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Porsche 911

STILL FAB AT 50! Published: 28th Feb 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Porsche 911
Porsche 911 The legendary fl at six, which actually became part-water cooled later in its life. 996 units can give trouble however
Porsche 911 A variety of alloy designs have figured, all are fab looking
Porsche 911 Although this is a later car, the interior and dash changed remarkably little over the decades; some say that’s part of 911’s charms, some don’t…
Porsche 911 Original 911 style in its purist shape before big bumpers dominated. Early cars worth big money but 964 range is becoming popular due to keen prices
Porsche 911 Turbo 911s provide a truly epic drive although became more manageable by the mid 1990s
Porsche 911 Famous ‘whale tail’ rear spoiler was for Turbos but found its way on to lesser 911s
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Paul Davies, himself owner of two 911s (albeit one with four cylinders) writes in praise of the ultimate sports car that does not know when to stop

When it appeared in 1963 the Porsche 901 (as it was fi rst called) set totally new standards; in performance and looks it was way ahead of its time. Fifteen years later Porsche introduced a ‘successor’ (the V8 powered 928) but demand for the fl at six, air-cooled, car continued unabated and, whilst the 928 was retired in 1995, the ‘911’ simply marched on, and on to even more greatness.

They officially removed the model number from the sales lists in 1984, giving the range the Carrera moniker previously only seen on high performance versions, but even then the fans loyally stayed with the Porsche design numbers – hence the 964 of 1989, the 993 of ’94, and the first of the water-cooled engines models, the 996 of ‘98. Today’s 911 Carrera – yes the number’s back again, officially – and in 3.8-litre Turbo form – has 500bhp transmitted through its four wheel drive. Compare that with the 130bhp from the two-litre, rear-wheel drive, 911 of 1964!

Did I say 1964? Yes, it was September 1963 when the Porsche 901 appeared at the Frankfurt Motor Show, but it was nearly a year later before production began. And, it was shortly afterwards that Peugeot claimed it had sole rights to car model numbers with a zero as the middle digit, and the 911 was born.


The story of the birth of Porsche is well documented. It was nationalism in 1930’s Germany that demanded there should be a ‘peoples car’, and what better person to engineer it than the talented Prof. Ferdinand Porsche, who had already given the automotive world the Lohner electric car – with motors in the front wheel hubs – the Austro Daimler sports cars, and the massive Auto Union racers?

Prof. Porsche’s ingenuity gave the VW Beetle its rear mounted, air-cooled engine, aerodynamic silhouette and light weight that made it an automotive success equalled only by the equally long-running Model T Ford. The same formula spawned the fi rst Porsche sports car, the 356, in the years immediately after the Second World War and led, in 1963, to the introduction of the 911.

The 911 was an evolution of the 356 and, like its predecessor, Ferdinand Porsche was not responsible for its design. When the fi rst car to bear the Porsche name was being constructed in a small wooden shed in Gmund, Austria, Ferdinand was imprisoned in France, a consequence of his wartime activities. By the time the 911 appeared, he had been dead for more than a decade.

It was Ferdinand’s son, Dr Ferdinand ‘Ferry’ Porsche who brought the 356 to production, and his eldest son, Ferdinand Alexander ‘Butzi’ Porsche – who died last year – who was responsible for the project that became the 911. The six-cylinder engine, itself an evolution of the four-pot of the 356, was largely the work of Hans Mezger and Ferdinand Piech, the latter of the family that would control the destinies of Porsche through the remainder of the 20th century and, by fact he is now the chief executive of VW, into the 21st.


I do not know if it was Butzi’s pen or pencil that crafted the shape but I do know it is simple, beautiful, timeless and highly efficient. Forty years on the lines are still there, albeit a little too fussy and bulging for the purist but still, distinctively, a 911.

The original 911 had nothing that was not essential, either to its performance or driver requirements. The sleek shape meant a high top speed whilst independent suspension, with rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes, were largely still novelties in the early ‘60’s. But the rear mounted, horizontally-opposed, engine, combined with a basic rear suspension arrangement gave the car a rear weight bias and a reputation for being tail-happy that was to stay with it over three decades.


Porsche made many efforts over the decades to alleviate drivers’ fears of ‘swapping ends’ (ie skidding tail first into the hedges!). Very early cars had crude weights in the front bumpers to improve the front/ rear weight distribution, next the wheelbase was lengthened and then twin batteries fitted in the nose. The 993 of 1994 was the first model to have significantly different (multi-link instead of swing axle) rear suspension whilst the wheelbase only increased again from its 1969 measurement with the introduction of the later 996.

Much of the handling difficulties of the 911 must be considered to have been in the minds of inexperienced drivers. The proof must be that with three Monte Carlo wins, two Paris-Dakar victories, and first at Le Mans in 1979 with the ‘935’ variant, the car has established itself as one of motor sport’s all time greats.

However there is certainly an art to driving a 911 ‘properly’ which many owners don’t grasp. There are numerous driving courses, some operated by Porsche, which are well worth attending as they will help you get the most from yours.

Modern or historic, the 911 remains one of the most sought-after cars on this planet. Buy any pre-996 model and you can be assured depreciation will not be a worry; sadly we can’t say the same about later cars. Whilst the latest 911 is still without doubt a Porsche, it’s grown up a whole lot since the days of Butzi’s original. The car is bigger, heavier, more luxurious, and more expensive. You can argue that the concept has moved far away from the brief but it’s still a 911 – and it’s likely to be around for a long time to come. I’m down to write the car’s 60th in 2023 says the editor!

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