Sports car lover’s latest project is Porche 912 he found in barn

Sean C. Morgan

When Eric Mauer had the change to snag a 1969 Porsche 912 barn find in good condition, he jumped at it.

The 912, nearly the same car as the more well-known 911, was meant to be a more affordable Porsche than the 911 with the retirement of the Porsche 356, but given its relatively brief production run, the 912 is a much rarer vehicle.

“It was all complete, which is why we bought it,” Mauer said. “It was all there. I’ve got a friend here in town who tipped me off (that) one of his friends had a Porsche. He knew I liked Porsches.”

Mauer has owned a 2000 911 and a 2007 Cayman-S, although his favorites are classic Japanese cars, the Nissans and Datsuns of the 1970s and 1980s.

Mauer and his father literally found his latest Porsche three years ago, next to campers and other vehicles, in a three-sided barn structure in Philomath. It was covered in dust, but cleaned up. The unusual sand beige paint still shines.

It was all original, “complete, straight and rust-free,” he said. “I knew that Porsche values have risen steeply.”

The car was worth probably just $5,000 15 years ago, Mauer said. Today, one that’s running is worth between $30,000 and $50,000 depending on condition.

The 911s shot up in value first, he said. Everything else caught up later.

“It was still worth buying,” Mauer said.

When he got it home, he went to work on it, taking it apart and cleaning it. He pulled the gauges from the dashboard and had them tested and calibrated. He has replaced the wheels with original chrome and fixed the brakes.

Mauer and his father were able to turn the engine by hand, Mauer said, so it wasn’t frozen. They put fuel in the carburetor, and it started up. But it ran rough, and they took it to a professional mechanic to rebuild it.

The 912 had two owners prior to Mauer, he said. It originally belonged to a woman in the Sacramento, Calif., area. Her nephew acquired it from her in 1976.

“He said he drove the crap out of it,” Mauer said. It wasn’t a big enough deal to restore in the 1980s and 1990s, so he “drove it hard and fast and often.”

The car started running poorly, so the nephew parked it about 10 years ago, Mauer said. He had it repainted its original sand beige during the 1980s.

One in 10 912’s are painted sand beige, Mauer said. It also has its original ivory interior. Most were black, but one in five were ivory.

When he and his dad bought it, “I just wanted to get it complete, make sure it’s drivable and good,” Mauer said. He would like to continue driving it, but if he sells it, he wants to make sure it’s complete.

The problem with that is “you get attached to it,” he said, and it keeps getting nicer to drive as they go through the car.

“I’ve had a lot of projects,” he said. “Not this involved, though.”

Now it’s a conversation piece, he said of the car, which can sometimes be seen parked at Les Schwab Tire Center, where he works. “A lot of people ask about it.”

The Porsche 912 was built from 1965 to 1969, Mauer said. The name reappeared in 1976 as the 912-E, but that was a different car entirely. Porsche produced some 34,000 during those five years across the whole range, including hard tops and Targas.

With the exit of the Porsche 356 and the introduction of the 911, the 912 was a sort of “stepping stone” between the 356 and 911.

The 356 was Porsche’s first production car, from 1948 to 1965, Mauer said. The 911 was its second production car.

The body, suspension and transmission are all the same as the 911, but the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine came from the 356, whereas the 911s had a flat-six engine.

The 912 is comfortable, Mauer said. “The original interior is quite comfortable.”

The car has a lot of leg room and head room, he said, and he has no problem getting his 6-plus-foot frame into the driver’s seat, unlike the Japanese cars he enjoys, which don’t accommodate him very well.

The Porsche likes to cruise between 55 and 75 mph, Mauer said. Not quick off the line – with an 11.5-second 0-60 time, according to “Top Speed” – it takes its time going slowly through the gears and is more of a grand touring car.

The Volkswagen gearbox is fairly sloppy, although with all-new bushings, it’s better, he said. Where the 911 can be a little scary with its engine weight behind the rear axle, the 912 is well-balanced and corners and handles very well. Its smaller engine is centered more forward above the rear axle.

The 912 was rated at about 100 horsepower, he said. After the engine was rebuilt, his has probably 110 horsepower, and the car weighs just 2,200 pounds.

The interior has some wear and tear, but Mauer wants to keep it original.

The car is 50 years old, he said. He doesn’t want it to look new. He is fixing and cleaning it, but he doesn’t want to customize it or “restore” it.

“It’s only original once,” he said, so the tears in the driver’s seat will probably remain.