50 Years of the World’s Greatest Sports Car: Porsche

In 1963 a small German car company introduced its second street model. It was called the 911, and 50 years later, Porsche's sports car continues to defy the odds as one of the most successful, popular, and adored vehicles of all time.
Everyone and their brothers are singing the praises of the 911 for its 50th birthday, and that includes photographer René Staud. He's released an 8-pound tome appropriately entitled The Porsche 911 Book, and the 320-page slab of everything 911 is a massive coffee table book that encapsulates the artistry and engineering of every 911 for the past five decades.
The 911 is the ultimate case study in evolution over revolution. The design and layout is the same 50 years on, which – if common sense reigned supreme – should have ended its life years ago. With an engine located behind the rear wheels, the original 911s were more than a handful for drivers at the limit. As the years went by, the engineers in Zuffenhausen subtracted weight, added turbos, attached giant wings, and created an icon. The car's reputation for wanting to switch ends was only eclipsed by its success on the track.
Just this past weekend Porsche celebrated its 100th class win at the grueling 24 Hours of LeMans. And for more than half of those wins, it was a 911 at the top of the heap. And that includes Sunday's victory.
But to be fair, the 911 RSR that took the win is a far cry from its ancestor above.
The original six-cylinder offering from Porsche was called the 901. It was a higher-powered model following the company's successful but slightly smaller 356. The French automaker Peugeot objected to the name, claiming rights to all car models with a zero in the middle. Porsche changed the 0 to a 1, and a legend was born.
With its design origins traced back to the original Volkswagen Beetle (also designed by Porsche), the 911 included a few options to make a civil sports car, including a pair of (very small) rear seats and enough room under the hood for golf clubs. The car was praised by the automobile press after its debut in 1963, but few could have imagined that the same basic design would be winning races and hearts a lifetime later.
Eventually Porsche added computers that could help with the workload, and by the mid-1980s the legendary 911 offspring were among the most technologically advanced cars on the planet. In the '90s Porsche modernized the Carrera with the addition of liquid cooling. Purists considered it the end of the icon, but the company went on to build world-beating performance cars that were better than ever. And the 911 continues to be at the front of sports car development despite the same general design unveiled to the public 50 years earlier.
The profile is basically the same and the engine still sits in the back. And in a pinch, you could almost swap the side windows between models that are separated by half a century.

By Jason Paur

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