VW-Porsche celebrates the 40th anniversary of the mid-engined 914 with a display at the Porsche Museum

It took some time for Porsche and Volkswagen's first joint venture to be taken seriously. Although the mid-engined 914, introduced in 1969, was a ground-breaking sports car, its dual parentage has long served to dampen its popularity. However, with age comes respect and the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart is celebrating the 914's 40th anniversary with a special exhibition of a rare 914/8 from 9 April to 10 May 2009.

Volkswagen and Porsche's association began in 1966, when Porsche was tapped to develop a low-cost, mid-engined sports car. VW needed a successor to the Karmann-Ghia, and Porsche was hoping for a lower-priced stablemate for the 911. The plan, originally for Porsche to sell a six-cylinder version of the car, and Volkswagen would get a four-cylinder, met with controversy in the boardroom when unexpected management changes at Volkswagen led to disputes over naming and sales rights. The insistence of VW's new CEO Kurt Lotz that the new car be sold exclusively as a Volkswagen nearly killed the 914 before it was born.

Fortunately, an agreement was finally reached--the car would be badged as a "VW-Porsche" and sold by a joint dealer network--and the 914 was unveiled at the 1969 Frankfurt Motor Show. Things didn't get any easier. The mid-engined sports car was attractive and a good performer thanks to its Porsche heritage, but the motoring press immediately dubbed it the "Volksporsche" and "the People's Porsche," leading to instant image problems. Porsche enthusiasts quickly stigmatized the car's Volkswagen influences, and the badge overshadowed the 914/6's excellent performance. Even with a 2.0 liter flat-six sourced directly from the 911T, the 914/6 got no respect.

The four-cylinder 914 was a better seller, with over 115,000 built between 1969 and 1976. This was due in part to U.S. sales, where the car was marketed without the Volkswagen badge. Though it lacks the ultimate performance of the rarer 914/6, the 914 gathered enough fans over the years for sizeable clubs to form. Eventually, even the Porsche faithful (well, most of them, anyway) chose to recognize the VW/Porsche 914 as one of their own.

The 1969 914/8 on display at the Porsche museum is an extremely rare vehicle. One of two built, the show car features a 300 horsepower eight-cylinder racing engine, and was presented to Ferry Porsche as a 60th birthday present.

Gallery: VW-Porsche Celebrates 914 Anniversary