In the late 1960s, Hans Clausecker built the first prototypes of the VW-Porsche 914 and two unique models with a racing engine: the Porsche 914 S in an extrovert orange red for Ferdinand Piëch – and a second 914 S in elegant silver for Ferry Porsche. Their characters also reflected their owners’ personalities.
Hans Clausecker was not particularly surprised when the body of a Porsche 914 was rolled into his workshop in the winter of 1968. The young engineer was more than familiar with the contours of the 914 – unusually bold even then – as he had already spent days, weeks even, with the angular, headstrong two-seater. After all, it was Clausecker who had built the 914/4 prototypes as a newly qualified mechanic. This was the first series-production mid-engine sports car to come out of Zuffenhausen, the outcome of the cooperation between Porsche and Volkswagen which started in the mid-1960s. It initially resulted in two variants of the VW-Porsche 914: the four-cylinder boxer 914/4 with a Volkswagen engine, and the six-cylinder 914/6 with a Porsche engine.
Not even the striking colour of the chassis, an extrovert orange with a tinge of red, made the young Franconian stop short. Joining Porsche straight after his apprenticeship in 1959 as an 18 year old, he did not question other people’s decisions. He just wanted to build cars. “Those of us in the workshop didn't make the decisions,”, says Clausecker now, half a century later. “We were given an order and we assembled it accordingly.” It was as simple as that.
Admittedly, hardly anything Hans Clausecker and his colleagues in Stuttgart worked on was simple. The specialists in Plant 1 in Zuffenhausen rarely had anything to do with commonplace orders. Whatever was ground, assembled or modified in their workshop was always continuously evolving. It could only go into series production when it was ready to leave the “cage”. The “cage” was the name Clausecker and his colleagues gave their test department, which was already somewhat shrouded in mystery because of its location. One corner of the plant, which moved to Weissach in 1971, housed the racing department – and was occupied at the time by the ingenious and sometimes headstrong Head of Development Ferdinand Piëch. The other corner featured the cage, shielded by long wooden planks, with access granted only to a handful of people. Even Ferry Porsche had to sound a horn outside before he got let in, says Hans Clausecker. He didn’t have a key. And of course, whatever happened in the cage, stayed in the cage.
Clausecker would quickly discover that the secret in a distinctive orange colour that was rolled into the cage on 12 December 1968 was directly associated with Ferdinand Piëch. The young mechanic soon realised that this would be no run-of-the-mill commission as he looked through the accompanying documents. He was given only a single sheet of paper – instead of the usual pile. This sheet of paper did not contain any precision drawings or technical notes from the design engineers, as was normally the case. Instead: 13 work steps written in ballpoint pen. Number 1: “Assemble the car ready for driving”. Point 2: “Install engine number 908046”.
908 – of course he knew the serial number. Every engineer, designer and mechanic in the development and testing department in Zuffenhausen knew it. By this point at the latest, the seemingly stoical Franconian Hans Clausecker must have sat up and taken notice, at least a little bit. Because, in place of the standard series engines, which initially had 80 PS, Clausecker had been instructed to install the engine from the Porsche 908: a much longer eight-cylinder version which output a ferocious 350 PS at the rear axle in the racing car – more than three times the power output of the 914/6 and actually much too powerful for a road car.
The three-litre boxer engine from the agile 908 was not just any engine; it was one of the most powerful of its time. Porsche won the World Championship for Makes in ’68, ’69 and ’70 with the venomous engine. And it was probably Piëch’s favourite engine.
It was precisely this powerful racing engine with fuel-injection system that the Porsche Head of Development wanted to have in this road car, a car with an appearance and design that many people back then thought did not quite fit in the Porsche universe, a car whose presentation at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September 1969 proved somewhat controversial. Why did he want that?
I never asked, answers Hans Clausecker – that wasn’t my job, it was another era. “You probably had more respect for your boss back then.” A hint of the Swabian dialect has crept into the Franconian accent of the deserving pensioner after many years of living in Baden-Württemberg. “Mr Piëch probably wanted to test it for himself: he couldn’t drive a racing car on the road. So he had the engine fitted in a road car.”
A one-off, never planned for series production – perfectly tuned and customised for Piëch. And which was perfect match for Piëch.
Back then, the young Ferdinand Piëch really was considered a greater risk-taker than others. In his time as Head of the Racing Department, he gained a reputation as someone who liked to take things to the extreme. The following year, the young engineer went all out with the development of a racing engine for the Porsche 917, taking a considerable financial risk. And the project of the century reaped its reward: in 1970, Porsche secured the overall victory at Le Mans. The 12-cylinder car achieved the top speed of 385 km/h at the height of its development – winning everything there was to win.
Is this the reason why an engine like the one in the 908 was fitted in the fairly modest Porsche 914? Did Piëch see the 914 S as a reaction to the critics who had called the Porsche 914 a “people's Porsche” as its appearance was unusual for a Porsche and it had a quite down-to-earth price and engine. This would definitely have irritated the ingenious Piëch who was so enamoured with engine power.
