There are very few cars that have been in continuous production for nearly 50 years.
The Porsche 911 is one of them.
In fact, if the lineage of the 911 is traced to its roots, you will find that it is actually related to the original 1930’s Volkswagen Beetle.
While a few aspects of the 911 have changed over the years, even more have stayed the same. The engine hanging over the rear axle is the most obvious hallmark that has remained the same for the entire production run. Such a heavy weight should act like a pendulum and throw the Porsche off balance, but instead this Porsche is one of the best handling cars on the road today.
The distinctive shape has also changed very little in the last 50 years, but that is what makes the car an icon.
The Corvette, which is nearing 60 years old, has changed completely since it was introduced in 1953 and would be unrecognizable to someone who has only seen a first generation car.
An owner of the original 911 could teleport 50 years into the future and still instantly recognise a new car on the road as an evolution of his own.
With the release of the latest 911, the 991, coming for 2012, we thought it would be prime time to look at the different iterations of the car as it closes in on its 50th birthday.
The Beetle is the grandfather of the 911. Ferdinand Porsche Sr. designed the 'People's Car' in the late 1930s. It was not fast, but basic design elements like round headlamps and a engine in the rear made their way to Porsche's next car.
If the Beetle was the grandfather, the 356 is the father. Porsche once again used a rear-engine layout, but the 356 was lower, wider, and faster than any Beetle on the road in 1948. It stayed in production until 1965.
The original 911 entered production in 1963 as a more usable and refined alternative to the 356. The round headlamps and distinctive profile are readily apparent. The five spoke Fuch's wheels also became closely associated with the 911; a replica version is still made today.
The 911 continued to evolve, getting more and more powerful. The 1974 RSR variant shown here was a terror on the race track. The turbo version came in second at Le Mans and started another Porsche tradition.
That tradition was the 911 Turbo. The first 911 Turbos hit the street in the mid 70s. They were actually called the Porsche 930, in deference to the 3.0 liter engine on board. These were the fastest cars available in Germany at the time.
It made way for its replacement, the subtly different 964. Even Porsche fans would be hard pressed to see the differences when looking at one.
The 964 Turbo also looked quite similar to the previous generation car on the outside as well as mechanically.
In 1993, the 911 underwent its biggest change yet as the 964 went away and the 993 took over. A more aerodynamic body with smaller, angled headlamps and narrow rear lights were the key differences.
Some 993 variants, like the Turbo and GT2 (seen here) have maintained their value incredibly well. The 993 Turbo can still be found for sale in the $100,000 range.
The 996 was the biggest departure for the 911. Oval headlights were gone, replaced by units that were on the lower priced Boxster. This caused an uproar with owners who wanted the provenance of their cars to be shown in the looks. But the biggest change was under the skin. The traditional air-cooled flat six engine was replaced with a new water-cooled version to meet emissions regulations as well as provide added refinement.
The 996 became the 997 in 2005. It seems the headlight change for the 996 was too aggressive, so the familiar rounded shape returned.
The 997 also spurred over 20 different variants. They ranged from a base Carrera to a 620 horsepower, $200,000+ GT2 RS. Shown below is one of the last editions, the GT3 RS 4.0, which was a version of the GT3 RS, itself a version of the GT3.
And now Porsche are preparing to start all over again. As they were running out of 99X numbers, the latest 911 is the 991. Once again, changes were more mechanical than aesthetic. The engine was moved forward slightly and there is a new steering system. Look for another 20+ versions to make their way to market over the next few years.
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