Source: Porsche
Source: Porsche

Mighty, Cute: The Colorful History of the Best-Selling Porsche 911

As the brand celebrates it’s millionth version of the iconic model, a look back at how much 911 has changed—and how much has remained the same.

In Manhattan on Tuesday, Porsche will hold a big party to celebrate the one millionth Porsche 911 ever built.

That specific car, a bespoke Irish Green Carrera S rolled off the line back in May. But since then it has toured the world before finally landing in New York, where it will be joined by some of the stars of the decades-old series.

It’s fitting that Porsche has put so much effort into lauding such a best-seller. Along with a few other names you might recognize—the Ford Mustang, the Chevrolet Corvette—it’s one of the iconic models that has existed, uninterrupted, since the early 1960s.

Porsche first debuted the car under the name Type 901 in September 1963. It was to serve as a replacement for the adorable and successful Porsche 356; the first versions were sold as 1964 model years. They came with a streamlined roof and low hood, two doors, and an air-cooled, flat, six-cylinder rear-engine. At the time, they cost just under $6,000 brand-new, without options. (By comparison, a base '65 Chevrolet Corvette coupe cost $4,321.) 

Prices now range from $91,100 for a base Porsche Carrera 911 to more than $293,000 for the new 911 GT2 RS. Most come in paddle-shifting PDK form, though the more exhilarating manual option still abounds for discerning drivers. And it still has that tiny back seat, perfect for a valise but not an actual human.

At its height, Porsche was making more than 38,000 globally per year, with two-thirds of all those ever built still on the road today, according to Porsche. Known internally to Porsche as the 991, the 911 has been Porsche’s best-selling sports car since it debuted.

Here are some of the most important ones from over the years.

All in the Family
All in the Family

Porsche sold 32,409 911 units globally in 2016, up 2 percent compared to 2015 worldwide. All 911s have been produced in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany, since 1963. 

The 911 is now in its seventh generation, even tighter with the road, faster, and more dynamic than the one that debuted in 1963. It is one of the most winning cars in history, dominating race tracks for decades, from Daytona to Le Mans. 

This photo shows 40 years of the 911, including the anniversary model of the 996 generation at the front of the group. 

Source: Porsche

1965 Porsche 911
1965 Porsche 911

The very first 911, shown here, debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963; Porsche called it the Type 901 but changed the name for market launch in 1964.

The air-cooled, flat-six engine delivered 130 horsepower, enough for a top speed of 130 miles per hour.

Ferdinand Anton Ernst "Ferry" Porsche’s son, Ferdinand Alexander, designed the fastback coupé with 2+2 seating arrangement from as early as 1962 under that "Type 901" code name. The design became an enormous and surprising success for F.A. Porsche, who was just 27 years old. 

Source: Porsche

1967 911 Targa
1967 911 Targa

Porsche put the 911 Targa into production in the fall of 1966 as a '67 model. The Targa had a foldable top from the roll-bar forward and a soft canvas cover with a flexible plastic window that could be unzipped from the car and removed.

The first Targas didn’t work well: The tops leaked and there wasn’t much visibility. Plus, the rear “windows” quickly yellowed when exposed to the sun. But it got better, and now it’s one of the most unique 911 options you can buy.

Source: Porsche

1975 911 Turbo
1975 911 Turbo

The 911 Turbo, also known as the 930, was the first 911 to offer a turbocharged engine. It was also recognizable by its fixed rear spoiler. 

(Just a few years before, in 1970, Steve McQueen produced and starred in Le Mans. His dark green 911 S is basically the only thing you see for the first two minutes of the film.)

What's more, the original 911s also used air-cooled technology; all of those made since the 996 generation are water-cooled. Modern 911s now come in turbocharged and all-wheel-drive versions, as well as the traditional rear-wheel drive.

Source: Porsche

1984 911 Carrera 3.2
1984 911 Carrera 3.2

For the 1984 model year, Porsche engineers gave the 911 a full update. This generation was built over a longer period than any other 911 series and featured significant improvements in safety, comfort, and environmental friendliness.

For example, safety belts became standard, the seats had integrated head restraints, and the striking bumpers complied with the latest safety requirements.

