February 11, 2016 @ 03:14 PM

Legends and Legacies: Porsche 911

If there ever was a sports car that would join the ranks of Minis and Beetles as icon stars then there is no other but the Porsche 911.

More than ten generations has passed, depending on how you count it, and one engine evolution from air-cooled to water-cooled, since Ferdinand Porsche first decided that the 356, also known as a modified VW Beetle back in the day, needed replacing.

In many ways, the 911 is the product of three generation of Porsches’ mind put together at the drawing block with Ferry Porsche taking the helm with the help son Butzi Porsche as stylist along with of body engineer Edwin Komenda and powertrain engineer Ing Hans Tomala. That had resulted in the first prototype 911 known as the Type 7.

Back then, the Type 7 was so commonly seen testing on the road that the car was widely regarded as one generation of the 911 model so although the car was officially launched in 1965 most sources quote that the car has been in production since 1963. The Type 7 was the start of the iconic shape that has never changed even after six decades of evolution.

(Image Source: geekriviera.gr)

The Type 7 shares more similarities to the 356 then many would expect only the concept is bigger and with two extra seats in the back for practical usage. The Type 7 also shares the same 2.0-litre air-cooled pushrod valve actuation and two valves per cylinder as the 356 with the only difference being the two added cylinders bringing the count to six rather than four.

What truly set the 911 on its path to glory was Porsche’s decision to build an all-new flat six engine with overhead camshafts in place of the pushrods. This and the decision to ditch the rear seats brought around the 901 concept. The 901’s wheelbase was also slashed to measure only 87-inches, that is only 4.4-inches longer than the 356.

With that, Porsche has created the sports car that would replace his beloved 356, but before the company could launch the car there was the need to swap out the 0 between the 9 and the 1 to prevent any round of fisticuffs with Peugeot who has claimed the right to any car names with the number zero in the middle. Hence the 911 was created.

Originally available in a coupe body style only, the 911 comes equipped with a five-speed manual gearbox, sits on MacPherson struts (rare at this era) on the front and torsion bar sprung independent rear suspensions on the back with Dunlop disc brakes on each wheel. The flat-six engine generates 148bhp considered one of the faster cars of its time.

(Image source: stuttcars.info)

With the 911, Porsche had seen fit to introduce different versions of the car as it gained popularity like a “base-variant” known as the 912. The 912 has the 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that was in the discontinued 356 and this model sold almost twice as many as the 911s.

A Targa version was also introduced in 1966 but the Targa did not come with a good reputation to go with the 911 thanks to the leaking tops, distorted rear windows that quickly yellows after exposure to the sun. But no worries, you and I both know the Targa has improved its quality.

The version that everybody had looked forward to was the 911S model, available in both coupe and Targa forms. All Porsche did to make the 911S – S stands for Super - was to throw some spark and timing changes to the flat-six engine bumping the compression up from 9.0 to 1 to 9.8 to 1 generating a total of 180bhp in the 911S.

(Image Source: theglobeandmail.ca)

And so through the decades, we saw the 911 evolved along with its confusing nomenclature system like the very popular 930 Turbo, the 964, 993, 996, and the 997 to the current 991 series. It wasn’t until the 1970s before Porsche slapped the name “Carrera” on the 911 as a homologation special.

When I say evolve I definitely mean not in terms of looks, seeing as the original design did not change from 1963 until 1989, and though the 911 had spent a number of years sporting rather feminine headlights the most recent iteration had returned to the iconic design of the 1963 911. But definitely in terms of powertrain and technology what with the 2015 911 GT3 RS capable of generating 500bhp and 460Nm of torque.

To think that back in the 1960s, Ferdinand Porsche had found it tough to build a replacement for his beloved little 356, little did he expect to have started a world wide phenomenon that would last 60 years and counting! 

Jerrica Leong

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