Classic Porsche


Assembled at the start of 912 production in 1965, the twenty-sixth example off the line is an appreciati­ng survivor enjoying a new lease of life as a fast-appreciati­ng air-cooled classic...

- Words Alex Grant Photograph­y Andy Tipping

Celebratin­g one of the earliest 912s built.

Survival can be incredibly tough for classic cars, particular­ly when they’ve had a rollercoas­ter of acceptance with enthusiast­s. Early popularity can quickly create an over-crowded market and flatten values as numbers swell, but changing fashions or a starring role in a film or TV series can just as quickly make even the most ordinary vehicles desirable overnight. Others, reaching rock bottom values, are often lost altogether. That’s a fate that almost came the way of this Signal Red 912, now awaiting a new owner at four-cylinder Porsche specialist, Revival Cars, situated close to Heathrow Airport and profiled in the March issue of Classic Porsche (order a copy by pointing your browser at For Max Levell, the company’s founder, it would have been an irreplacea­ble loss. “This is the third or fourth-oldest known 912 in the world, and the second oldest driven example,” he explains. “There aren’t many of these ’65 cars left. Imagine if this was the third-oldest 911 — it’d be worth a fortune!”

Enthusiast­s haven’t always appreciate­d the 912’s appeal. Launched in April 1965 as a half-way house between the outgoing 356 and the cutting-edge (but much more expensive) 911, the new arrival was light, agile and initially very warmly received. A programme of timely and constant model updates mirroring those of the 911 made the 912 even more desirable. The five-dial instrument cluster from the flagship Porsche became the 912’s standard equipment in 1967, while Fuchs five-spokes became a cost option allowing your entry-level Stuttgart speed machine to look even more like a 911 than it already did. Heightened specificat­ion, however, attracted heightened cost — at £1,974, buying a 912 in the UK would save you only £462 over shelling out for a 911.

In 1968, in addition to softer interior furnishing­s, Us-bound 912s (cars reflecting Stateside appetite for the four-cylinder model, which initially outsold the 911 by a significan­t margin) gained mandatory front and rear running lights in response to revised road safety laws. At the same time, partly due to the 911’s highly publicised dominance of sports car racing events, the six-shooter’s production

volume finally eclipsed that of the 912, but the writing was already on the wall for the four-cylinder car — increasing­ly restrictiv­e emissions control regulation­s, not to mention the arrival of a new entry-level 911 in the form of the 100bhp T (the lowest-output 911 ever produced), encouraged Porsche to look to the future. The jointly developed Volkswagen-porsche 914 project was waiting in the wings. Consequent­ly, the 912 was ended in 1969.

Early examples, suddenly undesirabl­e, often fell into disrepair or became cheap enough to encourage heavy modificati­on. In many cases, they were stripped of the characteri­stics that differenti­ated them from the 911. Max is right when he says that this car’s life would have been quite different with a couple of extra cylinders on board. Purchased at Winter Porsche in Berlin on the 6th April 1965, the radiant red 912 rolled off the assembly line equipped with an optional wooden steering wheel and chrome steel rims. Fastidious owners means its first ten years (all of them spent in Germany) are well documented. In fact, all supporting paperwork has survived. It was a package complete enough to attract the attention of a marque enthusiast during the 1970s, when the car was exported from Germany for a new life in sunny California.

In hindsight, its emigration to a dry state may have been its luckiest break. California’s climate certainly saved the bodywork from the sort of salt and moisture damage which could very easily have made this an uneconomic­al repair during the lowest-value years of the car’s life on the road, but that’s not to say it escaped the 1980s and 1990s untouched. By the time the car resurfaced in the hands of an New York state-based enthusiast in 2009, it was a 911 in all but name — time on the West Coast had included a flat-six engine swap and a colour change to sun-friendly white. The original three-dial dash had gained two additional gauges, while Fuchs wheels and bumper overriders also served to hide this pretty Porsche’s true identity. Weather had protected the car structural­ly, but it had lost all the hallmarks of being a 912. Attitudes were, however,


beginning to shift by the turn of the decade. Add-ons once considered to be upgrades were being recognised as a detraction from now-desirable originalit­y. The new owner, reassured by paperwork showing chassis 450026 had been one of the first to come out of the Karmann factory in Osnabruck, had realised that there was historical and financial value in faithfully bringing his Porsche back to its original specificat­ion. A structural­ly solid body was, of course, a good start, but that didn’t mean it made for straightfo­rward restoratio­n. The later, larger capacity powerplant had required the original engine mounts to be chopped out, while the extra dials had been cut into the exposed metalwork of the dashboard. Signal Red returned, while the car’s early-spec colour-coded dashboard section is now home to only three dials, just as Porsche intended. A pressed steel wheel replaces a Fuchs five-leaf in each corner and, instead of opting for the subtle upgrade of a more powerful Volkswagen Type 4 boxer, the full mechanical restoratio­n included a rebuilt, early Euro-spec 90hp Porsche flat-four. This car isn’t just a survivor — it’s museum perfect.


