jay Leno says so in his 42-minute drive of a 1970 Porsche 914/6 GT, a factory-built race car that instead of a Volkswagen four-cylinder has a six-cylinder Porsche race engine that pumps out 220 horsepower, not bad for a 1940-pound mid-engine, Targa-topped car.
Of course, we kind of knew the 914 was cool, given the fact that one recently sold for $995,000, which barely gets you change back from your million-dollar bill. That car was like the one Leno and former factory Porsche race car driver Randy Pobst drive in the video, but the million-dollar baby had some pretty heady provenance, having won its class at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and scored a sixth-place finish at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Only 16 of these 914/6 GTs were built in 1970, Pobst tells us; this one, he says (he vintage-raced the car recently at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) was the first one built for a customer, but the last one delivered because the Swiss owner wanted some modifications. Pobst figures it was constructed to Le Mans-type endurance specifications given the gearing and the enormous 26.5-gallon gas tank under the front hood, seeming set up higher than you’d expect in a car that was all about a low center of gravity. Open the rear trunk and you find the sway bar and suspension uprights protruding above the floor. In front of that trunk is the engine cover, hiding the lovely Weber-carbed flat six.
On the road, Leno falls in love with the “incredible handling.” Steering is so light it feels power-assisted (it isn’t, of course, and the analog-loving Leno revels in the utter simplicity of the car). It came from the factory with a five-speed transmission that seems so vague Leno and Pobst have to guess sometimes at what gear they’re in.
The engine sound is all Porsche, and Pobst keeps telling Leno to keep the revs up. The power band, Pobst insists, is in the 7000-rpm range.
“It handles like a modern car,” Leno says. “It’s hard to believe it’s 52 years old.” It’s hard to believe Leno is 72, but there you go. Aside from the million-dollar 914, auction houses are giving some love to all 914s now, as we predicted four years ago.
Leno recalls that the 914 was a tough sell, with its bar-of-soap styling and a VW badge hanging on the back, even on this 914/6 GT. But it was a very innovative car that, when comparably powered, handled as well as a 911. “It’s so hard to sell something before its time.”