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.
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.