The arrival of a new Porsche 911 is always major news in the automotive world, not least because it signifies the continuation of a car that first appeared in 1963. Common to all is an unconventional rear-engined layout, excellent performance, and admirable practicality for a thoroughbred sports car. In this article we are going to look back at the history of Porsche’s most famous model. To find out more about the very latest 911, don’t miss our story about riding in a prototype Porsche 992.
Launched in 1963, the Porsche 911 spent its first decade being powered by an air-cooled flat-six engine that was upgraded over time as the desire for more power took hold. The earliest 911s used a 2.0-litre engine, while in later models it swelled to 2.2, 2.4 and eventually 2.7 litres. At the same time the model range grew from the base 911 to include the E, T, and S, as well as the legendary 2.7 RS of 1973. Plenty of racing models were offered during this period, such as the ST and the fabled R, as was a partially open-roofed 911, badged Targa.
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G-K SERIES 911 (1973-1989)
In late 1973 the 911 gained rubber impact bumpers to meet US low-speed impact regulations, marking the first major step in its design evolution. Engines included the 2.7 with electronic fuel injection, a 3.0-litre and latterly a 3.2. The G-Series cemented the Carrera name into the regular 911 lexicon (outside the RSs that used it before), while the Turbo, designated ‘930’, offered supercar levels of performance. During this period Porsche also released its first hypercar in the shape of the 959, which was a technological marvel complete with a pioneering four-wheel-drive system.
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The 964 was, according to Porsche, over 80 per cent new, yet still retained the proportions of the earliest 911s. There were big differences under the skin too, not least the introduction of a 959-inspired of four-wheel drive for the Carrera 4 model, which was sold alongside the rear-wheel-drive Carrera 2. Other additions to the range included another Turbo, a Targa and a Cabriolet, along with an RS that, with just under 260bhp, is now half as powerful as its modern day equivalent, the GT3 RS.
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As the last of the air-cooled 911s, the 993 marked the end of an era. Porsche bowed out by adding technology such as multi-link rear suspension to improve the handling, while the now familiar model line-up was more accomplished – and more powerful – than ever before. Due to the way it combines a classic interior with distinctive styling, that air-cooled engine and modern driving manners, the 993 has become hugely popular with those after vintage 911 thrills mixed with day-to-day usability.
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Arguably Porsche’s difficult ‘second album’, the 996 upset the air-cooled 911 purists with its switch to water-cooled engines, not to mention dramatic changes to the car’s interior and exterior styling. Controversial it might have been, but the 996 still set the template for the modern 911 as we know it, not to mention introduced us to the GT3 and its RS spin-off. A standard 996 Carrera is an incredibly enjoyable car to drive, and in second-generation form, with the neater headlights (as pictured above), it looks great, too.
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The 997 replaced the 996’s unloved lines with those harking back to its 993 air-cooled relation. That instantly won it more fans, and the 997 is coveted by 911 enthusiasts as a result. Its enduring popularity isn’t just down to the looks. It is also, for example, the last 911 to use hydraulically assisted power steering, which allows for rich detail to flow through the wheel, while the rest of the drivetrain (engines ranged from 3.6 to 4.0 litres depending on model) is sublime. The 997 GT3 or GT3 RS with their screaming naturally aspirated engine and six-speed manual gearbox remains a high point in the 911’s rich history.
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The 911 is the outgoing 911, and a larger, more adept all-rounder than its predecessors, with sports and GT car genes mixing and – controversially at first – electronically assisted power steering. In launch form it had a naturally aspirated 3.8-litre flat-six, though a turbocharged 3.0-litre replaced that in its second-generation form as Porsche sought to reduce emissions. More than ever before, the 991 represents the 911 as a consummate all-rounder, with a breadth of ability that is is as staggering as the choice of models. For a highlight, don’t miss the outrageous 691bhp GT2 RS.
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992 (2019 and beyond)
The very latest version of the 911, known as the 992, made its world debut at the 2018 LA Auto Show. The most advanced 911 to date, the 992 will feature technology such as lane keeping assist while still, according to Porsche, performing the role of being a true driver’s car. it will also be the first generation of 911 to offer some kind of hybrid system, although Porsche is yet to confirm when this will appear. To find out more about the new 911, don’t miss our ride in one of Porsche’s prototype 992 test cars.
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