Total Production: 21,600 1966 - 1969
In 1963 Porsche executives decided to introduce a new four-cylinder entry-level model with 356 engine power for the European market. Initially the new car was known at Zuffenhausen as a number with a zero in the middle, 902, like it's predecessor 911 (original internal factory designation '901'). This '902' designation was never used publicly and after 1968 the '912' project number was used to indicate the 12 cylinder flat-engine developed for the Porsche 917 racing car.
Paul Hensler, eventual Chief Departmental Manager for Development, Mechanics, was assigned the project in 1963 by Porsche to supervise the design and implementation of a new horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine for the 902. It was up to Hensler to use components from the new 901 six-cylinder engine and produce a higher performance that with their 356SC engine, all while keeping costs lower than their Carrera 2 engine. Claus von Rücker proposed increasing displacement of the 356 Type 616 engine to 1.8 liters, add Kugelfischer fuel injection and modify cooling and valve systems. Porsche chose not to go with either of these design projects and instead decided to modify the 1.6-liter Type 616 engine to the 902.
Chassis numbers 13328, 13329, 13330, 13352, and 13386 through 13397 had been set aside by the Porsche Vehicle Research Department for research testing of the 902 before 911 production began in 1964. Today the oldest 902 known to exist is Serial Number 13394. The Type 912 was a mishmash of Porsche products composed of a 911 chassis/bodyshell powered by a 1.6L, four-cylinder, push-rod Type 616/36 engine that was inspired by the Type 616/16 engine used in the Type 356SC of 1964-65. Though the Type 616/36 engine had five less horsepower than the 616/16 with a lower compression ratio and new Solex carbs, it still delivered the same maximum torque at 3,500 rpm compared to 4,200 rpm for the 616/16.
On April 5, 1965 Porsche officially began production of the 912 coupe as the 356 model production ended. After the Spring of 1965 order for 356s were no longer tane and production officially ended in September 1965. Manufactured as Porsche's entry-level offering, the 912 was a sports car introduced in 1965 through 1969. The type 912 was a variant of the legendary Type 911 and an efficient compact performance four-seater that delivered 90 hp at 5800 rpm. Because of the high-efficiency petrol engine, low drag and low weight the Porsche 912 was capable of up to 30-mpg fuel economy. The production Type 912 vehicle featured excellent weight distribution, handling, and range compared to the 911. Wanting to the keep the 912 price near the 356 Porsche deleted some of the standard featured on the 911.
In June of 1965 the 912 was first available to European customers, and soon became a market leader, predominantly in the USA. The 912 was especially popular in the US where many of today's Register Members car originated. During the first few years of the 912 production the sports car actually outsold the 911 nearly two to one in 1966. The appealing 912 had smart styling and performance that made it very popular with new and old Porsche buyers, and the price, reliability and good construction only made it more attractive.
The Porsche 912 was a good transitional car between the 356 and the 911. The 912 was similar to the 356, and appreciated by the public for its power, exceptional aerodynamics, ergonomics and style. The 912 weighs around 250 pounds less with the flat-four than a standard 911 of the same year, which greatly improved the front-rear weight distribution. The Porsche 912 was a 'green' low-fuel consumption car thanks to its low-weight, low-drag and fuel efficiency, many years before hybrid vehicles became as popular as they are now. In 1967 the 912 won Car and Driver's 'Readers Choice' Poll for its class.
During a five-year manufacturing run Porsche produced nearly 30,000 912 coupe's and around 2,500 912 Targa body styles. In December 1966, production of the Targa, Porsche's patented variation of the Targa, was introduced as a 1967 model. The Targa came with a removable roof and heavy transparent plastic rear windows that opened with a zipper. Porsche transformed the Targa into a coupe with removable roof in January of 1968 with a Targa 'Version II' option with a fixed glass rear window.
The German autobahn police (polizei) received a special version Type 912. The 100,000th Porsche car was outfitted into a 912 Targa for the police of Baden-Württemberg, the home state of Porsche.
After the 1969 model year Porsche chose to discontinue to the 912 production. At the time production facilities for the 912 were being used by the new 914-6, which was a six-cylinder high performance version of the 914 Porsche-Volkswagen joint effort vehicles. The second reason behind Porsche's decision was that the 911 platform had returned to Porsche's traditional three performance-level ladders that included the powerful 911S, a fuel-injected 911E, and the base model 911T. U.S. emission controls also played a big role in the decision as stringent controls made it a lot of effort to make the 912 compliable.
The four-cylinder 914 superseded the Type 912 in 1970 as Porsche's entry-level model. Porsche believed that the 914 would be a little less expensive to sell and manufacture than the 912. Unfortunately the 914 was soon discontinued in early 1976. In 1967 the 912 cost around £2,428.
As a 1976 model, the 912 was re-introduced to the U.S. auto market after a six year absence as the 912E (internal factory designation 923). The new 912 model shared the 'G-Series' bodywork with the 911S and was powered by an 86 bhp 2.0 L Volkswagen air-cooled engine. The engine was refined with a new Bosch L-Jetronic (Air Flow Controlled) fuel injection system. The 912E took the entry-level space left by the 914. During this time the new 924, another Porsche-Volkswagen joint effort car, and the official replacement of the 914 was being finalized and put into production. Aimed at the U.S. market, around 2,00 of the 912 E were produced from May 1975 until July 1976.
Over the years the Porsche 912 has proven its capability also as a successful racecar. Sold to the public for street use, the 912 even made Porsche factory rally history when Polish driver Sobiesław Zasada was behind the wheel of a factory-loaned 912 to win the European Rally Championship for Group 1 series touring cars. Zasada drove once again in the 1967 Rally of Poland, the second oldest rally in the world, and one of the oldest motorsport events worldwide, in his 912 race No. 47 and finished first overall. The 1967 Rally of Poland had a starting field of 50 entries.
On January 29, 2012 Hayden Burvill, Alastair Caldwell finished first in class in their #35 1968 Porsche 912 as a vintage rally car, and 7th overall in the 2012 London to Cape Town World Cup Rally. The rally was a 14 country, three continent, 8,699 miles, 26 driving-days event. Sources:
By Jessica Donaldson