912E Buyer’s Guide

This is by no means a definitive guide, it’s meant to be a starting point for people new to the 912E. All classic cars are 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 probably be less.

Before you start looking, try to understand what kind of car the 912E is. If you want performance driving, better off looking at a 911. For most owner’s this will be a ‘weekend car’. Modern cars are so efforless to drive, that using a vintage Porsche as a daily driver, while not impossible, can be challenging. The 912E makes a great starter sports car, with a good chance of future appreciation. It’s got the 911’s Porsche crest, styling and suspension. Handling is quite acceptable too, much more neutral than a 911’s. Yes, they’re slower, but find a nice running car, and you’ll be surprised how responsive they can be.

Look at as many cars as possible

This may be difficult since these cars are quite rare. Even so, they come up for sale fairly often, and depending on your geographic location, you may be able to check out a few cars. A majority of 912Es seem to have been sold in CA. 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 (you hope!).

Options

There were some options available on these cars. Fourteen inch Fuchs wheels were popular. In fact, it’s rare that you’ll see one with the standard 15 inch steel wheels. It is believed approx. 500 cars were delivered with an electric sunroof. Other options include electric antenna (located on the passenger side front fender), power door mirrors, power windows, headlight washers, H1 headlamps. Air conditioning was a popular dealer-installed option, however these older systems are generally found to be not very effective.

Get a pre-purchase inspection

Once you find the car you want, get it inspected. This should be done by a mechanic who is familiar with vintage Porsches. Have the mechanic do a compression check and a leakdown test. He should be able to itemize everything you need to put the car into ‘street concourse’ condition (even if you don’t want to show the car, this will give you an idea of everything the car needs). The list should help you decide whether you want this car and, if so, the price range for the car. For a PPI, ask around for references - post a message on our message board, or look at our resources page.

The VIN number

There are three places where the VIN will appear. 1.) the sticker on the driver’s side door jam (removable, so not totally reliable); 2.) the plate on the windshield post on the driver’s side; and 3.) in the trunk area just beyond the spare tire well stamped into the chassis. Obviously, these three numbers should match.

Look for a documented service history

It’s unlikely to be a full history, but a car that has one is a better bet than one without. Again, your Porsche mechanic should advise you of any necessary work that needs to be done.

Paint

All 912Es and 1976 911s used galvanized steel in their bodies for the first time. The early ones were only partially galvanized while the later ones were completely galvanized. One of the disadvantages of the galvanized bodies was that the primer used at the factory did not react well with the zinc and the result was that the original paint would develop strange patterns, checking, bubbling, etc.

One owner looked at six 912Es before settling on a car: “All but two of them had the original paint and in every case, the paint left a lot to be desired. Mine is no different. I have talked to many owners of the ’76 models and they have all confirmed problems with the original paint. With today’s technology in paints and primers, there is no reason that a first class paint job can’t be done as long as the painter applies the correct primer made for galvanized metal”.

That said, if you find an original with the factory paint and it looks funny, don’t assume that someone is hiding something. The magnet trick will tell you whether body filler has been used to cover up some problems.

Parts availability

Many things on your prospective purchase may be worn out and need replacing, after all this is a 38+ year old car. Here is a list of things to watch for. In no particular order.

  • Bosch L-Jetronic Fuel Injection system (often removed and replaced with carbs)
  • The part of the doors where the check straps connect can fatigue and tear - tricky to repair.
  • Suspension components
  • Exhaust system and heat exchangers - often leaky
  • Brakes (often seized due to age and lack of use)
  • Head Temp Sensor
  • Fuel Pump
  • Transmission (syncro on 1st often worn). However, it can be rebuilt but it’s about the same cost as the 915 used in the 911 so still not a huge deal. Read more here.
  • Engine - heads can develop cracks, but can be fixed. Read more here.

912E-only parts (hard to find/expensive)

  • Muffler
  • Heat-exchangers
  • Transmission
  • Throttle cable and throttle cable linkage
  • Clutch cable
  • Smog system parts
  • FI system parts
  • Bosch distributor
  • Rear brake calipers
  • Engine cooling tin

Engine

The 912E’s Type 4 engine has proven its reliability, and shown itself to be essentially bulletproof in every respect. Many surviving 912Es are still operating perfectly well with over 200,000 miles on the clock. It is not simply a VW engine in a Porsche. Read more about the engine here.

You can replace the FI system with Webers, but most folks agree that the cars run better with the original Fuel Injection intact. My experience with an injected 912E bears this out—it runs sweetly and its cold start performance is exemplary. Additionally, in states like Delaware, Oregon and California, these cars still have to pass smog tests.

Bodywork

As stated earlier, Porsche began galvanizing the body panels in 1976, so it is believed early ’76 cars may not have been fully galvanized. However there are cars out there that have rusted in specific places - headlight buckets, behind the front wheel wells (mud and dirt get’s stuck back there and holds moisture, which can lead to rust if not routinely cleaned). Cars with sunroofs - if the drain tubes are blocked with dirt, rust can develop here.

For the most part, rust should not be an issue, especially if the car has lived it’s life in a drier climate. Nevertheless, take a good look at the following areas...

  • At the base of the ‘lock post’
  • Battery compartment - a leaking battery can rust out this area, and can spread to effect the front suspension mounts.
  • Base of doors
  • Bottom of front and rear windshields
  • Front A-arm mounts (see Battery compartment above)
  • Headlight buckets
  • Floor pan
  • Underneath rear seat pads - leaking sunroof can lead to serious rust here.
  • Inner wheel arches

Collectability

From a collectibility standpoint, the 912E is no longer flying under the radar. The secret is out—enthusiasts and collectors have finally realized what a great buy the 912E is. The “it’s not a real Porsche” snobbery appears to have faded and people are recognizing the cars as an excellent value. Pristine, low-mileage cars can command $30,000+. Decent, running and driving cars that need a little work start at around $12,000.

You can be confident that any money you put into a car, you’ll probably get back if you ever sell it.