The owner, Craig, was more than gracious to show me around the car. The work that had been put into this car to preserve it's overall esthetic and greatly improve its performance was unbelievable. We'll have to come back to Craig and his Coco 912. It deserves its own article.
Then I caught a glimpse of the car that has been deemed "Mein12" at Luft 4. After posting this photo above, John messaged me thanking me for the post and explained a little of his history with the car and the decision to run this livery specifically for Luftgekuhlt. In the 1968 24 Hour of LeMans, a wild card 911T with this very same livery, participated and turned a lot of heads in the process. John has a model 911 with this livery and after 30 years of Mein12 looking pretty much the same, he decided it was time for a little change.
Now, if you've followed John Benton, these aren't the first photos you've seen of this car. If you haven't, take a look at how well it has been preserved and improved through the years.
The Benton Performance shop is a pretty decent size and John explained to me that it wasn't always that way. While many of us witnessed the market for long hood air-cooled Porsche's skyrocket in a blink, John was making big plans to be prepared for the boom. "While in my last shop, I noticed that many collectors I knew were selling off Ferraris and Lamborghinis to make way for air-cooled cars in their collection. I knew that if I wasn't prepared for the boom, I'd miss the opportunity to grow," John said. He explained that he wagered everything he owned on this hunch and took on this shop.
As we all know now, John couldn't have been more right and now he seems to be about as close to at capacity as he can get with customer cars.
Some of those cars are very valuable and heavily sought after, like this 1955 bent window 356 for example.
On a personal note, before I left for the shop, I tried to arrange a babysitter to watch my 2-year-old daughter while I was out shooting. Coming up empty handed, John assured me that she was welcome at the shop and wouldn't be a hassle at all.
Terrified that she'd scratch a car or break something, I headed to the shop with a fair level of doubt that I would succeed on getting any content. Why am I telling you this? To demonstrate how friendly everyone is at Benton Performance. I encourage anyone to visit and see how quickly anyone there will make you feel like family. I walked in and instantly felt at home. The stress of having my toddler on a shoot faded quickly while John gave me the tour.
My first question to John was one I'm sure he's been asked a million times.
"Why the 912?"
His answer? Because of a cousin, that he looked up to when he was young, had a 912. John's cousin loaned the 912 to him to take to a high school formal dance, and from that day on, he was hooked.
Clearly, his love for the 912 wouldn't solely sustain a business. So, among many 912s are a few 911s, 356s, and 914s. Including this rare 914-6 that is undergoing a full restoration.
In the classic car world, weight is everything. It affects the entire balance and characteristic of the car.
This is where John's affection for the 4 cylinder Porsche motor has paid off.
John's outlaw 912s are becoming widely known as the 912 that will embarrass most 911s.
It's not to say that one is better than the other or that there's any foolish desire either. However, it's created a new type of culture. Underdog as it may be, it brings out the skateboarding anti-establishment kid inside me and makes me want to join the 4 cylinder club... but only if John builds it.
Though, there's no need for convincing on 356's. If I haven't mentioned yet, I was raised by a father who frequently bought, restored, and sold 356's. My only wish is that he hadn't done the 3rd step with any of them. John and his team are also no strangers to these cars. The shop race car that John runs in the La Carrera Panamericana just so happens to be a 356. Unfortunately, that car wasn't on site but I plan on getting acquainted with it someday soon.
Being around early 356s really spoils all the rest. Yes, the later cars came with more of this and more that but the early cars came with nothing but unadulterated styling.
Even this one and it's early stages of being perfected was stealing the show in a sea of 901s.
This car above is the Karmann Notchback. A quirky shape that either induces vomiting or the lust of specific collectors. Which category do you fall under?
As they loaded up the shop for the night, I'd realized that my talking with John had taken most of the time I'd been there. So, before I let them close up for good, I got a few final photos in of the current inventory.
This 901 had me drooling. Irish green, early gauges, and yes, even houndstooth seats.
At the end of the night, I was really glad that I had made the journey. John and his team were extremely hospitable and their quality of work was impressive. Their passion for what they do elevates them above many others who specialize in these machines. That is a trait that any enthusiast or collector will closely look for in who they trust on a project. I can confidently say, many have and many more will trust Benton Performance.