Wrong Number

The story of an Asian doppelganger coming to grief.

Image: soeyonogaleri.com

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Step away, it’s not what you think it is. Image: mobildanmotorbekas.blogspot.com

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.

Author: brrrruno

Car brochure collector, Thai food lover, not a morning person before my first cup of coffee

22 thoughts on “Wrong Number”

  1. Good morning, Bruno. Another school day. Never heard of this story. Fascinating. Porsche’s fortunes have changed for the better and I can’t imagine a similar deal being considered today.

  2. Truth really is stranger than fiction. A story worth telling if only about the MR90 being a Mazda 323 with a 626 front end, the Porsche connection making it truly bizarre. Yet again a tale told first on DTW. Thanks brrruno.

  3. It seems that they not only had to mount the engine lower but also lifted the whole body by some inches.
    This 911 somehow looks as if it walked on stilts – the distance from wheelarch cutout to top of wings is greater than normal and the sill cover is reaching further down.

    Reminds me of those Fiero-based Ferrari 308 replicas or MR2 based Dino 246 lookalikes, not to mention the Miami Vice fake Daytona.

  4. This is amazing, Bruno. A “911” with a front 70 bhp Mazda 323 engine built without Porsche consent…while you´re dealing with Porsche to build the real 911.
    Poor Porsche, it seems they didn´t get right anything in the early ´90s.

    Thanks a lot. This is why one of the first things I do every day is reading DTW.

    1. Another costly adventure was PFM 3200 that’s still stressing their balance sheets.
      Small wonder they were nearly bankrupt.
      I wonder what the intended production wuld have looke like. The air cooled 911 engine is extremely difficult to manufacture, demanding very highly skilled mechanics for the work. The air cooled 911’s bodywork also was complicated to produce with lead loading around the doors to adjust the panel gaps and the different rear wheelarches brazed to a basic identical wing depending on type of car.
      ow on earth would this have worked in Indonesia? At best they would have been able to assemble CKD kits but even then they most probably would have had to send painted and trimmed bodyshells and complete engines.
      This all doesn’t make sense and therefore perfectly fits into the Porsche picture in the early Nineties.

    2. Dave, I´ve just read something about the PFM3200 engine in the internet. I had no idea about it.

      What I can´t explain is how Porsche decided it was a good idea to build the 911 in Indonesia, so powerful was its economy in those years? I don´t imagine they would sell too many cars anyway.
      Perhaps the Marvia 911 “incident” avoided a bigger distaster for Porsche after all.

    3. The PFM3200 story is completely mad.
      Mooney designed an aircraft around this engine with a much narrower nose cone because the PFM is slimmer than the antediluvian Lycoming. When Porsche bought back the PFMs (or at least tried to) Mooney had to design a new nose to retrofit the replacement engine – an expensive experiment.

  5. There was an English kit car builder of the “Two guys in a shed” variety that built rather convincing from ten steps away replicas of 911’s in the 80’s to early 2000’s. Fibreglass bodies, but made to fit all the real spare parts that are available in the Porsche circuit. Why they even bothered boggles my mind, when you can buy a replacement body shell from the Porsche factory these days. I think prices were in the 15-20k euro territory which perhaps wasnt real 911 territory but at least and at the time would give you a rather nice 944. The kit was prepared to take the 1.6 liter straight four from the Ford Escort XR3 straight out in the back with the rear end sticking out just enough from the sloping rear, necessitating the use of the “tea tray” rear spoiler and 930 wide body kit. Why, oh why begs the question? Why the ersatz at half the price when that price is large enough to get you something real?

  6. Good morning Bruno. This has to be one of the weirdest and most unlikely stories ever to grace the pages of DTW, so many thanks for unearthing it for our education and enjoyment. One can only wonder at how Apandi thought he could get away with it, and what Porsche were thinking in allowing even ‘proper’ 911s to be built so far away from their oversight and control. Has the assembly of Porsche cars ever been outsourced to third parties before or since? I must look into that at some point.