So Hans Clausecker, who was given the journeyman Klinger as an assistant, started with the work, which proved to be quite complex. For one thing, the small engine compartment had to accommodate the massive 908 engine. Above all, the native from Rothenburg had no customised parts or plans that had previously produced at the drawing board. Reduce the size of the luggage compartment, increase the size of the tank, more powerful brakes, and so on – Clausecker was forced to improvise. “We didn't have any special parts from the racing department or anything like that,” he says. “I had been commissioned to build a single car and there was no-one to say how it could be done,”, he explains. “So you just piece your parts together. You take what’s available.” One of the things he did was to install components from the 911 “because it had the same front axle as the 914”. This is one of the reasons why Piëch’s unique 914 S was so close to his heart. Because the men in the workshop were given free rein. “We just had to think of something,”, says Clausecker. “Back then, we just got on with it. The boss would say, there will be a racing car endurance run this weekend at the test track in Wolfsburg and I want you, you and you to come along,” says Clausecker. “And then we were driving racing cars in an endurance run. That just doesn't happen anymore.”
Clausecker had started with the conversion work on 12 December and finished in February 1969. In between: short trips in the road car with a racing engine to Weissach, where Piëch had a holiday home in the forest and where the Porsche test track had just been completed nearby. Hans Clausecker, who himself also completed many race kilometres as an endurance test driver on the Nürburgring, brought the car on Fridays and Ferdinand Piëch tested it over the weekend. The mechanic then picked it up again on Mondays, when he found a note attached to the steering wheel with the changes the boss wanted. So Clausecker got back to work. Again. And again. “The car was only ever taken to Herr Piëch once everything ran the way it should.”
And how that blood orange Porsche 914 S ultimately ran! The eight-cylinder engine had an output of 300 PS in the end. It reached the 100 km/h mark in under six seconds, with a top speed of 260 km/h. “The engine had to be hot,” remembers Clausecker, who was the first test driver of the unique Porsche. “A cold start would make it splutter. The engine needed its oil temperature, its operating temperature.” The three-litre drive system was impatient at the lower speeds, sometimes it would stutter. “It needed higher engine speeds,”, explains Clausecker. It is quite clear why that is: Piëch’s 914 S was in actual fact really a racing car. Not a car for road traffic. “A racing driver should not coast along, they need to put their foot down.”
The exterior of the 914 S was also given a racing makeover, more vehemence, a more distinctive note: extremely wide rims, wide wheels and wing extensions, for example. As well as a double front with a strikingly large air inlet for the oil cooler at the front of the car. However, a few style elements which would never go into series production were really what made the Porsche with the serial number 914111 unique: the pop-up twin headlights, for example, developed by Porsche lead designer Heinrich Klie, which can only be found on the 914 S in this form.
Archaic and wild in character, but tamed and fine tuned with precision, hard work and engineering skill – this was Piëch’s 914 S. This was no longer a people’s Porsche. This was the triumph of the most powerful Porsche road car of its time. The rev counter in the cockpit displayed a fascinating “10” at the end of the scale. Every element proclaimed: “I am a racing car”.
But Clausecker wasn’t finished with the eight-cylinder 914 just yet. He experienced a sense of déjà-vu when he saw the Volkswagen-Porsche once again. A few months later, Clausecker had the next 914 in his cage, this time in an elegant silver with a narrow sunroof. Once again, the eight-cylinder engine was to be fitted, but on this occasion Clausecker had drawings and construction plans.
Who was the second 914 S intended for? “We didn't know back then,” he answers. “It was a secret. We just did as we were told.” The more discreet brother to the extrovert 914 S in orange – it was for no less than the head of the company: for Ferry Porsche. The car was to be given to Ferry Porsche on 19 September 1969 in Zell am See in Austria as a surprise for his 60th birthday.
And the boys in the cage built Ferry’s 914 eight-cylinder car exactly as they knew and loved the Porsche boss: Ferry Porsche, always well-dressed and unassuming, was given the same eight-cylinder engine from the 908 for his 914 S model, with the chassis number 914006. His engine was not a racing engine with injectors, however. His had a carburettor – 40 PS less than Piëch’s car, but suitable for everyday use. It had a more restrained exterior, inspired by the 914 series, and was much quieter, though it still had a top speed of 260 km/h if needed. “Ferry’s 914 was gentler, easier to drive,” remembers Clausecker. “You didn't need the high speeds. You could just cruise along with it.” A sports car you could drive on a racing track in the day and to the opera at night – perfectly in tune with Ferry Porsche’s philosophy.
Today, over 50 years later, the two spiritual brothers stand side by side in the storage halls of the Porsche Museum. Inseparably connected and yet such contrasting characters. The extreme race car and the comfortable touring car. Flashy flamboyant orange next to elegant inconspicuous silver. Motorsport in contrast with everyday practicality. A Piech next to a Porsche. The engine is what connects them: the 908 which was never again fitted in a standard body. The orange 914 S was driven just under 2,000 kilometres, apparently mainly by Ferdinand Piëch himself. Ferry’s 914 S clocked around 20,000 kilometres within approximately three years from September 1970 as the boss’s company car.
Both cars are now in retirement. Just like their mechanic, Hans Clausecker. From 1973, he drove the safety car of the legendary ONS team of Germany’s governing body for motorsport before switching to the Porsche tyre development department in 1976 at the side of racing driver Günter Steckkönig. He retired in 2005.
When Clausecker left the cage to enjoy his well-deserved retirement, he left a folder in the archives. It contained his handful of notes on the Porsche 914111 and 914006 projects. Only two of these unusual sports cars were ever built. And he built both of them. “The faith they had in us, the freedom they allowed us. I still think that was amazing,” he says. “Sometimes we pensioners still talk about the exciting things we were able to do. I am grateful for the experiences we had in the company.” And Porsche history is richer by two more unusual exhibits.