Porsche 911: Evolution of a Beautiful Obsession
After 50 years and countless iterations we pay homage to the 911.
What is it that makes the 911 such a beautiful obsession – especially for the male of a certain age?
Part of the answer must surely lie with that early 1980s Scalextric Le Mans 24 Hours set featuring those 911 turbos with the working headlights.
The other part lies in this machine’s butch practicality. It has the same design principles as a trade spec power tool. It does a rough, tough high torque job and in the process manages to exude a kind of Bauhaus beauty.
The actual job it was created to do by Porsche was to replace the 356, which had been their only production model since 1948. And when it launched at the Frankfurt Autoshow in 1963 it was an altogether different beast than the lightweight 356.
What you could buy, by the end of 1964, was a bigger more powerful luxury marque. It was 15 cm longer than the 356 but at 2211 mm the wheelbase was still short compared to other sports cars of the era.
Its unique look was defined by its rear engine position and its practical design parameters as a comfortable 2 plus 2 passenger ride with copious luggage space, all based around the 356 chassis.
That rear end set up also made it a hell of a thing to handle, with early drivers often finding themselves centrifuging off the road and exiting it backwards through a hedgerow or fence. In fact, even the early 911 sales brochures announced unequivocally that it was “ …not a car for the novice.”
According to a genuine ‘elfer’ (the German term for a 911 nut) anything post-1974 does not a real 911 make- as it was around this time that Porsche decided to widen the market from enthusiasts and off-duty racing drivers – concentrating on drivability at the expense of power.
No doubt the ‘elfer’ could find some solace in the 1990s when, with drivability firmly in the bag, the company again focused on performance, producing such legendary models as the 993.
Here we focus on a few of the many iterations on the evolutionary chain, from the original 901 up to the latest supercar offering from the Stuttgart stable.
Porsche 901 Launched 1964
The 901 prototype became the stylistic archetype of all the 911 iterations that followed with its unique look, emerging from its emphasis on GT comfort combined with the rear engine housing.
Spec: 2 litre; 130bhp; 5- speed manual box; Weight 1080kg; Top Speed 131mph; 0-62 8.5sec
Porsche 911 Turbo 3.0 1975
Turbocharging the 911 was undoubtedly a game changing moment for the marque and it soon became the flagship of the fleet. To fit with this new standing it was given an interior overhaul, coming with full leather upholstery as standard and a 4 speaker stereo system. The car also had a state of the art ‘dial-a-heat’ temperature control and new 3 spoke steering wheel.
Spec: 3 litre; 260bhp; 4- speed manual box; Weight 1140kg; Top Speed 155mph; 0-62 6 sec
Porsche 911 993 1994
Considered by many to be the very best 911, the 993 had the perfect mix of performance and driving composure. One of the most popular versions was the much sought-after Carrera RS Clubsport which, with its pumped up 300bhp, shaved 0.5 of a sec off the base models 0-62.
Spec: 3.8 Litre; 272bhp; 6- speed manual box; Weight 1370kg; Top Speed 170mph; 0-62 5.5sec
Porsche 911 996 1997
This model marked a stylistic change in direction that would, for the most part, continue through following editions. It assumed a much sleeker and more aerodynamic attitude which fitted in with modern tastes.
Spec; 3.3 litre; 300bhp; 6- speed manual box; Weight 1320kg; Top Speed 175mph; 0-62 5.2sec
Porsche 911 997 2004
This new look for the galvanised bodyshell (that came with a 10 year corrosion warranty) combined the sleek modernity of the previous 996 with the re-introduction of some popular styling elements from earlier editions. It had the wider hips of the earlier 993 and went back to the classic round headlights favoured by many 911 die hards.
Spec: 3.6 litre; 480bhp; 6- speed manual box; Weight 1450kg; Top Speed 195mph; 0-62 3.9sec
Porsche 911 991 2011
This is the latest beast on the evolutionary ladder that is species 911. You can get its base model Carrera on a new plate this year for just under £90k. It may be faster, made from new materials and to different safety standards but there is no mistaking, even 50 years later, the DNA of its distant 901 ancestor.
Spec: (Carrera 4S) 3.4 litre; 350bhp; 7- speed manual box; Weight 1465 kg; Top Speed 185mph; 0-62 4.5sec
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