Can-Am 914 50th

“GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. Emma Lazarus’ sonnet for the Statue of Liberty might serve equally well as a call to 914 ownership, especially the last part, about “yearning to breathe free”.

Long regarded by many as the “poor-man’s Porsche”, the 914 is today receiving a new following of admirers seeking what is pure in a sports car – a car that will allow them to breathe free of modern “conveniences” that serve to diminish the direct relationship with the road.

Ask any 914 owner what makes the 914 so appealing and you’ll likely hear that it is not what the car has, but rather what it lacks that makes it so special. Free of power steering, free of power brakes, free of an intelligent automatic transmission. No electric windows, no a/c (barring the dealer installed units), and no rear seats. A 914 owner has no desire for such unnecessary accoutrements. A 914 owner seeks to breathe in all that is purely Porsche in the classic tradition – just like “number 1” a 914 features an air-cooled boxer engine, mid-engine design and a no-frills lightweight chassis designed around the driver to deliver superb handling and the ultimate driving experience. The mid engine formula again appeared with the “giant killer” 550 Spyder and a long list of subsequent Porsche racing cars. It just works.

The mettle of 914 owners is frequently tested and must be strong to endure the criticisms they so often hear – not enough power, not made in Stuttgart, “NOT A REAL PORSCHE!” – a phrase the 914 owner meets with good humour. A 914 embodies all that is Porsche in a very tangible way, transcending any fact or statistic used to refute its place in the Porsche pantheon. The best test of all is the seat of the pants. One drive in a 914, and a person quickly appreciates what makes this car so addictive and so purely Porsche. A qualitative measure that must be experienced. Drive one and you’ll understand.

The mettle of 914 owners is frequently tested and must be strong to endure the criticisms they so often hear – not enough power, not made in Stuttgart, “NOT A REAL PORSCHE!” – a phrase the 914 owner meets with good humour.

On August 4th, a contingent of 914 enthusiasts converged on CTMP to pay homage to their favourite car of the Porsche marque – the much maligned 914, to mark 50 years of its production. Just how much does this car mean to people? – ask Tony Alber who was sitting in the waiting room of a US passport office the Friday before the big event nervously awaiting clearance to obtain his expedited papers so he could then hop in his truck and tow his 1974 CanAm Creamsicle over 750 km all the way from Hilltown, Pennsylvania. Or ask John Thurwachter, (Zone 2 Riesentöter Region, Pennsylvania) who drove his 914 from Southeast Michigan. And did he take the 401 corridor? Of course not! As a driving enthusiast, he travelled up the east coast of Lake Huron and then went cross-country over highway #9 to savour the driving experience. And 500 km later, when he finally arrived at his destination, he was actually saddened that it was over and headed back out to explore local roads.

Then there’s Gord Luy, founding president of Red River Region PCA who flew in from Manitoba just to be with other “teeners”. Like many other Porsche enthusiasts, 914 owners, myself included, live and breathe their cars. As a past owner of a 944 and present owner of a 1978 911 and a 1995 993, I can say without any reservation whatsoever that the 914 is the one closest to my heart because it connects me to the act of driving like no other car I’ve ever experienced. Long time PCA UCR member Alex Pankiw of Harmony Road feels the same way. With a wide variety of Porsche cars at his disposal, his vehicle of choice is a 1974 914 1.8 litre. Talk to Alex and he’ll wax poetic about driving his 914, targa roof stowed neatly in the trunk, winding his way through Algonquin Park early in the morning as the mist rises from the water. A sublime experience to be sure. Every aspect of the road surface deftly communicated through the batwing steering wheel emblazoned with the stallion from Stuttgart.

With the support of PCA UCR, 914 owners were able to celebrate their cars on August 4th at a most appropriate venue – on the world-class CTMP Grand Prix Circuit during the PCA UCR CanAm Challenge.

How thankful we are that our favourite car wears the Porsche name, including 914 owners under the umbrella of the largest single marque club in the world – the PCA. With the support of PCA UCR, 914 owners were able to celebrate their cars on August 4th at a most appropriate venue – on the world-class CTMP Grand Prix Circuit during the PCA UCR CanAm Challenge. Eighteen cars made the journey to CTMP to form a display at the Winners’ Podium, and 17 took to the track for parade laps led by Texan Mark Gohlke in his beautifully prepared 914 race car. For the 914 enthusiast, it is worth noting that Mark’s car was formerly raced by Beach Boys Racing and also Sheridan Motorsports. Following behind Mark was PCA UCR newcomer Tim van Rooij and his father Godfried in Tim’s yellow 914, which flew yellow caution flags and bore door signs replicating those that appeared on the first F1 safety car – a Porsche 914 used at the 1973 Canadian Grand Prix on the same track some 46 years ago.

In the parade that followed were a wide assortment of 914s, from the highly original 1972 Willow Green 1.7 of Tim McCaig, to the race prepared 3.6 monster of Paul Roberts, to the highly modified custom of Patrick Bates, sporting a 1.9 VW turbo diesel. At the back of the pack was the steel flared GT inspired car of Peter DeJonge of Restoration Design, a company in Guelph Ontario renowned for helping to keep these cars alive with their excellent replacement panels. But whatever form their 914 took, what each owner found at the track this day was a level of acceptance and comradery that is not always present in car culture when egos are lurking. As David Tipton declared “914 owners are real.” All pretensions are put aside for the 914 owner – it’s all about the joy of driving and appreciating these wonderful cars. The fellowship of 914 owners continued from CTMP with a driving tour of local roads, including a stop at Bewdley on Rice Lake for refreshments and concluding with a shop open house and barbecue social hosted by new member and long time 914 enthusiast Mark Henry and his family. On the menu was cooler corn, salads, sausage and hamburgers with all the fixings. A very special thank you goes out to Kim and Elizabeth Henry for the feast!

All pretensions are put aside for the 914 owner – it’s all about the joy of driving and appreciating these wonderful cars.

Long time 914 historian and former UCR President Dave Pateman judged a mini-concours, providing a friendly and instructive evaluation of each car. As part of the CanAm event, how appropriate it was to see the two namesake 1974 914 LE Can Am cars, the Bumblebee of UCR members David and Carrie Tipton and the Creamsicle of American Tony Alber receive top honours for “best restored” and “best survivor” respectively. Honours for “best modified” went to Terry Smyth for his nicely detailed tribute to Larousse’s 1970 Marathon de la Route winning 914-6 GT, driven to the event by noted 914 specialist Mike Galloway of Mike’s 914s. 

The CanAm 914 50th was a resounding success. For some attendees it was a first time visiting CTMP and a first time UCR event. How wonderful it is to initiate new members in this fashion, highlighting the racing pedigree of our favourite marque! SIG 914 members wish to thank all the racers and volunteers that made our day at the track possible. Special thanks to Past President Kathleen Wong for her tireless support and enthusiasm to help me, a newbie, coordinate this special day. Thanks also to Terry Cassan, Stefan Walther, Renate Weidner, Mike Bryan, Jackie Metcalfe, Graham Jardine and Adrian Chan.

As I write, I notice my wrist bands still in place from our day at the track. Reminders of a dream you don’t want to be over. But the dream isn’t over. The PCA UCR SIG 914 group has only just begun and we will continue to breathe free, enjoying our cars and sharing our passion for Porsche and our favourite of all – the 914. Happy 50th! </>

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Story by John Tipper, PCAUCR SIG 914 Advocate | Photos by Adrian Chan, UCR Member

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