The 1972 VW-Porsche 914 In Review :
It’s easy to dismiss the 1972
914 model year by simply saying that it was merely more of the same. However,
a closer look at what was coming off of the assembly lines indicates that ‘72
was an important transitional year for the 914.
Exterior paint color choices were reworked and yellow (Saturn Chrome yellow) replaced Canary yellow. Interior material and color choices remained the same as in 1971 and for the first time, the 914 had an adjustable passenger’s seat instead of the fixed “all in one” seat built into the firewall pad. The passenger seat on rails was a duplicate of the driver’s seat and did away with the need for the footrest box of the previous years.
As the 914-4 continued to gain an enthusiastic following, production for ‘72 increased to 21,580 cars which was up from just 16, 231 for the 1971 model year. The 914-6, however, was not feeling the love from the sports car buying public and production dropped to just 260 cars for the 1972 model year. The 914-6 would go out with a whimper, not a bang as production was ended.
That’s not to say that the folks at Porsche weren’t interested in performance six cylinder versions of the 914. The M471 package was still offered on the “Six” to give it the flared fender look and increased performance.
And speaking of increased performance......the lust worthy 916 was offered in an extremely limited production run of just 11 cars. Those 11 cars went on to become the Holy Grail for 914, and most other Porsche, enthusiasts. Stories of tracking down these elusive cars abound. The cars are known by their serial numbers or original colors by the cult following that grew after they were released from the factory.
The 916 was originally meant to be a limited production, high performance, Porsche based on the 914 chassis. It was powered by either a 2.4 or 2.7 liter 911 engine. The interior was upscale leather - even on the headliner and door panels. Flared fenders, unique front and rear bumpers, 15”x7” alloys, and a fixed steel roof panel rounded out the package. Serial numbers, in case you come across a real one on ebay or craigslist, are:
914 233 0011 - 914 233 0020
Prototype 914 143 0195
Only one 916 was officially imported into the US, although others have been spotted on North American highways. Number 0013 of the production run resided in San Francisco, CA for many years and was used as a “daily driver”. During that time, I had a chance to drive it when its owner attended one of our Porsche 914 Reunions in Palm Springs. I’m sure that a few current members will remember seeing the 916 in our car show.
After the Reunion Awards Dinner, I asked the owner, Wolf Tattenpach, if he would give me a ride in the 916 later that evening. Instead of giving me a ride, he tossed me the keys and told me where the car was parked in the underground garage. He also warned me that the shift pattern was not the standard 914 pattern, so to be careful with “reverse”.
Sheryl and I headed for the garage and were soon out on the dark streets of Palm Springs in the black 916 (originally painted Viper Green). What a treat! My only concern was that a drug crazed teenager would come flying out of a side street in a ratty ‘73 Buick and T-Bone the 916 thereby making me Wolf’s indentured servant for the next few decades. Fortunately, the drive was uneventful - if you can call diving a 916 a non-event. Wolf and his 916 are now back in Germany.
From time to time a 916 will come up fro sale and prices are all over the place - usually well north of $300,000. Replicas are common and a nice little cottage industry has grown around reproducing exact copies of the original. Many years ago, I visited a facility in Germany where one was being built, complete with steel roof attached.
All in all, the 1972 914 model year was an interesting time to be in a buying mood. Whether your taste and budget matched the entry level four cylinder 914, the 914-6, or the über exotic 916, there was a 914 derivative for you. Choices would never range that broad again for enthusiasts shopping for a new 914. In many ways, the 1972 model year was the apex of 914 production.
That’s not to say things went downhill in all of the remaining production years. As we’ll see in future installments of this series, Porsche still had a few surprises to let out of the bag. After all, in 1972, the 914 wasn’t even half way through its production run. A few growing pains are expected as any car progresses through its life cycle.