I am the original owner of my 1969 Porsche 912 Coupe’. Though the car was stored for about 25 years in various garages where I lived, it was never out of my sight. I have two notebooks with every piece of service information dealing with the car. So it’s safe to say I know the car well. Very well.
In this brief piece, I hope to share some things I’ve learned about the car over the years that, taken together, help to make it the very special Porsche others are now starting to see.
The 912 was introduced in 1965 as a branch on the Porsche “tree”, in part because sales of the early 911 were disappointing. All those new 911 chassis sets and old 356 Super 90 engines were just sitting there. Ta-Daaaa! The 1965 Porsche 912.
Above: This scanned 35mm photo was taken in May of 1970. The now very rare Golden Green paint was done at the dealership prior to delivery. That color was very fashionable in the summer of 1969 and is very rare today. The factory paint beneath was (and still is) Light Ivory/6894.
The 912 model run was only five years, stopping because the mighty 911 was gaining acceptance and Porsche was ready to introduce the new 914 as the factory’s new “entry level” model. (The 914/6 is another story for another day.)
There was a 1976 912-E that sold only in the U.S. It’s a very nice car – having the 1976 911 body/chassis setup and basically the air cooled 4 cylinder engine from the 914. I like the 912-E but don’t include it for the purposes of this particular article.
Compared to other Porsche passenger cars, and most other sports cars, for that matter, the 1969 doesn’t get too many “…est” ratings; fastest, lightest, quickest, etc.
I don’t think that’s an accident – I believe it was in the design criteria for the car, because I see it firsthand every time I take a long trip in my 912.
Many sports cars are faster. My 912’s top speed is rpm-limited to about 120 mph, which is certainly fast enough for passenger car service. Could I get a used 160 mph 911 variant? Sure. But why?
Many sports cars are quicker around an Autocross or Road course. Most of them rely on bone-crushing acceleration where possible and hard braking to get through the curves in one piece. This driving technique is brutish and helps win races. But my 912 is a purpose-modified and lovingly maintained long distance highway cruiser.
Above: This is the 912 on former U.S. Route 99, beside the Rogue River in northern California. The former U.S. highway is a well maintained, gently curving (and lightly traveled) roadway. The 912 seemed to eagerly tear its way through the cold and very humid air on this particular day.
My 912 is a “momentum” car. I give careful consideration to road conditions, posted speed limits when approaching curves, weather conditions, other traffic and how the car seems to “feel” that particular day.
Then I just drive the car at a fairly steady speed until I get where I want to go. No hard acceleration. No hard braking. No clicking the guardrail posts. No slipping or sliding. These things are easy, and comfortable, to do in my 912.
Careful (legal, safe, etc.) “momentum” driving is a wonderful way to enjoy a sports car on America’s current and former U.S. highways. It doesn’t put the car, its occupant(s) or the general public at risk.
I have previously written in my books and elsewhere that zipping along in 3d gear at around 4,000 rpm is a very pleasant way to cover a lot of ground safely, quickly and in classic sports car style.
I do this whenever conditions either require or permit doing so, finding it much more satisfying than driving at a boring 65mph down the local Interstate.
Above: This is 912 country, perfect weather on a deserted U.S. Route 395 in eastern Oregon. Note the twin luggage straps in the rear seat area holding my suitcase, notebooks and laptop computer firmly in place beneath an old table cloth.
The car was built for this kind of service. If I treat it right, it treats me right in a mutually beneficial driving experience.
Surprisingly, my 912 can deliver a solid 27mpg in steady highway driving at legal speeds. That almost puts it in the “economy car” category, made more interesting by the hand-built Karmann chassis and full 911 suspension kit I had installed on the car shortly after I purchased it.
Above: Passé today, during the “Cold War”, I enjoyed driving to Mt. Wilson (high above Pasadena and L.A.) late on clear nights to listen to “Voice of America” and “Radio Free Europe” on the Short Wave Band settings.
My 912 still has the original Blaupunkt AM/SW/FM monaural radio that was installed at the factory. It was reconditioned in 2006 and works perfectly, but I never turn it on.
The engine wakes up at about 4,000 rpm as gas dynamics in the carefully designed exhaust system start to create their magic. With all that going on back there, who needs a radio? Who can even hear a radio under those sensational auditory conditions?
I replaced the remaining factory foam rubber engine compartment “soundproofing” with modern (and fire-resistant) aluminized soundproofing visible in the photo below.
Above: The new engine compartment’s fire-resistant soundproofing is clearly visible behind the black air cleaners and fan shroud above. That’s me in the passenger side doorway. Photo by my good friend Jack Quintrall of Surprise, Arizona.
There are many wonderful old sports cars out there. I like them all. But sports cars are like cruise ships in the sense that they are all different and they are all wonderful. I’ve found mine and I hope you find yours, too.
So if you’re looking for an older sports car, don’t overlook the 1969 Porsche 912. It is a wonderful blend of classic 1960s Porsche style and, if properly driven and maintained, legendary Porsche performance and reliability.