One of the most famous and recognizable sports cars of all time.
The story of the Porsche 911 could be seen as having started all the way back in 1939, the year after the introduction of the Volkswagen Beetle. Porsche had built three copies of the Type 64 (also known as the VW Aerocoupe), a heavily modified version of the Beetle, to participate in a race which never ended up happening. Not much happened in the world of automobiles over the next few years, as WWII would get underway, and factories were converting for manufacturing machinery for the war effort.
But afterwards, the idea of a fast version of the Beetle was born, and it was Dr. Ferdinand Porsche's son (also named Ferdinand) who created the first fast production car based on the Beetle. This was the Porsche 356, the first model of the newly-formed company. This was only a few years after the war, and manufacturing was still difficult. From 1948 to 1950, Porsche was only able to build 50 cars. But the continued to gain popularity through the 50's, despite being fairly expensive (around $36,000 in today's money) when compared to the vehicle it was based on.
By the beginning of the sixties, Porsche knew that they would need a bigger and more powerful model in order to stay competitive. From this thought, the 911 was born, and even though Porsche has occasionally thought to try to replace it, the 911 has held on and continues to sell in huge numbers all over the world. Though the 911 was a completely new design, it retained the rear-engine layout of the 356, as well as the boxer configuration for the air-cooled engine, although here it was enlarged to a 2.0-liter six-cylinder. The design this time went to yet another man named Ferdinand Porsche, in this case the grandson of the Beetle's designer.
The engine produced just 130 horsepower, although this would be increased after just a couple years. It debuted at the 1963 Frankfurt Auto Show, and it would be only a few years before it had already developed the kind of confusing range of models we're familiar with today. The name was originally going to be 901, but Peugeot was able to block this, on the grounds that they had the exclusive right to use models numbers with three-digit number with a 0 in the middle. Absurd as this may sound, their original claim was that they held the patent on all three-digit model names, but this didn't hold up in court.
Technically, this ruling would only have affected cars sold in France, but Porsche decided it would be easier to just change the name for all markets. The end of the 356 model run in 1965 would lead to a weird 911 offshoot, known as the 912. This was basically a 911 in every way except the engine, which was the 1.6-liter unit out of the 356. This model would actually outsell the 911 for several years before Porsche finally came out with the 911T, a less-powerful six-cylinder version of the 911 to slot into the 912's place. Porsche would then cancel the 912 in 1969. Engine displacement would grow to 2.2 liters is 1969 and then 2.4 liters in 1971.
These engines would also receive mechanical fuel injection for all models except the entry-level 911T in all markets except the US, where the 911T got it as well. Porsche began taking a more serious look at handling for this generation as well, since the combination of high power output and rear engine design was starting to make for some dangerous driving. Big improvements were made, although the 911 continues to have a reputation for being unkind to novices to this day. From this series of 911 would evolve what is perhaps best of all classic 911s, the 1973-74 Carrera RS.
The Carrera name comes from the Carrera Panamericana races in Mexico, where Porsche had enjoyed a good deal of success in the Fifties. It was a name which had been applied to certain 356 models as well. This was essentially a homologation model, and only 1580 were produced, although this was several times the number required. The engine was enlarged to 2.7 liters, and it now produced 210 horsepower. The suspension and brakes were greatly improved, but overall weight was trimmed to 2,370lbs.
These would evolve into the Carrera RS 3.0 in 1974, and a racing version of this, the Carrera RSR Turbo, would mark the beginning of Porsche's involvement with turbochaged cars, and a road version would be out later that year. The 2.7-liter engine was slightly detuned and used as the standard 911 engine after 1974. 911 sales were stating to slow down by this time, as were sales of anything that went fast, and Porsche was starting to wonder if they might be able to do better with a new model. The next almost two decades would see the 911's biggest rival coming from the same factory.