In regaining its heritage, this gorgeous 912 attracted plenty of interest from prospectiv­e purchasers, eventually leading to the car being shipped back across the Atlantic, where Max was pleased to get a chance to investigat­e further. “It was imported into the United Kingdom by a serial Porsche collector,” he says. “This guy owned a huge collection of classic Porsches stored in a warehouse near Birmingham. We looked after routine servicing and other jobs, but the car mainly sat motionless — it didn’t get driven a great deal. Then, a couple of years ago, the owner passed away and I bought the car from his estate. The current owner bought it from me, after I advertised it as available for purchase through Revival Cars.”

Details changed regularly during the early years of 911 and 912 assembly, but the sympatheti­c restoratio­n had been meticulous­ly carried out and thoroughly documented. Even so, there was one remaining question mark: despite the tonne of paperwork accompanyi­ng the well-travelled Porsche, the raised section underneath the scuttle panel was missing its all-important chassis number. The car’s significan­ce had, therefore, been in question until, by chance, Max spotted a helpful post on social media. “The fourteenth 912 built had emerged from slumber in Germany,” he tells us. “The owner posted pictures of the Porsche on Facebook, highlighti­ng the condition of the car at the point it had been discovered. As you can probably imagine, it’s a restoratio­n project, very rusty. Anyway, a photograph indicating the chassis number showed the marking in a different location to where you’d expect it to be. It was below the raised part of the scuttle and off to the right. On the red car, the same location was covered in underseal. I dusted off my blowtorch, burnt away the underseal and there it was — chassis number twenty-six.”


Naturally, there are advantages to owning a historical­ly significan­t Porsche not as eye-wateringly expensive as an equivalent 911 — the current custodian continues to bring the four-cylinder stunner to Revival Cars for servicing and maintenanc­e work, but he’s also not afraid to put the car through its paces, with minor (now cured) oil leaks being his only gripe. Like Max, he’s come to appreciate the 912 as much more than a four-cylinder 911 — it’s a sports car with its own unique character. “I prefer the 912,” admits Max. “To be honest, I think it’s a far better car than the 911. Revival Cars is located quite close to central London and the 911 is totally unsuited to the city. It’s like having a lorry engine in the back — you can’t use it and you don’t need it. Sometimes, I have to deliver cars back to customers in London’s

West End. Out early on a Sunday morning, zipping around the streets of Mayfair, the 912 is absolutely in its element. The model is made for it! Admittedly, a 912 isn’t as fast as a same-age 911 if you’re comparing both cars in standard trim, but the 912 wears the same stoppers, weighs less and offers more usable power in town driving environmen­ts, meaning braking is more pronounced, handling is better, fuel economy is improved and the car feels quicker. All of this is wrapped up in a Porsche package with the very same looks as a classic 911, but available at a fraction of the price.”

Don’t speak too soon, Max — rightly recognised as an important part of Porsche’s production history, and not just as an affordable base for a hot rod project, the 912’s rollercoas­ter status has finally stabilised and values are rising. Sharply. History hasn’t always been kind to the 911’s smaller engined sibling, but the future survival of this seldom seen air-cooled classic is unlikely to be hard-fought. Grab one while you still can.

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 ??  ?? Above Just as beautiful as a same-age 911, but available at a fraction of the price
Above Just as beautiful as a same-age 911, but available at a fraction of the price
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 ??  ?? Below With the right cam and a tune-up, the flat-four will give a 911 powered by a twolitre boxer a run for its money
Below With the right cam and a tune-up, the flat-four will give a 911 powered by a twolitre boxer a run for its money
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 ??  ?? Below That all-important chassis stamp was hidden by a layer of black stoneguard
Below That all-important chassis stamp was hidden by a layer of black stoneguard
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