Porsche 912 is First Produced
The Porsche 912 is a sports car that was manufactured by Porsche of Germany between 1965 and 1969 as their entry-level model.
The 912 is a nimble-handling compact performance four-seat vehicle, delivering 90 SAE horsepower at 5800 rpm. It is capable of up to 30 miles per US gallon (7.8 L/100 km; 36 mpg-imp) fuel economy. This combination is possible because of a high-efficiency petrol engine, low weight, and low drag. A variant of the Type 911, one of the most famous and successful sports cars of all time, the Type 912 initially outsold the 911, boosting the manufacturer's total production until success of the 911 was assured.
After the discontinuation of the 356 model in 1965, Porsche was left with the pricey new 911 as their only offering. Fearing that its considerable price increase over the 356 would cost the company sales and narrow the appeal of the brand, a decision was made by executives to introduce a new entry-level model. Built on the 911's chassis and sharing its bodyshell, Porsche was able to offer the 912 for much less than a base-model 911 by using the four-cylinder engine from the 356 rather than the 911's "flat" six-cylinder powerplant and by reducing the number of standard features. The proven reliability of the 356's engine combined with the 911 bodywork and low price made the 912 a very attractive buy to both new and old customers, and it substantially outsold the 911 during the first few years of production: Porsche produced slightly more than 30,000 units during its five-year production run. 912s were also used as police (polizei) cars in Europe, including Targas (Porsche's patented variation of a cabriolet with lift-off folding top, rollbar, and an openable plastic rear window). In April 1967, the Porsche factory's Christophorus magazine noted: "On 21 December, 1966, Porsche celebrated a particularly proud anniversary. The 100,000th Porsche, a 912 Targa outfitted for the police, was delivered."
After updating the 911 line-up to include both a more powerful 911S and a less expensive 911T, Porsche executives began to feel that the 912 had become redundant, that the 911 platform was sufficiently diverse and that pricing had largely come into line with market expectations. Owing to this and the desire to introduce a new model, the 912 was discontinued and superseded as Porsche's entry-level model by the 914 in 1970; a vehicle which Porsche had thought would be less expensive for them to manufacture and sell than the 912.
After a six year absence, the model was re-introduced to North America in 1976 as the 912E to occupy the entry-level position left vacant by the discontinuation of the 914, while the new 924 – the 914's official replacement – was being finalized and put into production. The new 912 featured the "G-Series" 911 bodywork and was powered by a 2.0 L version of the Volkswagen air cooled engine, previously used in late-model versions of the 914/4. 2,099 were manufactured in total, and were not officially sold outside the United States.
Sold to the public for street use, the Porsche 912 was also raced, including rally events. Factory Rally Kits were available that included anti-roll bars, racing brake pads, and a dead pedal rest. In 1967 the 912 played a part in Porsche rally history when independent driver Sobiesław Zasada drove a 912 to win the European Rally Championship for series touring cars.
From 1965 through 1969, Porsche's 912 eased the transition between the 356 and the 911. Conceived as a European model, the Porsche factory announced the 912 in early April 1965. With the great aerodynamics, ergonomics, style, and quality of construction as a six-cylinder 911, the 912 had other advantages as well. Fans of the 356 appreciated the similarities to that model; for example a proven 356-based flat four-cylinder fuel-efficient motor delivering 64 SAE horsepower/ liter from behind the rear axle . With the flat-four, an early 912 weighs about 250 pounds less than a standard 911 of the same year, resulting in improved front-rear weight distribution. And the combination of fuel-efficiency, low-weight, and low-drag translated the 912 into a "green" low-fuel consumption vehicle capable of up to 30 MPG highway, decades before hybrid cars.
First available to the public in August 1965, the 912 soon became a market leader, particularly in the USA. The 912 outsold the 911 almost two to one in 1966. Constructed in late 1966, the 100,000th Porsche built was a 912 Targa® police car. The 912 won Car and Driver's 1967 "Readers Choice" Poll for its class. With its nimble handling combined with high reliability, a racing 912 won the European Rally Championship for its class in 1967.
In 1969 the late great race car driver Mark Donohue road tested the 911 and 912 for Car and Driver and said:
"And you've got to admire them [Porsche] for getting so much out of a relatively small engine, even the 912 - although I was most impressed with the handling. The cars have remarkable suspension systems."
Overall production gradually shifted from the fuel-efficient 912 to the higher-horsepower six-cylinder 911. During the 1968 production year, about 6300 912s were constructed versus about 8000 911 cars. 912s continued in production in 1969 until the introduction of the mid-engine, Targa style 914 and 914-6 in late 1969. Ironically, after production of the 914 ceased in late 1975, the fuel-injected 912E model appeared in 1976, powered by a 2.0 liter 914-derived engine. When 912E production ended, Porsche had constructed 34,959 of the Type 912/912E model.