2024 KAMM Manufaktur 912 C

2024 KAMM Manufaktur 912 C

The KAMM Manufaktur 912 C now boasts production specification following its debut as a prototype last year, but can this carbon-clad coupe deliver on its promise of being a focused four-cylinder air-cooled Porsche despite possessing multiple personalities?


Words Dan Furr

Photography Dan Sherwood


RUB OF THE GREEN

2024 KAMM Manufaktur 912 C

When attempting to determine which car to select as your first Porsche, there’s every chance you’ve been lured by the romance of owning an air-cooled 911. And then you spot the price tag. If you’re concerned about spend of this magnitude, consider the 912, little known outside Porsche circles. Billed as the entry-level Porsche at launch in April 1965, it was powered by the 1,582cc Type 616/36 flat-four, inherited from the overlapping 356 C, a Porsche discontinued in May 1966.

Pragmatically, the 912’s introduction was cost-driven: it came into being simply because the 911 was too expensive for many of Porsche’s previous customers. Creating a more affordable Porsche — by putting a cheaper, less powerful engine into an austere version of the 911’s bodyshell — was the logical solution.


2024 KAMM Manufaktur 912 C

Aesthetically, there was no difference between the 911 and 912, other than badging. The contrast came in the price. While the 1965 911 was priced at DM22,900 (£9,902), the 912 was stickered at DM16,250 (£7,026), therefore representing a saving of DM6,650 (a whopping £2,875). It was anticipated the new body shape (allied to a tried-and-trusted four-cylinder powerplant deemed perfectly acceptable by 356 buyers) would do the business. By comparison, the outgoing 356 C 1600 SC coupé cost DM16,450 (£7,113), meaning the 912 represented something of a bargain, certainly in terms of Porsche prices.

You got the old running gear, but with a sleek new body shape. In short, the 912 was a safe bet, both mechanically and stylistically. Admittedly, the 90bhp flat-four’s output was modest, especially when compared with the 911’s 130bhp, but in reality, the smaller-engined Porsche was pretty gutsy, not least because at just 970kg, the 912 was a lightweight when pitched against its 1,080kg six-cylinder sibling. Despite the 911’s flagship status, however, the four-cylinder model was a commercial success, particularly in the United States.


2024 KAMM Manufaktur 912 C

Indeed, 912s were considerably more numerous than contemporary 911s, with 28,333 912 coupés and 2,562 912 Targas built against 22,768 of all types of 911 made between 1963 and 1969. Significantly, perhaps, the 100,000th Porsche to roll out of the Zuffenhausen plant was a 912 Targa (destined for Stuttgart’s traffic cops).

By 1969, the deal with Volkswagen to produce the 914 as a joint venture called time on the 912, which literally had to make way for the mid-engined roadster on the Porsche production line. From then on, the 1.7-litre, VW-propelled, Targa-topped two-seater was presented as the new entry-level Porsche sports car. In any case, Zuffenhausen was confronting increasingly stringent US emissions legislation. This spelled trouble for the 912.

Porsche also had to rationalise its product line-up — the deal with Wolfsburg meant the 914 was a given, and the 911 range by now comprised three models graded according to performance and trim: the T, E and S. Under these circumstances, the 912 seemed like an anachronism. We hadn’t heard the last of it, though. In 1976, between the end of 914 production and delay of the incoming 924, the ‘baby 911’ resurfaced on the US market as the 912 E, complete with G-series impact bumpers, although as far as the cognoscenti were concerned, the comeback kid was pegged back by its Bosch L-Jetronic-injected 1,972cc flat-four, derived from the VW 411 and developing just 86bhp, less than the original 912. Only 2,099 9121 Es were manufactured, all left-hand drive. Famous owners include Wheeler Dealer, Mike Brewer. As mentioned elsewhere in this magazine, on the road, it’s far easier to explore the full performance potential of the 912 than that of a same-age 911. And, if the Type 616 flat-four is treated to upgraded barrels and pistons, it’ll deliver similar power to the contemporary six-cylinder boxer.