The One Millionth Porsche 911 celebration in New York will include a panel of “leading design minds,” Porsche says, along with a commemoration of many of the historic Porsche 911 series model, such as this one from the '80s.

Source: Porsche

1993 911 Carrera RS America
1993 911 Carrera RS America

Porsche built the 911 RS America to celebrate 20 years of the 1973 Carrera RS. It was built specifically for the North American market and first shown at the Detroit Auto Show in January 1992.

The car was special because it had larger wheels and tires, a bigger sway bar, stiffer springs and shocks, and a stunningly large rear spoiler. It also had an MSRP of $53,900.

The Carrera RS America came with a 247hp, 3.6-liter flat-six engine like the Carrera 2; it could hit 60mph in 5.4 seconds.

Source: Porsche

1993 911 Turbo S Lightweight
1993 911 Turbo S Lightweight

The 911 Turbo S Lightweight used an uprated version of the 911 Turbo's 3.3 liter engine for a total of 381 horsepower. Power windows, power locks, air-conditioning, and power-adjustable seats were all omitted from the car to make it even lighter. Porsche used lightweight fiberglass-reinforced carbon composite body panels in the front trunk lid, the doors, and the rear spoiler. Special glass was also used in the rear and side windows.

Lightweight bucket seats were installed; rear seats and sound insulation were removed. The Turbo S weighed 180 kilograms less than the regular 911 Turbo (1,290 kilos) and was capable of a top speed of 180mph. Unfortunately, it was never sold in North America.

The most notable thing about this edition is that it was the last 911 built with an air-cooled engine—it ended its run in 1998. 

Source: Porsche

1997 911 Targa
1997 911 Targa

A new feature of the 911 Targa of the 993 generation was the electric sunroof that slid back, behind the rear window. It was very cool. But the car also had the integral parts that make 911 unmistakable, such as the five round instrument dials set behind the steering wheel.

While most luxury cars now use a push button start located somewhere to the right of the driver, Porsche has set its turn-key ignition—uniquely—to the left of the steering wheel.

Source: Porsche

1999 911 GT3
1999 911 GT3

The famous and expensive 911 GT3 was based on the "911 Cup" racing car that year. It had a big, fixed rear wing, aerodynamically optimized front fascia, more pronounced door sills, and 18-inch Sport Design alloy wheels.

It had Porsche's naturally aspirated 360hp, flat-six engine, too, which set impressive times at the Nuerburgring racetrack. The model is intended mainly for racing—not road—use. 

Source: Porsche

2004 911 GT3 RS
2004 911 GT3 RS

The 2004 911 GT3 RS is a homologation model; it was certified road legal, as required by FIA rules of the era, which required Porsche to build at least 200 of them.

It was instantly recognizable for its painted wheels and stripes, which could be ordered in blue or red, and paid homage to the 1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7.

The 911 GT3 RS was never sold in North America, and they're very expensive to collect. Earlier this year at an RM Sotheby's auction in Paris, a 2004 version sold for 392,000 euros ($462,344).

Source: Porsche

2018 911 GT2 RS
2018 911 GT2 RS

The new 911 GT2 RS is the most powerful road-legal 911 ever built. It has 700 horsepower and can hit 60mph in 2.7 seconds. Top speed is 211mph.

It also has all the best components Porsche can offer, with Porsche Ceramic Composite Brakes and lightweight Bi-Xenon main headlights.

The seven-speed PDK transmission is engineered to have very short, succinct gearshifts, and a special PDK SPORT mode offers "extremely dynamic" gear changes, according to Porsche. Examples easily peak above $300,000 once you add options and upgrades. 

Source: Porsche

No. 1 Million
No. 1 Million

Porsche built 911 No. 1,000,000 in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Germany, on May 11, 2017. (The 1,000,000 number includes the 912, 934 and

935 models sold, too.) 

As mentioned above, the car pays homage to the first-generation 911, with an Irish Green exterior color, houndstooth seats, wood interior trim, and a manual gearbox.

This car is currently on a world tour (making its stop in New York tonight) before finally parking for good at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. 

Source: Porsche