109 things we love about the 911
What is it that’s so appealing about the 911? Quite a lot actually! Here is the start of our rundown…
- When following a Turbo, the way the teardrop wing mirrors appear to sit neatly above the fat rear arches.
- The 911 Sport Classic roof humps. They’re almost too subtle to see, but the fact that Porsche went to the bother and expense of developing a unique roof for a limited edition car shows the company’s obsession with detail.
- The way the shape has evolved over the years but is still instantly recognisable as 911.
- The raised front wings that allow you to ‘point’ the car where you want to go. Such a shame they were lost with the 993.
- The side profile with upright windscreen pillars and the roof sweeping down and back from them.
- The curve of the rear side windows.
- The complex meeting of curves around a Turbo’s rear wheelarches.
- The low rear end, that squats down purposefully under hard acceleration.
- The 993 GT2’s bolt-on wheelarches.
- The fat rear end of a 997 Turbo Cabriolet. It should be all wrong but, somehow, it looks right.
- Impact bumpers. Introduced in 1974 to meet US safety requirements, these have distinctive rubber bellows on each side and went on to identify a generation of 911s, right up to 1989. A much neater solution than that offered by some other manufacturers at the time (we’re thinking MG).The 993 Carrera S’s engine cover lid. Only used in 1997, its vertical divider harks back to the 356 and helps create one of the best rear ends of any car, ever.
Wings and spoilers
- The ‘melted’ rear wing of a 993 Turbo S with its twin air intakes.
- The original Carrera 2.7 RS was the world’s first road car to be fitted with a rear spoiler. That neat ducktail was resurrected with the 997 Sport Classic of 2010.
- The original 911 Turbo’s whaletail, which later evolved into the chunkier ‘teatray’ to accommodate the intercooler.
- The lifting rear spoiler, which first appeared on the 964 to create downforce and aid engine cooling. Since the 996, the spoiler has become purely aerodynamic now the engine is watercooled.
- The wild rear wing of the 997 GT2 RS.
- The twin pillars that raise the rear wing of the 996 and 997 Turbo.
- The neat front lip spoiler, or air dam, first seen on the 911S of 1972.
- The distinctive flat-six wail.
- The sound of the fuel pump priming the engine at half ignition.
- The tick-tick sound that the cooling engine makes after a fast drive.
- The solid clunk of an air-cooled 911’s door closing.
- The rear spoiler dropping as you slow down.
- The over-engineered whirr and clunk of the sunroof opening and closing in an air-cooled 911.
- Sports exhaust system. An option on the 996; press a button on the dash and the exhaust note becomes gruffer and more exciting.
- The distinct lack of annoying squeaks and rattles.
- The aroma of hot oil filtering into the cabin via the heat exchangers.
- The unmistakable scent of burned clutch plate after an over-enthusiastic standing start.
- The smell of leather upholstery, and the way it changes with age.
- The waft of hot flat-six engine which, whether air- or water-cooled, is different to that of any other car.
In the driving seat
- The array of five dials in front of the steering wheel.
- The random placement of the switchgear before it was all tidied up with the 996.
- The centrally placed tachometer – right in front of your eyes.
- The over-the-top control knob for the 964’s rear spoiler when a switch would have sufficed.
- The position of the ignition switch, which dates back to the days of Le Mans starts, where the drivers ran to their cars, jumped in, and started the engines. This arrangement allowed the driver to start up with one hand, and select first gear with the other.
- Floor-mounted pedals on air-cooled 911s. Some people found these odd, which is one reason Porsche switched to conventional pendant pedals for the 996.
- The trio of big push-pull switches in the centre of the dash in pre-996 cars.
- The thin-rimmed steering wheel of air-cooled 911s. Legend has it that Porsche tried a thicker wheel for the 993 but decided it distracted from the ‘Porscheness’ of the car.
- The way the windows slowly but decisively open and close on older 911s.
- The 997’s cupholders. OK, you can argue that cupholders have no place in a 911 but if you’re going have them, the 997’s are beautifully engineered and a joy to operate.
- The bright so-called safety colours from the Seventies. Shades such as Blood Orange, Viper Green and Light Yellow, which look as good on new 911s as they do on classics.
- 997 GT3 RS colour combinations. Orange and black or green and black – here’s a car that’s not afraid to stand out.
- Polar Silver Metallic. Silver may be overused these days, but we like the bluish tinge of Polar over the more common Arctic Silver.
- 996 and 997 Turbos in black. The only acceptable colour for a Cabriolet, unless you’re a footballer’s wife.
- CanCan Red leather. Silver bodywork with a full proper red leather interior – not the brown mess that is Boxster Red.
- Red calipers. A peak of a big red through the wheel spokes is always a thrill.
- Yellow calipers – a sign that a 911 is fitted with ceramic brakes. The lack of brake dust on the wheels is another.Extras
- The wonderfully expensive option of a lightweight lithium-ion battery. Only Porsche would charge £1295 to save 10kg – brilliant!
