Five-dial dashboard: A Porsche 911 history

Step inside a Porsche 911 and, whether it is from 1964 or 2014, one thing will have remained the same. Staring back at you from behind the steering wheel will be five dials mounted into the dashboard.

Appearing the largest, the rev counter will be centremost, with the other vital statistics being relayed via four other gauges whose diameters decrease as they move away from the centre. However, five has not always been the magic number.

The original pre-production Porsche 901 prototypes employed two dials, a rev counter and a speedometer. In a similar vein to the three-dial displays in the 356, the speedo featured inset oil temperature and pressure gauges.

Porsche 911 Carrera RS dashboard
By the time of the 911 Carrera 2.7 RS, the dials featured white numbers and a red needle. Lightweight RS examples didn’t feature the right-hand clock.

By the time the 901 went on sale to the general public in 1964 though, five chrome bezeled dials had been implemented, all featuring silver-white needles and the famous green markings.

From left to right these provided the driver with fuel and oil level, oil temperature and pressure, rev counter, speedometer, and a clock. Their first makeover came in 1968 with the introduction of red-orange needles, white markings, and black bezels.

As with many 911s intended for motorsport, the 1973 Porsche 911 Carrera RS Lightweight saw the right-hand-mounted clock deleted. Yet, apart from these specialist models, the five-dial pattern was retained unchanged for two decades.

Porsche 993 Turbo dashboard
White dial faces were an option by the time of the 993, as seen on this 993 Turbo. The number of warning lights had increased massively as a result on increased electronic involvement.

The 911 Turbo’s introduction saw a boost gauge inset into the rev counter in 1974 but, while the 993 of 1993 now saw white dial faces available (and a plethora of warning lights) the last air-cooled 911 remained a familiar place for Porsche drivers.

It wasn’t until the 996 rolled out that the dial layout radically changed. The rev counter was now the only fully-circular gauge (still mounted centrally). The far left pod relayed the battery voltage, while the speedo – including a digital readout – was switched to the left of the rev counter and now read in 25mph increments.

Water temperature (the first in a 911) and fuel level were amalgamated in pod four, with oil pressure on the far right. The 997’s layout was similar, bar the deletion of the voltage (it’s place being taken by the return of oil temperature).

Porsche 991 Carrera S dashboard
Fourth from the right, the digital display can relay a plethora of information to the driver in the current Porsche 991. The rev counter has remained central for half a century though.

The latest 991-Type Porsche 911 saw another major revision upon its release in 2011. Oil temperature was joined on the far left by oil pressure, while water temperature was combined with fuel level on the far right.

The greatest change was in pod four though, where a digital screen now resides, relaying a plethora of information, from the car’s vital statistics to a mini navigation screen.

To read the first instalment in our design icons series, our history of the Fuchs ‘five-leaf’ wheels is available here.

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