For five decades, the 911 has been the heart of the Porsche brand. Few other automobiles in the world can look back on such a long tradition and with such genuine continuity as the Porsche 911. We take a trip down Porsche's memory lane
From its debut at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show to the presentation of the 2014 GT3 at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, the Porsche 911 has earned its place as one of the best ‘driver's cars’ ever produced. In an era when words such as ‘epic,’ ‘iconic’ and ‘legendary’ are as lazily tossed out, the 911 continues to demonstrate what a sports car is all about. Let's look at milestones in the 911's 50-year history and ponder how a single car model can evolve so relentlessly yet remain so connected to its roots.
In addition to its classic yet unique lines, the Porsche 911 has always been distinguished by its advanced technology. Many of the ideas and technologies that made their debut in the Porsche 911 were conceived on the race track. The 911 was committed to the performance principle from the start, and motor racing is its most important test lab. From the very beginning it has been at home on circuits all over the world, earning a reputation as a versatile and dependable winner. Indeed, a good two thirds of the 30,000 race victories achieved by Porsche to date were notched up by the 911.
The First 911
The original 911 was revealed to press and public at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show as the 901. Peugeot objected to another manufacturer using a three-digit code with a zero in the middle, the French automaker had decided that this was its thing, as in the Peugeot 404, so Porsche devised the simple solution of making the middle digit the number ‘1’ instead. Eighty-two 901s were built and designated as prototypes never to be sold to the public, although some have ended up in collections of the privileged few. The 901 is immediately recognizable to 911 fans, with its classic, sweeping roofline and long nose.
G-Series, the Second Generation
Ten years after its premiere, the engineers at Porsche gave the 911 its first thorough makeover. The G-Series model was produced from 1973 to 1989, longer than any other 911 generation. One of the most important milestones in the 911 saga was the 1974 unveiling of the first Porsche 911 Turbo with a 3.0-litre 256 hp (188 kW) engine and prominent rear spoiler. With its unique blend of luxury and performance, the Turbo became synonymous with the Porsche mystique.
The 964 brought in the third generation
The 911 Carrera received a major update for the 1989 model year. For the first time, all-wheel drive was offered in a 911, also a first were standard anti-lock brakes. The Carrera 4's engine displacement was increased to 3.6 liters, generating 250 hp. The 964, as it came to be known, was available for only a few years before being replaced by the 993 models, but its features signaled a new era for the 911, and as such it is still looked at today as a benchmark in Porsche history.
The 993 – The last air-cooled models
The 993-model Porsche 911 fulfilled the changes and updates begun with the previous 964. With a redesigned take on the 911 body, the 993 Carrera brought the car fully into the modern era. The 993 is revered among 911 fans for its handling and styling; the 282 base horsepower didn't hurt, either.
Moreover, the 993 was the last of the air-cooled 911 models, marking a canyon-like divide in the minds of Porsche aficionados everywhere. Values on 993s have held strong on the market; with some variants already well on the rise.
The water-cooled 996 arrives
With horsepower numbers climbing higher and expectations rising in an ever-expanding worldwide sports-car market, Porsche made the move to water-cooled engines with the 996. Purists were outraged over not only this change, but also the new 911's more nondescript body lines and easier-going, daily-driver approachability. The 996 was immediately welcomed on the open market, but for some the bloom was off the rose and no 911 would ever be immediately acceptable again.