History of the Porsche 911
A sports car that transcends the automotive industry. The Porsche 911 is a cultural icon that has captured the hearts and minds of fans for decades. This car has without exaggeration earned the distinction as one of the world’s most recognizable. When onlookers see the iconic round headlights, they immediately know that car is a 911. It is part of a silhouette that has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s.
Since first hitting the market, the Porsche 911 has earned praise for its driving ability. Famous for its performance on the road and the track, the 911 is the original do-it-all sports car. Safe to say, this car exists in a class of its own. Backed by a storied history, the Porsche 911 is today one of the world’s most popular models. Throughout the decades, it has remained true to its identity like no other vehicle. Read on to learn more about the rich legacy of the Porsche 911.
The origins of the Porsche 911 date back to the early 1960s. At that time, the Porsche 356 had been the automaker’s signature car since the years immediately following World War II. The 356 was a convertible two-seater that was known for its outstanding performance capabilities at the time. However, Porsche felt the need to take its brand in a new direction. Drawing inspiration from the Volkswagen Beetle, Porsche unveiled the 911 in 1963.
Production of the 911, at the time called the 901, began about a year after the initial introduction. Porsche billed the 901 as the successor to its signature 356. What made the 356 a success remained, however, Porsche focused on significantly bolstering performance. Notable additions included two rear seats and a roof.
Making the 911 distinct was its flat-6, air-cooled engine located in the rear of the vehicle. This air-cooling system became the standard for over 30 years. Furthermore, the engine of the 911 remains in the back to this day. The earliest models produced 130 horsepower, an exceptional output for the time.
Early on, drivers praised the Porsche 911 for its handling and acceleration. The model released to immediate international success and Porsche knew they had a solid foundation for years to come. However, even they could not have predicted the longevity and lasting impact of the 911.
Following the initial success of the 911, Porsche upped the model’s power in 1966 with the 911S. After selling thousands of units in just a few years, Porsche decided to make the 911 faster. The 911S was released with a maximum output of 160 horsepower.
In 1973, one decade after the first 911 was unveiled, Porsche took the first big step towards the future. With the 911 G-Series, Porsche made the first significant changes to the model line. This would become the longest-running series in the history of the Porsche 911, spanning 16 years. It featured a 150-horsepower flat-six engine that was increased to 165 horsepower in 1976. Additionally, 1973 marked the release of the first 911 Carrera, the Carrera RS. This race-focused model boasted 210 horsepower. It was also the first 911 to have a spoiler.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, more innovations came such as the first 911 Turbo in 1975. Known as the 930 Turbo, its turbocharged engine could produce 260 horsepower, making it the fastest German car at the time. However, come 1989, the end of a decade marked another new beginning for the 911. This model, known as the 986 Carrera, is regarded as one of the best-looking 911s. Then, the 400-horsepower 1995 Porsche 993 included a twin-turbo engine for the first time. For many, the Porsche 911 models of the early 1990s are remembered as the best in the line’s long history.
Starting in 1999, Porsche made a change to the 911s engine. No longer were they to be air-cooled, but rather water-cooled. With the 996 GT3, Porsche introduced a car built on the framework of its racing pedigree. It featured a 355-horsepower engine, as always mounted in the rear. This move marked the direction Porsche would take with the 911 for the 21st Century. Subsequent models, up until the present day, have continued to put a premium on performance.
No history of the Porsche 911 is complete without mentioning the car’s racing accomplishments. Almost immediately, the 911 became a force in the rally car circuits. Between 1968 and 1979, it notched four victories at Monte Carlo. However, for Porsche in the 1970s, the main focus was GT racing. It was here that the 911 cemented its sterling reputation.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, the 911 became a staple at the world-famous 24 hours of Le Mans. It became one of the most popular models in the race with several entries each year throughout the 1970s. In this period, it would regularly notch top-5 finishes. It has helped Porsche become the most successful automaker at Le Mans, having 19 wins. That figure includes a record seven consecutive victories between 1981 and 1987.
To this day, the Porsche 911 remains one of the most popular and in-demand sports cars. The year 2017 marked a monumental milestone for Porsche. On May 11 of that year, the German automaker produced its one-millionth 911 example. That quantity is almost unheard of for a high-performance sports car. It is all a testament to the model’s longevity and timelessness.
Today, 10 different Porsche 911 variants remain in production. Evident in each one is the same tradition and heritage that made the 911 a classic. Every 911 still features a rear engine and the same iconic silhouette. Also obvious in each design is the progression of the 911. For example, the 911 Targa was a unique class of vehicles created when Porsche believed the U.S. would ban convertibles in the 1960s. Though no such law was ever made, the one-of-a-kind open-air design still lives on today.
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