De­sign icons

A fea­ture on the 911’s rear for more than 40 years, the rear re­flec­tor panel truly is a de­sign icon

Total 911 - - Contents -

We ex­plore why the rear re­flec­tor panel is so beloved by en­thu­si­asts

Porsche’s over­rid­ing ethos has very much been one of func­tion over form, and nowhere has that been more ev­i­dent than on the 911. that’s not to say that it didn’t ig­nore the value of ap­peal­ing aes­thet­ics, which ex­plains why the com­pany de­cided to gar­nish the rear of the ne­unelfer with a neatly styled re­flec­tor panel from 1974.

link­ing the rear light units, it brought a more co­he­sive look to an oth­er­wise un­used area of met­al­work, and em­bel­lished with that fa­mous Porsche script it soon be­came a trade­mark el­e­ment of the over­all de­sign. it would make its first ap­pear­ance on the 2.7-litre g-se­ries mod­els, mak­ing the rear of the car al­legedly more vis­i­ble at night. How­ever, it wouldn’t be long be­fore Porsche’s de­sire for con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment led the com­pany to make the panel more func­tional. Just a few years into car­rera 3.2 pro­duc­tion it had be­come the per­fect lo­ca­tion for the rear fog lamps, fi­nally do­ing away with sep­a­rate items hung rather un­tidily be­low the rear bumper, and the Porsche script was now red rather than the more con­trast­ing black.

With the 964 there was a chance to de­velop things fur­ther, this time see­ing the re­vers­ing lamps moved from the main rear light clus­ter to the outer edges of the panel, blended in to the red re­flec­tor. Hav­ing been a fea­ture for nigh-on two decades there was no need to mess with a suc­cess­ful recipe, the 993 main­tain­ing the look, but with its small, ob­long re­vers­ing lamps now more prom­i­nent, although its suc­ces­sor would mark a sig­nif­i­cant de­par­ture by do­ing away with it al­to­gether. Yes, the over­all look was cleaner, but it was cer­tainly missed, hence it’s much-wel­comed re­turn on the wide-bod­ied 996 c4s, where it was at­tached to the en­gine lid rather than the body­work be­neath. Af­ter a brief hia­tus with the 997.1 gen­er­a­tion, a slim­mer re­flec­tor panel re­turned for the 997.2 as a key de­sign trait of 4Wd car­rera mod­els, be­fore evolv­ing into a full-blown run­ning light on the 4Wd 991-gen­er­a­tion cars.

As an in­trin­sic part of the 911 for more than four decades, it re­mains a fo­cus of in­ter­est for en­thu­si­asts. in fact, it doesn’t take long to find en­tire fo­rum dis­cus­sions de­voted to it, which per­haps tells us all we need to know about this unique piece of Porsche de­sign.

“An in­trin­sic part of the 911… it re­mains a fo­cus of in­ter­est for en­thu­si­asts”

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