The legendary Porsche 911 has come a long way from its beginnings in 1963. The German manufacturer is currently selling the eighth generation of the 911, referred to as the 992.
There have been countless variants of the 911 throughout the years, including convertibles, Targas, Turbos, and crazy RS models that paid homage to the automaker’s motorsport heritage. Porsche produced over one million 911s and the car has become one of the most widely-recognized sports cars in the entire world.
Porsche 901 — The Birth Of A 911
In September 1963, Porsche unveiled the 901, its successor to the 356 (the brand’s previous flagship model), at the Frankfurt Motor Show. In the following months, the German manufacturer managed to build 82 units in total. The car was then presented at the Paris Auto Salon in October 1964. That’s when the problems began.
French automaker Peugeot claimed rights to the 901’s name, as it has had a long history of three-digit model names with a zero in the middle. Porsche was forced to find a new name for their sports car and have decided to replace the zero with a one, creating the first-ever 911.
912 — A Cheaper Alternative To The 911
When Porsche ceased production of the 356 in 1965, its engine was placed in the newly-unveiled Porsche 912. It was less powerful than the air-cooled 2-liter flat-six mounted in the 911.
The 912 was released as a cheaper alternative to the 911, therefore it had a smaller, less powerful engine, a 1.6-liter with 4 cylinders. It was air-cooled and mounted in the rear, just like the 911. The car was only produced for four years between 1965 and 1969, though it made a small comeback in the ’70s as the 912E.
The Targa — Safer Than A Convertible
Porsche first introduced the Targa in 1965. The German manufacturer wanted to release a convertible, though there were fears that it wouldn’t meet the US safety requirements. For this very reason, Porsche developed the Targa, a top with a removable roof panel between the windshield and a protective roll bar. It was believed to be a lot safer than a traditional convertible, while still giving the driver a refreshing open-air experience.
It wasn’t until 1983 when Porsche first unveiled a traditional convertible, teased by a concept shown in 1981. The Targa legacy has continued on to the seventh 911 generation and is expected to make a return for the latest 992.
The 911 Gained Power In The Late ’60s
Porsche introduced the 911S, a more powerful version of the 911, in 1966. The S had 30 horsepower more than the regular 911, as well as improved brakes and Fuchs wheels that were lighter than the standard ones.
The base 911 received a larger 2.2-liter engine in 1969. It was internally referred to as the C-series. The increase in power along with a rear-mounted engine made handling near the limit rather tricky. Therefore Porsche had decided to slightly increase the wheelbase and push back the rear wheels by 2.3 inches. It did not affect the overall length of the car. The D and E series gained even more power and had better handling.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7
The 911 Carrera RS 2.7 was unveiled in 1973. It was the most powerful 911 at the time, and even its name suggests it. RS stands for Rennsport, which translates to race sport. It was also the first time since the 356 that Porsche had decided to use the Carrera name, a tribute to Porsche’s countless victories at the Carrera Panamericana races in the 1950s.
The RS was developed with motorsport in mind. Powered by a 2.7L flat-six, it had stiffer suspension than the regular 911 and an iconic ducktail wing. Porsche built 1580 units in total, all of which qualified for the FIA Group 4 racing class.
A New RS Came Just A Year Later
In 1974, Porsche updated the Carrera RS. It came with a 3-liter engine and offered better racing capabilities than the 2.7 version. The automaker also used thinner metal plates, reducing the weight by almost 400 pounds.
That same year, Porsche decided to bump up the displacement in the regular 911 up to 2.7 liters. The ’74 model also saw an exterior upgrade with front and rear impact bumpers. Such special bumpers had to be put into place to meet the US safety regulations.
The first turbocharged 911 had been in development from 1972 and was released in 1975, internally referred to as the 930 Turbo. It featured a powerful 3-liter turbocharged engine making 260 horsepower. Initially, the car was manufactured so that Porsche could qualify for the 1976 FIA racing season, but it soon became a hit among consumers and car enthusiasts.
At the time of its debut, the 930 Turbo was the fastest production car available in all of Germany. The car was immensely fast but also difficult to drive. The relatively short wheelbase made the Turbo prone to oversteer and turbo lag, making it hard to control. It was nicknamed the Widowmaker.
