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Porsche 911 History

1976 Porsche 912

Despite its explosive acceleration, the 930 Turbo Carrera was a remarkably civilized and undemanding car. "It can be pottered around town all day in top gear and a bit of second without bother," said Britain's Autocar. "And when the town limits are past, there is all that ocean of surging performance under your right foot, immediately, with not the slightest need for tiresome plug-clearing first."

Today, of course, we take street-legal turbocars for granted, but they were big news in '76 -- as was the Porsche 930's shattering performance. Like so many technical breakthroughs, Porsche had pioneered this one. And it was only the beginning.

Porsche 91
The 250,000th Porsche was completed on June 3, 1977.

Though ousted by the Turbo from the '76 U.S. lineup, the normally aspirated Carrera continued in, along with a base 911. Both offered 200 DIN horsepower European at 6,000 rpm -- still pretty impressive -- and sold in Germany starting at DM44,950. Europe

The 1976 American-market S was little changed aside from a $1,000 higher base price that included most of the '75 Carrera's standard features, plus remote-adjustable body-color door mirrors and a still-further improved climate system with optional automatic temperature control (also available on the Turbo).

Another new extra for both '76 models was Porsche's first cruise control. Sold under the catchy name "Tempostat," it was devised mainly for long-distance driving conditions in the United States.

Responding to buyer concerns about durability in the face of rapidly rising prices, Porsche began galvanizing all 901-series bodyshells on both sides and backed it with a six-year no-rust warranty. It was only fair. If Porsches had to cost the earth, they should at least outlast the loan payments.

A new Porsche 912 was far more down to earth -- and not entirely unexpected. The mid-engine 914, the "people's Porsche" developed with Volkswagen to replace the original 912, had failed to make much headway in the popular-price sports-car market since its 1970 debut. A substitute was coming, the front-engine 924, but wasn't quite ready yet, so the 912 was brought back to anchor the bottom of the'76 line while the last 914s quietly exited showrooms.

Typical of Porsche, this new 912 was no mere rerun. For one thing, it was designated 912E -- E for einspritzung. And it carried not a Porsche engine but the injected 2.0-liter VW four available in 914s after 1972.

While that change was dubious, the 912E did benefit from most all the body and chassis improvements accorded the 911 since 1969, and its U.S. East Coast price of just under $11,000 was far more reasonable, though more than late 914s cost. But then, this was a "real" Porsche to most eyes, not a half-breed like the mid-engine "Volks-Porsche."

"The 912E will obviously find favor with those who prefer a slightly more practical and tractable Porsche," predicted Road & Track. "It's a car with almost all the sporting virtues of the more expensive 911S, yet its simpler pushrod 4-cyl. engine should make for better fuel economy and less expensive maintenance than the 911's six" (though the injection tended to misbehave in cold weather).

SAE net horsepower was just 86 at 4,900 rpm, torque a modest 98 pound-feet at 4000. Curb weight was 2,395 pounds, which meant the Porsche 912 had somehow picked up no fewer than 400 pounds since its last incarnation. Still, R&T's 11.3-second 0-60 mph time and 115-mph top speed looked good against the observed 23.0-mpg economy.

As a stopgap, the 912E was the single instance of "planned obsolescence" in Porsche history. Only 2,092 were built, but this plus year-only status and the desirable qualities inherited from contemporary 911s have since made the 912E one of the more collectible four-cylinder Porsches.

A busy 1977 saw Porsche introduce its "heretical" new water-cooled front-engine models: the V-8-powered 928 in Europe and the four-cylinder 924 in America. As a result, the 911S and Turbo were little changed. An extra pair of air vents appeared in the middle of instrument panels, heater controls were altered again, interior door locks were reworked to better foil thieves, and carpeting was run up onto the lower door panels.

A downer for U.S. models was the addition of a governor that limited maximum speed to 130 mph, the rating for the tires now specified. The speedometer was recalibrated to suit. Sportomatic 911s (except with right-hand drive) and the U.S. 911S received an ATE vacuum brake booster, and softer tires and shocks were optional in a $495 U.S.-market Comfort Group that also included electric windows.

Like most everything in these years, Porsche prices pushed relentlessly higher. The Turbo stood pat for '77, but the 911S, which had been under $12,000 three years before, was now nudging $15,000.

Even so, the 911 remained an outstanding premium sports-car buy. Through one of the most troubled periods in automotive history, when most designers and engineers bowed to the wishes of politicians and bureaucrats, Porsche kept the 911 within the law -- and as exciting as ever.

On June 3, 1977, Porsche built its 250,000th car. Fittingly, it was a 911, a European 2.7-liter S. Yet many wondered just how long such an "old-fashioned" car could go on. After all, except for Alpine-Renault in France and, soon, John Z. DeLorean, nobody was building rear-engine cars anymore. Air cooling? Ancient history.

But Porsche's pride wouldn't permit neglect, and though bean-counters have never had the last word in Zuffenhausen, the 911 remained central to Porsche's image and, increasingly, to sales. That's why it got a new lease on life with the 1978 Porsche 911SC.

Porsche 911
Only a single version of the 911 coupe and Targa were offered in the U.S. by 1977.

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:

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  • 2007 Porsche 911
  • 1999-2006 Porsche 911
  • 1995-1998 Porsche 911