The story of an Asian doppelganger coming to grief.
Economic booms entice businesses from many sectors to enter new markets with the aim of securing a slice of the potential money-pie, and car manufacturers are no exception. The Republic of Indonesia under President Suharto’s very pro-business ‘new order’ administration was enjoying just such an economic sweet-spot in the early 1990s, despite growing suspicions of widespread corruption. A country with a population of over 200 million people riding the wave of a steadily growing economy seduced none other than Porsche AG to enter into a business deal to manufacture the Porsche 911 (the then current 964 generation) locally in order to avoid the crippling taxes imposed on imported vehicles.
ATPM Indomobil, which already had years of experience manufacturing a range of Mazda and Suzuki passenger cars and light trucks, was the partner engaged in 1993 by the German sportscar maker. Indomobil also operated the dealer network that sold and serviced the cars all across the island nation. The executive director of Indomobil was Marvy Apandi, who also owned a small kit-car company named Marvia Graha Motor. Established in 1988, Marvia built fibreglass replicas heavily inspired by classic cars such as the Jaguar SS-100 and AC Cobra.
Mr Apandi likely never mentioned his little side-business during the negotiations with Porsche, and the German firm probably did not enquire about it either, but they should have, as would later become clear.
With the potentially lucrative contract inked, Apandi had a couple of 911s shipped to Indonesia, as well as a substantial amount of sundry body and trim parts such as headlights, taillights, glass, door rubbers and door handles. This did not raise suspicion in Stuttgart as these parts were simply thought to be meant for dealer stock to perform repairs to damaged vehicles.
Apandi had other ideas however: away from any prying eyes at Indomobil, he had his workers at Marvia pull fibreglass moulds directly from one of the 911s that Porsche had sent over in good faith. In combination with the assortment of genuine, difficult and costly to copy body and trim parts, it enabled Marvia to produce a 911 body that was optically a virtual twin of the original. The rest of the car was a different matter however, but Apandi had a solution for that.
Marvia Graha Motor produced a welded steel chassis of its own design and fitted the front and rear suspension as well as the complete drivetrain from the Mazda MR90 (a facelifted version of the rear-wheel-drive 323 FA, introduced in 1977) which was built by Indomobil at that time. Both front and rear springs were shortened to achieve a ground clearance similar to the real 911. Power came from the 70bhp UC 1,415cc inline four-cylinder engine, which made this ‘911’ the first one not to be cooled by air*.
However, the real shocker was where this powerplant was mounted: at the front, just like in the Mazda MR90! In order to make the engine fit under the 911’s sloping bootlid (or bonnet in this case) it had to be mounted some four inches lower compared to its usual position in the MR90 but, amazingly, Marvia managed to make it all fit.
The Marvia ‘911’ thus looked the part as far as its external appearance was concerned, but its interior was much less convincing. Some effort was made to create 911-like seating but the dashboard was lifted straight out of the humble Mazda MR90, although later cars were treated to a more Porsche-like dashboard and -as was to be expected- some owners fitted genuine 911 interior parts into the cars, since all the major dimensions were identical.
Apparently unconcerned about repercussions in Stuttgart, Apandi offered his Marvia ‘911’ through the Indomobil Mazda dealer network at a price that was less than half of what a genuine 911 commanded.
Porsche AG was not best pleased when they discovered their Indonesian contract partner was producing and selling his rogue 911 without their knowledge or permission. The Indomobil dealer network was already in the process of installing Porsche signage at its sales outlets, but Porsche anulled the contract with Indomobil with immediate effect and initiated legal proceedings against both Indomobil and Marvia. Seemingly undeterred, Apandi continued offering his ‘911’ but, in total, only about 50 were sold before external events intervened.
In 1997 the Asian Financial Crisis erupted and Indonesia was arguably hit hardest of all. Riots broke out across the country, the Marvia Graha factory being one of the victims as it was burned down by angry protesters in May 1998, putting a stop to Marvy Apandi’s rogue Porsche operation.
The crisis would also spell the end of Suharto’s rule. Amid all the turmoil, Porsche’s lawsuit proceedings apparently petered out as well and it seems the matter was not pursued further by the German automaker.
Putting aside the Asian Financial Crisis, which would have taken place regardless, one wonders why Marvy Apandi, who cannot have been completely incompetent and ignorant, being the CEO of a major car assembly plant, proceeded to throw away the chance of a potentially quite lucrative association with a highly respected European car manufacturer which could have been very beneficial on several levels, not only for Indomobil itself but ultimately for the country. But as they say in Indonesia: “Once the rice is pudding, it’s too late to reclaim the rice.”
* Not counting the semi-watercooled 959 which had air-cooled cylinders and water-cooled heads.