Although the Porsche 911 isn’t perfect by any means, it is one of the best vehicles on the market. Over the years, the iconic sports car has amassed a large following and a stellar reputation. Unfortunately, that’s caused another problem: high prices, especially for the original air-cooled 911s. Some of the earliest ones cost so much, they make that $300,000 240Z look like a bargain. But, if you want the air-cooled 911 look without emptying your wallet too much, there’s a solution: the Porsche 912.
Porsche 912: the ‘entry-level’ air-cooled 911
One of the biggest changes between the Porsche 911 and its predecessor, the 356, was the engine. Instead of an air-cooled flat-four, the 911 had a flat-six. And, in a preview of today, that also meant the 911 was significantly more expensive than the 356.
Which meant, as Silodrome explains, Porsche was left with just one rather-costly car when the 356 ended production. To help bolster the company’s chances, an ‘entry-level’ car with the 911’s body and 356’s four-cylinder was created in 1965. This was the first Porsche 912.
To be sure, as with some of Porsche’s current models, the 912 was indeed an ‘entry-level’ 911. The steering wheel was made of plastic, not wood, and it didn’t initially have all the gauges the air-cooled 911 offered. It also, the 912 Registry reports, came standard with a 4-speed manual, not a 5-speed (although it was an option).
However, part of the early 911’s appeal is its minimalism, so it’s not like Porsche 912 were missing much. And it’s not like the 912 didn’t have its own charms.
What’s it like to drive?
True, the Porsche 912’s 1.6-liter four-cylinder wasn’t tremendously powerful, only pushing out 90 hp. The earlier 356C actually made 95 hp and weighed about 130 pounds less. However, the 912 had better aerodynamics, which made it faster and revised suspension.
In addition, because the 912’s engine was smaller than the air-cooled 911’s, Jalopnik reports the former actually handles better. The Porsche 912 isn’t fast in a straight line, but in a corner, it feels genuinely special. And of course, it has the iconic 911-style design and practicality. Petrolicious reports some are still used as road trip cars and daily-drivers, even in snowy climates. Some owners even fit their 912s with bike racks.
A period review by Car and Driver called the 912 “the 911 we can all afford to buy.” And it still is. Sort of.
The Porsche 912 is affordable…by comparison
The Porsche 912 actually out-sold the 911 in its early years, Jalopnik reports. Roughly 30,000 were made by the time production in late 1969, Hagerty reports. The 912 name did reappear for 1976 as the 912E, but that was a vastly different car.
Up until fairly recently, Porsche 912s were significantly cheaper than the contemporary air-cooled 911s. And while they still cost less than the average early 911, the difference isn’t quite as large as it once was. A good-condition coupe on average costs about $40k, Hagerty reports, with Targa models going closer to $50k. That’s not too far from the average air-cooled 911’s going price.
However, Bring a Trailer reports it’s still possible to find reasonably well-kept models for about $30,000. So, while a Porsche 912 may be a bargain air-cooled 911, that doesn’t mean the experience is at all cheapened.
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