Even the venerable Model T lasted barely two decades in production despite the stubbornness of Henry Ford. The number of vehicles that have made it to the half-century mark can be counted on one hand. So, it’s not surprising the folks at Porsche are in the mood for a celebration this week.
The German maker’s iconic 911 sports car made its debut exactly 50 years ago on the stands at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and Porsche is marking the occasion by introducing a special anniversary edition at this year’s car show, with a limited run of just 1963 to honor the year the 911 made its debut.
What’s particularly unusual about the sports car’s longevity is the fact that despite all the changes that have been made under the skin, as well as to the interior, today’s Porsche 911 maintains the same basic exterior profile of the original.
When he was given the challenge of designing the latest, seventh-generation model, designer Michael Mauer was quick to recognize there were serious limits confronting him. While he was asked to come up with something distinctive for the seventh-generation he knew that a radical redesign simply “wouldn’t be a 911.” That meant maintaining the car’s distinctive silhouette, starting with the long hood, bulging headlamps, “flyline” roof, and, of course, its rear-engine layout.
That didn’t mean standing still. The Gen-7 model, introduced in 2012, was a wee bit lower, wider and longer than the previous model, more aerodynamic and – defying conventional wisdom – both more powerful yet also about 16% more fuel-efficient.
Not all the changes have gone without controversy, Porsche fanatics raising a fuss when the maker abandoned the time-tested air-cooled 911 engine in 1998 in favor of a more modern water-cooled powertrain. But the 911’s distinctive rear-mounted engine layout has been maintained from Day One.
Since its introduction, Porsche reports it has sold 820,000 911s. The design for the iconic automobile was sketched out by Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche in 1959 and it was intended to serve as the replacement for the company’s original 356 model.
Delivered to showrooms in early 1964, the car was originally going to be called the Porsche 901, but the German manufacturer had to make a quick change when French automaker Peugeot raise a fuss because it claimed a monopoly on using “0” in the middle of three numbers.
A year after the European launch, the first 911 reached the U.S., incidentally, going for a then-pricey $6,500. The base Porsche 911 Carrera model today carries an MSRP of $83,050. However, few motorists get out of the showroom for that price, Porsche traditionally making almost every feature an option that rapidly drives up the price.
And the 911 is really a family of variants, including models such as the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4S and the top-line turbo, with a base price of $138,450.
(Automakers hope to charge up models at Frankfurt. For more, Click Here.)
The 911 50th Anniversary Edition will be offered in two unique colors: light grey metallic and dark graphite. It will also feature a “two-tone 3D-effect” badge on the rear marking it a “911 50” edition. The front-drive model meanwhile shares the wider body Porsche otherwise reserves for all-wheel-drive 911 models. The anniversary edition will be available in the U.S. for $124,100.
Might the Porsche 911 make it to 75 and, perhaps 100? Considering all the tough new regulations facing the auto industry – especially those covering emissions and mileage – it will certainly be a challenge. But the maker has shown uncanny at adapting to technical hurdles.
Indeed, alongside the 911 50th anniversary model, Porsche is showing off the new 918 Spyder at the Frankfurt Motor Show. It’s an $845,000 plug-in hybrid supercar that can launch from 0 to 60 in just 3.1 seconds, but is rated at 78 mpg.
(Click Here to read about Porsche celebrating 50 years of 911.)
There was a time, incidentally, when the 911 was pretty much it for Porsche, but today, the maker offers a wide range of models including several that also caused quite a kerfuffle among traditionalists, the sport-utility Cayenne and the four-door Panamera.
But while the 911 is no longer the brand’s best-seller, it is the icon and generally rated the most popular of the German maker’s offerings. Indeed, in the 1999 international balloting for the Car of the Century, the Porsche 911 came in fifth – behind the Model T and the Volkswagen Beetle, which just happens to trace its own roots to the Porsche family.
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