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Porsche 911 - the 50-year evolution

By: IOL Motoring Staff

Ever since its debut in September 1963, the 911 has been the heart of the Porsche brand. More than 820 000 have been built in seven generations, making it arguably the word's most successful sports car in the world.

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As Ferry Porsche once put it: “The 911 is the only car you could drive on an African safari or at Le Mans, to the theatre or through New York City traffic.”

Two thirds of Porsche's 30 000 race victories to date have been notched up by the 911.

Porsche is celebrating the 911's half-century with a variety of anniversary events, starting with the 'Retro Classics' automobile show in Stuttgart in March. They are also sending an original 1967 911 on a world tour to Pebble Beach, Shanghai, Goodwood, Paris and Australia, where it will be on show at international fairs, historical rallies and motor sport events.

The Porsche Museum is celebrating '50 years of the 911' from 4 June to 29 September with a special exhibition showcasing its history and development, to be followed by a commemorative book from the museum's own publishing house entitled '911x911'.

The gallery shows just how far the 911 has come since the first production model in 1964, and yet how close it has remained to the original concept.

THE GENERATIONS

The prototype of what was to become the successor to the 356 was first shown at the 1963 Frankfurt motor show as the 901, and renamed 911 for its market launch in 1964. Its air-cooled six-cylinder boxer engine delivered 94kW, good enough for a top speed of 210km/h.

In 1965 it was joined by the four-cylinder Porsche 912, and a year later by the 116kW 911 S, the first Porsche with forged alloy wheels from Fuchs.

The 911 Targa, with its distinctive stainless-steel roll bar, made its debut in late 1966, and the semi-automatic Sportomatic four-speed transmission joined the line-up in 1967.

With the 911T of the same year, and its E and S variants, Porsche became the first German manufacturer to comply with strict US exhaust emission control regulations.

The 911 became steadily more powerful as displacement increased, initially to 2.2 litres (1969), then 2.4 (1971), culminating in the 152kW Carrera RS 2.7 of 1972, weighing less than a tonne and sporting the first rear spoiler on a production car.

G-SERIES - THE SECOND GENERATION

The G model, distinguished by its prominent ‘bellows’ bumpers, an innovation designed to meet the latest crash test standards in the United States, was produced from 1973 to 1989, longer than any other 911 generation.

From the start it came with three-point safety belts and integrated head restraints as standard equipment, and in 1974 gave birth to the iconic 911 Turbo with its 188kW three-litre engine and distincetive 'whale tail' spoiler.

The next performance jump came in 1977 with the 218kW Turbo 3.3, the first version with an intercooler, followed in 1982 by the first proper 911 convertible, the Cabriolet.

A year later the naturally aspirated 911 Carrera superseded the SC; its bare-bones trim and 168kW, 3.2-litre engine quickly made it a collectors item, like the 1989 Carrera Speedster, an unashamed evocation of the legendary 356.

TYPE 964 - CLASSIC MODERN

By this time industry analysts were predicting the imminent end of the rear-engined 911, but in 1988 Porsche came out with the Carrera 4, known internally as the 964.

Its air-cooled 3.6-litre boxer engine delivered 182kW and, while it differed externally from its predecessors only in its aerodynamic polyurethane bumpers and automatically extending rear spoiler, internally it was almost completely new, only 15 percent of its components being carried over from the G Series.

It came with ABS, Tiptronic, power steering and airbags, on a completely redesigned chassis with light-alloy control arms and coil springs instead of the previous torsion-bar suspension.

The Carrera 4 was the first all-wheel drive 911, selling alongside Coupé, Cabriolet and Targa versions.

From 1990 they were joined by the 964 Turbo, initially with the proven 3.3-litre boxer engine, which was increased to 3.6 litres in 1992 for a hefty 261kW.

TYPE 993 - THE LAST AIRCOOLED 911

The elegant Porsche Type 993 ranks as one of the prettiest 911 models, with it integrated bumpers and low-slung front end, made possible by new polyellipsoid headlights, rather than the traditional round units. It was also the first with an all-aluminium chassis, the first with twin turbos - making it exceptionally clean-running - and, on the all-wheel drive Turbo flagship, the first street-legal car with hollow-spoke cast rims.

The 911 GT2 was aimed at sports-car purists, while the Targa introduced an electric glass roof that slid under the rear window.

TYPE 996 - LIQUID COOLING

The 996, produced from 1997 to 2005, represented a major turning point for the 911. Comprehensively redesigned, it was the first with a water-cooled boxer engine and four-valve heads, giving it 218kW, while its sleek lines - a result of component sharing with the Boxster - delivered a drag coefficient of just 0.30.

Its most obvious exterior feature were the headlights with built-in indicators, while the cockpit layout was also entirely new.

From 1999 Porsche added a whole series of new variations, starting with the GT3 - keeping the tradition of the Carrera RS alive - and, in the third quarter of 2000, the GT3, the first road car with ceramic brakes as standard.

TYPE 997 - CLASSICISM AND MODERNITY

In July 2004 Porsche introduced the sixth-generation 911 Carrera and Carrera S models, referred to internally as the 997. The clear oval headlights with separate indicators in the front apron were a visual return to older 911 models, but the Carrera's revised 3.6-litre boxer engine turned out 236kW, while the new 3.8 litre engine of the Carrera S delivered 261kW.

The chassis was also substantially reworked, and the Carrera S came with active suspension management as standard issue.

The Carrera versions were followed in 2006 by the 911 Turbo, the first production petrol-powered car with variable-geometry turbocharger, and late in 2008, an updated 997 with direct fuel-injection and a dual-clutch transmission.

Never before had the 911 offered so many variants, with Carrera, Targa, Cabriolet, rear or all-wheel drive, Turbo, GTS, special models and road versions of GT racing cars adding up to 24 versions.

TYPE 991 - REFINED BY EXPERIENCE

The seventh 911 comes with all-new suspension on a longer wheelbase, wider track and bigger tyres, a redesigned interior and mixed steal and aluminium construction, while the reduced 3.4-litre engine in the base Carrera model uses less fuel to produce 3.7kW more, driving the rear wheels through the first seven-speed manual gearbox on a car.

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