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Porsche Body, Subaru Soul

Build

By The Team

 2  0

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.



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“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.

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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.

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Related Pit Crew Answers

What are easy ways to become a better driver?

Terry Earwood

Q: What are easy ways to become a better driver?

A: Besides bolting on a set of BFGoodrich tires? 

Everyone you know wants to be the best driver you have ridden with, or at least that should be his goal. I know it’s been mine for over 50 years.

And we’ve all ridden with someone who makes us very nervous for many reasons.

You’ve heard the term "plan ahead" all your life, and that sums up this advice.

First, let’s look at what physically drives the car.

The hands do the steering (and maybe shifting!) and the feet accelerate or slow down your BFGoodrich tires. Where does their initial input come from? Yep, your vision. The hands and feet can (or should) only react to what the eyes are looking at. If the eyes aren’t looking far enough ahead, the hands and feet are reactive, not proactive, which results in jerky inputs to the wheel and sudden acceleration, or worser, sudden braking!

On the racetrack, we sorta "rifle-vision" our next reference, as car placement (the line) is critical for fast (safe) laps. We don’t have to worry about traffic lights, pedestrians, soccer balls, and cross traffic (for the most part). But we look far enough ahead (through the corner, not at the corner), to be sure we’re gonna stay on line, and to see when and how much power to add!

The street, however, presents thousands of issues we must deal with on a daily basis, so in order to be safe, we need to use our eyes much harder!

Number 1: In traffic, try to drive 3 seconds behind the car in front of you. This gives you plenty of reaction time should the car abruptly brake, or swerve, or spit out his rear differential suddenly. As the rear bumper of the car you’re following clears a stationery object—like a mailbox or maybe Jeff Cummings' Bronco—simply count "a thousand one-a thousand two-a thousand three" and you should arrive at the object. At 30 mph, it’s not very far, but the faster you go, the gap automatically becomes bigger!

Number 2: Back to the eyes. You should be able to see 12 seconds ahead of your car at all times. This is a key part of being smooth. A 12-second lead gives you plenty of time to change lanes, slow down smoothly, alert the folks behind you with turn signals, pull the chute, etc. This trick, too, is speed conducive.

Try to pick out the next large object in your natural vision, like a bridge. It should take you 12 seconds to arrive at the bridge.

At night, it's pretty easy. Look for the next object your headlights pick out, and slowly count to 12. If you get to the object under 12 seconds, you’re going faster than your ability to be smooth should something pop out.

Number 3: Scan your mirrors every 3 to 7 seconds. This is a key step in your new situational awareness. (I know—the dictionary defines "situational awareness" as “Looking for toilet paper before you sit down”.)  But if you’ve been in the mirrors within the last 7 seconds, and need to make a quick lane change, you have a pretty good idea if there is someone in that spot, or not. Is that Crown Vic getting closer? Is he changing lanes when I do?

Adjust your side view mirrors away from the car. In other words, move them just off of your rear fenders, which will give you the view of another half-a-lane of interstate you don’t have now.

Expert Answer

Casey

2+2=4

How do I become a successful, professional driver?

Andrew Comrie-Picard

Q: How do I become a successful, professional driver?

A: That's a very difficult question to answer. A lot of top drivers in the world had a family connection or patron that got them into motorsports. Of the ones who built their careers totally on their own, there are a thousand different stories.

I know guys who started out as car jockeys at a local dealer until they could convince the dealer owner to sponsor them in a race; guys who scraped pennies together to go through a driver development program like Skip Barber; and even guys who got in through winning at car driving video games and getting the chance to try their skills in a real car.

Race driving is such an improbable career and so many people fail. The only way to possibly succeed is to absolutely love it, believe in yourself, and never give up. Never. Never.

All the successful one drivers share a few traits: they are 100% determined; they have passion and confidence; and they are quick to spot an opportunity and jump on it. If you don't, someone else will.

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