The car that started the 911 phenomenon
The car that started it all off back in 1964 (when production started; a prototype appeared in 1963) may seem dated today, but it set the style for all 911s to follow. Developed eventually to replace the 356, the 911 was an all-new design that was better all round than its predecessor.
At the heart of the 911 was a brand-new 1991cc engine with six horizontally opposed cylinders (the 356 had only four), an all-alloy construction and single chain-driven overhead camshaft per cylinder bank. Like the 356 unit, it was primarily air-cooled.
Each cylinder head was an individual assembly with hollow, sodium-filled exhaust valves to aid cooling. The cylinder barrels themselves were made of cast-iron but with aluminium fins sleeved over.
Cooling was aided by a huge single fan which blew air into a large plastic cowling atop the engine. The fan was belt-driven from the crankshaft, and this also drove the alternator, which was neatly housed inside the fan.
The first cars had an array of Solex carburettors which, in theory, were efficient because there was one choke per cylinder. In reality, though, it was hard to keep them all in tune, so Porsche replaced them with a pair of Weber 40 IDA triple-choke units from February 1966.
These first engines produced a respectable (for the time) 130bhp at a heady 6100rpm. This power went through a new Type 901 five-speed, all-synchromesh gearbox located in front of the engine between the rear seats.
The bodyshell, too, was new. It was designed to be a two-plus-two with rear seats for children, plus space for luggage. In other words, it was to be a practical sports car. It looked good, too, with the timeless lines penned by Ferdinand ‘Butzi’ Porsche. It was a modern design incorporating a monocoque bodyshell that was, for its day, considered very aerodynamic.
The windows had chromed brass frames and the front and rear quarter lights could be opened to improve ventilation.
The interior was also to set the style for 911s to follow. The dash featured five dials, with the all-important tachometer right in front of the driver, with two smaller dials on each side. The simple low-backed front seats were simple affairs (although separate headrests could be added), while in the rear were a pair of small seats which could be folded down to create a luggage shelf – a feature that continued throughout the 911’s development.
Today, these very early 911s are rare, but remain a desirable classic car. However, unless you have a particular desire to get one of the first, there is a lot to be said for choosing a slightly younger model – a lot of development went on in those early years.
Compression ratio: 9.0:1
Maximum power: 130bhp at 6100rpm
Maximum torque: 173Nm at 4200rpm
Brakes: Front: 282mm discs; rear: 290mm discs
Suspension: MacPherson struts with telescopic dampers and 19mm torsion bar springs; Trailing wishbones with telescopic dampers and transverse 23mm torsion bar
Wheels & tyres: Front: 15×4.5J with 165HR tyres. Rear: 15×4.5J with 165HR tyres