► A restomod-style overhaul for the Porsche 912
► Created by Budapest-based company Kamm
► We test the 168bhp, 750kg carbon-bodied prototype
‘Above all,’ says Kamm Manufaktur founder Miki Kázmér, ‘I didn’t want to lose the car’s ’60s mojo.’
We’re standing outside the Goodwood estate, looking around the fabulously dainty little Kamm 912c. It began life as a careworn example of a 1968 Porsche 912, and it’s now beginning its second life under a new name of 912c, following a thorough engineering overhaul by new outfit Kamm Manufaktur.
Carbonfibre bodywork contributes to a weight of around 750kg, and meticulous engine upgrades have taken power to nearly 170bhp. Brakes, exhaust, transmission, interior, tyres… everything that matters has been transformed but not, Kázmér is keen to emphasise, at the expense of losing the original car’s character, nor too many of its original components.
This is the prototype 912c and final spec is close to being signed off for built-to-order versions. Kamm is taking this car on tour as a demonstrator of its capabilities and taking orders for customer versions.
Its tour includes a stop at Goodwood – and a stint on the road with CAR behind the wheel.
Kamm Manufaktur? Who’s that?
A Budapest-based operation comprising six to seven people, including founder Kázmér, whose background is in the film production industry and is as passionate a petrolhead as you’re likely to meet. Among their number are engineers with a background in touring car racing, the Schlesser Dakar team and classic car restoration plus expertise in 3D scanning, composites, engine building and high-end trim work. This is their first project as an ensemble.
Budapest has a car culture of modifying, tuning and bettering decades-old cars, keeping them on the road and furthering their abilities, Kázmér explains. His love for air-cooled engines began with his first car, a Beetle, and it’s stuck with him.
The automotive world has become very familiar with the idea of six-cylinder Porsche 911 restomods, of course. But this isn’t a 911, it’s a 912.
The Porsche 912: a recap, please
CAR might have once rather uncharitably described the 912 as ‘the car the “debadge” option was made for’ but today it’s a sought-after classic.
It was around from 1965 to ’69 as a more affordable, four-cylinder version of the 911. Its engine was developed from the flat-four in the 356, and had around 90bhp in many standard 912s. This car has rather more.
What modifications has Kamm made?
Starting with that flat-four, capacity has been bored out from 1.6- up to 2.0 litres, and power broadened out too to around 168bhp at 6800rpm (the rev limit is 7200rpm). A new cylinder head is among myriad other alterations. Kamm’s Swiss engine supplier has also developed a race-spec version of the engine, with up to 204bhp.
Miki says the power to weight ratio is close to that of the second-gen Porsche 996 GT3, because the 912c is such a light vehicle. With fluids, it weighs 750kg, and its dry weight is not much more than 700kg. ‘We could make it sub-700kg by stripping out more of the interior, and the carpets and so on, but then you’d lose the road capability,’ Kázmér says. ‘And I want this to be a car that people use.’
Much of the weight saving comes from extensive use of carbonfibre for the new bodywork: bonnet (and the boot floor beneath it), wings, doors and engine cover are all carbon. Kamm ‘cooks’ it in-house, and has experimented with various methods including vacuum infusion. This prototype’s bodywork has been created by a blend of methods.
This being the prototype, and a demonstrator of the 912c concept, the impressively well-finished carbonfibre has been made visible on the wings and doors but subtly so, in racecar-style stripes alongside the ’60s-correct green paintwork. (The 68 ‘race’ number, incidentally, is a nod to thise car’s original year of manufacturer).
The headlights and indicators are new versions of the original 912 units – Kamm didn’t want to go to incongruous-looking LEDs – and likewise it’s kept much of the original chrome trim and the front quarter lights and pop-open rear windows. The windows have been refitted with Lexan rather than glass, as part of the weight-saving measures, however.
Open the boot and there’s more nicely finished carbon, and a big strut brace. Front suspension is by custom coilovers and there are adjustable dampers and anti-roll front and rear.
Open the engine cover and you’re struck by two things: there’s a lot more carbonfibre in here too, and a lot of space behind the engine. It’s a nice visual of how losing those two cylinders helps the weight distribution. While this car’s weight is still rear-biased the 912’s balance is far more neutral than in an equivalent 911.
The front brakes use stock EBC pads, rather than squeaky, expensive race pads on the front with Porsche 964 calipers, and aluminium Brembos on the back.
