1965-1966 Porsche 912

Inevitably, the Porsche 912 carried the 1600SC engine from the last of the 356s, though slightly detuned to 102 horsepower (SAE) at 5,800 rpm and 91 pound-feet of peak torque at 3,500 rpm. On paper, it should have been slower than the SC, because the Porsche 911 bodyshell added some 100 pounds to curb weight. But with its five-speed gearbox (a $75 extra) and superior aerodynamics, the Porsche 912 was actually faster all-out.

Porsche's top-speed figure was a conservative 116 mph. Car and Driver reached 115, and Road & Track managed 119, both with five-speed. The typical 0-60 mph run was 11.5-12 seconds, the standing quarter-mile an 18-second affair at 77-78 mph. Predictably, the 912 was much thriftier than the Porsche 911, averaging 25 miles per gallon versus 16-20 mpg.

Porsche 911
The Porsche 912 combined 356SC's horsepower with the 911's "Type 901" body.

R&T said the Porsche 912 "isn't a car in which one can amble around town in high gear with abandon. It's necessary to make full use of the five speeds, and there seem to always be more wrong gears than right ones," a snipe at the racing-style shift pattern.

Britain's Autocar found it possible to go from first to fourth, missing second gear, but that shifting became "subconscious" with practice. Conversely, observed R&T, the Porsche 912 engine "runs without fuss at low speeds and idles smoothly at 1000 rpm, [though] it's anything but quiet. It never sounds overworked, mind you, but it seems that all the clatter conies right through the bulkhead." The 911 also wasn't particularly quiet inside, so Porsche still had some work to do in that area.

Speed aside, the Porsche 912 drove much like its six-cylinder sister. Both had strong, virtually fade-free brakes; light, accurate, well-damped steering; and German Dunlop SP radials that worked perfectly with the suspension to deliver strong cornering with a good ride.

"Oversteer is a thing of the past," R&T concluded, "and one no longer need be an expert to keep from losing it -- even in the wet. The 912 is a car that is very responsive to small steering inputs...but not at all likely to wag its tail in vigorous cornering."

R&T judged the ride as firm "but most definitely not a harsh one. There's very little tendency to pitch or roll and, true to Porsche tradition, the body itself adds to the impression of a good ride by being absolutely rigid and rattle-squeak-free."

Reflecting its lower price ($4,700 U.S. POE), the Porsche 912 was relatively "stripped" compared to a 911. For example, the dash was trimmed with plastic instead of teak, was bereft of a clock and oil-pressure/temp dial, and the optional gas heater was initially unavailable.

But R&T decided that "nothing is left out that is really necessary. If you want to order a Porsche with no extras, be assured it will be a 'fully equipped' car." In both 911 and 912, that full equipment included three-speed wipers, a rear-window defroster, and backup lamps.

Porsche 912
The Porsche 912 had fewer standard amenities than the 911 but sold for less.

The 901 Series saw few changes through 1966. July '65 brought revised gear ratios to both models and a standard four-speed for the Porsche 911, the latter allowing Porsche to advertise a lower starting price.

Complaints of carburetion flat spots and fouled plugs were addressed the following February by a switch to Weber 40 IDA 3C carburetors. Gripes about front-end float and abrupt understeer/oversteer transitions brought a very un-Porsche solution: an 11-kilogram (24.2-pound) cast-iron weight bolted and glued to each inner outboard end of the front bumper.

A more sophisticated idea appeared at Frankfurt in 1965: an open 901 with a clever yet practical liftoff roof panel above the front seats. The lid attached to the windshield header and a fixed rear "hoop" that also provided rollover protection. The new body style was called Targa, after one of Porsche's most successful competition venues, the grueling Targa Florio road race in Sicily. Available in both 911 and 912 form, the Targa began export sales in 1967.

Butzi Porsche had objected to retaining the coupe's rear sheetmetal for the Targa, saying a "trunkback" (as on the T-7) was the only proper shape for a cabriolet. Nevertheless, shared bodywork was a must given the Targa's modest sales projections.

The plus side was that this decision "forced" Butzi to design in the strong rollbar. Initially, the Targa had a zip-out plastic rear window and a folding roof panel of rubberized fabric. The rollbar was trimmed in brushed stainless steel -- chosen, Butzi said, to emphasize its functionality.

As it turned out, the public wanted far more Targas than Porsche planned (originally 12.7 percent of total series production). Porsche also found that the 912 sold much better than the 911, though that wasn't too surprising given the price difference. Of the nearly 13,000 Porsches built in 1966, more than 9,000 had four cylinders.

But these were problems of success that everyone in Zuffenhausen was happy to endure. The new-generation Porsche was a solid hit. All that now remained was to apply the same sort of carefully considered honing that had been lavished on the Porsche 356.

Porsche 911/912 Targa
The Porsche 911/912 Targa was a semi-convertible with a lift-off roof panel.

Check out the complete story of Porsche cars, including these fabulous models:

Porsche 356
Porsche 911
Porsche 914
Porsche 924, 944, 968
Porsche 928 Porsche 959
Porsche Boxster Porsche Cayenne Porsche Cayman

For Porsche prices and reviews from the auto editors of Consumer Guide, see: