I could talk about the Porsche 914 all day. Even though I love how it looks right out of the box, I can certainly understand why some don't.
The 914, hampered by decades of being thought of as the "cheap" Porsche (owners know that "cheap" and "Porsche" is a relative thing) led to it being the first Porsche many owned. And the reasons for many examples falling into disrepair are numerous: "unreliable" mechanical fuel injection, price of spare parts, the difficulty of working on a mid-engine car, a perceived lack of performance…
But what if, from the start, the guts of the 914 were clothed in styling from an Italian carrozzeria?
Canadian* Werner Bernhard Heiderich was, by the late 1960s, Porsche's importer to Spain. After nearly a decade of importing prestigious vehicles he had decided to create his own, under the name Hispano Alemán.
In 1968, this meant re-bodied Volkswagen Beetle buggies. But by 1970 and the introduction of the Porsche 914, Heiderich saw an opportunity to give the car the styling it deserved.
Italian Pietro Frua was given a contract to re-style a 914/6 for the 1971 Geneva Motor Show. The Hispano Alemán Vizcaya was born.
At the time, Frua was best known for his work with Glas, a small German carmaker who was eventually bought by BMW in the late-1960s. After producing the Goggomobil microcar, Glas struggled to shake the image as "just" a microcar manufacturer and hired Frua to produce new designs for their range.
Heiderich was likely aware of this success and—even though some say Frua was his second choice of stylist—saw an opportunity to show the world what his idea of a sports car should look like.
Several sources say that Heiderich and Frua worked very closely together over several months, producing this stunning shape. The press loved it. Some say that Porsche loved it, and had an agreement to produce a limited run.
I'll gloss over the mechanicals of the car, except to say that most sources quote the car as having 225-horsepower—some sources mention the car had parts from the Porsche 906 sports racing car.
That would, if true, make it quite quick.
My favourite detail? The car's badge was a mash-up of the Porsche crest, featuring a Spanish flag, Madrid coat of arms, and Canadian maple leaves!
Whether the result of the close collaboration or the unexpected popularity of the design, there was a legal dispute between Heiderich and Frua. The car was seized by Swiss authorities after its debut in the Geneva Motor Show.
Shown next in 1972 at the Barcelona Motor Show, the legal dispute was still not over. Heiderich ultimately won the court case in 1976, the same year the Porsche 914 was taken out of production.
This special car wouldn't be Hispano Alemán's last, as the company produced a few unique sports cars based around European mechanicals...
But that's a story for another day: subscribe to Banovsky's Car of the Day email to get an interesting story, every single day.
* Whether he was Canadian or schooled in Canada seems to be unclear. If you have information, please get in touch.
Sources / Recommended Reading