This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.
Ok, admittedly, this is not a project. However, I felt is necessary to dedicate some space to what is perhaps the most overlooked Porsche model, the 912. A rather simplistic explanation of the 912 can be summarized by stating that the 912 is actually a 911 with a 356 engine installed in it. While that glosses over some of the important distinguishing characteristics between the 911 and the 912, for the most part the technical information on the 911 can very easily applied to the 912 chassis. For engine information, the 912 owners can look for resources pertaining to the time-honored Porsche 356 line.
When Porsche first introduced the 911 to succeed the popular 356, it quickly realized that it was lacking an affordable model to replace the buyers who had been purchasing 356s. While a 1600 SC coupe cost DM 16,450 at the time, the new 911 cost a whopping DM 22,900. The demand for a lower-cost Porsche based on the 911 was met when the European 912 was released in 1965. A year later, the 912 was introduced to America, and quickly became a bestseller.
The 912 was discontinued after 1969, and replaced with the 911T, a lower-cost version of the 911. The 912 model made a return to the US again in 1976 with the introduction of the 912E. The 912E was based on the 1976 911 chassis, but incorporated the motor from the Porsche 914 2.0L. While the engine components were nearly identical to the 914, the 912E incorporated a L-Jetronic fuel injection system specific to that model year car. Unfortunately, since the car was only made for a single year, replacement fuel injection and exhaust parts are very difficult to find. The 912E indeed is an interesting and somewhat rare car, as there were only a little more than 2,000 ever made. However, because of their relatively low powered engine and the difficulty in finding spare parts, they are not highly sought after.
The original early 912 was met with much enthusiasm for buyers who were looking for an affordable Porsche. The 912 received almost all of the updates and benefits of the 911 without the high price tag. The price of an early 912 with a four speed transmission was DM 16,250.
The primary difference between the 911 and the 912 is in the drivetrain. The 912 uses a four-speed gearbox (five-speed optional), and a four cylinder 1600cc engine that is derived from the 356SC engine. Although virtually similar to the 356SC engine, the 912 engine was detuned from 95 to 90 HP. The comparable 1965 911 has 130 HP.
Despite the 912's absence of horsepower when compared to the 911, the 912 proved very popular, particular for club racing events where speed and power are not necessarily the most important factor in reducing lap times. The 912 with its smaller and lighter engine is much nimbler than the heavier 911. The 912, with a weight of 970 kg (2134 lbs), is a full ten percent lighter than the 1080 kg (2376 lbs) 911. Almost all of this extra weight on the 911 is located in the larger, heavier engine in the rear of the car.
The extra weight of the 911 meant that it is a bit 'tail happy' and tends to exhibit a bit of oversteer, especially around tight corners. In an attempt to compensate for this, the factory placed two 25 lb weights inside the bumpers of the 1967 and 1968 911s. Needless to say, the nimbler 912 didn't need this extra weight because it was much better balanced.
The motor mounts in the 912 were also different than the 911, which led to better weight distribution. The 912 engine was much shorter than the 911 engine, and thus was mounted farther forward than its 911 counterpart. In order to adjust for a lighter car too, the 912 incorporated suspension components that were specifically tuned for the lighter weight and better balance of the car.
Other than the engine and slight suspension modifications, there were very few differences between the 911 and the 912. Some of the early 912s had three-gauge clusters instead of the five-gauge clusters used on the 911. The 912 engine compartment had a rain deflector plate that was fitted over the engine grille to prevent water from leaking down onto the generator. Slight variations also existed in the some of the welded chassis components and various interior trim options were slightly different throughout the years. For more information on the specific minute variations, consult "The 911 & 912 Porsche: A Restorer's Guide to Authenticity" by Dr. B Johnson. This book is a great reference for restoring both 911s and 912s and concentrates mostly on the interior and exterior trim of the cars.
So where can 912 owners turn for information? Most 911 reference books (including this one) are applicable to most areas of the 912, with exception of the engine. The interior, exterior, brakes, suspension, and chassis are so similar that any technical information written about the early 911 will usually apply to the 912 as well. For technical information on the 912 engine, most owners can reference one of the many 356 repair manuals available. In some ways, 912 owners can be said to have the best of both worlds!
The engine compartment of a typical 912. The engine is basically the major difference between the 911 and the 912. The 912 engine is a four cylinder motor with dual carburetors on each cylinder bank. The engine shared almost all of its parts with the 356, and used special sheet metal and motor mounts to fit inside the 911. The 912 engine with its stronger crank is a sought-after item for placement in older 356s.