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The History of the Porsche 911 in a Nutshell


1964: Porsche 911 Begins Production:

The Porsche 911 started life as a design by "Butzi" Porsche, son of Ferdinand Porsche. It was code-named the Porsche 901, but Peugeot had a lock on the "x0x" naming format. Porsche graciously renamed its follow-up to the Porsche 356 the 911 and brought it to the 1963 Frankfurt Auto Show. When production began in 1964, the car had a 2-liter, 6-cylinder engine, 130 hp, a top speed of 130 mph, and a retail price in the U.S. of $5500 when it was sold here in 1965.

Next Up: The Porsche 912 and the 911 Targa:

Developed alongside the 911 (and codenamed 902), the 912 had a four-cylinder in the back, instead of the 6-cylinder. When it debuted in 1966, it carried a 1.6-liter engine with 90 bhp and a top speed of 116 mph. It sold for $1000 less in the U.S.

Engineering concerns and a fear that U.S. might outlaw convertibles spurred Butzi to create the 1966 Porsche 911 Targa instead (Targa is Italian for "shield"). It had a steel roll hoop built into the B pillars behind the seats, a rubberized fabric roof, and a zip-out plastic window in the rear. In 1968, that cheap little window got an upgrade to glass.

Porsche 911 S, 911 T, and 911 L:

In 1966, the Porsche 911 S "sporting" edition became available in Europe, with 160 bhp and a 140-mph top speed. It was the first 911 to have 5-spoke Fuchs alloys, and it had a distinctive red-painted cooling shroud on the engine. But it didn't meet U.S. emissions standards, and was only available in the States as a detuned '67 model.

Instead, the U.S. got the 130-hp 1966 911 L for "luxe." In 1969, the 911 S was back in the U.S., along with the 911T for "touring" and 911 E for "einspritzung." That's German for "fuel-injected." The Touring edition was the base model with 110 hp, while the 911 E had 140 hp.

Porsche 911 Carrera:

The Porsche 911 Carrera that debuted in 1972 was stripped for racing: no radio, no carpet, lighter seats, etc. It had a 2.7-liter 6-cylinder and the same gearbox as the 911S, but its top speed was 149 mph and its 0-60 time was 5.5 seconds. In 1973, it had the infamous giant "whale tail" tacked onto the back for extra downforce. In 1974, the engine was upgraded to 3 liters, and in 1976, it got the Sportmatic transmission. Drivers who liked at least a few creature comforts in their street-legal racers could order the "comfy" package, which added the niceties of the 911S to the Carrera.

Porsche 911 Turbo, a.k.a. the 930:

The Porsche 911 Turbo, codenamed the 930, made its debut in 1973 at the Paris Motor Show. Its 3-liter engine reduced the effects of the dreaded turbo lag, and even with the reduced power of the U.S.-spec 245-hp engine, it could do 0-60 mph in under 5 seconds. (The Euro-spec engine had 260 hp.) It hit showrooms as a 1975 model, and in 1976, a Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera cost $25,850. The engine got an upgrade to 3.3 liters in 1978, but it was gone from the market by 1980, when Porsche was expecting to soon cease production of the 911 altogether.

Porsche 911SC and 911 Cabriolet:

In 1978, Porsche trotted out what it expected to be its final iteration of the 911, the Porsche 911SC, or Super Carrera. It replaced the base 911 and all other Carrera models at the time, with a 3-liter engine and 180 hp in the U.S. It was scheduled to die in 1981, but, the auto business being as fickle as it is, the 911 didn't die -- it didn't even take a break. In 1981, an all-wheel-drive 911 was shown in Frankfurt, and in 1982 a full-on topless cabriolet model was shown in Geneva. In 1983, the Porsche 911SC, 911 cabriolet, and 911 Targa were all available, with the cabriolet outselling the Targa in the U.S.

Porsche 959:

It's known as the 959, but it's still a Porsche 911. The "ultimate road-going 911," as this latest version was called, debuted in 1983 at the Frankfurt Motor Show in honor of the 911's twentieth anniversary, but it didn't see production until 1986. The four-wheel-drive had a 200-mph top speed, and was very exclusive, even for a hand-built Porsche. Only 337 total were built, and they were only legalized in the U.S. in the early 2000s -- more than a decade after they were built.

Porsche Carrera 2 and Carrera 4:

In 1989, the Porsche 911 received a major overhaul. It didn't look much different on the outside, as the company wanted to retain Butzi's original lines, but Porsche claimed the new 911, now known as the Carrera, shared only 13% of its parts with the old 911. The rear-wheel drive 911 was called the Carrera 2 (C2) and naturally the all-wheel-drive 911 was the Carrera 4 (C4). The Carrera got a more powerful 3.2-liter engine, and the C2 had Porsche's Tiptronic transmission, which allowed drivers to choose between automatic and clutchless manual shifting.

Porsche 993 and 996 (Really, They're Just New 911s):

The next generation of the 911 had to be cheaper and faster to build in order for Porsche to stay profitable. Enter the 993, which debuted in the U.S. as a 1995 911 Carrera. There was also a 993 Turbo in 1995, which sold for just under $100,000.

But the 993 was only around for four years, being replaced in 1999 by the 996 in the U.S. It was still called the 911 Carrera, but it was longer, wider, and had a bigger trunk. The base price was $67,880, and it went on to become the best-selling 911 of all time, with more than 170,000 units finding homes. Meanwhile, the one-millionth Porsche rolled off the line in 1996.

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