Home » The Porsche 914 Should Have Been The Type 4 Ghia

The Porsche 914 Should Have Been The Type 4 Ghia

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I’m not sure I could have picked a less important thing to discuss today, and it’s not like there isn’t important stuff out there to discuss; for example, CNN finally noticed something that we’ve been fretting about for a long time now, how even minor car repairs are getting crazy expensive. That’s a huge industry-wide problem. And one I don’t have good answers for, which means that the only reasonable thing to do is consider some automotive issues that don’t just not really matter, but haven’t mattered for decades. Issues like the pressing question of if the Porsche 914 should have been branded and thought of as a Karmann-Ghia.

Yes, that’s right: I’m second-guessing the combined might of Volkswagen and Porsche’s marketing departments, which introduced the Porsche 914 as the bottom end of the Porsche spectrum and the top of the Volkswagen one, replacing the old Karmann-Ghia as VW’s sports car. As you may know, the Porsche 914, being a joint venture between Volkswagen and Porsche, was badged with both companies’ logos, as the VW-Porsche 914, everywhere but in America, where it just wore Porsche badging.

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I think this just ended up being confusing to people; with the exception of the 914-6 that used the flat-six engine from the Porsche 911, mechanically the 914 was really all VW, using the VW Type 4’s flat-four. Sure, Porsche massaged it to deliver the first triple-digit horsepower for a production air-cooled VW engine (in its 2-liter guise, 100 hp to be exact, which is definitely three digits, even if two are zeroes and the other one is the smallest non-zero numeral) but it was still a VW production engine, shared with the other sedans and wagons of the VW Type 4 series.

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Now, if it was badged instead as a Karmann-Ghia, the 914 could have fit right in with a long history of VW Karmann-Ghia sports cars. Air-cooled VWs are divided into four types: Type 1 is based on the Beetle (and includes the Thing, the Brasilia, Country Buggy, and so on), Type 2 is the Microbus and other commercial vehicles like the pickup trucks, campers, etc., Type 3 are the Notchback, Fastback, and Squareback, and all have the pancake engine and trunks at both ends, and the Type 4 includes the 411 and 412 series of two-and-four door sedans, and the Type 4 wagon.

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Now, here’s the thing: there were sort of Karmann-Ghias for all these Types! Again, sort of!

The Karmann-Ghia started as a way to make a sporty alternative to the Beetle using the Beetle’s same chassis and mechanicals; the design came from an old Chrysler/Ghia concept car called the D’Elegance. Here, let me from a few years back explain it all, and more:

The commercial-focused Type 2 didn’t really have a sporty counterpart – the idea of a sporty van is still hard for many to wrap their heads around – but one could argue that the stillborn VW/Porsche Type 700 project seemed an awful lot like what a Karmann-Ghia version of the Type 2 could have been.

Then the Type 3 came out, a more upscale line of cars, and there was a Ghia based on that type, too, the Type 34 Ghia. The Type 4 never actually had a sporty variant, but that’s only if we don’t count the Porsche 914 – which I’m saying, we should. Remember, the 914 had a whole Type 4 drivetrain and suspension that was similar to the Type 4, along with a ton of other random hardware and switchgear and other bits.

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Here, let’s put this all in a chart, a chart showing all the air-cooled VW Types and their Karmann-Ghia versions, if we consider the 914 to be the Type 4 Ghia. Look at this; it just makes sense:

Ghiachart

You see what I’m getting at? The 914 as the Type 4 Karmann-Ghia just fits the pattern perfectly. It was built by Karmann, just like the other Karmann-Ghias, and while it wasn’t designed by Ghia, instead penned by Porsche’s in-house stylist Michael Mauer, I’m happy to let that slide. Because I still think conceptually, it should have been the Type 4 Karmann-Ghia.

It even feels like what a Type 4 Ghia would have been – it’s got styling as removed from the original Type 4 look and yet still of the era, just like the Types 1 and 3 Ghias were. It’s the same formula, just with a different label slapped on it.

Would this have helped Porsche get the entry-level Porsche they wanted so much? Ehhh, okay, maybe not? But they could have still taken a nice cut from what I assume would be massive sales of the VW Type 4 Karmann-Ghia and used that money for whatever the hell they wanted – after all, in the US, VW got their name taken off the car that had so many VW parts, so maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad the other way around?

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Look, if you have access to a time machine, all I’m saying is that this is probably worth a shot, after you get tired of killing toddler Hitler or whatever.

 

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Donald Haack Jr
Donald Haack Jr
3 days ago

A little late, but I’m just catching up on my reading.

If we kill toddler Hitler, what will become of Volkswagen?

Donald Haack Jr
Donald Haack Jr
3 days ago

Andy Individual
6 days ago
“Look, if you have access to a time machine, all I’m saying is that this is probably worth a shot, after you get tired of killing toddler Hitler or whatever”

If you kill toddler Hitler, we won’t be having this discussion anymore.

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Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
6 days ago
Reply to Andy Individual
Ha, not that tired old chestnut. Nope, the VW Beetle was an idea whose time had come so it was gonna happen one way or another, regardless of Hitler’s misappropriation of the work of so many people such as Josef Ganz, Hans Ledwinka, Ferdinand Porsche, et al.

