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Motoring: Porsche 911 - 1963

Love them or hate them, Porsche 911s are among the most iconic sports cars the world has ever seen. Perhaps that's due to their longevity; after all, the car has soldiered on in the same basic shape (with mechanical changes, of course) for five decades. Ferry Porsche, the son of Ferdinand Porsche who designed Adolph hitler's people's car (the Volkswagen Beetle), founded the Porsche factory in Austria. Ferry and his father quickly developed a beautiful sports car, the legendary 356 roadster, mainly using left-over beetle-parts. The car soon became very popular with the upper class. It had a sleek design and a strong boxer engine, which also proved to be of great use on the race tracks.

In 1963, Porsche introduced the 901. A completely new design, based on the 356. Originally named the "Type 7" during its prototype stage, Porsche had to change the name from 901 because Peugeot had a copyright on all three digit car model numbers with a zero in the middle; the 911 is born. The body of the car, which makes it so easy to recognize a 911, was designed by Ferdinand "Butzi" Porsche. The design is so well done that every line seems never ending and the car looks good from every angle. Reason for the Porsche team not to change the car's body very much in 30 years. When Lagaay, Porsche design director, was asked why they hadn't redesigned the new 911's door he simply answered; "it's a good door".

The 911 remains an enduring success in showroom and on roads and race courses worldwide. From its first entry Porsche s new 911 won its category in all the classic sports car endurance races. Class wins in the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans were followed by outright victory in the rugged Monte Carlo Rally in 1968. In 1973 the Brumos Porsche 911 RS driven by Jacksonville s Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood won a legendary upset victory in the 24 Hours of Daytona, defeating an international field of pure prototypes. The same year brought Porsche s 911 overall victories in the punishing 12 Hours of Sebring and the World Championship Targa Florio on the rugged mountain roads of Sicily.

Porsche 911 Targa

Throughout its lifetime, the 911 has been modified by private teams and by the factory itself for racing, rallying and other forms of automotive competition. It is among the most successful competition cars ever. In the mid-1970s, naturally aspirated 911 Carrera RSRs won major world championship sports car races such as Targa Florio, Daytona, Sebring and Nurburgring, even against prototypes. The 911-derived 935 turbo also won the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1979.

There is no other car that is so well built around and connected to its engine as the 911. The rear-placed six cylinder engine was air cooled and had a volume of 2.0 litres in 1964. It pulled the '64 911 from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. Very fast in those years. The 911 immediately did well on the race tracks and is ever since known for its outstanding performance in handling, acceleration and most of all braking. The car continued in production, virtually unchanged in its overall appearance, since its introduction in 1963, during which time it took over 30 forms!

After 34 years in production the famous air-cooled 911 was replaced by an all-new water-cooled model in 1998. Known as the Type 996, this car was a major leap for Porsche, although many of the traits that defined the 911 during past decades still remained. With the new model there was finally a newly designed bodyshell (all previous 911s being based on the original 1963 shell), however the overall look is still the same. As with the 993 before it the 996 was also a significant model, but mainly for the way it was conceived and designed, and the effect it had on Porsche during the 1990s.

In the 1999 international poll for the award of Car of the Century, the 911 came fifth. It is one of two in the top five that had remained continuously in production (the original Beetle remained in production until 2003), and was until 1998 the most successful surviving application of the air- (now water-) cooled opposed rear-engine layout pioneered by its original ancestor, the Volkswagen Beetle. It is one of the oldest sports coupe nameplates still in production, and 820,000 had been sold by the car's 50th anniversary in 2013.

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