Hey-Burner: Jonny’s 1976 Porsche 912E

This weeks “Hey-Burner“, our weekly readers rides feature, comes from Jonny Lyne and his 1976 Porsche 912E “The Underdog”. Jonny has been a lifelong Aircooled fan. Wether it be VW’s or Porsche’s, he’s had a passion for them. This car is as much a story about itself as it is about Jonny’s journey into building the car he always wanted. A car with a style and execution that goes hand in hand with the human behind the wheel.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning, who are you, what’s your age and where are you from?

A: Hi, I’m Jonny Lyne. I am 46 years young and live in Boston Spa, which is a village equi-distance between Leeds, York and Harrogate. Importantly having great access to roads of the Dales and Moors.

Q: What’s your day job and do you have any other hobbies?

A: As a day job, I’m an IT Architect which is a job that is difficult to describe or make sound interesting. But, it’s essentially working on IT Solutions and finding the best way to integrate 3rd parties. Hobby wise: I am the Regional Organiser of the Yorkshire Region of TIPEC, which is an independent friendly and national club. Originally started by 944 owners who didn’t feel that they fit in PCGB. This takes up quite a lot of my time planning and organising events and runs.

Q: What’s your ultimate VW/Porsche?

A: Tricky one. It’s like asking what’s your favourite car, before you know it you’ve got a virtual garage of 10. Porsche wise: It would be a SWB 911S that has been hot-rodded by someone like Tuthill Porsche. VW Wise: I really love the Brazilian stuff like the SP1. Something a bit different.

Q: Favourite VW event?

A: This is a no brainer, it must be SkegVegas. Nothing else comes close in the UK.

Q: What got you into Volkswagens and how many have you owned before this one, can you list them?

A: I’m a bit dull in that respect. Other than modern stuff like a Scirocco, I’ve only had one air-cooled VW. I always fancied a Beetle, as a mate in school had one and we used to drive around in it. I had a Metro, so by that standard his car was really cool. About 17 years ago, I inherited £5k and so I thought it was time. Originally, I wanted a Karmann Ghia but then practically it wouldn’t work. So, I decided to look for a campervan. I wanted a Splitty but had missed the boat, cash wise. I ended up with a 1973 Bay window which I still own to this day. Me and my family have had lots of trips in this. We’ve gone to many festivals, but now the children are too big and it doesn’t get used enough.

Q: Who, or what, would you say your biggest influence is in the worldwide VW community?

A: I wouldn’t say I have any specific influence. I like lots of different styles and ideas. I am not set on one thing. I like modded, ratty or original stock. What I like is VW’s with a story and why have they done that to their vehicle. That’s why shows are great, because you get to chat to the owners.

Q: Best moment during classic VW/Porsche ownership?

A: I would say it was attending Le Bug Show at Spa in 2018. It was my first European show and the whole experience was just amazing. The drive over, the atmosphere, meeting lots of new friends, the weather helped too – It was scorchio. The highlight of which was probably driving around the circuit whilst along side hundreds of other VW’s – Magical.

Q: Worst moment during classic VW/Porsche ownership?

A: The Bay has been brilliant, so no bad moments there. The Porsche however, let me down this summer. I had planned a trip of a lifetime to Classic Le Mans in 2020. In 2022 it finally happened; I got 40 miles down the motorway before a valve spring snapped. I ended up doing the trip in my Mums Citroen C1, who luckily lived close by to where we broke down. So, we made the Ferry in time. It was not the dream of driving through the French countryside I had planned though!

Q: So, what is it we’re looking at here? (Year, Spec and Model)

A: This is a little-known Porsche model that was only available to the USA for a 1-year period. It’s a 1976 Porsche 912E (E meaning Einspritzung) as it was fitted with a L-Jetronic Fuel Injection system. A bit like its successor- the 924 – it’s unloved and a bit of an underdog because many say its not a ‘real’ Porsche. In 1975, production of the 914 was coming to an end, but the 924 wasn’t ready for release. The American market is hugely important to Porsche. So, when dealers demanded an entry level car – the 912E was born. Its basically a 911 G model body with a slightly modified version of the 2.0 litre 914 Type IV engine thrown in. This has its own problems as many of the parts are 1-year only. The fuel injection system, the throttle cable, parts of the gearbox etc. so it can be a bit of a nightmare if something breaks. However, it has developed somewhat of a cult-following because it’s lighter than a 911 so handles better in the twisties. It’s definitely slower on the straight though, as standard it was only 86bhp.

Q: What’s the story? How did you get hold of it?

A: Well, it wasn’t really the best way to buy a car. Let’s say I did nothing I should have done. I was originally looking for an early pre-1973 912 but my budget only stretched to rot boxes. I then started looking online for US cars, at least they in theory should be rust free from the dry states. That’s when I came across the 912E as a model, and being a VW guy, I thought it made sense. After all, a Type IV should be easier and cheaper to maintain. I was browsing and one night during the Christmas holidays in 2015, after quite a few beers I bought the one I now own on eBay – An expensive impulse buy. It was in L.A, No inspection, just some photos and videos of the car. Let’s be honest it was a stupid thing to do. But hey, it kind of worked out.

