When Dominik van der Heiden discovered just how valuable his original ex-works 914/6 GT rally car had become, he decided it was time to retire it. In its place he built a replica that would allow him to have fun in the forests without having to worry abou
When you own a 914/6 GT that’s too valuable to race, you build a replica…
In a warehouse somewhere in the industrial belt of north west Germany sit two stunning orange 914/6 GTS. From a distance they look pretty much identical but in fact they have diametrically-opposed histories and purposes. One is a priceless ex-works car driven over the years by such Porsche luminaries as Franz Konrad, Bjorn Waldegaard, Jürgen Barth and Olaf Manthey. The other started life as an old road car bodyshell that has been stripped out and prepared for rallying… And itʼs the replica weʼve come to see!
After winning the 2015 AVD Histo Monte someone offered owner Dominik van der Heiden what he thought was a crazy sum of money for the car. But when he found out this was actually the going rate for a Porsche with such a history, suddenly the thought of sliding through the snow towards trees and ditches filled him not with joy, but dread. ʻI knew that if I crashed I wouldnʼt just be damaging a car, Iʼd be destroying a real piece of Porsche history,ʼ he says. So at that moment he decided to retire the original and build himself a replica that he wouldnʼt worry about thrashing through forests and snow banks.
The first plan was just to have a straight replica as after having owned the original for fifteen years he was well used to how it drove and handled. It didnʼt take long, though, before the project took on a slightly different aim, as after a while working on the comparatively worthless shell he realised he could do absolutely anything he wanted with it.
While studying the FIA historic regulations to see just what he was allowed to change, he started to wonder why Porsche hadnʼt done such easy modifications themselves. For example, the original has its fully working pop-up headlights, which arenʼt a requirement. Dominik simply took them out and put some plastic blanking plates over
the holes, and that was a few kilograms saved straight away. All the body panels on the Waldegaard car are steel but on the recreation theyʼre made of very thin glassfibre, and the windows are Perspex instead of glass. The bumpers are plastic and weigh half that of the steel originals, and all the superfluous chrome trim is gone.
But it wasnʼt just big and obvious things Dominik changed, and looking around the car the level of thought and attention that has gone into it is incredible. In fact, it is fair to say that this is the 914/6 GT that Porsche should have made in 1970! The bonnet hinges have been machined out as much as possible without compromising their structural integrity and now look like little works of art. To save 4kg, all the wiring loom was removed and replaced with thinner gauge wire and a lighter type of insulating plastic, and any bolt or screw that was protruding more than it absolutely needed to be was exchanged for a shorter one… All in all an incredible 250 parts were changed for lighter, smaller or shorter versions.
The works cars from 1970 stood at a not too portly 940kg. Dominik managed to reduce that by an incredible 140kg! With a 2000cc engine which doesnʼt have a great deal of torque, it makes a huge difference in acceleration times and the speed he can carry through corners.
As well as the crash diet there were many performance upgrades to be done. Dominik chose Manfred Rugen to tune the engine and, as well as having everything correctly balanced, the cylinder heads, valves and camshafts were made to the specification of the works cars to give a power increase from the road going 185bhp to a more useful 235bhp. The FIA regulations allow for any gearing you want so Dominik was free to choose the ratios and went for a long first gear so he could have more control in the slow corners.
All the other ratios were kept shorter as Tarmac rallies call for short bursts of acceleration rather than top speed. Dominik knows itʼs a compromise, though. The main competition is 3000cc or more 911s, so where there are lot of long straights the 914/6 is left far behind. On the tighter stages, however, with its low weight and mid-mounted engine, the nimble Porsche is as fast as any of its many rivals.
Being a rally and race car driver since the 1970s,
including entries in the RAC and 1000 Lakes, and even a class win in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, Dominik knows how to set up a car to get the best out of its handling, but this 914 proved to be a lot harder to get right than he expected it to be. ʻI never really liked getting to the limit in the original car,ʼ he says. ʻWith most cars you can feel when it is about to break away and you can either come back from that point or, depending on the car and what you are doing with it, control the drift. But in the 914 there was a point where I was wondering if I was getting close to the limit… and then I was going backwards. I wanted to find a way that I could drive it loose.ʼ
Conventional wisdom, including the advice of such motorsport luminaries as Bjorn Waldegaard and Franz Konrad, was to keep the suspension rock hard and the sway-bars soft, but no matter how much Dominik and his mechanics worked with it, it always snapped around instead of holding a power slide. One day, in exasperation, one of the mechanics had the idea of setting it up backwards with soft suspension and hard sway-bars…and surprisingly it worked straight away.