Tyres, too, have been modernised with soft, sportily treaded Yokohamas which look almost like semi-slicks. ‘Modern recreations of vintage race tyres look nice but tyres and safety is something there should be no compromise on – they had to be modern,’ Miki says.
What’s it like inside?
Plenty of carbon inside too, used for the door inners, footguards, dash panels and the nicely finished bucket seats. And the gearlever, a long wand fashioned in carbon. It’s connected to an original Porsche 901 five-speed gearbox albeit with a racing clutch and Kamm’s own linkage.
The clutch pedal is part of a lovely race-spec Tilton pedalbox.
Customers can choose to have the carbon finish visible or invisible, inside or out. It’s all on show here – this prototype is a shop window after all. But if customers would prefer the original dash and door panels and trim, they can be refurbed and refitted instead.
‘I want it to be a modern take on the original 912 rather than a restomod – CarPlay, nav and so on – why would you bleach out the character?’ If customers do want an audio option, Kamm can integrate a Bluetooth speaker system into the back of the cabin hidden out of the way. There definitely won’t be a touchscreen.
‘The intention was to make a road and track car – if you want to hammer it, you can; if you want to drive it to dinner, you can. I want it to be a car that’s used, not a collector’s item – Porsche created it to be driven.’
So, let’s go for a drive
A caveat here: I haven’t driven an original Porsche 912, nor a ’60s 911, so I need to take this car as I find it. And there’s lots to like. It’s totally absorbing, and a car you must really concentrate in – no bad thing.
The unassisted steering is very sensitive – Kamm has adopted an extremely responsive set up, at 1.7 turns lock-to-lock. Likewise, the suspension set-up in this car is firm, so with the combination of the hard ride and sensitive steering it doesn’t flow down the road like water. You’re working hard. But it is huge fun, and intensely exhilarating.
The springs are short on the front suspension and potholes bang through the assembly volubly but it feels settled overall, and once you get into a flow it’s a great companion to thread down a challenging, winding road. Its sense of nimbleness is helped by its narrow width and great visibility over the two front wings.
When you get to a corner, there’s real agility here. That’s amplified by the grippy tyres, and I wonder if on British B-roads the 912c would feel at its best on tyres with a bit more movement. In the same way Caterhams feel at their best when they’re skinnily undertyred and up on their toes on the road, but with slicker, grippier tyres on track, that might apply to the 912c too.
But the emphasis on safety is admirable and there’s no doubt this would be an absolute weapon on track. Customers can spec a rollcage if they like; if they do, Kamm won’t fit an FIA-spec one but will integrate one neatly so it doesn’t interfere with the interior style but still adds strength and safety for track work.
If the 912 was once considered a poor relation of the 911 because of the engine, the flat-four in this car is one of the stars of the show. It’s throaty, just the refined side of raucous, and always interesting to listen to. Although peak power is up at 6800rpm, not far from the 7200rpm limit, and peak torque is relatively high too at around five and a half, the whole car is so light that there’s always a strong sense of pull, even from low speeds in a high gear.
The five-speed gearbox needs concentration; the synchro is slow (an inherent trait of that generation of Porsche gearboxes) and I pull off a couple of crunchy shifts from the dogleg first gear into second. Sorry Miki. He tells me not to worry about it: ‘You can’t break it,’ he reassures.
The transmission is hooked up to a limited-slip diff which, when you know the car well, can be used to rotate it into corners, as Miki does when he hustles the car along.
How much does a customer-spec Kamm 912c cost?
Customer cars cost £280,000 including a donor 912. The condition of that car is a variable in the price – if needs a lot of work doing it might be more, if it’s in great shape it might be less.
Minimal weight and just-enough power is something journalists and engineers are always banging on about, and it’s lovely to drive a car that exemplifies that approach.
Despite the light weight, the direct steering and uncompromising suspension tune means it feels less delicate than its appearance might suggest, and the car needs to be manhandled to get the best from it but it’s a wonderful experience to do so.
The only doubt in my mind is whether I’d enjoy a stock, unmodified 912 just as much in its own way. But Kamm’s approach – a labour of love to retain all the original bits that make the 912 the 912, modernise the bits that benefit from modernisation and avoid losing the car’s character in the process – is an admirable one. This prototype 912c has plenty of mojo for sure.