Why a million Porsche 911s can’t be wrong

Why a million Porsche 911s can’t be wrong

Why a million Porsche 911s can’t be wrong

0 comments 📅26 June 2017, 19:00

If you consider a few Porsches badged as 901s before Peugeot threw a fit at the Paris Auto Betray and forced the Germans to swap the zero for a one, a million 911s have rolled out of Stuttgart. There was no certify at the beginning that the 911 would be a success, the perennial fixture in the sportscar humankind as we know it today.

It’s laughable to think of now, when the 911’s the size of a mid-1990s Camry and the groundwork engine is a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter making a wholesome 365 horsepower, that the 356 mob got snobby about a little flat-six when it was new. Early critics also dinged it for unused weight. All that’s hard to relate to, considering how the 911 is now practically synonymous with the attainable belly, the safe yet perfectly exhilarating choice of both retiring dentists and Cup racers. And it’s noiseless got its engine hanging out behind its transaxle, somehow, despite Porsche’s insistence in all other aspects for determined, unbending progress.

And like an early short-wheelbase car in a rough mid-corner harmony, some bumps along the way nearly whipped the 911’s progress around. In the tardily 1960s, the 914 program was off to a rocky start as Volkswagen and Porsche bickered. The 911 was selling slowly. Things looked measure dire, and so Porsche cooked up the 928, a much more modern car that the party hoped would eventually replace the 911.

It didn’t, but it also didn’t cure the malaise that afflicted the 911. At reliable points, the 911 survived simply because it was the only thing the company built that made any wisdom, even if it didn’t from a corporate perspective. There were some alight spots, but Porsche flirted with disaster until a drastic shake-up in the 1990s saved the following from insolvency and irrelevancy, and also threw out a linchpin of the 911 formula.

The 996-crop 911 had an all-new chassis, the first since the 911’s introduction 34 years ahead. It ditched air-cooling for a blasphemous water-cooling system. And while it was built to a appraisal, immediately noticeable inside, it was a modern 911 built with a modern creation philosophy. It set the stage for the real saviors of the 911 that followed soon after: the Cayenne, and to a lesser scale the Boxster. Porsche’s SUV, whatever you thought of it, was a winner. The company never looked promote, and every 911 since then has improved drastically.

The combination of market volatility, regulatory headwinds, automatic intransigence, and ill luck should have done the 911 in. Instead, Porsche’s brought a mistress of ceremonies of 911s to Scotland for a triumphal march, with an Irish Green 911 out in face. The millionth 911 built, the culmination of the breed’s slow and halting evolution. It’s pleasurable.

I’m airing the 911’s dirty laundry, its low points and dynamically problematic layout, because the 911 at the end of the day thrived. In the present, every 911 is brilliant and it’s only a matter of picking the flavor you like most. But the 996 was a stout, imperfect break with the past – and it could have gone unluckily. Once on that course, Porsche steadily perfected the spirit of the 996. The current 991.2 cars sway not resemble the original 901 in much except engine layout, but it’s fair to say the 991.2 is the first-rate 996 you could imagine.

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  • Millionth Porsche 911
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Millionth Porsche 911 profile

  • Millionth Porsche 911
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Millionth Porsche 911 rear quarter

  • Millionth Porsche 911
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Millionth Porsche 911 front section

  • Millionth Porsche 911
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Millionth Porsche 911 side

  • Millionth Porsche 911
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Take the millionth car. It’s like a sleeker, exaggerated 996. The face is handsomer, more classic. The interior is improved beyond belief. Compared like in good to like, it’s faster and better-handling, and yet also massively more civilized. The rawness has been engineered out, trading some visceral feedback for much greater powerful competence and at the expense of growth, both in length and width.

And yet a lot has happened in between, and the 991.2’s all-all about competence actually puts the earlier car’s little foibles in a different light. And in the also hodgepodge clouds and sun of Scotland, from the Firth of Forth to the Isle of Skye, we romped in a symbolic sample of them all. It was a strange scene, but an enlightening one: a dozen cars representing all of the principal eras of 911 production, vastly different, and yet all 911s. The Scottish onlookers didn’t unreservedly know what to make of it, and for a time neither did I.

There were a few cars arrayed in face of Edinburgh castle the first morning that I was excited to get into: the 1967 911 Targa 2.0, the 1985 911 3.2 Clubsport, and the 1991 964 Turbo. And a few I wasn’t, like the 996 GT3, which I feigned would be too aggressive to be much fun on Scotland’s weedy little backroads. Figuring out how they coordinated to each other, and to my preconceptions, was going to tell me a lot about where the 911 has been and where it’s successful.

