Its iconic, sleek silhouette makes the Porsche 911 one of the most recognized cars in the world. The epitome of a German sports car, it would be difficult to find another car design that has remained so vastly unchanged, yet timelessly lusted after by generations. An undeniable status symbol, the Porsche 911 is an indication that, yes, you have exceptional taste; and, yes, you have arrived.
From the beginning, the Porsche 911 was designed to be both a race car and one that feels at home on any neighborhood street - a principle that has remained for 50 years. The 911’s simple, yet elegant, streamlined curves, combined with its minimalistic exterior design that appears to just barely cover the mechanical equipment underneath, define Porsche’s unmistakable style. We think of it as the little black dress of sports cars.
Although the general form of the 911 remains largely unchanged, Porsche has rolled out seven generations of the model since 1963. Tastefully modernized, the original and more recent versions when parked next to each other reveal just how much has changed. However, from every angle, today’s model is still clearly a 911.
As with fashion, auto design has trends that fade in and out of popularity. What once looked new and exciting eventually appears old and outdated. It’s unfortunate that so many vehicle makers try to “reimagine” models in an attempt to modernize them again and again, until finally depleting their original magic. One exception to this rule is Porsche, whose 911 remains very close to its very first iteration in 1963, making the 911 Porsche's trademark car.
The 911 is versatile. A beauty to drive around town at slow speeds, with a comfortable luxurious interior and good visibility, coupled with everyday reliability on par with a family sedan. Off the leash, however, they can effortlessly stay up with cars that are far more exotic (and expensive).
Beyond its unique, teardrop profile, the Porsche hasn’t bent to design trends or become an over-muscled parody. No need to “strut your stuff” against the Lamborghini in the next lane. With plenty of get-up-and-go, it is solidly the elegant, sophisticated gent of the road. That mix of timeless, classic, yet contemporary cool factor makes it the perfect subject for this week’s article.
The making of the Porsche 911 actually started with the 901 in 1963. It was penned by Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche, grandson of Ferdinand Porsche, who was famed for designing the Volkswagen Beetle.
Here’s the timeline.
The First 911 (1963) - Birth of a Legend
The 911 had longevity built into its genes from the start. Its design began in 1956, led by Ferry Porsche, the son of the firm’s founder, Ferdinand Porsche. Ferry was hoping to create a long-lived replacement for the 356 (pictured above), and the only stead-fast requirement was that it retain the 356’s rear-mounted, air-cooled engine. What was eventually produced ended up being the 901, its internal design number, rolled out in 1963.
French carmaker, Peugeot, claimed the rights to three-digit car names with zero in the middle, so Porsche changed the name and the 911 moniker was born in 1965. The car sported a then-futuristic transmission, with five forward gears and a state-of-the-art suspension. Its design looked both friendly and fast, and was a study in simple elegance, defined by chrome accents and those iconic oval headlamps.
The G-Series (1973) - The Second Generation
Produced from 1973 to 1989, longer than any other 911 generation. It featured prominent bellows bumpers, an innovation designed to meet the latest crash test standards in the United States.
The 964 (1988) - Classic Modern
Just when automotive experts were predicting the imminent end of an era, in 1988 Porsche came out with the 911 Carrera 4 (964). After fifteen years of production of the 911.
The 991 (2011) – Refined by Experience
This car, known internally as the 991, represents the greatest technical leap in the evolution of the 911. Already the class benchmark for decades, the new 911 generation raised performance and efficiency to new levels.
In the end, Porsche has established itself as a representation of classic, refined beauty with a performance edge. Almost no car will stir your soul like the 911. The handling is a unique and visceral experience, with a heavy, grippy rear end, and a light, zippy front that varies depending on the position of your right foot. Turn-in is sharp. The car feels agile, and in later models especially, the grip is otherworldly. Altogether the chassis is alive, like a network of nerves, with communication.
A lot of car companies claim motorsport heritage and royalty, but no one (bar Ferrari) has greater bragging rights than Porsche. For the Stuttgart company, there is no difference between sports cars and race cars, the two feeding into each other.
The 911 has had five decades of racing success, competing in the Rally Monte Carlo a year after launch and winning three years later. The Porsche 911 Carrera RSR won Targa Florio, Daytona 24 Hours, and Sebring 12 Hours in 1973, and a Porsche 935 took victory at Le Mans in 1979 (Hollywood icon Paul Newman was one of the drivers of the 935 that placed second). In short, if you buy a 911, you are buying a slice of motorsport history.
Its popularity isn’t hard to explain, but it was Ferdinand Porsche who best described its qualities: “The 911 is the only car you could drive on an African safari or at Le Mans, to the theatre or through New York city traffic.” Join us in celebrating what is classical and iconic - for good reason..
Be a TENLEGEND.