Even More Power In The Late 1970s
Porsche updated its first-ever Turbo in 1978 by introducing a larger, more powerful 3.3-liter engine. The manufacturer also added a large air-to-air intercooler that required the car’s iconic whale-tail to be replaced by a new “tea-tray” wing. The changes paid off, as the 930 3.3 Turbo peaked at 296 horsepower.
The base 911 model received a bigger, 3-liter engine in 1978, just a few years after the introduction of the 2.7-liter, due to its higher reliability and better potential for tuning. This updated model was named the 911SC, which stands for Super Carrera.
There was a very successful Porsche racecar between 1976 and 1981, the Porsche 935. In 1982, the co-owner of Tag-Heuer (Swiss luxury watches) commissioned Porsche to develop one road-legal version of the 935. The one-off was based on a 911 930, but it shared some parts with the 935 racecar, such as its suspension.
The one-off road-legal 935 gained tons of popularity, and from 1986 onward Porsche started selling a similar version to the public as a special order. It was named the 930 “Flachbau” (Slantnose/Flatnose in German), a regular 911 930 with a completely redesigned front end as well as pop-up headlights. Only 984 of them were built!
The Reincarnation Of The Carrera
The 3.0-liter engine in the 911SC was replaced in 1984. The updated 1984 model had a 3.2-liter that Porsche claimed was 80% new. It was named the Carrera, reviving the legendary name that has been absent since 1977. The 3.2 Carrera was more powerful and had stronger brakes.
1984 was the last year of major changes to this generation of the Porsche 911. The updated Carreras made over 230 horsepower and accelerated to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds.
The Revolutionary Third Generation Of The 911
1989 was a revolutionary year for the 911. The third generation was introduced, called the 964. It included technologies from the Porsche 959 and was the first 911 with 4-wheel-drive, proving Porsche’s advancements in engineering. It was named the Carrera 4. The “tea-tray” wing was replaced with a high-tech spoiler that only deployed at a certain speed, preserving the clean exterior styling.
The 964 was also the first 911 that featured ABS and power steering. It was powered by a 3.6-liter flat-six, traditionally air-cooled and rear-mounted. Its features made the 964 the most modern 911 at the time, lightyears ahead of the second generation.
The Tiptronic Was A Game Changer in 1990
Porsche surprised the automotive world when they released the Tiptronic transmission in 1990. It was a true game-changer and was fitted in the Carrera 2, which had an RWD-drivetrain.
The Tiptronic transmission was ahead of its time. It was an automatic gearbox but the driver was able to control the gears, as opposed to the car’s computer automatically picking the best gear. It gave the driver a manual-like experience with full control of the gears combined with the comfort of an automatic gearbox. Tiptronic transmissions have been popular ever since, and are still present in modern Porsche models.
The Turbo Makes A Comeback
Right after releasing the Tiptronic transmission in 1990, Porsche unveiled the turbocharged version of the 964 the same year. Turbo models between 1990 and 1992 used the same 3.3-liter engine that could be found in the previous generation Turbo. In 1992, the Turbo engine was upgraded to a bigger 3.6 liter, the same that powered the base model at the time.
The 964 Turbo, both 3.3L and 3.6L versions, was scarily fast for their time. The 3.3L that originated from the 930 made 315 horsepower! Two years later, the Turbocharged 3.6L Carrera engine had over 350 horsepower sent just to the rear wheels.
The Ultra-Rare Turbo S
1992 saw the release of one of the most valuable and sought-after 911s in history, the 911 964 Turbo S. Only 86 of them were made. It is currently so rare that it is hard to believe its market value, which can vary a lot depending on the particular unit. One 964 Turbo S sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in Paris in 2017 for almost a million dollars!
The S was a modified version of the regular Turbo. The Turbo S made 376 horsepower, 50 more than the standard Turbo. It also had little to no comfort features and a lowered stance. The Turbo S was designed purely with performance in mind.
The 1992 964 Carrera RS
The Carrera RS was revived by Porsche in 1992, after a 19-year-long absence on the market. A year later, the German automaker developed a special RS America for the North American market, releasing 701 units. They updated the RS America in 1994., It had fitted rear seats and was a lot rarer, with just 84 units.