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  • 1967 Porsche 911 Targa
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1967 Porsche 911 Targa raise quarter

  • 1967 Porsche 911 Targa
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1967 Porsche 911 Targa net profit

  • 1967 Porsche 911 Targa
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1967 Porsche 911 Targa top

  • 1967 Porsche 911 Targa
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1967 Porsche 911 Targa engine clothe

  • 1967 Porsche 911 Targa
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The revelations came thick and fast. The little early 911, a balmy-window Targa that seemed more like a mechanical ladybug than any species of serious sportscar, for one. Any early 2000s economy car could get the drop on a quick 1960s car, and I’ve driven inappropriate 911s in which the gearbox is a like rowing through a bowl of pudding with a 10-foot spike, except less precise. Expectations were low.

And then, between the buzzy pygmy Targa and clear road ahead, a maddeningly slow car emerged. Taking a reflect around, I saw a gap, mashed the odd floor-hinged accelerator, and was considering praying before realizing the Targa was incredibly clear. The low-spec car’s 130-horsepower 2.0-liter doesn’t sound formidable on paper, but it’s a flat-six, and the Targa weighs barely 2,400 pounds. Imagine an initially Miata with an extra 400cc, perfectly dialed-in carbs, and a couple supplement cylinders. There’s no problem keeping up with, or slinging past, modern traffic. And the gearbox is a joy, with desire but positive throws and clean engagement.

You sit up high in the Targa, on low-back buckets. It’s a serene position, and it gives you time to take in the surroundings. With the rear window zipped up but the top off, it’s unagitated enough inside to chat amid the pleasing scents of hot motor oil, rich assortment, and old leather. And there’s a lot of body motion but it’s not frenetic. Like a Labrador after a ball, it bounds wide, tongue hanging out, pleased as punch to be put to a task. I expected to love it, but not for it to be so engaging, or spirited. I could drive it all day, but there are more cars to get into.

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  • 2016 Porsche 911 R
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2016 Porsche 911 R front

  • 2016 Porsche 911 R
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2016 Porsche 911 R castle

  • 2016 Porsche 911 R
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2016 Porsche 911 R detail

  • 2016 Porsche 911 R
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2016 Porsche 911 R angle

  • 2016 Porsche 911 R
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And what a contrast to the modern 911 R, too. That’s really what I started the day in. With the number of cars and drivers, there was zero certainty of being able to string together a chronological procession, so I went from new to elderly, and then did everything in between. The era-swapping highlighted the deliberateness of the 911 R. Every touchpoint, every govern, every sound the thing made (and with a single-mass flywheel and antisocial use up, it made a racket), the snick of the shifter – you could ferret out the care and contemplating that went into making everything feel just so. The 911 R strutted, postured, moved in unfriendly little motions like a nervous gangster, but the careful consideration that calibrated each journal aspect of the car’s bravado meant nothing felt accidental. To use the trying jargon of our patch, it’s an expertly curated experience.

The early 911s – the Targa in particular, but also the Carrera 3.2 Clubsport – judge less deliberate. It’s as if there was a smaller budget of energy with which to superlative it, so Porsche spent all of it on what was considered outright performance in those innocent days. A German repairman’s esoteric hot-rod, if you will. There are raw edges, unusual controls that require nonlinear motions. Inscrutable switchgear appears to org been thrown blindly at the dashboard, rooting wherever it landed. The steering at on pre-996 cars is exceptionally close to the upright windshield. There aren’t multifarious cars anymore, new Porsches included, which require any acclimation time after hopping backwards to figure out how to operate the major controls. Whether it’s the heater knobs or what correctly to do when passing around a bumpy, wet corner, the older cars require some far-sightedness.

All of these rare Carrera Clubsports were raw and stripped down, but this one’s an first prototype. It’s got the characteristic pin-striped seats, which are ludicrously comfortable, but all sorts of odd touches that didn’t carry over to the less-extreme “production” run of not too hundred CSs: The three-gauge cluster, and ultra-lightweight bumpers. I heard rumor that it wears striptease, lightweight body panels. The rear seat is, of course, deleted, meaning there’s less between me and the grainy, massaged 3.2-liter flat-six.

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  • 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport
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1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport face quarter

  • 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport
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1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport right front

  • 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport
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1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport hand front

  • 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport
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1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport rear

  • 1985 Porsche 911 Carrera Clubsport
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I expected it to feel nearly as airy on its feet as the early Targa, except with loads more control and a ferocious air-cooled bite. Instead, it takes a certain deliberateness to move the fixation down the road. The brakes take a shove, with short travel, and the machine’s slow to rev compared to, say, the 911 R and its redline-blitzing single-mass flywheel. It’s fun and entirely involving, very satisfying to get right, but it thickly underlines the effortlessness of the 991.