Racer Esq.
Racer Esq.
9 days ago

The Ghias were design exercises on VW chassis. The 914 did not use an existing VW chassis, because it was mid-engined, not rear-engined, like all the Ghias. A nod to the Porsche 550 Spyder, it was a legitimate sports car that saw a lot of use in amateur and professional racing.

Jakob K's Garage
Jakob K's Garage
9 days ago

You should have used one with the VW wheels (and not the very Porsche Fuchs ones) in your chart, and I would have bought it 🙂

Last edited 9 days ago by Jakob K's Garage
Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
10 days ago

The Karmann Ghia directly copied Virgil Exner’s 1953 Chrysler D’Elegance which Ghia built from Exner’s drawings, so that is even more removed from Ghia.

The car in the illustration is a 914/6 which not only has a 911 engine but 911 front suspension and brakes as well as a 911 steering column. The giveaway is the Fuchs pattern wheels which only fit the hubs on the 914/6. There are a lot of other bits and pieces that don’t interchange between the four and six cylinder models because the bare shell was shipped from the Karmen factory and assembled at the Porsche factory. Oddly enough, some of the rear brake bits and pieces don’t interchange with the 911, but are shared with the Dino (Ferrari) 246.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
9 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Crawford

This is really neat, maybe I can get a bit of Dino within my lifetime after all.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
10 days ago

The one thing I really wish they’d made is a 914 without the Targa bar. It was so obviously designed as a full drop-top and last-minute changed for predicted US rollover regulations, and I’d love it if there was a full Spider version. I know a few US-based shops offered conversions, but that’s not quite the same.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
10 days ago

“Look, if you have access to a time machine, all I’m saying is that this is probably worth a shot, after you get tired of killing toddler Hitler or whatever”

If you kill toddler Hitler, we won’t be having this discussion anymore.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
10 days ago

Ha, not that tired old chestnut. Nope, the VW Beetle was an idea whose time had come so it was gonna happen one way or another, regardless of Hitler’s misappropriation of the work of so many people such as Josef Ganz, Hans Ledwinka, Ferdinand Porsche, et al.

Eggsalad
Eggsalad
10 days ago

I think it comes down to currency devaluation. In the mid 1970s the dollar was very weak against European currencies. Volvo, Audi, SAAB, BMW, and Peugeot were forced to move upmarket during this period because their pricing became so high in the US. VW was basically forced to build a factory in the US so they could keep selling cheap Rabbits.

I think the 914 would have been very expensive at a VW dealership, but it was a cheap Porsche.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
10 days ago

There’s a sort of parallel in the 914 being a strict 2-seater compared to the Type 1 and 3 Ghias’ 2+2 layout, alongside the Type 4 having VW’s first 4-door sedan (it was joked that the 411 designation meant “4 doors 11 years late”).

Jason, I’m glad to see your priorities haven’t shifted that much, I was starting to worry about you after you got through that Simca 1000 article without once mentioning it was the first car on the US market with amber rear turn signals.

Hugh Crawford
Hugh Crawford
10 days ago
Reply to  Nlpnt

Technically the 914 is a three seater and could be ordered with the M570 center seat option. Apparently in some places there was a tax on two seat cars that the third seat avoided.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 days ago

I could see Karmann Spyder, maybe.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
10 days ago

The 411 was bigger than those prior base-VWs, though, plus it had that extra overhang out front — neither of which are all that great for a sports car. The 411 handles fine enough for what it is, but in a floaty baby-luxobarge kind of way. It’s not particularly sporting. We ended up with a better sports car by letting VW and Porsche team up on something new and separate from my unloved sedan son. As much as I love rear-engine cars, the mid-engine 914 is really special.

Sorry, as a 411 owner, I have to shoot this idea down. Also, I get to say I have a Porsche engine in my VW since it’s out of a ’74 914. Don’t ruin that for me.

Last edited 10 days ago by Stef Schrader
V10omous
V10omous
10 days ago

was badged with both companies’ logos, as the VW-Porsche 914, everywhere but in America, where it just wore Porsche badging.

I actually just learned this right now.

So this was an important article for me at least.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
10 days ago

The Type 3 got not one, but two Ghias (the TC also used that platform)

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
10 days ago

Maybe Ghia would have objected to their name being used on a car they didn’t design?

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
10 days ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

Came here to type this. Not designed by Ghia nor built by Karmann. Talk about badge engineering a la GM…

An interesting, but inappropriate proposal, IMHO.

Jack Beckman
Jack Beckman
10 days ago

Yes, mine has a Karmann plate in the door sill. So the Karmann part is fine.

Dudeoutwest
Dudeoutwest
10 days ago

Thank you. I learned something and I appreciate that.

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
10 days ago
Reply to  Jack Beckman

Ford bought Ghia out in 1970. There would’ve been legal issues. As it was, VW wound up production of the Type 3 KG in 1969 but was counting on a grandfathered agreement to not have to rename the Type 1 KG.

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