1976 Porsche 912 E
Mike Brewer’s restored 912 E wheeler dealers star’s passion for Porsche rare retro ride — the car’s the star. Mike Brewer is known to millions as the star of TV’s Wheeler Dealers, but away from filming, he likes nothing more than hitting the road in his restored 1976 Porsche 912 E. What’s more, he thinks you should be considering an example of the four-cylinder 911 lookalike when buying your first Porsche… Words Dan Furr Photography. Chris Wallbank.
THE CAR’S THE STAR YOUR FIRST PORSCHE
Mike Brewer’s restored Enamel Blue 1976 912 E.
Imagine what your dream garage might look like. You’d own a stack of Porsches, natch, and there might be a Prancing Horse or two lurking in the background. Perhaps some old British tin would feature? Classic Mini, MG, Jensen? All great car collections feature a Citroën DS or, maybe, an SM. Fancy one of each? Oh, and what about an Aston? Jaguar? Lotus? Vintage Bimmer? All of the above? Now narrow your fantasy fleet down to a single car — the one motor you’d automatically treat as your go-to four-wheeler. In a sea of exotica, you’ve got a tough decision to make.
You might be tempted to crown the rarest, most valuable or the fastest car as your pick of the bunch, but one quality should trump all others: simply put, it’s the fun factor. “As far as air-cooled Porsches are concerned, bang for your buck, you just can’t beat the 912,” says Mike Brewer, car dealer extraordinaire, collector of classics and host of TV’s hugely successful Wheeler Dealers. And he should know, being the owner of various 911s and what must be the very best 912 E in the UK right now. “In my opinion, the 912 is much more usable than a classic 911,” he continues. “Granted, without modifications, the 912’s flat-four isn’t as powerful as the 911’s flat-six, but with far less weight over the back axle, the 912 can be driven at ten tenths.” The 911, he argues, isn’t anywhere as easy to drive at the limit, and with the cost of 912 ownership, maintenance and repair far lower than the six-cylinder machine, owners are afforded the true Porsche experience without breaking the bank.
TO THE LETTER
You’ll have noticed the E suffix when we referenced Mike’s Enamel Blue belter. We’ve waxed lyrical about the history of the 912 and its significance in the Porsche product line-up in recent issues of this magazine — suffice to say we won’t reinvent the Fuchs here — but for the benefit of readers new to 911 & Porsche World magazine, here’s a recap of where the 912 E fits into the Porsche product timeline.
In 1969, following the demise of the original 912 (a four-cylinder entry-level model filling the gap left by the 356 and virtually indistinguishable from the same-age 911) came the introduction of its successor, the square-edged, mid-engined, Targa-topped 914 roadster, a huge sales success with almost 120,000 units shifted by the close of production in 1976. By this time, Porsche was readying the 924, another entry-level model with joint VW-Porsche parentage, but recognising a delay between discontinuation of the 914 and the arrival of the 924 in dealer showrooms, bosses in Zuffenhausen were worried about a potential impact on overall sales if there was no entry-level Porsche on offer, even for a short time. North America had long been recognised as Porsche’s most important retail market, which is why, just like a character in a long-running soap opera, the 912 was brought back from the dead. Sold exclusively in the USA, the 1976 912 E (the E meaning Einspritzung, the German word for fuel injection) looked largely the same as the 912 of old, but it now wore the 911’s updated G-series bodywork, including accordionesque impact bumpers. Unfortunately, with 86bhp and a compression ratio of 7.6:1, power and performance were much lower than expected — the zero to sixty dash took 13.5 seconds, while the car topped out at 109mph. A five-speed gearbox was standard equipment. Pricewise, at $10,845, the 912 E found itself positioned between the 914 and the contemporary 911 S. Production started in May 1975. Luxury options included air-conditioning, an electric sunroof and a 923/02 limited-slip differential. 2,092 examples of Porsche’s second-gen budget build were assembled, adding to the 30,895 912s made between 1965 and 1969. These numbers are important — it’s worth remembering that before the introduction of the 914 and the later 924, the 912 brought Porsche ownership into the realm of many more buyers than the 911 was able to manage on its own. It can be argued that this very same affordability became the model’s undoing: whereas the four-cylinder 914 and 924 look completely different from the 911, the 912 looks exactly the same, thereby implying matched levels of performance. The resulting over-expectation often delivered disappointment, tarnishing the reputation of what is, in truth, a fantastic car.
PICK OF THE BUNCH
“I own a number of amazing air-cooled 911s, including one powered by an ANDIAL-prepared flat-six, but as much as I love these cars, I always find myself hopping into this 912 E,” Mike beams.
“Put it this way, of all the classic and sport cars I own, it’s the only one I keep at home. This beautiful blue flat-four-powered Porsche is my go-to retro ride, whether I’m taking my daughter, Chloe, out for a bite to eat, going for an early morning blast or simply want an enjoyable commute to the studio.” So how did this particular 912 E — a US-only model, remember — find itself terrorising every roundabout in Warwickshire? “I didn’t find the car, the car found me!” Mike laughs. “I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, filming an episode of Wheeler Dealers a few years ago,” he elaborates. “During this particular session of filming, we were visiting a car dealer’s showroom. I posted a photo of our activities on social media. A local resident saw the picture, immediately recognised where we were and asked if he could pop by to say hello.” A fan of the show, the chap wasted no time in heading over to the team’s location to chat cars with Mike. Unsurprisingly, the conversation quickly turned to what was in each petrolhead’s garage. “He told me about the 912 E he was in possession of, and that he was about to advertise the car for sale in order to raise funds for medical bills he was expecting after an operation.” Ever since reading an article in a vintage issue of Road & Track announcing the 912 E as a better buy than the equivalent 911, Mike had always wanted an example of the four-pot Porsche to call his own. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for him to strike a deal with his new friend.
