The Legend Begins (1963 - 73)
In the late fifties, Porsche had been building its 356 rear-wheel drive sports car for over a decade. Even though the roadster had proven popular, the company felt that the time was right to introduce a new model. Initial plans were to sell the new sportscar alongside the 356, but within a few years, Porsche put its resources into the 911 and its variants.
When Porsche unveiled its new sportscar at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, few people could have imagined the car's impact. Originally dubbed the 901 (until French automaker Peugeot complained about naming rights), the car was renamed the Porsche 911 when it went into production almost a year later. US exports commenced in the beginning of 1965 and Porsche felt that the success of the 356 roadster meant a ripe market overseas for the 911, which had gotten very favorable reviews from the press.
The original 911 was powered by a rear-mounted 2.0L flat-six cylinder, boxer-style engine that produced 134 hp. The engine was air-cooled and had a five-speed manual transmission. Porsche produced nearly 2,000 911s during the 1965 model year, many left-hand drive models destined to hit American shores.
Almost immediately, Porsche recognized the need for a more powerful engine, and in 1966, it introduced the 911S. Forged aluminum wheels with a five-spoke design were offered for the first time. A year later, the 911A variant was produced, with wider rear wheels with new Pirelli tires. The most significant change was the introduction of the Targa top, which Porsche designed with a stainless steel reinforced roll bar to guard against rollover. (There was a common belief was that convertibles would not meet the new NHTSA rollover regulations).
Over the next eight years, Porsche would introduce several new series to its lineup; the B, C, D, E, and F models, all with various improvements. The B series was one of the first 911s to use fuel injection. The C series featured an even more powerful 2.2L six-cylinder engine, an increased wheelbase, and Sportmatic transmission. The E Series saw an increase in engine displacement again (to 2.4L), and the F Series, which was built in 1973 - ‘74, moved the dry oil sump tank back to its original position due to complaints that gas-station attendants didn’t know the difference between an oil filler door and a fuel door, and would often fill the oil tank with gasoline.
The “G” Model (1973 - ‘89)
By 1973, Porsche had produced the 911 for over a decade and decided to remodel the car with a new look. In addition, the “G” model would feature added safety features that were now being mandated by the US government, including crash-resistant bumpers, three-point safety belts, and integrated head restraints to guard against whiplash from rear-end collisions. The new car would need a more robust engine, so Porsche increased the displacement to a 2.7L flat six with a horsepower of 150.
The most significant change occurred in 1974 with the introduction of the model called the 930). The turbocharged 3.0L engine made 260 hp, had a very eye-appealing rear spoiler and the whale tail), and could launch down the track in 5.2 seconds 0 - 60 mph. The Turbo had an exhaust draft technology that had only been used in race cars and worked with the turbine to aid acceleration. In 1977, the engine size and power were increased again, with a 3.3L motor producing over 300 hp.
The G model would be Porsche’s longest-running 911 series, produced from 1973 - 1989, selling over 200,000 units. The series was a massive success in the US with its unique body style and quick, agile reflexes. Americans gladly paid the $35k plus price tag for the pleasure of driving it.
The 964 Model (1988 - ‘94)
In 1989, the 911 underwent a major redesign with the advent of the Type 964. In 1989, Porsche introduced the Carrera 4 model(4 meaning all-wheel drive), which proved extremely popular among American drivers. The AWD system was ahead of its time by compensating for tire slippage by sending power to the other wheels. Along with a new automatic spoiler that raised at high speeds, the car was blessed with a new 3.3L engine, ABS, power steering, and airbags.
Porsche also released a Type 964 version of the 911 Turbo model in 1990. Within a couple of years (1994), it was upgraded to a more robust 3.6L six-cylinder that produced a sensational 360 hp, with an 11.3:1 compression. The car had a top speed of 174 mph.
The 993 (1993 - ‘98)
The Type 993/911 would be the last air-cooled engine that Porsche would make. The new car featured a low-sleek profile with new front and rear ends, including headlights that would become a Porsche 911 trademark. Many consider the 993 the best 911 ever when the company got the performance and appearance precisely right.
The air-cooled engine was mated to a six speed manual (the six-speedsche 911 to offer it) or a 4-speed automatic. The 993 also improved its suspension system, enhancing the all-wheel-drive components to better handle wet road surfaces. The turbo version of the 911 was released in 1995, with a bi-turbo engine that earned the distinction of creating the lowest-emission production engine in the world.
The 996 (1997 - 2005)
The 996 introduced the first water cooled engine to a water-cooled lineup, with a complete body redesign and refashioned interior. The car’s engine was a 3.4L inline-six with four-valve heads, producing 296 hp. At the time, the engine received high praise for its power, performance, and emissions.
During the years of production, the 996 was released in many variants, including the 996 Turbo released in 1999. Unlike the naturally aspirated engine in its base counterpart, the turbo boasted a twin-turbo water-cooled 3.6L engine derived from the LeMans winning GT1 racer from the year before. The engine created 415 hp and 415 lb-ft of torque.
Porsche introduced street-legal GT2 and GT3 (based on racing applications). The GT2 was the first Porsche to use ceramic brakes and was marketed as a high-performance sports car to American buyers.
The 997 (2004 - 2012)
Initially, the 997 replaced the 996 for the 2005 model year with two models, the Carerra and Carerra S, but with a return to styling cues from the 993. While the base 997 continued to use the naturally aspirated 3.6L, Porsche offered a new 3.8L engine for the Carrera S, with 355 hp. A short time later, the all-wheel drive versions emerged, (Carerra 4 and Carerra 4S) for the 2006 MY.
In 2006, the company brought the new 911 Turbo to market along with new versions of the GT3. One of the significant features of the 997, was the ability of customers to choose specific options to suit their preferences. During this time, Porsche widened its model selection by offering over 24 different combinations of its sportscar for owners to purchase and enjoy.
The 991 (2011 - 2019)
The 991 was introduced to the public for the 2012 model year and was the first Porsche model to use predominately aluminum construction. The sports car increased its wheelbase by almost 4 inches (and height by almost 3 inches). A new rear axle allowed the wheels to be moved backwards toward the engine to provide better balance and weight distribution. Even though the car was more extensive, the new composites lightened the vehicle.
During its production run, Porsche continued to develop variants, including the GT3 (2013) and GT3 RS (2015). The GT3 RS featured new components with louvers above the front fenders, a magnesium roof, vents over the rear wheels, a roll cage, and a safety harness to keep drivers in the carbon fiber seats. The new GT3 RS sported a 4.0L six, producing 493 hp with a top speed, making it the most potent Porsche model.
The 992 (2018 - Present)
Currently, Porsche is in their eight generation of the 911. While the model is the most high-performance model yet, the Porsche 911 is sleeker and more aerodynamic than previous models. For 2023, the Carerra 4 GTS model produces 473 hp and has a 0 - 60 mph time of 3.1 seconds with a top speed of 192 mph. The 911 Turbo S model is even faster, posting a 2.6-second run with 640 hp from a 3.7L horizontally opposed flat-six engine. Porsche mated the new engines to an 8-speed automatic, but for the first time, also offered a seven-speed manual transmission in 2020.
While Porsche has committed to electrifying 80% of its fleet by 2030, executives have indicated that the 911 will remain the last internal combustion engine for the time being, even after the rest of their lineup is battery-powered.