Guest contributor: Eric Chan on his 1969 Porsche 912
We imagine the story is familiar to many. There you are, perfectly content in your modern Audi, BMW, or [fill in the blank] with its modern looks, modern horsepower, and modern refinements when bam, it hits you: this isn’t what driving is all about. You find yourself craving something more mechanical, more direct, more involved. More… pure. And before you know it, you’re buying an older car. A vintage car. And you think yeah, that’s more like it. So goes the story of Eric Chan and his new-to-him 1969 Porsche 912.
MCB: Why the 912?
EC: In my dream garage, there has always been a 911 as well as a vintage car from the ’60s, so I decided I might as well get a vintage 911 and kill two birds with one stone! And while my dream 911 continues to be the 993 Carrera 2S, I found myself lusting more and more for that vintage vibe, and the long hood 911 grew on me so much that I decided I needed to have one, either in the form of a 1960s’ 911 or 912. The 912 was more suited to my budget, and I was also drawn to its simplicity and 356 heritage, so that’s how I ended up with a 912.
MCB: How did you find it?
EC: Having seen showroom condition cars in vintage dealers as well as rustbuckets out on the street with For Sale signs, I decided the best way to move forward was to talk to real owners. So I went to a 912 event and met some very nice people! I heard stories ranging from hot rodding 912s to living in a divided Germany in the ’60s! And I met a Concours-winning couple who happened to be selling their 912 which they had acquired from vintage Porsche builder and racer John Benton. John told me everything about the car, from how he had seen it for seven years sitting in his neighborhood under a car cover, to how he finally approached the owner and bought it for restoration. Knowing the details from a reputable master restorer who actually built the car was what sold me.
MCB: Did you consider any other air-cooled cars?
EC: Yes and no. The 993 C2S was/is my favorite Porsche for many years. The 965 has also grown on me big time lately, despite the fact that I’m not even really a turbo kind of guy. They were well out of my budget, though (and will likely only continue to go up in value), AND they lacked that vintage vibe that I had been lusting after, which the 912 has in spades.
MCB: Describe the 912.
EC: It’s a process. Pushing the button on the door handle, closing the door with its metallic thunk, the smell of an old car, the tiny shift knob in neutral gear, the ritual of stepping on the gas pedal a couple of times before starting the engine, the air-cooled sound, the engine ticks and clicks, the scent of gasoline, the analog clock with the wrong time showing— it’s sensory overload before you’ve barely even finished warming up the engine.
It’s a slow car, so people will honk at you when the gear lever doesn’t want to smoothly engage into first. Some want you to get out of their @#%$&# way while others who mean well will follow up with a peace sign and a smile. Once you’ve picked up the pace and momentum, it’s a small and quick car that makes you want to drive smoothly from apex to apex. Everything feels mechanical, including the tingle that travels from the seat of your pants up your spine and to your brain, and it always ends with a smile on your face.
MCB: What should someone look for when buying one of these cars?
EC: Rust, above all else. Then engine, body, and paint. A Pre Purchase Inspection by a reputable expert is a must. Original paint is a big plus, followed by an original color respray, followed lastly by a respray in a different color than its original. That the engine and transmission have VIN numbers matching the factory records is a plus. The odometer reading is really just a number, unless it’s well-documented, and even then it might not say much about the engine’s true condition.
MCB: What should someone expect to pay?
EC: Lot of opinions on this, probably because the value of 912s has seen quite the appreciation in the past few years. Though others are better qualified to answer, if I had to say, $18k+ for a clean, ready to drive (but not perfect) car seems about right. Seemingly showroom condition could be $25k+ if not $30k+. It varies depending on the engine, paint, and body. An engine rebuild can be $10k+. A repaint can be another $10k. So if you can find a $5k rust-free but faded, inoperable car, it could still take another $25k to restore it.
Will it take off in value the way the 356 and 911 did before it? I hope so. Does it matter? Not when I just want to drive the thing!
MCB: Plans for the car?
EC: Keeping it stock mostly. The few immediate items are lowering it, removing the window tint, finding an original engine grille, and fixing the sagging seats. I’m not going to be restoring it to showroom condition because then I’ll be afraid to actually drive it.
MCB: How do you use (or intend to use) this car?
EC: So far it’s been a weekend car, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually became my daily driver.
MCB: What else would you like to own?
EC: Like most here, I love too many cars.
Practicality-wise, I would love to replace my B6 S4 Avant with a B8 RS4 Avant; AoA, are you listening?! (Of course not —Ed.)
Vintage-wise, Alfa Romeo GTV/GTA, Mercedes-Benz W113 SL, Jaguar E-Type, BMW 3.0 CSL.
Porsche-wise, 965, 993 C2S, 997 GT3.
Other cars that are always on my radar: the Ferrari F355, Volvo T-5R wagon (in Post-It Yellow), Bentley Arnage.
Don’t even need to mention Lamborghinis and such.
MCB: Favorite drives in your area?
EC: Take Abbot Kinney up through Main Street to PCH, then turn onto Sunset Boulevard and come back down on the 405. Urban, twisty, and the freeway— all in a single rush.
Piuma Road, Mulholland Drive— we Californians take these great roads for granted.
MCB: Any other concluding thoughts?
EC: Be inspired. Keep motoring.
Images © Eric Chan
Follow Eric’s 912 progress (as well as general interest photography) at the lazybone garage.