- Sport Chrono; not for the timing gear, but for the Sport button which sharpens throttle response and makes PDK hold lower gears.
- Factory collection; flying over to Germany to be handed the keys to your new car at the factory, and then drive it home is the icing on the cake of Porsche purchase.
- The wonderfully expensive option of a lightweight lithium-ion battery. Only Porsche would charge £1295 to save 10kg – brilliant!Wheels of life
- The classic Fuchs forged alloy, which first appeared on the 911S in 1966 and went onto become a 911 trademark up until 1989. The design was resurrected in 2010 in the form of the 19-inch Sport Classic wheels, but you can’t beat the originals.
- Three-piece 18-inch Speedlines with their distinctive bolts. First seen on the super-rare 964 Turbo S of 1992, these became famous with the 964 Turbo 3.6.
- Cup Design wheels which first appeared in 1990 on the 964 Turbo and soon spread to the rest of the 964 range. They’ve gone to be a popular update for earlier 911s but only look right on 964s.
- Those Design90 wheels, that owners of early 964s were eager to discard, have now come back into favour – and quite right too.
- The spokes on a 996 Turbo wheel that were designed to suck cooling air into the brakes.
- The centre-locking wheel nuts, as found on the 997 Turbo S and GT3 RS 4.0, and an option on other models
- The rear seats that allow the kids (or the dog) to come along with mum and dad.
- The way the rear seats fold down to give additional storage space, both above and below.
- The capacious front boot, which always gets a exclamation from newcomers to the model.
- The hatchback rear window on 996 and 997 Targas, which gives handy access to the rear seats. Why doesn’t Porsche sell more Targas?
- The door pockets with lids that keep clutter out of sight.
- The way you can use almost any 911 as an everyday car, a grand tourer, and a trackday weapon.
- Up to 42mpg from a Gen2 997 Carrera with PDK. The combination of direct fuel injection and seven-speed transmission means you’ll struggle to get less than 30mpg, even when driving hard.
- The superb visibility, front and rear, which you just don’t get with other sports cars.
- They may be chunky but there’s something just right about the so-called elephant ear mirrors used from 1975 to 1992. They were the size they were to accommodate electric adjustment – then a newfangled luxury.
- Originally seen on the 964 Turbo of 1990, teardrop (or Cup) mirrors were fitted to all 964s from 1992, and to the 993 that followed. The styling continues to this day.
- The view of the air intakes you catch in the door mirrors of a 996 or 997 Turbo.
- The satisfaction of shifting a well-honed 915 gearbox.
- The astonishing speed a PDK transmission changes gear; 0.04 seconds to react and 0.5 seconds to change (or as little as 0.02 and 0.4 seconds if you engage Sports Plus). That’s fast.
- The ridiculousness of Launch Control, which is available when you combine PDK and Sport Chrono Package Plus.
- Kick-down with a Tiptronic. Who said autos were dull?
- The four-speed 930. Porsche argued you didn’t needany more gears, and it was right. The real reason, though, was that it felt the five-speed 915 wasn’t man enough.
- The headlamps are an integral part of a 911’s ‘face’. For a long time, upright, proud and round, Porsche offered us fashionable pop-up items on the flatnose in the Seventies, then flirted with 928-style retractable items for the super-rare 964 Turbo 3.6S of 1993. The 993 that followed soon managed a similar reclined look with fixed headlamps.
- Then the 996 came along with its controversial ‘fried egg’ lights with their integral indicators. In 2002 these were replaced by the more shapely items from the Turbo of the day. Both very different but very much part of the 911 story and we love them because of that.
- The 997 saw a return to tradition, or at least to the look of the 993, albeit with larger, more hi-tech lamps.
Checking the oil
- Always an occasion because of the dry sump and oil cooler. The engine has to be operating temperature and running, and the car on the level, before an accurate reading can be taken. More than once, people have got it wrong and ended up overfilling the engine.
- Petrol-filler cap
- On the front left wing up to 1997, when it moved across to the right, there’s something special about drawing up to a pump and lining it up with the front, not rear, of the car. Older Porsches have a beautifully archaic knob on the dash which, when pulled, pops open the cover with a satisfying clunk.
- Rear engine
- The position of the engine. Ferdinand Porsche liked rear-engined cars (he designed the Beetle, remember) because it gave good interior space. When his son made the first Porsche mid-engined, dad was quick to put him right, and the rest is history. Some say the engine is in the ‘wrong’ place but we say it’s in the right place for a 911. It’s what gives the car its unique handling characteristics.
- The chat
- The internet is full of Porsche forums, Facebook groups and Twitter feeds, with people chatting about their cars, asking questions and offering advice. All good natured and friendly.
- The look
- The way you just have to turn round and take one look back at a 911 after you’ve parked it.
