The Frankfurt Motor Show in September this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Porsche 911, which was first unveiled at that show in 1963. Porsche has managed to maintain the 911’s position at the forefront of the super car market ever since, with the model being just as popular today as it was five decades ago.
Porsche 911 Background
The 911 was launched as a replacement for the 356, which had entered production in 1948 and was the Porsche company’s first road car. The 356 had been designed prior to World War II, with three manufactured for the 1939 race from Berlin to Rome which was eventually cancelled. It was revived at the end of the War, with 76,000 being manufactured before attention was shifted to the 911.
But did you know that Porsche initially intended to call the car the 901 and that it was unveiled at the Frankfurt with that designation? However, Peugeot launched a complaint claiming that they had the legal rights to car names which featured three numbers with a zero in the middle. Eighty-two 901s were manufactured before Porsche was forced to change the name to the 911.
Gradual improvements have been made to the 911 over the years by Porsche to ensure that it remains current and relevant with modern day motorists. This has led to five major design overhauls since its initial launch. Although aesthetically it has remained largely similar, its evergreen design has helped the 911 maintain its popularity with the Porsche factory in Stuttgart that still ships out 110 911s daily. To date, it has been estimated that 820,000 911s have been manufactured in this Stuttgart factory since 1963.
The 911s continued popularity with car enthusiasts has no doubt been helped by its huge and varied success in motor sport over the past five decades. It is perhaps most associated with the 24 hours of Le Mans; a race which it has been won on remarkable 14 occasions by derivatives of the Porsche 911. This association was heightened by the 1971 film ‘Le Mans’, which featured the legendary Steve McQueen as the lead Porsche driver.
24 Heures du Mans
overall victory and its first since 1998. Red Bull race winner Mark Webber is strongly tipped to leave Formula One to lead Porsche’s challenge, such is the expectation around the return of the brand to the race.
Le Mans isn’t the only event where the Porsche 911 has made a mark, having also recorded the 10 wins at the 12 hours of Sebring and four victories at the notorious and icy Monte Carlo Rally; highlighting the versatility of the model.
Porsche is also using the motorsport arena to develop the next generation of 911; working with the Williams F1 team to develop a hybrid 911 to compete in GT sports car races. It is expected that this technology will come as standard on future 911s as the fuel crisis becomes more severe.
Porsche 911 On Steroids
Porsche has previously utilized expertise harnessed from motor racing for performance purposes rather than fuel economy. In 1996, it developed a version of the 911 which is amongst the most powerful road going cars ever produced by the German manufacturer. Built with a mid-mounted engine, it was effectively a 700 bhp road legal version of Porsche’s GT1 Le Mans car and was capable of a remarkable top speed of 235 mph.
The Porsche 911 is highly respected within motoring circles, coming in second on the list of ‘100 Coolest Cars’ in a survey conducted by Automobile Magazine. It was also named World Performance Car of the year in 2012.
Porsche Museum Celebration
Porsche itself is also planning on marking the anniversary, with the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, holding a special exhibition marking the occasion from June 4 through September 29 this year.
See Also — Celebrating 50 Years of McLaren