The Porsche Model 911 followed on the heels of the highly successful Model 356. Who could have imagined that the now-classic 911 was embarking on a nearly 50-year odyssey whose ending remains nowhere in sight?
The Porsche 911 was introduced to the world in the fall of 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It was developed as a replacement for the highly successful Porsche Model 356. It was larger, more powerful, more comfortable and more competitive on the track than any other comparable car on the market at the time. The original air-cooled, boxer-engined 911 was in production from 1964 through 1989 and spawned a myriad of successful variations (the 911's continued march forward with a water-cooled powerplant will be detailed separately).
The first edition of the 911 was built around a 130 hp, 2.0 liter, flat-six, air-cooled, rear-mounted engine. Originally, the car carried the model designation of 901 rather than 911. This engendered a dispute with Puegeot, who held exclusive rights in the French market to three-digit model names where there was a zero in the middle. Rather than renaming the car for French consumers, Porsche simply changed the numeric designation to 911. Because production had already begun before the name was protested, 82 cars were built as 901s and the part numbers carried the 901 prefix for several years.
In 1966 the beefier 160hp 911S was introduced as the first variation of the 911. The "S" which stood for "Super" boasted performance upgrades and modifications that included larger valves, a higher compression ratio, better porting and larger carbuerator jets. Along with the mechanical tweaks, the 911S also received chassis upgrades in the form of a rear anti-roll bar, Koni shocks, distinctive 5-spoke Fuchs alloy wheels (that cut 5 pounds from each hub) and ventilated disc brakes on all four corners to replace the solid discs.
The Targa edition of the 911 was released in 1967. Porsche had gotten wind of a rumor that the Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States was going to outlaw fully open convertibles. In order to maintain the high demand for the cars in the US market, the targa model was introduced. The roof panel was removable (and foldable) starting from a stainless steel cover that housed a roll bar underneath and extending all the way forward to to the windshield header. It also included a soft canvas cover in the back with a flexible plastic window that could be removed by unzipping it. A fixed-glass wraparound rear window version of the Targa was also offered beginning in 1968. These features gave the car convertible characteristics without technically being classified as such.
In 1968, new emissions regulations in the US excluded the 911S from the market. In response to the situation, Porsche shipped over the 911S with a regular 911 drivetrain and called it the 911L.
The 911R was a very limited production racing version of the 911 whose concept would ultimately set the standard for GT racing domination for the next 40 years. The first 4 prototypes surfaced in the spring of 1967. The bodies were made of lightweight fiberglass, there were no interior luxuries to speak of, and every component that could be replaced was replaced with an extremely lightweight alternative. It weighed around 500 lbs less than the standard 911 and pumped out over 200hp. In addition to the 4 prototypes, Porsche built 20 911R's for customers before ceasing production in 1968.
Major changes were made to the 911 in 1969, and several new models were introduced to the line-up. To improve handling at speed, the wheelbase was increased on all 911 models by shifting the rear wheels back just over 2 inches. This helped to even out the weight distribution of the car. The 911S was brought back, and this time it was equipped with fuel injection. Porsche also introduced a new mid-class luxury model, the 911E, which was designed to fall nicely between the 911T touring model and the high-performance 911S. The 911T, the new, lighter, touring type which had been released in Europe a year earlier was also brought over to the United States and introduced as an entry-level 911.
During the first 5 years of production, the Porsche 911 and it's variations caught the attention of many drivers both on and off the track. It was the beginning of a line of luxury and performance in the automobile industry that no other manufacturer could duplicate. The first generation set the stage for the innovations to come - and oh what a stage it was.
The Porsche Model 911 is without a doubt the most successful Porsche ever - really its the most successful model in the history of the automobile. As such it is highly collectible and sought-after classic car. Values on these early Model 911's remain high, with select variants easily topping $100,000. Classic insurance on these cars with a proper Agreed Value is a must to properly protect owners from financial loss.