history 1963 - 1980
date : 23rd May 2004
Launched in prototype form as
the Porsche 901 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, the new
car had obvious roots in the Porsche 356. But it was a step
ahead of the game, featuring a horizontally-opposed or
"flat" six-cylinder design, air-cooled of course,
and a five-speed gearbox.
It was six centimetres narrower than the bath tub-shaped 356
and had sharper lines.
It also had disc brakes on all four wheels and the first two-litre
version produced one hundred and thirty horsepower, or
The name of the Type 901 became the subject of a lawsuit from
Peugeot the French automaker, which had registered patents on
any model name with the middle numeral zero, but pronounced as
an "oh". So the name of the new Porsche was changed
to Nine eleven.
The styling was the handiwork of Ferry Porsche's son,
christened as Ferdinand, but known as Butzi Porsche. And the
engine was the handiwork of Porsche's nephew, Ferdinand Pieche
who would go on to revitalise the Volkswagen-Audi group in the
The engine was good. The car could reach one hundred
kilometres an hour in second gear, one fifty five in third,
one ninety in fourth and two hundred and five in fifth gear,
or just over one hundred and twenty five miles per hour.
Early Porsche engineers at the company’s Zuffenhausen
headquarters in Stuttgart said the handling was excellent, but
there would be those who begged to differ.
The tail end, with all that engine weight hung out the rear
was fine if you knew what you were doing. But lift off the
throttle in mid-corner and you normally exited the road in the
direction of backwards.
If Germany had been saddled with its own Ralph Nader at that
stage, the American lawyer who killed the rear-engined
Chevrolet Corvair with his book Unsafe at Any Speed,
the 911 could well have disappeared into motoring myth and
The Germans being Germans, however, the Porsche 911 was
refined over the next four decades to produce a car that is in
fact safe at any speed, and that includes the current
Turbo model's top speed in excess of three hundred kilometres
A big part of this engineering know-how was gained through
Indeed, the Porsche 911 is probably the most successful
competition car ever and many of those successes have come at
the hands of private Porsche customers.
In 1968 the Porsche 911 scored the first of three historic
victories in the Monte Carlo rally, in the hands of legends
like the British driver Vic Elford . Bjorn Waldegaard won the
next two events
Meanwhile Porsche 911s would achieve enormous success on the
racetracks too. Derivatives went on to win the Le Mans 24 Hour
and the Daytona 24 Hour outright, and also the World Sports
Car Constructors championships in the nineteen seventies and
the nineteen eighties.
The beauty of all this was that the flat-six engine remained
essentially the same from the day it was shown to the world in
1963 right up to today.
In fact the original design left so much room for development
that Dr Ferry Porsche was quoted in later years as saying that
if he had known to what lengths the engine would be developed.
he would probably have specified a less-sturdy construction.
There are many famous versions of the 911 and amongst these is
the original club-racing version, the two point seven RS
Carrera introduced in 1972.
The RSR followed with more power and even bigger wheel-arch
flares and spoilers, before the first 911 Turbo was introduced
The Porsche 911 Turbo, or 930 Turbo as it was known to Porsche
insiders, was the first production turbocharged vehicle to
make an impact on the motoring world.
Ironically launched at the time of the oil crises which killed
off many high performance models, the 911 Turbo has simply
gone from strength to strength and has been in continuous
production for thirty years.
Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet
history 1939 - 1962
history 1981 - 2000
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