    Incidentally, I remember that dashboard from my 1978 Mazda 323. I wonder if it still had the strip of plastic ‘wood’ along the front edge?

    1. Porsche even brought asembly of 914/6s inhouse instead of having them manufactured by Karmann like 914/4s to make sure they were real Porsches. As I wrote above I can’t imagine how production of a car as complex to make as an air cooled 911 would have been set up in Indonesia.

    2. Daniel, does the Porsche Boxster (and later also Cayman) built by Valmet Automotive count?

      Thanks Bruno for digging up this (almost) unbelievable story. I wonder what drugs the top management in Zuffenhausen must have been on to make this deal – and not notice anything (or when it was too late).

      Dave, presumably the production of the 914/6 was done not only for image reasons but also for logistical reasons. Karman wasn’t famous for its production quality either, so that made the decision easier.

    3. Hi Fred. Yes, that counts! Thanks for reminding me. As a Boxster owner, I might have remembered that without the prompt…😨

    4. Perhaps they had to produce the 914-6 in Zuffenhausen because it had the ignition lock at the left side of the steering column when the Karmann-built cars had it at the other side…

    5. All 924s and some 944s were built at Neckarsulm under a sub-contract to Audi.

      The start of 924 production killed off the RO80, and with it NSU.

  7. There is only one reason for Porche agreeing to this and Apandi’s eager desire to rip them off. Greed.

    It would be interesting to hear from someone in Porsche about this because there is bound to have been someone thinking this was not a good idea.

    As for the Indonesian side of things, it’s so hillariously, ridiculously, blatent. I love it.

  8. Who’d have guessed it! What an amazing story! It’d sure be fun to recover one of those and take it to a Porsche dealership for a service. Can you image! Apandi missed a hugely valuable opportunity. Sad that he didn’t think to make a better effort. Perhaps he ought to have visited Renegade.

    Renegades really annoy Porsche dealerships and some Porsche owners. The Renegade is a conversion available in the USA which replaces the original 911 flat-six engine with a US domestic V-8 (preferably an LS since it weighs less than the original flat-six, but from time to time there have been various big-blocks utilised as well). The LS conversion works extremely well. The converted cars go far better than standard. If you have a 911-type rear-engine Porsche with engine trouble or failure (not altogether uncommon) this is the most economic means to get your car right back on the road and with better performance than before. They are so much fun. I got kicked out of a Porsche Club track day for being faster round the track than anything else out there that day while making the “wrong” sound (which rather gave the game away). That car was/is almost as much fun as the Holden Commodore with 351 Cleveland transplant*. Haters gotta hate and, by goodness, they really do hate it. Still, THE top prize has to go to the guy in California with the JDM six powered Mustang. I’d like to try his car out one day, just to see what it’s like.

    You can look up the Renegade 911 here.

    *a more difficult build than the Renegade was

  9. Thank you Bruno for another great insight into a story I was completely unaware of.
    The most incredible part for me, is that this 70bhp Mazda engined kit car was as much as half the price of the real deal. Crazy.

    1. Only 20bhp down on the 1976-only VW engined 912E, and some unkind people might say that the Marvia was the only 911 to have its engine in the right place,

  10. Thanks Bruno, for a Ripley’s Believe it or Not-calibre story. The hustling about of wildly varying components to “create” something new reminds me of your earlier stories of Iranian Renault 5 bodies with Mazda (again) 121 underpinnings, or Peugeot 405 bodies built on Hillman Hunter chassis.

    Marvy Apandi sounds like a grade A chancer, but – as expressed in earlier comments – what really beggars belief is that Porsche set up such a shoddy deal for a piece of the Asian Tiger pie. To be fair, at the time people pretty much thought these Asian Tigers would take over the world economy from the US and Europe in some ten years, but even then one would imagine Porsche would want to find some more solid scheme to profit from that.

    One would also imagine Porsche would be keen on keeping this embarrassing little episode secret. Maybe you should have contacted Porsche first, see if they’d pay you to not publish it… 😁 💶💶💶💶💶

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: