Fifty years ago the first Porsche 911 hit the streets. Its predecessor, the 356, had already established the Porsche marque as a superior sports car, but it was the 911 that propelled the company to the upper echelon of sports car manufacturers. Today, after 50 years of refinements, the Porsche 911s are still reliable daily drivers, even when they're pushed to their limits -- just as Ferdinand Porsche intended. Here are some of the ways this golden anniversary car has evolved since its inception, while still retaining the traditions of its past.
The Evolution of the Porsche
Introduced at the Frankfort Motor Show in 1963, the original Porsche 911, which had a top speed of 131 mph and 130 horsepower, was only a preview of what would be one of the most successful sports cars of all time. Breaking from the traditional sports car layout, Porsche designed the 911 with a rear-mounted, air-cooled engine and as much cutting-edge mechanical technology as could possibly be squeezed in. On the outside, its body could be described as having a clean fastback shape that looked more businesslike than the flowing body contours of its sports car rivals. Although over the years many improvements were made to the performance of the 911, as well as concessions to driver comforts, Porsche fundamentally remained true to its original concept. The car is a balance of practicality and agility, and even today, its rear-engine layout and silhouette has the unmistakable DNA of the first 911. This is not to say that Porsche didn't try other body styles. The 928 and 944, both front-engine cars, were introduced in 1977 and 1982, respectively, as apparent successors to the 911. However, both were eventually discontinued, since neither had the enduring appeal of the 911.
In its 50-year run, some of the more significant events in the Porsche 911 history are:
The 2013 Porsche 911
The latest Porsche 911 continues in the tradition of the original, only it is more refined, and much more powerful. The base model comes with 350 horsepower and a rated top speed of 179 mph. But, if you need even more of a thrill, you can get 475 horsepower by moving up to the GT3 model. The cockpit provides a broad array of creature comforts, but it is clearly designed with the serious driver in mind. Your first clue is the large centrally-located tachometer on the dashboard, and the much smaller speedometer positioned to the side.
You'll find that even with all its advanced gadgetry and power, the new cars are still capable of achieving one of the marque's core values - reliability. In a 2013 J.D. Power and Associates Dependability Study, the Porsche brand ranked second among all automakers, well above the industry average. This is particularly significant, since you would expect Porsche owners to test the limits of their cars more than typical drivers.
Porsche's New Supercar - the 918 Spyder
As part of the 50th year anniversary of the 911 celebration, Porsche announced that on September 18, 2013, it will begin production on a very special car, the 918 Spyder. This innovative hybrid will have dual electric motors, one to drive the front wheels and one to drive the rear wheels, as well as a V8 connected to the rear wheels. Combined, the three motors will generate more than 700 horsepower. With only 918 of these supercars being built, Porsche fans were quick to add their names to the waiting list, despite its price tag of $845,000. A classic even before going into production, the Porsche 918 Spyder is a major leap in technology, signaling a new direction for Porsche, and possibly the entire automotive world.