Crucially, and relevant to the theme of this edition of 911 & Porsche World, the 911 will deplete your bank account of considerably more cash than an impeccably restored example of the four-cylinder Porsche. Of course, those with their head in the sand won’t be able to see past the badge at the rear of the 912. Sound familiar? If you’re guilty of considering classic Porsche ownership as an air-cooled 911 or nothing, then I urge you to put prejudice aside and allow me to introduce you to the KAMM Manufaktur 912 C, a mean, lean, green machine demonstrating just what’s possible with the 912 platform. Three cars in one, so it turns out. The 912 C (the suffix denotes the presence of enough carbon-fibre to make NASA jealous) is the brainchild of Hungarian film producer, Miki Kazmer. Following wave of press releases announcing development of the car back in 2022, I first got behind the wheel of the prototype on a sunny October day at Goodwood. “I wanted to develop a 912 an owner would be comfortable in when commuting or driving short journeys around town, as well as when cruising on long-distance road trips,” Kazmer told me when we met at the historic motorsport venue. “Simultaneously, the car needs to be ready to convincingly attack a track. It’s a delicate balance.”

The 911, you might think, would be the obvious starting point for his vision of a doanything classic Porsche, especially when he cites the legendary 911 R as his primary inspiration, but with the cost of acquiring a mid-1960s Neunelfer now stratospheric, he reasoned the thirty-thousand-plus 912s built between 1965 and model discontinuation in 1969 provide a far more cost-effective and readily available Porsche for him to work with. And, as mentioned earlier, the 912 is hardly a compromise over classic 911 ownership — patience paid off for would-be buyers when the fivedial instrument cluster from the 911 became standard 912 equipment in 1967. Additionally, Fuchs five-spokes became a cost option, allowing the entry-level Stuttgart speed machine to look even more like a 911 than it already did. Heightened specification, however, attracted heightened cost — in the UK, the price of acquiring a new 912 rose to £1,974, saving buyers only £462 over shelling out for a 911.

Kazmer was keen to start his build with a higher-spec five-gauge 912, hence the purchase of the 1968 example his team transformed into the emeraldcoloured marvel seen here. I remember thinking the colour (not Irish Green, not British Racing Green, but somewhere in between) somewhat understated for a prototype intended to inspire series production. Even so, in the interests of remaining true to the original 912 aesthetic, the car’s creator tells me he’d rather the deep hue covered the entire body — beautifully woven carbon is exposed in flashes from nose to tail, whether it’s the ‘torpedo tops’ of the front wings, the carefully isolated Mobil Pegasus motif on each flank, the door number circles or the stripe running down the centre of the engine lid, bonnet and bumpers. From a marketing perspective, it’s critical for KAMM to promote just how much high-quality carbon-fibre has been used in the construction of this car. In this regard, the exposed weave does a brilliant job, but it doesn’t sit well with its master’s desire for 912 Cs to operate under the radar. Incidentally, KAMM customers feeling flush can option a full carbonfibre monocoque.

Lift the engine and you’re presented with even more carbon-fibre. It’s everywhere, from KAMM-branded throttle body trumpets to the shroud surrounding the beefed-up flat-four. “I don’t like the ‘doghouse’ look of the standard Type 616 boxer, which I consider too similar in appearance to same-age Beetle engines,” Kazmer explains. “With this in mind, my engine builder, JPS Aircooled, sourced a Type 547 four-cam engine cooling shroud, which was subsequently used as the template for a carbon-fibre version made specifically for the KAMM 912 C.” Open the lid and the result is something of a ‘jewellery box’ effect, but don’t be fooled into thinking the changes are only skin deep.

An aerospace engineer by trade, Josef ‘Pit’ Schweiger established JPS Aircooled in the Swiss municipality of Geuensee as a producer of highquality precision parts for 356 and 912 engines. From valvetrains to pistons and cylinders, manifolds, flywheels and carburettor components, Pit has been providing individual parts and oversized four-cylinder air-cooled engine kits (displacement ranging from 1,720cc through to 2,054cc) to owners of early Porsches for many years and has an international client base spanning all four corners of the globe. JPS Aircooled was therefore the obvious choice when Kazmer wanted to partner with an engine builder capable of thoroughly transforming his 912’s 1.6-litre lump.


