The Porsche 911 (pronounced as Nine Eleven, German: Neunelfer) is a sports car made by Porsche AG of Stuttgart, Germany. The famous, distinctive, and durable design is notable for being rear engined like the Porsche-designed Volkswagen Beetle it had been based on. The car was also air-cooled until the introduction of the all-new Type 996 in 1998. Since its introduction in autumn 1963, it has undergone continuous development. The basic concept remained unchanged throughout its evolution.
Since its inception the 911 has been modified, both by private teams and by the factory itself, for racing, rallying and other types of automotive competition. It is often cited as the most successful competition car ever, as the normally aspirated 911 Carrera RSR in the mid 1970s has won major world championship sports car races such as Targa Florio, Daytona, Sebring or Nürburgring outright even against prototypes. The 935 turbo also added the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979.
In the 1999 international poll for the award of Car of the Century, the 911 came fifth after the Ford Model T, the Mini, the Citroën DS and the Volkswagen Beetle. It is the only one in the top five that remained continuously in production. It is the most successful surviving application of the air- (now water-) cooled opposed rear engine layout pioneered by its original ancestor, the Volkswagen Beetle, having increased its original 25 PS (18 kW; 25 hp) more than tenfold, or 30fold in turbocharged race cars. It is the second-oldest sports car nameplate still in production, behind the Chevrolet Corvette (started in 1953).
Porsche 911 classic (1963–1989)
The 911 can trace its roots back to sketches drawn by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche in 1959. The Porsche 911 classic was developed as a much more powerful, larger, more comfortable replacement for the Porsche 356, the company’s first model, and thus essentially a sporting evolution of the Volkswagen Beetle. The new car made its public debut at the 1963 Frankfurt Motor Show (German: Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung). The car presented at the auto show had a non-operational mockup of the 901 engine, receiving a working one in February 1964.
It originally was designated as the “Porsche 901” (901 being its internal project number). 82 cars were built as 901s. However, Peugeot protested on the grounds that in France it had exclusive rights to car names formed by three numbers with a zero in the middle. So, instead of selling the new model with another name in France, Porsche changed the name to 911. Internally, the car’s part numbers carried on the prefix 901 for years. Production began in September 1964, the first 911s reached the US in February 1965 with a price tag of US$6,500.
The earliest edition of the 911 had a 130 PS (96 kW; 128 hp) flat-6 engine, in the “boxer” configuration like the 356, air-cooled and rear-mounted, displaced 1991 cc compared with the 356’s four-cylinder, 1600 cc unit. The car had four seats although the rear seats were very small, thus the car is usually called a 2+2 rather than a four-seater (the 356 was also a 2+2). It was mated to a four or five-speed manual “Type 901” transmission. The styling was largely by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, son of Ferdinand “Ferry” Porsche. Erwin Komenda, the leader of the Porsche car body construction department, was also involved in the design.
The 356 came to the end of its production life in 1965, but there was still a market for a 4-cylinder car, particularly in the USA. The Porsche 912, introduced the same year, served as a direct replacement, offering the 356’s 4-cylinder, 1600 cc, 90 hp (67 kW) engine inside the 911 bodywork.
In 1966 Porsche introduced the more powerful 911S, the engine’s power raised to 160 PS (118 kW; 158 hp). Alloy wheels from Fuchs, in a distinctive 5-leaf design, were offered for the first time. In motorsport at the same time, installed in the mid-engined Porsche 904 and Porsche 906, the engine was developed to 210 PS (154 kW).
In 1967 the Targa (meaning “shield” in Italian) version was introduced as a “stop gap” model. The Targa had a stainless steel-clad roll bar, as Porsche had, at one point, thought that the NHTSA would outlaw fully open convertibles in the US, an important market for the 911. The name “Targa” came from the Targa Florio sports car road race in Sicily, Italy in which Porsche had notable success, with seven victories since 1956, and four more to come until 1973.
This last win in the subsequently discontinued event is especially notable as it was scored with a 911 Carrera RS against prototypes entered by Italian factories of Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. The road going Targa was equipped with a removable roof panel and a removable plastic rear window (although a fixed glass version was offered alongside from 1968).
The 110 PS (81 kW; 108 hp) 911T was also launched in 1967 and effectively replaced the 912. The staple 130 PS (96 kW; 128 hp) model was renamed the 911L. The 911R had a very limited production (20 in all), as this was a lightweight racing version with thin aluminium doors, a magnesium crankcase, twin-spark cylinder heads, and a power output of 210 PS (154 kW).
In 1969 the B series was introduced: the wheelbase for all 911 and 912 models was increased from 2211 to 2268 mm (87 to 89¼ in), an effective remedy to the car’s nervous handling at the limit. The overall length of the car did not change: rather, the rear wheels were relocated aft. Fuel injection arrived for the 911S and for a new middle model, 911E.
A semi-automatic Sportomatic model, composed of a torque converter, an automatic clutch, and the four speed transmission, was added to the product lineup. It was canceled after the 1980 model year partly because of the elimination of a forward gear to make it a three-speed.
The 2.2 L 911E was called “The secret weapon from Zuffenhausen”. Despite the lower power output of the 911E (155 PS (114 kW; 153 hp)) compared to the 911S (180 PS (132 kW; 178 hp)) the 911E was quicker in acceleration up to 160 km/h (100 mph).
The 1972–1973 model years consisted of the same models, but with a new, larger 2341 cc (142 in³) engine. This is universally known as the “2.4 L” engine, despite its displacement being closer to 2.3 litres. The 911E and 911S used mechanical fuel injection (MFI) in all markets. The 911T was carbureted. In January, 1973, US 911Ts were switched to the new K-Jetronic CIS (Continuous Fuel Injection) system from Bosch.
With the power and torque increases, the 2.4 L cars also got a newer, stronger transmission, identified by its Porsche type number 915. Derived from the transmission in the Porsche 908 race car, the 915 did away with the 901/911 transmission’s “dog-leg” style first gear arrangement, opting for a traditional H pattern with first gear up to the left, second gear underneath first, etc.
911S models also gained a discreet spoiler under the front bumper to improve high-speed stability. With the car’s weighing only 1050 kg (2315 lb), these are often regarded as the best classic mainstream 911s. For racing at this time, the 911 ST was produced in limited numbers (the production run for the ST only lasted from 1970 to 1971).
The cars were available with engines of either 2466 cc or 2492 cc, producing 270 PS (199 kW; 266 hp) at 8000 rpm. Weight was down to 960 kg (2166 lb). The cars had success at the Daytona 6 Hours, the Sebring 12 Hours, the 1000 km Nürburgring and the Targa Florio.