Porsche 911

Nearly 50 years on and still going strong

Porsche 911 Image

Ferdinand Porsche Senior is famous as the designer of the Volkswagen Beetle with it's rear mounted air cooled engine and monocoque construction. After the war his son, also called Ferdinand, founded an Austrian company to produce a much updated version of this with a freshly designed chassis and body but keeping the basic idea of a four-cylinder air cooled engine, initially of 1100 cc, driving the rear wheels. This was called the 356 and although it was slow to take off it eventually became popular among racing drivers because of it's first-class build quality and handling. First launched in 1948 only around 50 of them were sold in the first two years but a class win in the 1951 Le Mans race put it on the map.

The 911 however, which was first introduced in 1963 and is still, after many modifications, manufactured, was a major improvement. Ferdinand Porsche Senior's grandson, yet again named Ferdinand, wanted to create a four seater car with sporty performance which could compete with those offered by companies like Alfa Romeo and Mercedes. He succeeded beyond expectations.

The engine initially was a 130 horsepower Twin flat six cylinder (ie, three cylinders in each bank horizontally opposed) air cooled unit mounted yet again at the rear of the car. All-independent suspension helped to overcome the oversteer inherent in rear engined cars and a commitment to keep weight down to a minimum helped achieve a top speed of 131 mph and a 0-60 time of 8.5 seconds. Coupled with a rugged build and highly praised steering it seemed to be an ideal car for rallying.

Launched initially as the 901, a name which was changed to 911 after a bizarre disagreement with Peugeot, who reckon they were the only ones entitled to have a name with a zero in the middle (!) this two-door 2+2 seater sports car initially created very little interest. Fans of Porsche felt it was too heavy, too luxurious and not at all the little lightweight 'driver's' car that it used to be. It was also practically double the price of the 356. However further racing and rallying successes soon changed these conceptions with no less than three successive years in which 911s took both first and second places in the Monte Carlo Rally by the late 1960s. by 1965 Car and Driver magazine was calling it one of the finest GT cars in the world.

Although the car has gone through numerous changes over the near half century since it first came on the market the 911 has still kept fairly well to the same basic style which has made it one of the most easily recognisable cars in the world. As one of the oldest surviving sports coupe marques in history it passed the 1 million sales mark in 2017 and is still going strong.