SIZE MATTERS

The prototype engine was enlarged to two litres and developed power approaching 170bhp, which might not sound much by today’s Porsche powertrain standards, but it’s important to be aware this is almost double the 912’s original output. Plus, when you consider the KAMM car weighs an astonishingly low 750kg, the power to weight ratio is in keeping with many of today’s smaller sports cars, ticking the box on Kazmer’s wish list dictating the 912 C needs to be capable of keeping up with modern traffic. He wasn’t done there, though. Working with Schweiger following the prototype’s star turn at Goodwood, the engine was comprehensively redeveloped with an uprated case, billet heads, rods, reprofiled cams, drive-by-wire throttle bodies, a Life Racing ECU, plus an advanced power distribution module replacing fuses and relays with solidstate switching. The result is noticeably smoother operation, instantaneous throttle response and a significant hike in horsepower. The two-litre flat-four is now producing 190bhp and almost 185lb-ft torque, although it feels considerably more potent, partly a result of the low body weight and a 7,200rpm redline (raised from the prototype’s 6,800rpm), which I’m keen to exploit.

Transferring power to the rear wheels is a five-speed dog-leg Type 901 gearbox, which replaces the car’s original fourspeed unit. Kazmer toyed with the idea of a Hewland sequential transmission, but opted for the OEM-plus option in a bid to stay true to the car’s heritage. Different ratios have been fitted (a choice of short or long ratios are available), making for a suitably track focused cog swapper. A ZF limited-slip differential has also been added, while a hydraulic racing clutch provides greater shift control and ease of use in traffic.

Where the prototype 912 C rolled on replicas of the Ford GT40 six-spoke, Kazmer has worked with British wheel manufacturer, Image Wheels, to develop a bespoke fifteen-inch single-piece wheel (choose between five-stud or centre-lock) mirroring the look of the rims propelling the legendary 917 sports-prototype to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This is a far more aesthetically appealing design and is better suited to the 912 C, not only in terms of the car’s overall looks, but by providing a nod to Porsche’s competition history. The wheels are wrapped in sticky 195/55 (front) and 205/50 (rear) Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 RS semi-slick tyres. Replacing the prototype’s 964-derived Brembos is a set of AP Racing four-piston brakes clamping drilled and grooved discs. In fairness, for a car this light and sub 200bhp, this configuration is overkill (more so the carbon-ceramic brakes recently requested by a KAMM customer), but the distinctively branded anchors look great and sit snug behind the chunky spokes — the width of a Rizla paper separates rim and caliper. Admittedly, there is an element of ‘futureproofing’ taking place against future power increases. Incidentally, there’s a hydraulic handbrake at play, allowing drivers to do their very best impression of drift king, Keiichi Tsuchiya.

When I drove the prototype and was asked by Kazmer to provide an honest assessment of the car, my biggest criticism concerned its suspension. The setup made use of adjustable dampers (with front coilovers manufactured to bespoke specification), plus adjustable rear arms, RSR-style anti-roll bars and polybushes throughout, but I reasoned ditching the torsion bars and switching to full coilover suspension would not only allow the engine to be brought further forward (thereby improving front-to- back weight distribution), but would also enable the appointment of TracTive semi-active suspension, a system regular readers will be familiar with through our testing of various feature cars making use of the Dutch brand’s products. There was only one snag: at the time of my loan of the 912 C, TracTive didn’t make a suspension kit for the 912.

TracTive’s Active Controlled Electronics (ACE) dampers are fitted with patented Dynamic Damping Adjustment (DDA), a dynamic proportional valve operating as a bypass, allowing capacity for a large range of damping. Capable of operating from soft to hard in a barely believable six milliseconds, a TracTive ACE system is one of the world’s fastest suspension solutions.

ACE has an intuitive ability to react to changing track surfaces and road conditions. Bumps, compressions and rumble strips mid-corner will be absorbed before the driver has time to react, easily holding the desired line through a series of high-speed bends. Grip levels in all conditions are vastly increased, giving the ability to push the host Porsche to limits the driver previously thought not possible. Configuration can be achieved by way of an in-cabin rotary switch or a full-colour touchscreen controller, allowing damping presets to be stored and activated in an instant, even when on the move.

At the very least, compare the convenience of a system like this to having to stop the car and crawl around on the floor to fiddle with on-body damper adjusters. Being able to switch between suspension settings on the fly is a huge win for the driver of any car travelling on contrasting surfaces. I’m not talking exclusively about variations between road and track — the standard of UK roads differs wildly from street to street, much as it does in Kazmer’s native Hungary. Being able to soften or stiffen damper rates while the car is moving across changing surfaces (or from one end of a long track to the other) is a luxury no Porsche owner will want to be without after experiencing what a TracTive system has to offer.