- Turbo kick
- The excitement when the turbocharger kicks in while driving a classic 911 Turbo.
- Build quality
- The build quality of air-cooled 911s. We know that the new 911s are well made in their own way, but you can’t beat the solid feel of the older cars. Start taking one to pieces and you become aware of the over-engineered approach that Porsche took.
- Official Porsche Centres
All black, chrome and glass, as soon as you walk in, you’re made to feel special. The coffee’s good, too.
- The Porsche badge may seem redundant on something as recognisable as the 911 but it’s an essential part of the package. The badge appears on the steering wheel, bonnet, wheel centres, key fob and, if you so desire, embossed into the seat headrests. Designed by Ferry Porsche, it combines the crest of Baden Württemberg and the Stuttgart coat of arms (the town’s name is derived from ‘stud farm’, hence the prancing horse.
Ferdinand Porsche created the first hybrid car back in the early years of the 20th Century. The first Porsche car appeared in 1948 and that led to the 356 which, with its rear engine configuration, is the direct descendant of today’s 911.
- Once you’ve owned one 911, you’re hooked for life. We’ve heard it so many times when someone sells their 911: “I’ll have another one day.”
- Contrary to folklore, we’re not arrogant but, almost without exception, very friendly and keen to share our enthusiasm for the marque. It’s just a shame owners don’t acknowledge each other with a flash of the headlamps as much as they used to.
- Even in 1964, the 911’s air-cooled engine with its huge fan was an anachronism. Ferdinand Porsche opted for an air-cooled engine in the Volkswagen for its simplicity and reliability, and used a development of the same unit in the first Porsche, the 356, which eventually spawned the 911. Although called air-cooled, oil is also an integral part of the cooling system, with 911s having a front-mounted radiator through which the engine oil is pumped. The 911 moved to water-cooling in 1997.
- Some say the 911 has got too big over the years but, actually, it’s not grown that much, as the chart below shows. The changes in length to the air-cooled cars was down to different bumpers (impact bumpers added to the length). The big jump came with the all-new body of the 996 but that only added 185mm to the length. And the 997 that followed was slightly shorter.
Torsion bar suspension
- In a nod to its Volkswagen roots, the first 911 used torsion bar suspension. A torsion bar is essentially a spring that’s not coiled and is remarkably space efficient. As the suspension moves, so the bar twists. Unlike a coil spring, though, a torsion bar doesn’t bounce; it simply returns to its original position. However, torsion bars don’t give such a refined ride as coil springs so, from the 964 onwards, the 911 was equipped with conventional springs.
- The full-width rear reflector that appeared in 1974. Porsche dropped it when the 996 came along, but gave it back with the 996 Carrera 4S, which boasts one of the best-looking 911 rears. Today, it’s found – albeit in slimmed down form – on the current Carrera 4 and 4S.
- The direct and communicative steering and that light front end.
- The simple strap on that replaces the usual heavy door furniture is effective and a joy to use. You’ll find it in RS models from the 964 onwards.
- The badge was first used on a 911 in 1972, and initially was reserved for the top-end models. From 1984, though, it has been used on the standard 911s in the range, instead of a ‘911’ badge. Carrera is Spanish for race, by the way, and the name comes from the Carrera Panamericana; a road race through Mexico.
- The Porsche 911 has been with us 48 years and is showing no signs of disappearing any day soon. And that’s good news. It was almost killed off in the Seventies, when Porsche decided that the front-engined 928 should replace it. However, despite the 928’s obvious technical advances, buyers kept choosing the evergreen 911.
- The original 911 Turbo’s whaletail, which later evolved into the chunkier ‘teatray’ to accommodate the intercooler.
- Purists hate the idea of modified Porsches, but we like them. Whether it be a classic RSR lookalike or a mega-horsepower 997 Turbo, there’s a place for it in Total 911.
- From small one-man-bands to super-smart showrooms, the world is full of talented technicians helping keep 911s, old and new, on the road (or track).
The tool kit
- A set of tools in a leatherette roll is a lovely throwback to the days when drivers worked on their own cars.
- Porsche has long been involved in motorsport, and that experience trickles down to the road cars.
- With its roll-hoop this is gloriously retro, and a lot of fun on sunny days. The very first examples had vinyl rear windows, which only adds to the experience.
And a few things we dislike…
- Fingermarks on frameless windows – but that’s more a fault of passengers who insist on pushing the door closed with the window!
- The fact that 997 key fobs don’t have separate buttons for locking and unlocking. It’s easy to forget whether or not you have locked the car.
- The Sport Chrono dial should include a clock for the 99 per cent of the time you’re not using it for timing.
- The cabin heater controls on pre-1989 911s. Always confusing, never satisfactory.
- Having to pay extra for a rear wiper.
This was taken from issue 79, for all Total 911 back issues visit Imagine Shop