The 912 E uses a two-litre development of the flat-four fitted to the 914, complete with Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, later adapted for the 911. The smaller-displacement car’s chassis and body is virtually identical to those of its higher-profile stablemate, but as Mike explained earlier, with less power and far less weight over the rear axle, it’s easier to get the best out of a 912 E and, crucially, it’s a Porsche less likely to punish its driver with snap oversteer. Additionally, by the time of 912 E production, Porsche’s efforts in the field of rust prevention were advanced, meaning the new arrival was built with corrosion-resistant galvanised metal, unlike the original 912.
Engine aside, specification was mostly the same as the entry-level 911, though the full five-gauge clock arrangement was a cost option, as were Fuchs, power mirrors, electric windows, headlamp washer jets and a retractable electric aerial. When Mike first encountered his 912 E, it was dressed in a non-original coat of yellow and was riding on Cookie Cutter wheels, another period option. “Other than tired paintwork along the roofline, the car was in excellent overall condition,” he confirms, remembering the inspection, full strip and rebuild the car was subjected to following its arrival in Blighty. “There was absolutely no rust anywhere to be seen, indicating more than four decades of cherished ownership. Evidence of Enamel Blue was found when stripping the shell to bare metal, and it’s this colour the car wears today.” In fact, so good was this non-sunroof 912 E, hardly anything needed to be binned, Mike instead refurbishing components during reassembly. “A previous owner had replaced the fuel injection system with carburettors to allow easier tuning and the release of trapped power, but this is a change I’d have introduced to the car anyway.”
To our amazement, his 912 E’s immaculately presented half-leather tan interior is all original, requiring little more than a clean to bring back to its best. The Cookie Cutters quickly made way for fresh Fuchs sixteen-inchers (the perfect style and size for a G-body) wrapped in Continental tyres, while all four brake calipers were sent to Worcester-based anchor refurbishment specialist, Bigg Red, for a rebuild. Though hidden behind the black five-leaves, the calipers are colour-coded to the car’s body. Meanwhile, the engine and other mechanicals were given a full service and a clean bill of health by classic car maintenance specialist, Nathan Bovingdon, much to Mike’s delight. “I’m so happy with this Porsche,” he cries. “I keep telling people thinking about buying an aircooled 911 how they really should find time to get behind the wheel of a 912. These cars are more affordable to own and maintain, and yet they offer all the charm and quality of the more expensive classic 911. The 912 E is nothing short of brilliant!”
And what of Porsche ownership in general? “It’s like nothing else,” says Mike. “The whole experience is firstrate. It starts the moment you step into a Porsche, when you grip the steering wheel, when you wrap your hand around the gear knob, when you fire up the engine. You feel connected to the car. Moreover, you’re immediately aware of the high quality of materials used during assembly. Pushing on from the rear, the front wheels being allowed to take care of steering, taking on that first corner at speed, the soundtrack of a unique engine note. Porsche ownership is wonderful.”
Of course, we couldn’t come all this way to meet one of the best-known car dealers on the planet and the star of the world’s most watched motoring show and not ask for his top tips at a time we’re pulling together an issue of 911 & Porsche World dedicated to buying your first (or, perhaps, next) Porsche. “The smart money is on the 996,” he says, without hesitation. “The price of owning this generation 911 has already bottomed out, meaning it can only go one way. 996s are great cars and can currently be bought at low cost, which has encouraged much in the way of tuning equipment and products for personalisation,” he adds, recognising the appeal of modifying a Porsche without having to worry about maintaining the kind of ‘purist’ prices associated with a stock-spec higher-value car. “Along with the early Boxster, the 996 highlights how you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a foot on the ladder of Porsche ownership. If you think about Aston Martin, Ferrari and other premium marques, the cost of joining the ‘club’ is very high, but for five grand, you can buy a 986, attend a Porsche meeting and park next to the guy climbing out of his near million-pound Carrera GT. What’s more, he’ll give you a nod, acknowledging you and your Boxster with respect,” he says, reinforcing our view the Porsche scene stands alone in being accessible and exclusive at the same time — whether you’ve got five thousand or five million to spend, there’s a Stuttgartcrested car out there to satisfy your tastes and budget, and owners of all models are welcome at club meets and enthusiast gatherings.
“This car captivates me,” says Mike, when asked to summarise his 912 E ownership experience. He’s not alone — research carried out by the 912 Registry suggests more than half of all E-badged 912s assembled survive to the present day and are still in regular use. As you’d expect for a model exclusive to the USA, most continue to reside in the land of Uncle Sam, but as Mike’s pretty Porsche proves, some have made their way back across the Atlantic to mainland Europe. Hit the classifieds and don’t look back — your dream garage just gained a four-cylinder, air-cooled Porsche.
Above 912 E made use of the 911’s galvanised G-body Below Fuel injection system has been removed and carburettors installed for tuning purposes. Above The 912 offers all the charm of a 911, but at a fraction of the purchase price. Above Mike’s four-pot Porsche is his go-to classic and the only car in his collection he keeps at home. Below Beautifully preserved haf-leather interior is all original. Above 912 E was a US-only stop-gap sitting between discontinuation of the 914 and arrival of the front-engined, watercooled, rear-drive 924
WHETHER YOU’VE GOT FIVE THOUSAND OR FIVE MILLION TO SPEND, THERE’S A STUTTGART-CRESTED CAR OUT THERE TO SATISFY YOUR TASTES AND BUDGET