Following Kazmer’s work with TracTive to develop a prototype 912 ACE system based on the suspension brand’s offering for the G-series 911, I was delighted to learn TracTive has produced a series production kit, which is now fitted to the KAMM car. A discreet dash-mounted rotary knob flicks between settings. Talking of cabin furniture, carbon rules the roost. It’s everywhere you look, from the bespoke leather-trimmed buckets, to the gear stick, gear knob, steering column cowl, dash centre strip, rear quarters, parcel shelf, door cards, kick panels and floor boards.


POINT OF ENTRY

As I noted when testing the prototype, climbing into the 912 C is a breeze. There’s no roll cage scaffolding to contort my body around, no awkward bucket seat bolster to jump over. Each pew is kitted out with a multi-point safety harness, which is unnecessary for the road, but the track-friendly bias of the 912 C lends itself to this kind of heavyduty safety equipment. In truth, it makes a change for me to hop into a 912 with any kind of seat belts — Porsche offered them as an optional extra in period. When I was in charge of the prototype, my driving was limited to the roads in and around the Goodwood estate. Relatively high-speed roads, I grant you, and there were a few tasty corners to chuck the car into, but knowing Kazmer is pitching the 912 C as an air-cooled Porsche perfectly at home racing around a track as it is commuting, I felt it important to test the production version in a variety of driving environments, tackling inner city traffic, motorways, twisty B-roads and an open circuit. Across a couple of days in early July, this is exactly what I did.

I started my drive in central London, more or less in rush hour. Making my way out of the city, I was immediately hit with heavy traffic demanding lots of stop-start action, lane hopping and sharp turns down concealed side streets as sat-nav constantly altered the route I was travelling. It was a particularly hot day, but the 912 C’s electric air-conditioning system kept the cabin cool and the needles on gauges monitoring engine operation remained stable during long periods of idle. The car’s steering felt vastly improved, the result of an uprated quick-rack, and I was immediately impressed by how comfortable the ride is. By contrast, on the roads around Goodwood, the KAMM prototype felt somewhat crashy, as though the car was riding on its bump stops, even with a moderate damper setting dialled in. Here in London, dropping in and out of potholes, navigating roadworks and doing my best to avoid contact with kamikaze motorcycle couriers, the ride was as comfortable as you’d expect from a family hatchback.

The transmission has also been hugely improved over what came before. “The biggest problem with the stock 901 gearbox is its linkage,” Kazmer suggests. “Worn plastic parts cause a huge amount of movement. My team designed a new uniball-free linkage incorporating chromoly tubing and all new metal bearings, thereby reducing movement. The last thing I want is for someone to question which gear they’re about to select when they’re driving the 912 C. It’s important this car retains the analogue driving experience one expects from a classic Porsche, but removes the stress associated with operating a retro ride. Essentially, the new linkage incorporates a link for moving the gear stick front and back, plus another for left and right. The outcome is greater feel and, with a gate in for reverse, there’s no chance of accidentally selecting anything other than forward gears.” A spring centres the stick when in neutral.


DROWN OUT

Eventually, I made my way out of London and reached the absurdly dull M1. Cruising at speed was hampered by sudden colossal rainfall, but considering the 912 C weighs less than half a Ford Focus and rides on semi-slicks, it maintained impressive grip, even when all four lanes were completely hidden from view on account of deep water covering the motorway.

Bedfordshire’s rural twisties, blessed with dry asphalt and blazing sunshine, beckoned. It was here I got to find out just what the updated 912 C is capable of. First point of order? Switching the TracTive suspension to a harder setting and pulling the new-for-series-production dash plunger labelled Drive Me Crazy. Now, you’d be forgiven for thinking I was instantly subjected to hits from threepiece 1980s pop sensation, Fine Young Cannibals, but no. Instead, I’d activated an ECU map releasing all the power on offer. Working through the gears, foot to the floor interspersed with dabs of heel and toe, the flat-four created one of the most satisfying engine noises I’ve heard in a Porsche. It was as if a tommy gun was going off behind my ears. It was loud, of course, the volume made greater by the installation of thin polycarbonate windows, but it wasn’t loud enough to make me want to ease off the gas. On I pressed.

