The year was 1975. Porsche’s mid-engine 914, the “people’s Porsche” developed with Volkswagen to replace the original 912, had failed to make much headway in the popluar-price sports-car market since its 1970 debut. A substitute was coming, the radical 924. But it wasn’t quite ready yet, so the 912 was brought back to anchor the bottom of the ’76 line while the last 914s quietly exited showrooms.
Yet this new 912 was again typicaly Porsche in being no mere rerun. For one thing, it was now called 912E—E for einspritzung. And it carried not a Porsche engine but a 2.0 liter VW four available in 914s after 1972. While that change was dubious, the 912E did benefit from most all the body and chassis improvements accorded the 911 since ’69, and its U.S. East Coast price of just under $11,000 was considerably lower, though more than charged for late 914s. But then, this was a “real” Porsche to most eyes, not a half-breed like the mid-engine “Vo-Po.”
“The 912E will obviously find favor with those who prefer a slightly more practical and tractable Porsche,” predicted Road & Track. “It’s a car with almost all the sporting virtues of the more expensive 911S, yet its simpler pushrod 4-cyl. engine should make for better fuel economy and less expensive maintenance than the 911’s six” (though the injection tended to misbehave in cold weather). SAE net horsepower was just 86 at 4900 rpm, torque a more useful 98 pounds/feet at 4000. Curb weight was 2395 pounds, which meant the 912 had somehow picked up 400 extra pounds since ’69. Still, R&T’s11.3-second 0-60 mph time and 115-mph top speed looked good against the observed 23.0-mpg economy.
As a stopgap, the 912E was the single instance of “planned obselence” in Porsche history. Only 2092 were built, but this plus year-only status and the desirable qualities have since made the 912E one of the more collectible four-cylinder Porsches.