Less is More

The first 912 with a four-cylinder 911 engine, built by a man who prizes agility.

September 14, 2012
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“I HAD NO INITIAL INTEREST IN A 912 — until I drove one,” recalls Chris Pomares. “I was originally looking for a 356, but finding one in the quality I needed for my purposes had become too expensive by that time.”

Pomares loved the nimbleness of the 912 but had trouble getting past its four-cylinder engine, which failed to live up to the brilliance of its chassis. Of course, the 912 was never marketed on the performance merits of its engine. Positioned below Porsche’s visually similar six-cylinder 911, the 912 was a replacement for the entry-level 356C, and sold well as such. The 912 actually outsold the 911 initially, but its days were numbered because Porsche knew that “handles like a 912, goes like a 356” wasn’t much of a turn-on back in the late 1960s.

It still wasn’t when Pomares weighed his options nearly five decades later. As a driver who prizes handling over power, he wasn’t interested in an early 911 because its flat six is 120 pounds heavier than the 912’s flat four and sits six inches further back. He wanted to avoid the six’s weight and balance penalties — but he didn’t want a Porsche that felt underpowered.

The mid-engined 914-6 may sound like a good solution, since it offers a flat six and better weight distribution than a 912 or a 356, but Pomares had already owned one. This time, he wan­ted a Porsche that he and his wife could take on longer tours: “My wife, Mar­tha, sometimes likes to nap while I drive, so the inability to recline a 914 passenger seat was a deal-breaker.”

That brought him back to the 912. Un­fortunately, the 1967 912’s 1.6-liter flat four was rated at just 90 hp. Contemporary tests suggested the 912, with the standard four-speed transmission, was a little slower in a straight line than 1965’s lighter, 95-hp 356 SC. Pomares wanted to retain the balance of a 912 while achieving the power output of a 911 — and he knew just how to do it.

Pomares had been calling Dean Polop­olus at Advance Perfor­mance Engineering every year like clockwork since he read a June 1994 Excel­lence article on an ingenious four-cylinder 911 en­gine used in “Des­perado,” a 356 race car owned by Gary Emory. That engine, thought Pomares, would be perfect for a 912.

THE POLOPOLUS — OR “POLO” — FOUR-CYLINDER 911 ENGINE has advanced significantly over the last 18 years to become a favorite of 356 owners who must have more power.

Today, the overhead-cam flat four is based on a unique case made of 100-percent virgin ingot with five main journal supports. Its crankshaft is cut from a solid 4340 chromoly billet to allow for a “normal” firing order, and the cam­shafts are machined billet with a factory 993 Club Sport grind. Many factory 911 parts are used, both internally and externally. Dif­ferent pistons and cylinders can be specified to yield anything from 1.5 to 2.8 liters of displacement. As for weight? A 2.4-liter Polo four weighs about 20 pounds more than a 912 motor and is three inches longer.

Also from Issue 205

  • 2004 Boxster "Spyder"
  • 2014 918 Hybrid
  • The Vault
  • 1983 911 SC, rally style
  • 2012 Panamera GTS vs. 4S
  • PCA Parade Autocross in an early 911
  • Smart Buy: 1995 993
  • Driven: 2012 Carrera S Cabriolet
  • Windshield protection
  • Interview: Vic Skirmants
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