The Porsche 911. It appears in almost every ‘greatest car ever’ article. A 911 is a popular culture icon, and could be a motorsport enthusiast’s race car of choice, a blue chip classic car or maybe a seriously nice new one. They can have all sorts of meanings to people of all types – Porsche enthusiasts and the ways they use their cars are as diverse as the vehicles themselves. So how do 911s find their ways into the garages and hearts of such a wide range of personalities?
Having been around as a model for over 50 years, the 911 has a strong lineage. Numerous racing and rallying successes in some of the world’s most famous events cemented the 911 a reputation for speed, reliability and glamour. A clear progression from model to model also helped, all 911s share distinctive styling cues and the unique rear mounted flat 6 mechanical layout. Interestingly, the series which was the biggest break from this lineage, the 996, which was the first 911 to be liquid cooled and the only to move away from round headlamps is now the least sought after variant. Homologation specials are amongst the most valuable 911s, but all cars are closely enough related that even the newest 911 evokes thoughts of Steve McQueen, Le Mans success and Monte Carlo Rally victories. Today, through the 911’s global motorsport presence, continued ownership by the who’s who of celebrities, movie appearances and blue chip status on the classic car market, the legend still continues to grow.
Despite the 911’s adherence to the same basic layout for over half a century, Porsche have managed to keep it more or less at the forefront of technology. From the innovative overhead cam, dry sump, air cooled flat six that first appeared all those decades ago to the 7 speed manual gearbox found in the latest 991 series, the 911 has showcased a number of innovations with varying success through the years. It has also forged a reputation for quality – although certain models are known to be problematic, 911s by and large feel meticulously honed and of robust construction. It allows for relatively fuss-free motoring and adds to the aura of timelessness – like an expensive watch, a meticulously kept 911 could be around for much longer than its owner. This attention to detail means that a 911 could be very easily used as a daily drive, a track car, a weekend toy…
911s look like they are about to dig their rears into the ground and pounce. There’s a natural beauty, an animalistic purity to the 911 design. No other car sounds the same either – the distinctive flat 6 sound is a key part of the Porsche magic. The style and sound is backed up by a tactile, mechanical, quality feel, and the car’s evocative history. It makes the 911 a fulfilling experience to see, hear, touch. Unlike so many luxury and sports cars, the 911 captures one’s emotions as well as it works as an excellent, logical piece of transport.
It’s how the 911 formula has worked so well, for so long, for so many people. The combination of history, quality and social status see many aspire to owning one, and those bitten by the bug tend to remain loyal.