Porsche 911 History: has the sports car hit its peak?


This year, the Porsche 911 celebrates its 60th birthday. To commemorate this iconic legend, we take a look back at the sports car’s history, tracing its creation and the many iterations that made the 911 so successful.

Which year was the Porsche 911 created?

The Porsche 911 story began with the 901 back in 1963. It was created by Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche, grandson of the legendary Volkswagen Beetle designer, Ferdinand Porsche.

The replacement for the Porsche 356 was all set to be retailed as the 901, as that’s what its internal design number had been. But Peugeot put a spanner in the works by claiming the rights to three-figure vehicle designations with a zero in the middle. So, Porsche got all imaginative and swapped the zero for a one. Hey presto, the 911 name was established.

Porsche 911 in a showroom

Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche’s 901 design essentially lasted for 30 years, initially with a 2.0-litre air-cooled flat-six powerplant housed, naturally, in the back of the car. In that period, there were countless tweaks to the styling and the capacity was upgraded many times. It eventually increased to 3.2 litres in 1983’s Carrera and to 3.6 litres in the 964 (the internal term for the 911 made between 1989 and 1994).

Classic Porsche 911 with its creator

The Porsche 911 went from strength to strength

Next came the Targa, which was ushered in in 1967. It was named after Porsche’s many wins at the Targa Florio race. The bona fide convertible was only obtainable from 1983 onwards, after being publicised as a concept car two years earlier.

911 parked outside

In 1988, the 911 Classic was superseded by the 964, the most revised 911 since its launch. With a more contemporary design, the 964 followed the benchmark 911 formula until the 993 came in to replace it in 1993.

The 993 is considered the last proper 911 by enthusiasts

The 993 is upheld by Porsche aficionados as the last proper 911 due to it being the final air-cooled model. Nevertheless, the 996 was steered in to replace it in 1998, and again held the claim of being the most comprehensively revamped 911 since the Porsche 911 was born. You can tell a 996 by its teardrop-shaped headlights.

Porsche parked on the street

The 911 then went back to its original bug-eye headlights when the 996 was kicked to the kerb by the 997 in 2004. The 997 generated the Sport Classic special edition featuring Fuchs alloy wheels and a ducktail spoiler.

The automaker’s 991 generation, revealed in 2011, saw one of the most all-embracing overhauls for the 911. It was constructed on a completely new platform – only the third in the Porsche 911’s history.

Porsche at the dealer

The original 911 Turbo was made available in 1975, with a 3.0-litre unit, broad bodywork and a whale tail spoiler. In 1993, the 993 911 Turbo was fitted with four-wheel drive and another turbocharger. The sports car maker’s present 911 Turbo boasts a trio of turbochargers.

Since its introduction in 1963, over one million 911s have been manufactured – and, as far as I can see, there’s no end in sight to its appeal. I’m excited to see what the brand has in store for us over the next 60 years.

Sweet little Porsche parked on the street

Hands-on experience with the 911 Carrera 4 GTS

Indeed, I was recently handed the keys to the 911 Carrera 4 GTS and was blown away by the model.

Fitted with a turbocharged 450 PS engine, this 911 is fast. The 3.0-litre six-cylinder lump pulls the Porsche from 0-62mph in 3.6 seconds and will charge all the way to 191mph. It also sticks to the tarmac like superglue because it has four-wheel drive. The hint is the ‘4’ within its ‘Carrera 4 GTS’ name.

Grey Porsche on a grey background

The car looks the business. It sits low to the ground with black 20-inch alloys, yellow brake callipers and two centrally located black tailpipes.

On the inside, the Carrera 4 GTS’s emphasis on luxury is immediately apparent. Alcantara is everywhere – and while the design is identical to other 911s, the overall ambience is more upmarket.

Interior of the Carrera 4 GTS

The car I drove contained Porsche’s PDK seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission instead of the standard manual gearbox. It’s a £2,930 option, but worth it because it’s exact and quick. The paddle shifters located on the 911’s steering wheel are also engaging. They’re almost as effective as a manual box because the gear change action makes you feel so bonded with the drivetrain.

Rear of the Carrera 4 GTS

The Carrera 4 GTS is easy to drive and roars like thunder from the get-go. When you hit the gas hard, there’s a ‘wooshing’ turbo underscore, informing everyone in earshot that something potent is on the move.
The GTS is best driven on snaking rural roads because you can fiddle with the drive mode button and turn on Sport+. This setting hangs on to the gears longer, meaning the engine takes on a manic character.

So, the 911 Carrera 4 GTS is an impressive package – it delivers mind-blowing action while being practical and comfortable enough to use every day. The model is also achingly attractive, although, as with any 911, the price tag isn’t. Still, you do tend to get what you pay for, and if you’ve always wanted a Porsche, then this is one you should aspire to.

Fast facts (911 Carrera 4 GTS – as tested)

  • Max speed: 191 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 3.6 secs
  • Combined mpg: 33.2
  • Engine layout: 2981cc turbocharged flat-six
  • power (PS): 450
  • CO2: 192 g/km

Price: From £128,000

Red and grey Porsches