The Porsche 912 began as the Porsche 901, introduced at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 1963. Porsche’s new Model 901 for 1964 was a sensation to some and viewed with skepticism by others. In addition to a slightly larger and distinctly attractive new body, the 901 featured Porsche’s new 6 cylinder, air cooled, race-derived, double overhead cam engine.
In what seems to have been a rare mistake, Porsche gave their new passenger car the 901 model designation. However, a French company had an existing copyright on all European passenger car model designations with a zero in the middle position.
Porsche adjusted quickly and introduced the new 1965 Model 911 the year after the Frankfurt Auto Show. (Porsche could, and did, use the center zero on race car models, including the stunning fiberglass bodied 904, the 907 and 908.)
Early sales of the then-revolutionary 911 were slow. Many Porsche owners who might have been early 911 buyers may have been unsure of the new 6 cylinder engine.
Thousands of owners, though, were very happy with the legendary 4 cylinder pushrod engine that had served them faithfully since the early 1950s.
The Porsche factory had a supply of the Model 356 engines on hand, so it didn’t take long for the new 912 to be introduced with the more familiar engine in 1965.
The 1965 “painted dash” and later 912s were well received. The 912 actually outsold the much faster (and more expensive) 911 by about two to one in the 1965 model year.
And for good reason; the Porsche 912 featured a slightly de-tuned version of the well-known Model 356 Super 90 engine and a snappy new design. Beneath the exquisite new Porsche body were the 911’s independent 4 wheel torsion bar suspension and race-proven chassis features.
The 912 was roomier than the Model 356. It also had better driver visibility and boasted almost perfect 45/55 front/rear weight distribution. The 912 cost less and weighed less than the 911.
The 912 was easier (and less expensive) to maintain. The 912’s economical, durable, and race-proven engine traced its roots back through the successful “giant killer” Porsche Model 356 variants and directly to Dr. Porsche’s Volkswagen of the late 1930s.
Porsche reportedly manufactured 31,270 912s during the 1965 to 1969 model years.
In the final 1969 model year, a reported 4,679 912s rolled off Porsche assembly line into the garages of eager buyers all over the world.
Mine is pictured above, in British Columbia after having been driven on U.S. Route 95 without incident from the Mexican border at San Luis, Arizona to Eastport Idaho at the Canadian border. The car has its original 1969 yellow on black California license plates and new (2006) Grand Prix White paint.
It was built as a Light Ivory 4-speed Coupe with tinted windows, front and rear bumper horns and a Blaupunkt AM/FM/SW radio. It rolled off the Porsche assembly line on May 13, 1969.
For many, including this Writer, the 1969 912 was, and is, the perfect sports car for the common man or woman.
It also happens to be an ideal high performance ride for enjoying America’s current and former U.S. highways in classic style.