Coupled with the set of higher-profile tyres he had Dunlop make especially for the car, which have soft sidewalls that allow them to move around more on the wheels, Dominic knew heʼd nailed it… And just in time, too, as they needed to
“THE NIMBLE PORSCHE IS AS FAST AS ANY RIVALS…”
get it on the trailer for the Mallorca Classic Rally.
Although they got through scrutineering, there were a few things that they hadnʼt got around to finishing, one of which was the handbrake cable. A piece of string running from the cab to the mechanism on the rear wheels meant that he could still do hill starts – but that little problem was forgotten about when the throttle got stuck wide open in the first stage. To get around all the hairpins, he had to turn the engine off on the approach, coast around, turn it on again when he was pointing straight and shoot up the next hill, with tyre smoke billowing behind.
He didnʼt have any mechanics with him so, in the time before the next stage, he took the piece of string from the bodged handbrake repair, tied it to the back of the accelerator pedal and gave it to his co-driver to operate. It sounds like a desperate ʻget it homeʼ solution, but somehow they managed to finish the stage with the second best time. And amazingly, once theyʼd mastered the system, they won the next stage by six seconds. ʻGetting a stage win in the way we did was one of the best experiences of my lifeʼ.
The car will be out in earnest again in classic events this year but Dominik has a truly outrageous plan for it, one that involves paperwork rather than engineering.
When the 3.0 RSR came out in the early 1970s, a lot of people wanted to upgrade from their 2.8-litre engines, and in California there were apparently many such blocks just sitting around outside Porsche workshops. Somebody had the great idea to put them in the back of the 914 and made 12 examples, although no one knows what happened to any of them.
The important thing, though, is that Dominik managed to locate the road registration documents for the engine change, and if he can find them heʼll be able to do the same conversion and get the technical passport for a prototype classic.
ʻImagine what an 800kg car with a 300bhp, 2.8 flat-six in the middle of it would be capable of,ʼ he smiles.
ʻIn the right rallies this car can already outperform any Porsche 911. With the extra power, nothing would be able to touch it!ʼ CP
“UP THE NEXT HILL, WITH TYRE SMOKE BILLOWING BEHIND”
The 914/6 GT was prepared for Group 4 circuit racing by the Hulport VW Porsche dealership in Dortmund and in 1970 was raced in German events by Willi and Alexander Nolte, but it was Werner Christmann who achieved the car ʼs best period result when he won the 1971 2l DARM Diepholz race. In 1973 Porsche stalwart Franz Konrad took over and raced it for the whole of 1974 taking a highest place finish of 3rd at the 2l GT race at Zandvoort.
The car was retired from contemporary racing in 1975 and kept as a display in a showroom for 10 years until Emmanuel von Kettler bough it and had it rebuilt to the full works specification, but it wasnʼt raced in anger until 1993 when he brought it out of retirement for Bjorn Waldegaard to drive in that year ʼs 500km of Nürburgring Classic race. The next year the 1979 world rally champion took it to 2nd overall in the famous Köln-ahrweilier rally and in 1995 GT Porsche racing guru Olaf Manthey entered the same event and went one better to win it.
Another famous name in Porsche history to pilot this car is Jürgen Barth who took it to 2nd on the 1995 Tour Auto. Dominik bought the car in 1999 and his best results include 2nd on the ʼ99 Auto Tour and 5th on the Koln-ahrweilier, and a very big victory on its last competitive outing, the 2015 AVD Histo Monte. With the replica now finished it will enjoy a long and quiet retirement and, although it may be seen at some shows in the future, Dominik wonʼt be doing any more timed events in it. CP
“THE CAR WAS RETIRED FROM CONTEMPORARY RACING IN 1975”
Above: Interior is stripped bare save for essentials. Note the fuses located ahead of the co-pilot for ease of access. Also note the handbrake lever has been relocated from the left sill to between the seats
Below: In action on the 2017 Eifel Rallye. 914/6 gets ʻair ʼ ahead of what we suspect was a heavy landing!
Below: ʻPurposefulʼ is probably the word that sums the car up best. Low-set front-mounted oil cooler looks vulnerable but skid plate adds some much needed protection
Above: Kicking up the dust on the Eifel Rallye – the 914/6 GT has proved to be a very effective ʻweaponʼ – itʼs a shame the factory didnʼt see fit to develop the concept further
Below: Tyres were made to Dominikʼs spec by Dunlop. Front luggage bay is now dominated by ATL fuel cell and front-mounted oil cooler
Above: Bearing a few battle scars after a season in the forests, Dominikʼs rally-prepped 914/6 GT is clearly a car that gets used hard
Above: Ex-works original on the left was first prepared for Group 4 circuit racing before it eventually embarked on a rally career in 1979. Its increasing value was the reason for building a replica
Below: Replica was built to the highest standard in Dominikʼs workshop. Its existence means the original can now enjoy a well-earned retirement…