Coachbuilt Porsches are a rarity, given that the German manufacturer has almost always built its car bodies in-house. However, that didn’t stop French coachbuilder Heuliez from producing the 1970 Murène concept, based on a Porsche 914/6.
These days, Brissonneau & Lotz builds industrial crane parts. Still, in the late sixties, the French company operated as an automotive coachbuilder and had what would turn out to be two of the 20th Century’s most successful transport designers on its payroll.
One was Paul Bracq, who subsequently became head of design at BMW and sired the legendary BMW Turbo concept of 1972. The other was Jacques Cooper, who not only collaborated with Bracq to create the first TGV turbotrain during their time together at B&L but also penned a new shell for the VW-Porsche 914/6 during his stint there.
As many will know, the 914/6 was a collaboration intended to equip Volkswagen with a flagship sports car and Porsche with an entry-level model to slot in beneath the 911. Although thousands were ultimately sold, the 914 venture wasn’t without its problems: the death of VW Chairman Heinrich Nordhoff led to complications in the union of the two manufacturers, while the abrupt styling caused opinions to diverge. Enter Jacques Cooper, who sought to resolve the latter by penning a sleek alternative body on behalf of his employers.
On seeing Cooper’s sketches, B&L management kick-started the project by acquiring a donor car furnished with the more desirable six-cylinder Porsche engine. However, the resolute Frenchman took his design to Henry Heuliez, whose company had made a name for itself outfitting commercial vehicles and the occasional Citroën motor car. But soon after settling down to work, Cooper’s pet project ground to a halt due to financial difficulties at B&L’s parent company Chausson – hence his take on the 914 seemed doomed before it had even turned a wheel.
Cooper was given the go-ahead by his employers to co-operate with the Heuliez research department to complete the project. Since much of the design work had been completed, Cooper’s proposal proved enticing for Heuliez – it offered widespread exposure to the automotive giants it sought to provide services to, but at a minimal cost. It debuted at the 1970 Paris Motor Show, flaunting two-tone beige paintwork and the ‘Murène’ sobriquet – French for a particular eel species.
Porsche might have overlooked the Murène, but it fulfilled its intended purpose – Heuliez subsequently gained traction in the automotive sector, plugging niche markets with small-series vehicles. And while it didn’t spawn a limited series production run, the Murène certainly offered a captivating alternative to the familiar original produced by the German carmaker.
Source: Joe Breeze - www.classicdriver.com
Images: Mario Buonocunto Concept Cars Page; Andre LE ROUX Site; Archives Heuliez via bowlsby.net