When the 356 was replaced with the 911, there was understandable concern by Porsche management that the company might be pricing themselves out of their market niche, as the new 6-cylinder 911 was considerably more expensive than its 4-cylinder predecessor. Hence, the decision by management to offer a 4-cylinder variant of the 911, dubbed the 912. The 912 was only produced for 5 years, from 1965-1969, when it was replaced by the completely different 914 model as Porsche's entry level car. The 912 sold very well during the 1960s, and helped Porsche in its transition to a more higher market bracket.
During the transition, Porsche built 6 prototypes of the Porsche 911 with the 4-cylinder engine of the 356SC. Of those 6 prototypes, only two survived. This car was originally purchased as a parts car, but the owner was surprised to find that it had a 5-digit serial number rather than the 6-digit serial number typical of all production 912 and 911s. The car was discovered to be not only one of those early prototypes, but to have its original engine. This particular car was built as a test vehicle for the United States.
This car will be sold by Mecum Auctions in Monterey, California on August 18-20, 2016, right before the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on August 21.
|---- Specifications ----|
|Engine||1.6 liter flat four||Weight||--|
|HP/Liter||59.4 hp per liter||1/4 mile||--|
|0-62 mph||--||Top Speed||--|
This car is an incredibly rare, factory-documented 1965 Porsche 356B/912 Coupe Prototype.
Porsche commenced with the replacement design to its existing 356 model range in the early 1960s. The result was the iconic Porsche 911 and 912 introduced to the public in 1963 and in 1965 respectively. The Porsche 912—with the internal designation 902—was the entry-level model. In order to both amortize the large capital cost associated with tooling up for a completely new car as well to provide a new Porsche product at a price point commensurate with the outgoing 356SC, Porsche came up with a simple yet elegant design package: the installation of the 356 4-cylinder engine into an identical body structure shared with the 911. This concept was embraced by management in 1962, and authorization for the construction of six prototypes was granted. Of the six original 4-cylinder prototypes, only two are documented to have survived.
This car—serial number 13415—is one of the two survivors. It is ironic that a car of such historical significance was found by accident. Originally purchased as a parts car, it was the five-digit serial number—as opposed to a six-digit serial number on all production 911 and 912 models—that roused the interest of the new owner. After receiving documentation from Porsche archives, the Certificate of Authenticity clearly identifies the Model Year/Type of this car as being a 1965 356B/912 coupe prototype. Another stroke of good fortune was that the car still had its original numbers-matching engine. Fully aware of the pivotal role this car played in the history of the Porsche 912, the process of disassembly and restoration adhered to a strict protocol with each piece being carefully examined and cataloged.
This car was built as a factory research and development vehicle with the primary emphasis of being a test car for the United States. This is corroborated on the factory-issued Kardex which clearly states Versuch (trial) on the original use category of the document. It is also believed that this car is the demonstrator/presentation vehicle at the July 1965 Porsche factory tour arranged for the United States dealer network. A cloisonné badge affixed to the rear engine grille reading “1st U.S. PORSCHE DEALER TOUR – STUTTGART- 19-22 – JULY 1965” further supports this. The final validation of its purpose and significance is best supported by Hans Peter Porsche, Head of Porsche Production in 1965, who saw the car at the 2014 Porsche Parade in Monterey, California, and vividly remembers it at the factory back in the day. After fulfilling its intended purpose of being a test mule and presentation vehicle, the factory sold the car on August 25, 1966 to a new owner in Stuttgart, Germany.
As in all prototypes, this car is a combination of carry-over technology integrated with newly engineered design solutions and experimental parts. The engine—serial number 821653—falls within the range of serial numbers produced in the 1964 model year and is built to 356SC specifications. The transmission is the 4-speed variant of the 5-speed transmission used in its 6-cylinder brethren 911. The door hinges are aluminum—a sharp contrast to the stout steel units in the production models. The front suspension features shock towers with adjustable support mounts and plates—an improved solution to a previously problematic welded design. The dashboard was painted body color as opposed to the aluminum applique seen on later production models of the 912.
This car has been restored to an extremely high standard by a respected marque specialist. Resplendent in Light Ivory with black leatherette interior, the presentation is impeccable. The panel alignment is spot on with factory-correct door, trunk and deck-lid gaps. The underside is equally impressive with crisp stamping impressions on the sheet metal and period-correct application of paint and texture. This comprehensive restoration was acknowledged at the 2014 Porsche Parade Concours where it was bestowed with the Zuffenhausen Award scoring 297.4 points out of a 300 point maximum. This car represents a significant chapter in the Porsche legacy. It is one of the two remaining prototypes that developed and defined the Porsche 912—a car that bridged the transition from the 356 series to the 911 series of Porsche automobiles.