Opinion: Should we stop obsessing about the Porsche 911’s past?

At the start of the month, to ‘celebrate’ April Fool’s Day, I convinced the rest of the Total 911 team that we needed to run a prank on the website. My idea, to pretend that Porsche Exclusive was about to start building air-cooled engines for current 991 Carreras, was humorously accepted.

Complete with a barely-believable image (courtesy of Photoshop) the faux article almost immediately became our most read story of the year. To date, it has had over five times the number of page views compared to our piece announcing the official launch of the Porsche 991 GT3 RS.

The latter was no doubt hampered by a drawn out gestation – during which we shot the car testing without camouflage – and a number of other websites breaking Porsche’s embargo by over 12 hours. Yet, even compared to our spy shots of the new 991.2’s interior, our joke proved 47 per cent more popular.

Did our April Fool's joke highlight a wave or errant nostalgia in many Porsche 911 fans?
Did our April Fool’s joke highlight a wave or errant nostalgia in many Porsche 911 fans?

Now, this got me thinking: are we – as Porsche 911 fans – too obsessed with the past? Has the charm and character of the air-cooled era blinkered us to the neunelfer joys that can still be had in a modern 911?

In recent editions of my opinion column, I have been accused of arbitrarily creating conflict. This is categorically untrue; I really do think the 964 Carrera is better than a 993 version, and that the 3.2 Carrera is overhyped. However, this time, I’m really not looking to start any arguments.

I’m genuinely a fence-sitter when it comes to this particular issue. Maybe we do become focussed on the past, maybe we don’t. All I know is that it’s a legitimate question to ask.

Classic 911s shouldn't be relegated to mere museum pieces. But nor should they be revered as the pinnacle of Porsche.
Classic 911s shouldn’t be relegated to mere museum pieces. But nor should they be revered as the pinnacle of Porsche.

Our April Fool’s Day prank got many people wishing for a return to the air-cooled era (according to our various social media comments) yet, by burying our hopes in Porsche’s past glories, are we not allowing ourselves to fully appreciate how impressive the latest generation of 911s truly are?

For example, in issue 114, I put an original 911S up against the current 991 Carrera S. It was a test filled with nostalgia and I couldn’t help but be overawed by the experience of driving a classic 911, complete with all its beautiful idiosyncrasies.

Yet, objectively, the 991 was a much more accomplished car: it was more comfortable, more spacious, more reliable, more economical, easier to drive, and, ultimately, faster.

The new Porsche 991 GT3 RS will be incredible, if people can look beyond the water-cooled engine and PDK gearbox.
The new Porsche 991 GT3 RS will be incredible, if people can look beyond the water-cooled engine and PDK gearbox.

That last point though works both ways. The latest 991 GT3 RS is a technological marvel, capable of lapping the Nordschleife at a phenomenal lick. However, on the road, its talents will, no doubt, be wasted unless you are travelling well above the speed limit.

By comparison, from a driving point of view, an original Porsche 911 Carrera 2.7 RS will provide plenty of thrill, all at a speed that won’t force you to hand over your licence at your local constabulary’s earliest convenience.

What I suppose I am saying is that all generations of Porsche 911 have their merits and pitfalls. Air-cooled or water-cooled, manual or PDK, we maybe need to look beyond our differences and objectively enjoy all 911s under the wider neunelfer umbrella. That way we can enjoy the past, present and future.

Do Porsche 911 fans fixate on the past? Is an air-cooled obsession healthy? Join the debate in the comments below, or head to our Facebook and Twitter pages now.

All generations of Porsche 911 can be appreciated for different aspects when behind the wheel.
All generations of Porsche 911 can be appreciated for different aspects when behind the wheel.

Comments (1)

  • Pablo

    Water is better coolant than air, but no doubt less “cool” for 911 collectors. The same for PDK, 996, electric steering or turbos. The eternal discussion of progress vs. tradition divides Porsche fans. We want new 911s to be faster, more efficient and lighter keeping the essential design and technology of a car design in the 60s. I’m afraid Porsche 911 customers could be the most conservative of the sports car universe! Imagine Ferrari still building the 275 with hydraulic steering and manual gearbox?