GO YOUR OWN WAY
Chris Walker’s 1966 912 restomod.
Though Classic Porsche tries to showcase a wide variety of models wearing the Stuttgart crest, the 911 taking centre stage is something of an inevitability. After all, few cars have permeated the collective consciousness of the masses in quite such dramatic fashion. Indeed, thanks to Porsche maintaining a silhouette close to Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche’s original 901 design throughout near sixty years of uninterrupted production, everyone can bring to mind an image of a 911, even if they can’t tell their 964s from their Carrera 3.2s. As this issue of Classic Porsche attempts to demonstrate, however, look beyond the obvious, beyond the default position of musthave-a-911, and you’ll find hidden gems in the Porsche back catalogue offering just as much style and class as Porsche’s flagship offering, but without the price tag.
The car you’re looking at on these pages is an excellent example of what we’re talking about. Owned by vintage vehicle enthusiast, Chris Walker, it’s a 1966 912 and is the latest in a string of classic cars he’s restored to a high-quality finish. “It’s my first Porsche,” he tells us. “Previously, I restored a classic Fiat 500, but I always wanted to get my mitts on an air-cooled Porsche.” The snag was a limited budget and his desire to own the earliest example of whatever model he could get hold of. Even as a doer-upper, an early 911 was prohibitively expensive, but a 912? A fraction of the price, but oozing
DON’T BE FOOLED INTO THINKING A CHEAPER PURCHASE PRICE EQUATES TO LOWER RUNNING COSTS THAN THOSE OF A 911
the same style and class. “I was motivated by the visuals,” Chris admits. “I wasn’t too fussed about the performance of the car. Of course, I didn’t want a slouch, but the difference in poke between a well-sorted 912 and an early 911 isn’t earth shattering.” An affordable entry point into early air-cooled Porsche ownership, plus the same devastatingly good looks as a 1960s 911? It was a no-brainer.
Before we go any further, we should probably exercise a note of caution — we don’t want to mislead you into thinking you can get behind the wheel of your very own restored 912 for peanuts. Chris engaged in a lengthy and wallet-emptying process of restoration to get his Stone Grey Porsche to the stunning mechanical and cosmetic finish it wears today, even though the purchase price of the car was lower than even a derelict early 911 might command. That said, in recent months, we’ve encountered a fair number of 912s in need of restoration being offered around the £15k mark. If you’re hands-on enough to be able to tackle some of the work yourself and can project manage third-party suppliers, this is a seriously tempting proposition, but other than the
356-derived flat-four at the rear, the 912 makes use of mostly the same componentry as the contemporary 911, very much like the parts sharing between the 986-generation Boxster and the 996. In other words, don’t be fooled into thinking a cheaper purchase price equates to lower restoration or running costs than those of a 911. For those less inclined to get busy with a set of spanners, a fully operational, on-the-road 912 already subjected to restoration, can, at the time of writing, be bought for less than fifty grand. Somewhere between these two price points lie 912s previously recommissioned, but in need of work to bring back to their best. These cars are often the shrewdest buys.
PASS THE DUTCHIE
It was this ‘middle ground’ Chris’s 1966 example occupied when he first learned of its availability through ER Classics, one of Europe’s biggest classic car dealers, occupying a huge facility housing more than fourhundred classic sports cars in the Netherlands. Imported to Europe from Arizona, the Porsche was in need of a serious amount of work. “The engine was seized and rust had attacked the sills, parcel shelf and floor panels,” he recalls. Yes, dear reader, you read that correctly: the words Arizona and rust in quick succession. You see, contrary to what we’re all led to believe by unscrupulous sales specialists, not every air-cooled Porsche originally delivered Stateside spends its entire life in the dry climes of desert regions or California. “I didn’t mind the damage,” Chris assures us. “I bought a Porsche in need of restoration in order for me to be able to put my own stamp on the car. There was clearly a lot of welding to do, but I wasn’t fazed by the challenges ahead of me, especially with trusted suppliers on hand to help.”
After his 912’s arrival in Blighty, Chris spent a month stripping the car to a bare body. Thereafter, his first order of business was to restore the shell. He planned to tackle the work himself, but he soon discovered a classic Porsche to be rather more complex than an old Fiat and sensibly handed the car to Saltash-based
marque specialist, Williams Crawford, for evaluation and all remedial metalwork, including new panels where required. Six weeks later, after all grinding, welding, fabrication and other “messy stuff” was sorted, the car was ready for the lick of Stone Grey it currently wears. A popular 356 colour in the late 1950s, it replaces Sand Beige, as well as the red and Irish Green discovered during the stripdown process. The team at Paint Technology took care of the spray job. “I wanted an asnew 912,” Chris shrugs. “To this end, a new floor, sills and parcel shelf were fitted to replace the corroded parts. During inspection, the rear quarters revealed evidence of knocks and bad repairs at some point in the distant past, which is why they were fixed to a superior standard at the same time. Williams Crawford really understood what I wanted and delivered on the brief.”
