The Leg­end Lives On

Porsche 911 clocks up its one mil­lionth car with an epic Scot­tish road trip that re­minds us why it’s so well loved. Rad­i­cal when it was first pro­duced, the 911 is still a model of con­stant in­no­va­tion.

Bespoke - - PORSCHE 911 -

It’s not very of­ten a car mu­seum wheels its finest ex­hibits out the door, throws you the keys and says: “Here you go. Have fun!” In fact, it’s not even a com­mon oc­cur­rence for us ca­reer mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ists. How­ever, the Porsche Mu­seum re­cently handed me and a small se­lec­tion of other au­to­mo­tive hacks from around the globe what amounted to an early Christ­mas present, lay­ing on a road trip through the Scot­tish High­lands in some of the finest ‘toys’ in its col­lec­tion. It wasn’t a ran­dom ges­ture though, as the event was con­ceived to cel­e­brate the pro­duc­tion of the one-mil­lionth ex­am­ple of the Ger­man brand’s iconic 911 sportscar. The mile­stone ve­hi­cle – an ‘Ir­ish Green’ Car­rera S – is a spe­cial one-off that’s re­plete with ex­tra fea­tures that pay trib­ute to the 1963 orig­i­nal, and among these are satin sil­ver mir­rors and door han­dles, a wooden steer­ing wheel, green­back­lit di­als, hound­stooth up­hol­stery, gold badges and 20-inch Car­rera Sport rims. Now, in case you’re al­ready reach­ing for that cheque­book, I should point out the one-mil­lionth 911 isn’t for sale, as it’s des­tined for the Porsche Mu­seum once it’s com­pleted a hand­ful of ad­di­tional road trips around the world. The Scot­tish ex­cur­sion that this Be­spoke scribe took part in fea­tured not only the mile­stone car, but also a se­lec­tion of the most sig­nif­i­cant 911 mod­els that have rolled out of the Zuf­fen­hausen fac­tory over the past 50 years. It was lit­er­ally a 911 smor­gas­bord that, when cou­pled with the stun­ning back­drop of the Scot­tish High­lands, made for a once-in-al­ife­time ex­pe­ri­ence. Although the 911 has been usurped (sub­stan­tially so) by the Cayenne and Ma­can SUVS in terms of sales vol­umes, it re­mains Porsche’s poster child and is still seen as the face of the hal­lowed brand. Part of its for­mi­da­ble legacy is down to the fact that more than half of Porsche’s 30,000 mo­tor­sport wins over the years have been notched up by var­i­ous ver­sions of the 911. The 911 is among the most en­dur­ing sportscar name­plates, with only the Mercedes SL (dat­ing back to 1954) and Chevro­let Corvette (since 1953) pre­ced­ing it. The dif­fer­ence is that whereas to­day’s ver­sion of the Merc and Chevy bear very lit­tle re­sem­blance to their fore­fa­thers, in the Porsche’s case there is a clear evo­lu­tion­ary link to the orig­i­nal. The spirit of the 911 is elo­quently

ex­pressed by Dr. Wolf­gang Porsche, Chair­man of the Su­per­vi­sory Board at Porsche and part of the de­vel­op­ment of the 911 since day one: “Fifty-four years ago I was able to take my first trips over the Gross­glock­ner High Alpine Road with my fa­ther. The feel­ing of be­ing in a 911 is just as en­joy­able now as it was then. That’s be­cause the 911 has en­sured that the core val­ues of our brand are as vi­sion­ary to­day as they were in the first Porsche 356/1 from 1948”. The ba­sic for­mat of the 911 – with its round-eyed face, bul­bous der­riere and flat-six en­gine slung aft of the rear axle – has been faith­fully car­ried through, but the tail-happy char­ac­ter­is­tics of early 911s have been tamed to such an ex­tent that to­day’s ver­sion is as fool-proof at the limit as any front- or mid-en­gined sportscar. That’s be­cause the 911’s life­span has been marked by steady in­cre­men­tal evo­lu­tion, and among the sig­nif­i­cant mile­stones was the 1975 in­tro­duc­tion of the Turbo flag­ship, which was one of the fastest pro­duc­tion cars in its day. In 1989 came the first all-wheel-drive 911, the 964-based Car­rera 4. How­ever, the re­vi­sion that caused the big­gest rum­blings among Porschep­hiles was the in­tro­duc­tion of wa­ter-cool­ing (in the 1997 997) in lieu of the chat­ter­ing air­cooled for­mat that had served the 911 so well since its in­cep­tion. While it may not have ini­tially pleased the purists, the wa­ter­cooled con­fig­u­ra­tion fa­cil­i­tated an en­gine re­design that in­cluded a four-valve-per­cylin­der lay­out, bring­ing with it higher spe­cific power out­puts, along with vastly im­proved econ­omy and re­fine­ment lev­els. Other techno mile­stones since then in­cluded Vari­able Tur­bine Ge­om­e­try (VTG) in the 2005 997 Turbo, in­cor­po­rat­ing mov­able vanes that op­ti­mised air­flow across the tur­bine blades at low revs to min­imise turbo lag. The up­dated ver­sion of the 997 (which launched in 2009) ush­ered in the PDK (Porsche Dop­pelkup­plung) dual-clutch gear­box in lieu of the Tip­tronic auto that pre­ceded it. These and a myr­iad of other sub­tle im­prove­ments over the years have kept the 911 at the fore­front of the sportscar genre and en­sured its con­tin­ued pop­u­lar­ity de­spite the on­slaught of not only its Ital­ian ri­vals, but also up­starts such as the Nis­san GT-R, Audi R8, As­ton Martin V8 Van­tage and Mercedes SLS AMG and AMG GT. In 2016 alone, 32,365 ex­am­ples of the 911 were de­liv­ered world­wide. But un­doubt­edly the ul­ti­mate en­dorse­ment of the 911’s dura­bil­ity is the fact that over 70 per cent of all the cars ever built are still drive­able to­day. And – as I can now con­firm af­ter the Scot­tish road trip – not only are they drive­able, each it­er­a­tion through the ages still puts a big smile on your face.

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