912 Buyers Guide
A Novices guide to buying a 912
This is by no means a definitive guide, it's meant to be a starting point for people new to the car. All old cars will be prone to the kinds of things you are going to read about, fortunately a Porsche was infinitely better built than most to start with, so your worries will be less.
Before you start looking I always suggest you try to understand what kind of car is going to suit you. Are you someone who wants to own a 'classic Porsche' for a few years of fun motoring or are you a devoted 'Porscheaholic' who has hankered after one for years and intends to keep it even longer?. Both are equally valid reasons but may guide your choice of car. The short term owner may not want a concours standard car or a restoration project but just a solid daily driver, if you have no garage then there is little point in paying extra money for a pristine paint job. Conversely a long term owner can see the potential in a tatty car as they may have the time and ability to restore it, think carefully about your intent and you will make a wiser choice... hopefully. But be sure to buy the best car you can afford whatever your criteria.
1. Avoid at all costs taking your chequebook with you until you have seen a least as many cars as you can count on one hand. These are seductive beasts, and we have had many a phone call saying 'hi, remember me? I was looking for a 912... well I have bought one!... oh and by the way what was the number of the Porsche Meister who does inspections again?' (see point 3 for correct order in which to get an inspection done, the clue is in the name. (pre-purchase inspection!) See links page for some recommendations.
Don't forget there are also many variations of the 912, from Coupé to Targa, Soft window Targa, Hard window Targa, short wheelbase, long wheelbase, 'E'... the choice is yours. Do some research See History page.
2. See as many 912's as you can, that way you will soon discover what constitutes a 'lemon' and what you want, which is a 'diamond'. Check out 911's too, obviously you won't be buying one, but apart from the motor there are many similarities. You want to be familiar with your intended purchase, it is after all going to be a long long love affair.
3. Once you find the car you want, get it inspected. This should be done by a mechanic who is absolutely familiar with the 912. The big companies who offer pre-purchase inspections do a good job if you are buying one of Dagenham's finest, but for a Porsche you want a Porsche Meister.
The pre-purchase inspection is so important it should occupy at least 5 points!
4. Look for a good service history, it's unlikely to be a full history, but a car that has one is a better bet than one without. Again the 'Porsche Meister' will advise you if all the usual upgrades necessary have been done.
If they have not then you know you will have to get them done!
Don't be too impressed if the owner proudly says 'the engine is absolutely original' this is usually a good thing but means you will need a new set of carbs and a distributor when you drive off, and that's just for starters... that's if it starts!
5. lhd vs. rhd... There have been many many cars imported into the UK from the USA. These cars often have less rust (note the word 'less' not 'no') than European cars, but are often not looked after as well. The 912 is often seen as a step up from a VW but not quite the real deal. This is nonsense, but often means money is not spent on regular servicing by a true 'Porsche Meister', this is increasingly less common as 912's are becoming very collectable. There are few rhd examples left in th UK, some have come from South Africa so were not original UK cars. RHD cars often command a premium.
6. Many things on your prospective purchase will be worn out and need replacing, after all this is a 35 odd year old car. Here is a list of some common things which give up the ghost. In no particular order.
Distributor (often worn out giving uneven idle and poor performance)
Carbs (often leaky and worn, ill fitting)
Exhaust System, often leaky and lethal!
Brakes (often seized due to age and lack of use)
Interior (tatty seats, sunbaked dash, tired headlining)
Clock (some say this is a good yardstick to general health i.e. is it working?)
Tyres (often old, often wrong type)
Gearbox (syncro on 1st often rough, linkages often worn, although easily replaced)
Engine (!!! warning money magnet, may/will need rebuild sooner or later, good for 100,000 miles from new before full rebuild, usually!)
Bodywork (rust, filler, more rust, more filler... take along your magnet to test for any metal left.. seriously!)
Seals (nearly always need replacing, the most expensive bits of rubber you will ever buy)
7. Familiarise yourself with things that affect the value of the car. These may not seem important when you buy the car, but subsequently you will find yourself saying 'Oh I wish I had Fuch's or a wooden steering wheel, or that your 70's 8 track really needs replacing with a Blaupunkt'. These things can gobble money, and many 912's were not loaded with items from the extensive option list.
Here's a shopping list of possible common upgrades:
Fuchs alloy wheels: £500-800 plus a set
Blaupunkt Frankfurt radio: £££
Hella Fogs: £200-300 a pair
Wooden steering wheel: £300-£££
Original European Indicators: too scary to mention
8. The Engine
Here's where your inspection will save you possible future heartache. Firstly, is it the original engine? is it even a Porsche engine at all? It is possible to put 356 engines in 912's and even VW engines, as well as 911 and even short block Chevvies, although the last one is an unlikely find.
Has it been rebuilt, and if so who by. The phrase "My local garage did it, they are great, they do all kinds of old cars" really doesn't cut the moutarde. You want the details... many 912's for instance, have had new larger capacity barrels and pistons fitted (often referred to as 1720's) unfortunately these kits like everything in life come in good, bad and down right ugly. The jobs need to have been done right. It's not uncommon for badly installed kits to last 2000 miles.
Almost every engine component can be replaced and upgraded, but as most things will only show themselves when the engine is taken apart, any claims of excellent rebuilds should be accompanied by receipts and warranties.
9. The Bodywork
Touched on already in point 6. Rust will be your main concern, not only cosmetic, but structural. Recent re-sprays and undersealing should be treated with suspicion, decent jobs should again have some warranty and receipts, and in some cases detailed photographic records. Rust you can see, is often outnumbered by what you cannot. BEWARE take your magnet!.
Look at the following common areas...
At the base of the 'lock post'
Base of Doors
Around base of rear window
The state of the window seals is imperative as these will allow water into car if they are perished, and rust will be occurring where you cannot see.
Here is a great Rust resource for 901 bodies.
10. If you have come this far and not been put off, good for you. Being forewarned is to be forearmed as they say. Old cars will always need something doing to them, but with proper maintenance can be as reliable as any modern car. Well almost, many modern cars aren't that great either, are they.. lol. Above all don't rush, seek advice and be patient, I know of folks taking as long as two years to find the right car.
The sun shines on the righteous!
If you have any suggestions for the buying guide just let us know.
The Duane Spencer Book is an ideal starting point with an extensive buyers guide. 'The complete Porsche 912 Guide'
See the Books page for details.
Things to consider...
Good, bad and downright ugly
Rust! One of the most expensive downs to classic ownership. Often invisible, covered with new paint or underseal, will be a feature of your car sooner or later :( This rust of the front cross member is structural, dangerous and expensive to repair. All too common as well, often first comes to light when you need a tow as the tow loop is attached here.
Engine: is it tired and old?. A definite minus point. This will cost many thousands of pounds to rebuild. Although good for 100,000 miles you should be wary of this aspect of ownership if you are only wanting a car for a few years fun.
Engine: A quality rebuild by a respected Porsche Meister is money well spent and should give years of enjoyable motoring, performance upgrades are also a bonus to some. This engine has been built to a 'hot street' spec, with racing pistons, full-flo oil filtration and many modern after market components.
Extras: Those period features can gobble money, worth paying extra for?
Options: Rare factory fitted options can be worth an extra few ££.
Wheels: A great set of Fuch's are one of the most common items on people's 'wish lists', worth considering paying more for if you want them as were not that common an ordered option for the 912.
Or a tool kit... sweet!