Gorgeous Green Four-Cylinder Coupe Restored in Galway
Back in #1964 #Porsche
was a company struggling to say goodbye to the faithful 356 and hello to the faster, larger and more expensive Porsche-911 model. Long-standing customers and loyal #Porsche-356
drivers were not impressed at the increased purchase price forced upon them if they were to stay with the marque and, as such, Porsche was scared it would lose its market share. So, with consultation from both customers and dealers, Porsche developed the #912
‘Versuchwagen’, or “Research Car”, using a four-cylinder 356 engine in the winter of 1964. By early April #1965
Porsche unveiled the new 1,582cc 912 to the public, while orders for 356 models were not taken after the spring of 1965 and production of that car officially ended in September 1965. In some respects the 912, in its easing of the transition between the 356 and 911, was the company’s saviour.
While some may have viewed the less powerful 912 as a poor man’s 911, the 912 was rapidly developing its own fan base thanks to its undiminished aerodynamics, style, ergonomics, and more importantly, the same high level of build quality of a 911. With better weight distribution than the 911 thanks to the smaller and lighter engine the 912 was acknowledged as a better-handling Porsche and, in the same way the underdog that was the #Mini-Cooper
was applauded for taking on and winning rallies, the 912 was also applauded for giving a complete driving experience at a fraction of the price paid by 911 drivers. Many journalists of the time noted that, when carrying out motoring comparison reports on both the 912 and the 911, the 912 was judged to be more fun to drive with its precise steering and better weight distribution. When the price factor was brought into the equation it was very difficult to choose one over the other.
In the USA the #Porsche-912
outsold the #Porsche-911
almost two to one in #1966
. However, as time went on the numbers dropped in favour of its more powerful #911
brother, and by #1968
the figures showed the 912 production figures to be in or around 6,300 units, while the 911 had risen to around 8,000 units. This ultimately led to the demise of this iconic car in 1969, as the factory geared up for the new #VW-Porsche #914
. Another factor in the 912’s discontinuation was the impending United States engine emission control regulations, which would have cost Porsche too much to comply with in terms of modifications. In all, Porsche had produced over 32,500 912s during its five-year manufacturing run, which included a special edition to celebrate the 100,000th Porsche car - a #Porsche-912-Targa
that was presented to and used by the police of Baden-Worttemberg. And, despite being axed in 1969, the model was resurrected unexpectedly when a limited run of about 2,0 fuel-injected two-litre #Porsche-912E
models were built for the US market in #1976
to fill a gap at the bottom of Porsche’s range after the end of 914 production, in preparation for the new front-engined #Porsche-924
. Not bad for a car that was only designed to be a transition model from the 356 to the 911.
All of the this might just give you an idea as to how rare these cars have become over the years, and their less- complicated engine and expense has seen them become collectables in their own right today, and not just “the 911’s poor brother.” John Dooley is the man with the keys to the stunning 912 you see here, which left the factory in #1969
bound for the US of A. John has always had a penchant for the air-cooled powerplant but, despite growing up, as so many of us did, being transported around in the back of a Beetle, he does not own one, preferring its more affluent big brother. You can’t blame him really, seeing as there were nine of them squashed into his father’s #VW-Beetle
! “I’ve always liked the simplicity of the air-cooled VWs and their engines which just keep on going, and the 914 and 912 models are no different really, apart from being more expensive to restore.”
In convoluted fashion, the story of John’s ownership of this green 912 begins with his purchase of a classic #VW
from the US nearly ten years ago. “I have a #1963 #Karmann-Ghia
that I bought over the internet in #1997
which was a big thing then I suppose as it was all new back then” he begins. “The previous owner had stripped the car down but never went ahead with the restoration, so I shipped it from San Diego and restored it with just a small amount of welding needed. I still have that car today”. After that John went looking for a Porsche 914 and, as it happened, the guy in the US that imported the Karmann Ghia for him also had a 914 in his yard, so he bought that and had it shipped over too. John restored that Porsche, in the process converting it to RHD (all 914s were left- hookers from the factory) and fitted a new 1.7-litre engine too.