As the day progresses, the 911s cut down my expectations stretch and time again. After an overnight, a second day of driving leads to Knockhill Outline in Fife, less than an hour north of Edinburgh. There, a few flavors of GT3 are there for us to sample on footpath, and a GT2 RS for the brave. Knockhill’s a technical course for the UK, with lots of elevation, and it’s longer than most other tracks during there. That being said, compared to Laguna Seca or Infineon, it’s fun but pu. The GT3s eat it up and ask for more, while I challenge myself finding second gear with my fist hand in the midst of heavy braking and throttle blipping. Then, it’s a few minutes of awe as a pubescent race driver tries to scramble my brain with a 911 Cup car. The dynamic extremes of the 911 befit vivid on nearly cooked slicks headed up a blind, uphill chicane.

Another American and myself are the closing to leave, so we have longer to play with the cars that are left. After the GT3 involvement on the track, I snagged the keys to the 996 GT3 and decided to test the most concrete of my prejudices so far. The 996 is as much an albatross as the 911’s always had, anyways. I’d heard rumblings of its uncouthness all day, jackhammering over the rough roads. “The snatch is awful, hard as hell to push,” I hear. The day before, two lucky bastards had driven it in a ferocious downpour. They had a 50-mile stare going on when they emerged at the pension, pale-faced and silent. I slid into the fixed-back buckets and glanced at the spring. Might as well have been from an early 1990s Chrysler minivan. Compressed plastic, garish shapes. “I’m going to hate this,” I told myself.

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  • Porsche 911 GT3 996
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Porsche 911 GT3 996 contour

  • Porsche 911 GT3 996
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Porsche 911 GT3 996 face quarter

  • Porsche 911 GT3 996
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Porsche 911 GT3 996 fa side

  • Porsche 911 GT3 996
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Porsche 911 GT3 996 group specifically

  • Porsche 911 GT3 996
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And then the Mezger locomotive lit. 3.6 liters, it thrummed and whirred at idle. With more, it yowled. The car writhed underneath me, the wheel danced in my hands. Entire lot was searingly immediate and completely analog. Sure, it was stiff enough to scramble the GoPro footage I was shooting, and the snag a grasp at needed a shove, but it gripped as hard as it bounced me around. Or I enjoyed the punishment – it’s unyielding to tell. It was a bit overwhelming, both because of how well it all worked and how wrong I’d been far it.

As I was trying to think of a way to spirit it out of the country, I saw something disturbing. The millionth 911, in unmistakable Irish Immature, was being loaded onto the truck. It was the last car I needed to drive, and had been out on loops the complete day. Everyone wanted their turn in the milestone car, and it looked like I’d missed my conceivability while falling madly in love with the last car I’d expect. Luckily, Porsche’s car wranglers dug acutely into their seemingly bottomless well of patience and got the car unloaded, setting me unrestricted on the picturesque roads next to the track.

Fundamentally, the millionth car isn’t all that much extraordinary than a typical Carrera S you can buy today. Sure, it has some lovely heritage touches: the unconventional badging, the green-illuminated gauges, the houndstooth inserts, and the deep Irish Unripe paint. But what’s important is that it’s still powered by a flat-six engine, mounted behind the transaxle, and has that pre-eminent profile. The millionth car could have been perfectly normal, without any uncommon touches, and would have a deeper meaning.

After all, the 911’s success was not guaranteed. It’s persisted, and evolved, in annoy of (or because of) a stubborn insistence on engine placement, on seating arrangements, on attitude. Driving this grouping of Porsches, and some I didn’t have space to mention here, makes it effortless to spot the remarkable breadth of character these cars exude. But driving this grassy car down the same roads the ’67 Targa has bounded down earlier, there’s a commonality that defies the open-handed gulf. I could see the same buyer choosing either a vintage or modern 911; what they’d get would be completely different, but the appeal is universal. The 991.2 cars have gained refinement and hearten at the expense of immediacy, but the performance envelope has also increased drastically. And vice versa.

Take off for the sliders to one direction on the enthusiast scale, and you get the breathtaking 911 R. The other, and you get the lively, charismatic belt of a tiny flat-six. The thing is, you can measure them on the same scale, despite the 911’s ball with obsolescence and disaster along the way. The triumph of the 911 is that within the massive spectrum of how the idea’s been implemented there’s an ingrained character that retains its preternaturalism.

Our minds are hard-wired to impose structure on random events, creating myths to neatly disclose chaos. It’d be easy to dismantle the mythos of the continual evolution of the 911, the unbroken people between 901 and 991.2, with some arbitrary parameters. But myths as a rule hide in the hazy mists of several generations back. I’ve traveled through interval and driven a sample of them all, and I can tell you, it’s no legend. The 911 is alive and well.

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