Whilst the body was being prepared for its new lease of life, the seized 1.6litre four-banger was handed to Prill Porsche Classics for a full rebuild. The resulting powerplant is a 1,720cc unit making use of a carefully considered combination of piston and camshaft, allowing the release of 130bhp. “I’m surprised by how fast the car is,” says Chris, a mechanical engineer by trade. “The engine’s output isn’t massive, but it’s propelling a 912 weighing only 900kg. The pace is more than enough for my needs.” The Weber carburettors inherited with his purchase were ditched in favour of original Solex parts equipped with standard air filters. While preparing the engine for action, the Prill team also refurbished the car’s 915 gearbox, which is now kitted-out with a short shifter.
With the body and engine sorted, Chris could turn his attention to arguably his car’s most commanding feature: the interior. The car arrived at Chez Walker with mismatched front seats (“one trimmed in tan vinyl, the other in leather”), but now makes use of early 944 manually operated ‘tombstones’. Along with the dashboard, door cards, rear side panels, parcel shelf and rear seats, they’ve been retrimmed in genuine Porsche leather and Walker tartan, sewn together by Nightingale Coachtrimming in Wiltshire. Square weave carpets, colour-coded safety belts, a Les Leston replica wood-rimmed steering wheel (supplied by Karmann Konnection), a 356 horn push and Singer-style body-matched dials complete the look. For 1966, the standard 912 dash layout was a three-gauge affair, making this car’s quintet of clocks something of a rarity, as is the factory-fit air-conditioning system, hugely expensive at the time of manufacture.
A Retrosound DAB head unit sits in the dash centre strip, with four hidden speakers (two under the dash, two under the seats) pumping out tunes when required, though Chris confirms he’s “more of a window-down kind of guy,” referencing the sublime soundtrack his car’s twin-tailpipe-equipped, centre-exit exhaust
NOT BEING LULLED INTO A FALSE SENSE OF ECONOMIC SECURITY WHEN IT COMES TO A RESTORATION
produces under load. His personalised Porsche rolls on painted 944 spare wheels, which are the same pattern as the 912’s original rims and are wrapped in Dunlop black circles. “I sent the original wheels and their datestamped hubcaps to Stockton Wheels in the USA for chrome plating. The 912 didn’t generally come with this particular wheel as standard specification, further highlighting how well-optioned the car was by its original buyer,” he continues. “Then, a week after despatch, the pandemic hit. Closure of businesses and lockdown both at home and overseas made me question whether I’d see the wheels again.” Thankfully, just before this issue of Classic Porsche went to print, he received word the work was complete and the finished parts would soon be reunited with their host 912.
As you’d expect of a build this comprehensive, all chassis equipment has been restored or replaced. Polyurethane bushes, new Koni dampers, a 911 rear anti-roll bar and all new brakes lead the way. Initially, Chris hoped to fit the six-piston Boxster anchors he’d acquired, but they’re simply too big to fit under the
912’s small wheels, which is why he’s refurbished the original stoppers. “The biggest challenge I had with the project,” he reveals, “was finding all the little fixings and trim I needed as I worked my way through the car. I replated original brightwork, but though there’s huge support for air-cooled models from Porsche Classic and many aftermarket suppliers, including Rose Passion, Design 911, Sierra Madre and others, there are still many incidental items difficult to source. With this in mind, I’d recommend anyone thinking about buying an early 912 or 911 to secure the most complete example of either model.” From his experience resurrecting old Fiats and completing his first Porsche project, he also suggests not being lulled into a false sense of economic security when it comes to planning a restoration. “Getting a car ninety-five percent finished is fairly straightforward.
The final push is usually the most expensive and time-consuming part of the journey. Also bear in mind that when compared to the output of other manufacturers, there’s more detail in almost every aspect of a 911 or 912. It’s important to set realistic expectations and manage suppliers accordingly, especially if you’re working to a specific deadline.”
Considering he had no prior experience of working on old Porsches, Chris’s finished Sixties smasher is a triumph, and one likely to inspire confidence in home restorers or those wishing to manage third-party suppliers contributing to the return of an early air-cooled Porsche to the road. Do your research, speak to specialists, acknowledge the likely cost and time involved to achieve your goals and you’ll be able to buy a Porsche project in confidence, beginning what’s likely to be an enjoyable start to your time as the owner of an air-cooled classic.
THE 912 DIDN’T GENERALLY COME WITH THIS PARTICULAR WHEEL AS STANDARD SPECIFICATION