By 2004/’05 John was on the lookout for a Porsche 912, and despite many hours looking on the internet he could not find a good one. The same guy that shipped the #Ghia
and the #Porsche-914
agreed to look at a 912 for John - for sale in California, it had supposedly come from Arizona, although John didn’t believe that as it had more rust than you would expect from a dry-state car. “I arranged to have it shipped to the UK, and at the same time I decided I would convert it to RHD so I bought a RHD bulkhead” John explains. “When the 912 arrived in the UK I went over with a trailer to collect it and the bulkhead, but the bulkhead was too big for the trailer so I agreed to arrange to have the bulkhead collected at a later date. That never happened as that gentleman said he dumped it in error, but I think he probably sold it on me”. The car then sat for a while, because as John said, it was “the scary period of 2006/’07 when things were slowing down”, so the project certainly wasn’t off to the most auspicious of starts, Indeed, it could even have fallen by the wayside, but as you can see, John stuck fast and waited for his opportunity.
By late 2011 John felt the time was right to start the restoration of the 912, so the stripdown began. What was apparent straight away was that the “rust-free” car was not so rust-free, but in comparison to other cars of its era it was practically museum quality. There were rust spots in the floor, four to be exact, but localised repairs were all that were needed. The same was the case when it came to dealing with the rust spots on a wing and a door bottom, so thankfully no expensive new panels needed to be sourced. There is certainly something to be said for Porsche build quality of the time. Even though the car was driving when it arrived in Ireland the wiring was very tatty, so when John stripped the ‘shell Brian Dooley refurbished the electrical system. John tells us that he was a saviour as he did a fantastic job.
John’s son, Dermot was a panel beater at the time, and he was a real driving force behind getting the bodywork done. It was finished to a fantastic standard, before being sent to Mazonbrook Motors in Loughrea to be painted. The original colour was the very dark Irish Green, but John preferred a brighter original Porsche colour called Golden Green, so a bespoke version of this shade was mixed up and laid down with flawless results.
In the meantime the brightwork had been sent to Derby Plating in the UK, and when the fresh trim was installed on the newly-painted ‘shell the 912’s appearance really came to life. The bumpers were a nightmare though according to John, as they are very difficult to install and have quite a number of components in each section, all of which required new (and quite expensive) rubbers and grommets. With new tyres fitted to the original Porsche Fuchs wheels, the glass installed with all new rubbers and the US-spec headlights refitted with modern H4 bulbs and set up for RHD, the exterior was finished. Attention then switched to the interior, and a new headliner, new dashboard panel, carpets and one seat cover were ordered from a company in Belgium before being fitted to the almost completed Porsche. All that was then left to install was the engine, which John did once he had sorted out the completely-rebuilt twin Solex carburettors.
We first came across John’s 912 at the ‘Ireland Heads West for Emma’ Vintage Show in Ballybrit Racecourse in Galway last June, when its bright green colour and gleaming chrome caught the eye of our editor from right across the car park. Not only does it look fantastic, but John is very happy how it drives too; a 1,582cc flat-four might not sound like much engine for a Porsche, but it’s by no means an old VW unit, putting out a solid 90bhp or so. “It’s slow to get started from cold, but after that it fires up straight away” he smiles. “You could use it every day, and if I had to sell everything else I would happily use it all the time. People ask if it’s as fast as a 911, and it’s not, but it’s no slouch and handles very well. There’s nothing wrong with the way it goes, and I’m very happy with it”. You can’t say fairer than that.
Porsche 912 - Spec
Years Produced: - 1965 to 1969
Body Type: - Monocoque 2+2 coupe
Engine: - Rear-mounted 1,582cc air-cooled flat-four with twin Solex carburettors
Transmission: - Five-speed manual, RWD
Front Suspension: - Independent torsion bar with McPherson strut-type dampers
Rear Suspension: - Independent torsion bar with trailing wishbones
Maximum Power: 90bhp at 5,800rpm
0-60mph: - 11.6 seconds
Maximum Speed: - 119mph