Editor’s note: Porsche is a marque known to favor consistency, tradition, and evolution, rather than total reinvention. It’s devotees often extoll the same virtues, and that’s perhaps why Porsche has become such an enduring icon. However, that impetus for tradition doesn’t preclude radical experimentation.
Take, for example, Mike Davidson. He’s the owner of this 1967 Porsche 912. And though it may look relatively standard by external appearances, a quick peek into the engine bay reveals something rather unique. Here’s a hint: the vanity plate says “912RSTI” for a reason.
“When I was growing up, my dad always had a cool sports car that was fast and loud.”
From multiple 1957 Chevy Bel Airs to a few Toyota Supra Turbos, there was always something to be cruising in. I also grew up on dirt bikes three-wheelers, so I wanted a motorcycle during high school. The parents didn’t allow me to buy one, so I ended up with a Manx-style dune buggy instead! That was the first project that really inspired me to keep building.
My 912 came to be after my dad had given me one of his old '57 Bel Airs. It needed some work. It had sat, untouched, in the yard of my gramma’s house in Indiana for several years, but all the parts were there. After I got it running, I wanted to trade it for a Porsche 914—I planned to do a V8 install on it. However, a man from Monterey, California, contacted me about trading him for a 912.
I had no idea what it was at the time, but after working with my brother, we ended up sealing the deal. I paid to ship both cars since I was just outside Detroit at the time, and got the cars safely delivered to their new owners. The 912 was running, but it also needed work like the Bel Air.
After putting around the Midwest for a while, I graduated college and moved to the San Francisco Bay area. One morning, my brother and I took our Porsches out for a fun drive. After I had broken down about three times, we decided that we needed to rebuild the whole car.
When we started diving in, we noticed it was going to be a lot of work. We needed new metal: rockers, strikers, a front pan, and miscellaneous dent repair. During the repair process of putting in new metal, we also decided to convert some things to fiberglass and carbon fiber, including the fenders, bumpers, hood, and rear ducktail. Luckily, my brother had gone through his 1975 911S from the ground up, and he took the lead in helping me with my 912.
After four years, we finally got it back together with a newly freshened-up 901-series transmission and a weak 356 industrial motor. (It may have put out about 50hp on a good day.) Since these didn’t match the car anyways, it was an easy choice to think about converting to a new motor.
Most people would go with a newer 911 motor, or perhaps a VW motor. I’ve even seen V8 or rotary motor swaps. But I grew up around Subarus. I idolized the 555 rally car, and I’ve always wanted to have the STi. After a bit of research, I found a gentleman near me who was building this exact transplant into his ‘68 912. When I found this out, I knew I had to do it too!
So Christmas ended up coming early when I bought a V7 Subaru WRX STi Spec C motor from Canada. My brother was on board to make it work and learn a few things in the process. We took another 2 years to get the engine and newer transmission (a 915-series) into the car and running properly and safely.
Now, I have a car with all the benefits of a Subaru along with the power of a new Porsche. It starts every time, doesn’t leak oil, and even gets 28 miles per gallon. I can take it to the store to get eggs, but I can hit the track as well and lay down some very competitive times. It’s a unique build, but ultimately quite fitting for a 912. I just exchanged one flat 4-cylinder boxer motor for another.