The Porsche 911 celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2013 and, after the Corvette, it’s the sports car that has been in continuous production the longest. Here are a few little-known facts about the famous sports car:
- It wasn’t originally supposed to be known as the 911: When the car was introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, it was actually called the 901. The French automaker Peugeot objected and argued that it held a trademark of digit-zero-digit model designations. Not wishing to fight over it, Porsche changed the car’s name to the 911 although a few early examples were built with the 901 badge. For many years, though, 911 parts numbers began with “901.”
- Porsche was going to kill it: By the late 1970s, it looked as though the rear-engine/air-cooled concept had thoroughly run its course, and Porsche planned to replace the 911 with the front-engine water-cooled V-8 928. The car was still a good seller, and Porsche fans and employees alike were horrified at the notion of it going away. Porsche’s U.S.-born then-CEO Peter Schutz decreed that the car would live on and be continuously improved. Schutz saved the 911.
- It can bite back. Hard: The rear-engine configuration of the 911 means that much of the car’s weight is located behind the rear axle. Like a clock pendulum, when the rear tires become unloaded from weight shifting forward (usually by braking or abruptly lifting off the gas when going too fast in a corner), the car can spin without warning. The old joke is that the reason 911s have rearview mirrors is so the driver can see where he is headed before spinning. Later models tamed this trait and in newer models it is essentially gone. Click here to watch our 1981 Porsche 911 SC Ride Along!
- Porsche will paint it any color you want: Porsche has always been a low-volume manufacturer that would happily cater to the whims of its clientele via its “special wish” department. Porsche would happily paint a new 911 any color supplied by the owner. These so-called “paint to sample” 911s are often sought after by collectors.
- It had an identical twin brother: Early in the 911’s life (1965-69 and again in 1976), it had an identical twin known as the 912. The 912 was Porsche’s entry-level car that substituted a four-cylinder engine of lower horsepower for the signature 911 flat-six. It’s been nearly forgotten by all but die-hard Porsche fans.