Along straights, this thing pulls and pulls. And pulls. Here, the scant weight of the car made itself known, and though Kazmer tells me KAMM is developing a 912 C aero kit to counter the threat of front-end lift as further power is released from the four-cylinder boxer at the rear, I didn’t detect the nose twitching as I rushed toward the redline at every opportunity. Then again, I wasn’t on roads long enough for me to reach the kind of speed where I’d need “really big balls”, as he succinctly puts it. Even so, as alluded to earlier, it’s possible to wring the neck of this car and explore much more of its performance potential than you’d be able to in a same-age twolitre 911 — you can drive the KAMM 912 C at ten tenths, whereas you’re probably only likely to explore half (or less) of what a same-displacement air-cooled 911 offers before you run out of road or, more likely, talent behind the wheel. Even in a 912 bearing standard trim, you don’t need to be travelling particularly fast to feel like you’re reaching high speed. All the thrill of a 911 without the risk of losing your driving license. What’s not to love?

More downforce is always welcome, though, not that the TracTive system had trouble pinning the car to the road, even when I launched into corners quickly. This confidence is inspired by my experience of ACE technology in various Porsches, from an electric 964 to a 997 Cabriolet and everything in between. Put simply, no other available aftermarket suspension comes close to how well-suited TracTive products are to Porsche sports cars.

The AP stoppers have instant bite and slow the car just as effectively as I could hammer it along the high-speed stretches of Bedfordshire backroad. There’s much more power in the lower rev range than I remember from the 912 C prototype, which is a hugely pleasing development. On this note, I should point out nothing KAMM does is a process of trial and error. Kazmer’s team is engaged in advanced engineering and simulation at every stage of vehicle development.

To the track. I ventured onto a small circuit requiring constant jumps between throttle and shift. When I tested the prototype 912 C, Kazmer stressed the car was more circuit-biased than he intended the company’s production run of 912 Cs to be, hinting further development work would result in less of a workout behind the wheel. He’s obviously delivered on this promise. Don’t get me wrong, the series 912 C is a physical drive, but you’re not going to step out of this car feeling tired, even after multiple laps around a challenging circuit.

There’s more on the horizon, too. Customer orders are in, and with them come requests for individual equipment. There’s the aforementioned carbonceramic brakes, but the next phase of 912 C development will also see the introduction of new CAN-driven dash clocks, further transmission upgrades (a push-button gate for reverse, among other changes) and development of magnesium and carbon-barrelled wheels. Titanium is being used for manufacturing of driveshafts and trailing arms. Creating a lightweight air-cooled Porsche is clearly a case of how low can you go?

As a result of enhanced specification, the 912 C is now priced at €360,000, which includes acquisition of a donor 912. KAMM customers can supply their own 912 for conversion, which drops the price to €320,000. With many Porsche restomods starting at seven figures without donor car, this represents fantastic value for money. Proving the point, only two build slots remain for 2023. The first customer 912 C, so I’m told, is destined for life in Miami. I’m not going to pretend six figures is typical of the amount of money someone has to play with when shopping for their first Porsche, but the 912 C serves not only to demonstrate how there are serious alternatives to the 911 when it comes to parting with your hard-earned cash, but just how capable cars outside the 911 stable are when given the lease of life not afforded to them by the factory. Budget forty grand for a 912 E, fifty for a short-wheelbase version of the original 912. Do the smart thing and budget for the cost of fitting TracTive suspension.

With the 912 C prototype, I suggested Kazmer was on the verge of creating one 912 to rule them all. With production specification, he’s nailed it. If you’re in a position to do so, contact KAMM Manufaktur and secure one of the firm’s precious few build slots. Don’t be left green with envy.

THERE’S MUCH MORE POWER IN THE LOWER REV RANGE THAN I REMEMBER FROM THE 912 C PROTOTYPE

Above Lightweight construction affords the 912 C kerb weight of just 750kg, with further savings to be made, as a recent customer commission is proving through the use of carbon-ceramic brakes and titanium for various chassis componentry.

Above TracTive and KAMM worked on developing a semiactive suspension system for the 912 C.

Below JPS Aircooled flat-four apes the look of the iconic Type 547 four-cam and pumps out a healthy 190bhp.

Above Wheels are a bespoke take on the 917’s six-spokes.

Above If you missed the carbon flashes exposed by pauses in exterior paintwork, there’s no escaping the lashings of lightweight weave in the 912 C’s cabin

Right Tilton pedal box is the perfect choice for the KAMM car Top right Never look a Roland Gift horse in the mouth

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