Q: Did the car come with any history?

A: Like a lot of US cars – There was no history with it at all. I tracked down the previous owner, as I bought the car from a trader who had flipped it. The car was owned by a professor who had worked at UCLA and had owned the car since it was 2-years old. It had been off the road for 9 years; he did some recommissioning work and then there was a problem with the gearbox, so he sold it. Amazingly, at the time, if you looked at his house on google earth, the Porsche was parked in the drive. Anyway, he promised to send the history but never got round to it. He did send me the toolkit though, which was nice.

Q: Tell us about the condition of the car when you first got it home?

A: Let’s say it wasn’t exactly as described… I knew there was an issue when the car transport company called me from London Docks after Kingstown had shipped it from L.A (which was a very easy process by the way). Anyway, he called and said he’d got the car. What’s your plans, respray and drive it? It was delivered to my home and had a terrible US-style paint job, loads of “bondo”, paint about a centimetre thick which had cracked and was flaking. None of this was visible in the photos (it looked really good) and then there was the gearbox issue which was also not mentioned.

Q: Run us through the restoration/recommission, and who did the work?

A: The resto has been a bit of a multiple phased approach over the last 7-years. The first thing was to get it UK road ready. This meant changing the lights, the steering column had some play which was an easy £10 fix. Then there was the gearbox issue, which turned out to be disintegrated bushes in the coupler – Again fixed for less than £30. I could not however fix the paint myself. I drove it with the bad paint for a couple of years, when in 2018 I decided to bite the bullet and go for a bare metal restoration. It was a bit daunting as these things can become money pits. But luckily the L.A climate had helped and there was only a 2cm bit of rust around the window scuttle and everything else was perfect. With the paint done, I added a few of my own styling cues like the gold decals (JPS inspired), wheels the same colour plus the interior changes. I then drove the car, as is, for 3-years until 2021. Call it bored during Covid, or too much time on Insta, but I then decided to do a fully reversible back date. Using fibreglass parts (bumpers and bonnet) to make it look like a pre-1973 long hood car, which is the car I had wanted all along. This was fairly cheap. The whole thing including parts, labour and paint coming in at less than £800.

In 2022 I started having running issues – Lumpy idle and stuttering. Remember the 1-year only fuel injection system? Well, all the parts are NLA. So, rather than chase my tail, I had it all ripped out and replaced with carbs. A few months later I had a full engine rebuild. This year has been about breaking that in. 

All the work was done by Russell Bell, who was local to me running a garage called Full Throttle Classics, as I wanted to be able to drop by easily and help out when and where I could. He now runs the garage that is on site and looks after all the cars for istoreclassics.

Q: Paint colour (and code if you know it)?

A: It’s Porsche Schwartz Black (colour code 700). Although, it was originally Bitter Chocolate (408) and changed by the previous owner as part of that horrendous paint job

Q: Suspension set-up?

A: All standard – Torsion bars with Boge shocks which were replaced during the paint restoration. It only has a front anti-roll bar as standard so I’m looking to get a rear one at some point. It’s on the list, which never seems to end.

Q. Wheel and tyre type and sizes?

A: The wheels are the original ones which I’ve had powder coated to match the gold decals. They are 14” x 5.5J Fuchs and were an option at the time called ‘Comfort Wheels’. Decent tyres for this size are difficult to get so it’s currently running some Falkens which are 205/70 all round

Q: Engine and gearbox?

A: Now there is a question… The gearbox is original and next on the list as the car has done nearly 270,000 miles! It’s a variant on the 911 915 5-speed gearbox, known as the 923. Essentially it has a longer ratio for 5th for better fuel economy. That and it’s cable operated like a VW.

The engine is a different matter. Only the case and heads are original. Remember, it was 86bhp and basically the same engine as a VW Bus of the era. I have replaced the F.I system with twin Weber 44 IDF’s which breathed in a few extra horses – that and removing the smog system which was a 1970’s US emission requirement that killed engines and robbed them of power. The barrels and pistons have been replaced with a 96 x 71mm KB set along with a webcam494 camshaft for a bit more pep supplied by Stateside Tuning. Also a new oil pump, oil cooler, crank. Basically everything bar the case and heads. The heads were in great condition so they were just mildly ported to help with air flow. I also replaced the original dissy for a 123+ Bluetooth one. It’s now a 2.2 with a compression ratio of 9:1 up from the original 7.6:1 and really does drive well. I should get it on a rolling road to fine tune and also to see what the bhp is now. The estimate is around 130. I also must mention the stainless-steel exhaust supplied by Richard of Turbo Thomas fame. It sounds as good as it goes.

Q: Have you replaced the electrical system?

A: Thankfully, everything worked perfectly. The only thing I did do was to fit a JWest Headlight relay as headlight stalks are known to fry otherwise.

