People pay absurd prices for Porsche restomods, but too often, those pricey, perfect cars languish away in sad collections, only coming out to park at Cars and Coffee. You don’t want that. You want a Porsche “reimagined” by a self-proclaimed redneck instead, complete with a mid-engine LS3 swap from a Cadillac Escalade. Burnouts all day!
“It’s every good ole boy’s dream,” owner Karl Gaskins told Jalopnik via email. “V8 motor and four in the floor.”
Karl Gaskins bought his then-beige Porsche 912 new in 1966, trading off a 1953 Studebaker Starlight Coupe and a split-window Beetle to acquire Porsche’s flat-four special. The 912 is frequently praised for its handling given that it’s lighter and less tail-happy than the flat-six flagship 911 that the 912 shares its great-looking body style with, but Karl soon grew to dislike that slow four-cylinder engine.
Gaskins’ flat-four wouldn’t hold a tune, perpetually leaked from its valve cover gaskets and pushrod tube seals, plus the heater kept putting an oily haze on the inside of the windshield. (Huh, this valve cover gasket leak sounds depressingly familiar.)
“The worst part was that a Toyota Corolla could outrun it,” Gaskins wrote. Ouch!
So, he set about fixing that the best way he could: by getting rid of that Porsche flat-four. Its first replacement was a Corvair engine, which was also aircooled and horizontally-opposed. Crucially, the Corvair powerplant had two more cylinders and a decent bump in power. The Corvair engine had a backwards-rotation camshaft made by Bruce Crower—a mod which was originally made for dune buggies. Gaskins fabricated metal shrouding to fit the Corvair engine, and off he went.
This Corvair swap proved to be too much for the 912 clutch, so Gaskins stopped driving his 912 in 1978 with the intention of making the car exactly like he wanted it next time.
He revived his 912 project in the early nineties after seeing someone in Hot Rod stuff a big block Chevy into a Porsche 930, stuffing it in front of a Toronado transaxle that had been repurposed to drive the 930's rear wheels.
Gaskins purchased a Cadillac Eldorado for its 500ci engine and transaxle, but never quite figured out how to make a decent rear suspension with this setup. He still wasn’t happy with the big, obsolete Caddy engine, either.
The next idea for the 912 came courtesy of Patrick Motorsports in Arizona. They were flipping the ring and pinion on Porsche 930 transaxles to stuff small block V8 engines into mid-engine Porsche 914s. Never mind that the 914 was the entry-level successor to the 912 which used a completely different drivetrain layout: Gaskins now wanted to convert his rear-engine car to mid-engine.
Mind you, this was long before Porsche themselves tried to race their own mid-engine 991 911. Backyard builders always beating everybody to the punch.
In 1995, Gaskins bought a limited-slip, four-speed 930 transaxle with a custom shifter and cable assembly for the 912, along with an adapter to use a small block Chevy V8 with it.
Gaskins extensively modeled his project before whipping out the sawzall, adding meaty fender flares and nixing the bumpers in favor of flat, streamlined panels.
Instead of extensively bending the metal to create the wheel arches, Gaskins used a series of flat aluminum pieces bolted together in a fan shape to make the more complicated parts of the body. Originally, Gaskins tried to make the rear fenders out of four pieces of aluminum, but Karl’s attempt to make those curve around the fenders resulted in deformed metal that wasn’t going to hold its shape well.
So, he stuck to what he knew and made them out of 34 pieces instead, using wooden bucks to get the right placement and shape. The fenders, wheel wells and rocker panels (among other custom aluminum pieces) were prototyped in cardboard before they were cut aluminum plate.
“I had no equipment or training for making compound curves in aluminum, and thought generating curves using straight lines would get me where I wanted to be, All it took was a bandsaw, a four-foot finger brake, and files,” Gaskins told us.
The aluminum was glass bead blasted before installation, and the resulting fenders are like nothing else on the road right now.
Gaskins added a new metal firewall to move the engine forward. It featured a removable panel to allow easier access to the front of the engine. The original 912 rear window and rear quarter-windows were removed in favor of a new rear window over the new firewall as well. Why pretend there’s a backseat when there isn’t one?
A junk small block and heads were used as a stand-in to design a box steel subframe for the engine swap. That subframe bolted to where the transaxle carrier mounted at the front and was held in place by brackets welded to the 912's body at the rear.
Karl had a reason for adding such a radical widebody: he also upgraded the suspension, steering, and brake components to those of a wider 1981 Porsche 911 SC. Another 911 SC was the donor of a rear torsion bar tube with all the mounting points for the SC swing axle and brake assemblies.
Gaskins welded his new 911 SC torsion bar tube to the subframe 12.5 inches back from its original location, and cut out the center of the tube between the subframe rails so the new engine block and oil pan would fit. This is what ultimately stretched the wheelbase of the car.
Gaskins also built mounts on the subframe to attach coilovers that eliminate the need for the 911's stock torsion tube in the rear suspension. The whole assembly was finished off in bright silver Jet-Coat.
All this work now allowed Gaskins to drop the entire powertrain and rear suspension assembly out of the bottom of the 912 if he so desired. To go with it, he also made a 180-degree exhaust system reminiscent of that of a Ford GT40. He also had plans to twin-turbo the SBC engine.
Life got in the way of finishing the car at the time as the Gaskins family built a house and put two sons through college—but the project 912 certainly wasn’t forgotten. About eighteen years later, Karl revived his hilarious franken-build.
“By then, the GM LS engines were all over the place, and I switched to a junkyard 6.2 Escalade V8,” Gaskins told us.
Clearly, this was the answer to Karl’s power problem. The 912 would have twice the number of cylinders and nearly four times the displacement it did when it was stock. The Escalade’s L92 engine (a version of the LS3 with a truck intake) also made upwards of 550 horsepower—nearly five and a half times what the stock 912 engine made on a good day.
To make it work, a cable shifter was installed in the usual location, right next to the relocated parking brake. The electric fuel pump and fuel pressure regulator for the massive engine also had to be tucked up by the steering rack in the front.
The trunklid was also modified somewhat to house the radiator, fan and oil cooler assembly, all neatly integrated under a little spoiler.
The car was finished off with a fresh coat of silver paint, which looks cool with the wild aluminum fenders.
Gaskins’ finished car weighs only around 2,400 lbs, and he says he only spent around $15,000 over the life of the car to get it done. Best of all, he proved that you can completely rework a Porsche at home, on a budget, such that you can still have fun with it afterwards and not feel like you’re ruining the car.
“All these ridiculously expensive and kind of pointless restomods done by big super-equipped garages like Singer and a lot of muscle car builders irritated me so much I just had to speak up,” Gaskins told us. “I’m not the only idiot out here working on his car by himself at home in his garage.”
Hear, hear! Porsches for the people!
We’re featuring the coolest project cars from across the internet on Build of the Week! What insane build have you been wrenching on lately? Seen any good build threads we should know about? Drop me a line at stef dot schrader at jalopnik dot com with “Build of the Week” somewhere in the subject line if you’d like to be featured here.