PLUS ONE
Motoring World|May 2020
We drive the original ‘poor man’s’ Porsche, the 912
Rohin Nagrani

The thrum from a boxer motor has a metallic timbre to it, the kind of sound motoring orgasms are made of. The only boxer-four motor I’d previously experienced was the one on a Subaru Forester and it had the automotive equivalent of a whooping cough. I can’t quite recollect what the reason was — a misfiring cylinder or something less dire — but I never quite got to grips with what a horizontally-opposed four-potter was like.

It would take November 2015’s 41-degree searing heat of Dubai to find answers. The reference to the bruiser is even true in auditory terms, the heavy cast-iron block with the pistons pushing against the opposite ends felt just like a boxer’s fist sitting snug in a glove filled with iron pellets. With the motor sitting right behind the transaxle, it pretty much sounds like a 356, which it is, but also isn’t. Welcome, then, to the Porsche 912, the black sheep and forgotten hero of Porsches, the one that resided in the large shadow of the 911. And yes, it was no pumpkin wagon.

Let’s answer the tricky bit first: the 356 connection is strictly the motor and some ancillaries. The rest of the body shell and mechanicals are the 911. It was still very much a Butzi design, but it was also a stroke of marketing genius, which Porsche continues to be to this very day. When Porsche launched the 911 in 1963-64, the successor to the 356 was not only quite modern, it was a good 60 per cent up on the sticker price and that was enough to send many Porsche loyalists in other directions. Porsche knew it couldn’t afford to keep things that way, so in 1965, as it wound down 356 production, it quietly discarded all its dyes and tools, kept the motor around, stuck it in a 911 shell and changed the nomenclature.

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