Q: Were there any parts that you found hard to get hold of?

A: As it’s 1 year only and low production, with a reported 2099 built so demand for parts is low and specific parts to the car are NLA. Most of the F.I system for example, hence the change over to carbs. I had to order a thrust bearing from the USA which was a tad expensive. But, other than those specific parts the Porsche and VW parts are easy to get hold of.

Q: What is your go-to VW parts shop?

A: I got a few bits from Machine7 – like the fuel pump, so it was a shame they went under. I tend to order most generic bits from VW Heritage who cater well for both Porsche and VW.

Q: Run us through the original interior?

A: It’s nearly original. I spent a lot of time on Instagram and saved images of things I liked, both exterior and interior, with the plan to do my own take on them when I was able to. I really like the tartan period interior. So, I had the seat inserts done in a tartan I bought from the Scotland Shop online which were recovered by Seeley Trimmers in Rotherham. I have swapped the original steering wheel out with a Momo one. I also cut the carpets to fit metal pedal boards then had some mats made up by Simon at PF911 Interiors. I am a serial tinkerer, so there will always be something I am looking to do. The wooden 917 inspired gearknob came from Manuel Campuzano on Ebay. It never ends! 

Q: Accessories?

A: Loads of things from the yellow headlight lenses, the gold sunstrip to the bespoke one-off engine grill. Other than the stuff mentioned already in the interior, I have a set of Hanhart Amigo rally clocks mounted on the glovebox. I don’t use them, but they look cool.

Q: Have you got a stereo fitted and if so, what are you currently listening to? Either in the car or those late nights in the workshop/garage

A: I have a CCS Classic stereo fitted so its in keeping but I can use it for music and also play satnav through off my phone. It does have DAB etc but usually the phone is easier. If I’m on my own, I will get some driving anthems on like ACDC. But, a lot of time I am listening to playlists created by my daughters. I don’t want to get left behind musically.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about it? E.G – Wheels, Paint, Detail, Trip it’s been on, Memory with it etc.

A: My favourite thing about the car is that I was lucky enough to be able to create a car that is unique and totally personal to me – Something I’ve never done before. Even better though, it’s one that gets a lot of appreciative looks and nice comments wherever I go. I did not spend a fortune on the car, it’s in many ways nothing special, the unloved underdog of the Porsche world. I know I didn’t physically do all the work, but it feels like a built or created it, not bought the car if that makes sense. 

Q: If you had change one thing, what would it be and why?

A: Not buy a car whilst drunk off eBay? Joke… The whole process has been a bit of a learning curve and I have enjoyed the journey. If there was one thing though, I would and should have backdated the car when I did the bare metal restoration. I just didn’t realise how easy it was.

Q: What’s next for you and the car?

A: Drive the damn thing! Obviously, a rolling road session would be good but other than a flat spot on full throttle around 3000rpm, its drives well. This year has been a bit stop-start with the engine build and that then exposing other weaknesses. I didn’t have a lot of confidence and was always listening out for noises. Now, the car has done 2000 miles and is bedded in. I just want to drive and have fun. Last weekend, we had a blast over Blakey Ridge (check it out if you’re in Yorkshire). Winter and the dreaded salt is approaching but next year is more driving. I have a trip to the Porsche Factory in Stuttgart planned in May. Let’s just hope I get more than 40 miles down the motorway this time…

Q: How often do you use the car?

A: In the summer or dry weather, on average once a week I would say. That once a week is usually an organised (by me) run out somewhere – Around 100 miles or so. A good mix of B road blasts with a coffee or breakfast stop thrown in. At the end of September, we as a club went away for the weekend to Wales where we did just under 700 miles of great driving with 9 cars. I won’t drive it if salt has been on the road though as there is zero protection and these cars rust from the inside out.

Q: What’s your next project going to be?

A: The poor old Bay Window – Eddie. He needs some love. Other than SkegVegas this year he’s not really been used properly since before Covid. A bit of a recommission is needed starting next Spring.

Q: Who would you like to thank connected to the project?

A: Firstly, my wife – Aisling. Like all guys into the car scene they need an understanding better half. She didn’t even shout at me when I made the eBay purchase! I would also like to thank my buddy Steve Hall, who first got me into the VW Air-Cooled show scene. I loved his Bug – Cyprus, which was previously featured in Hayburner. Finally, and very importantly, Russell. He sometimes must feel like I treat him as my personal mechanic, but he has been there on this journey with me since the beginning and we talk all the changes through together. He listens to my latest hair-brain scheme and somehow makes it happen.

I also want to give a big shout to Hayburner, for giving me the opportunity to show my car, but also, I’ve been a subscriber for years and to me it’s part of the scene as much as the vehicles.

You can check out more photos of the car and its journey with Jonny over on his instagram, @70zThrowback.

Click here to submit you car for a future ‘Hey-Burner’! or send your email over to nick@hayburner.co.uk

Jonny's 1976 Porsche 912E - Full Gallery