The 964 Carrera RS and RS America were the ultimate road-legal third-generation 911 you could get. They had a stripped-down interior and had just four factory options: a limited-slip differential, air conditioning, a sunroof, and a stereo. The interior even lacked door handles and had a pull strap instead!
Porsche 993 — The Last Air-Cooled 911
The fourth generation of the Porsche 911 was unveiled in 1994, a completely new car, both inside and out. Internally referred to as the 993, Some Porsche enthusiasts call it “the last real 911,” as it was the last generation that featured an air-cooled engine.
Porsche’s rapid advancements in engineering were clearly visible all around the 993. For instance, it had a brand-new rear suspension that dramatically improved the car’s handling, as the previous generations were infamous for their tendency to oversteer at full throttle or during heavy braking. The 993’s styling has changed as well; the car got more aerodynamic and had modern front and rear ends.
The First Twin-Turbo 911
The 993 Turbo was released in 1995 and was an immediate hit. Wonder why? For starters, it was the first 911 in history that was powered by twin turbochargers. Its 3.6-liter engine made 400 horsepower. It was also the first Turbo that featured all-wheel-drive that was taken out of the Porsche 959.
Furthermore, the 993 Turbo’s exterior was very different from the base models. It had wider fenders, giving it a fantastic, aggressive stance, as well as a massive “whale-tail” wing and redesigned bumpers. There was no way to mistake it for a regular 993.
The New Retractable Targa
The 993 Targa was introduced in 1996. Unlike the previous Targas, this one had an innovative roof design that was carried on to the following generations. It featured a large glass panel that would automatically retract, as opposed to the removable roof panel that was mounted on previous generations.
Sadly, the 993 Targa was later discovered to be problematic. The heavy roof mechanism had a negative impact on the car’s weight and handling and turned out to be unreliable. Less than 5,000 units were produced. Today, the Targa sky-rocketed in value and is a very desired collectible.
Another Return of The RS
The Carrera RS returned one last time for the 993. It was a lightweight version of the 993 Carrera powered by a 3.8-liter flat-six. Like the previous versions of the RS, it was a lot more spartan than a regular 911. Porsche engineers aimed to save weight, so this model came with no rear seats, no headlight washers, minimal soundproofing, and special racing seats.
As if that wasn’t crazy enough, Porsche released the RS Clubsport (or RSR), a track-oriented version of the RS. It came with a welded roll cage and didn’t even have carpet to save weight. It was legal in Europe, but not the US.
A Racecar For The Road, The 993 GT2
Porsche built the 993 GT2, based on the 993 Turbo, in order to compete in the FIA GT2 motorsport class. The FIA, however, has banned AWD drivetrains in this league. This is the reason why the German manufacturer had to fit rear-wheel-drive on the 993 GT2.
The GT2’s interior was similar to that of the Carrera RS, meaning practically all of its comfort features were removed to save weight. In effect, the 993 GT2 was a twin-turbo RWD monster making almost 450 horsepower. Just 57 road-legal units were constructed, making it a very valuable gem in any automobile collection today.
The “Fried Egg”
The fifth-generation, type 996, was the most controversial 911 to ever come out of Zuffenhausen. It was largely criticized due to its redesigned interior, exterior styling (parts of which the 996 shared with an entry-level Porsche Boxster), its headlights resembled fried eggs, and of course, the fact that it was the first water-cooled 911.
The 996 came in over a dozen different variants. In 2002, four years after the generation’s debut, it underwent slight changes. Most noticeably, the headlights were fitted with clear lenses in order to be more distinguishable from the entry-level Boxster.
A year after the debut of the 996, in 1999, Porsche unveiled their first-ever 911 GT3, a road-legal version of the GT3 class racecar. The concept behind the car was similar to that of the 1973 Carrera RS — it was supposed to be focused on exceptional performance and handling.
Similarly to the Carrera RS, The 996 GT3’s comfort features were minimized. The car’s rear seats were thrown out for weight reduction, it had thinner windows than a regular 996, and a suspension tuned for handling rather than comfort. Its engine was taken straight out of the 1998 Porsche GT1 Racecar.
The Turbocharged 996
2000 saw the premiere of the 996 Turbo. It used the same Le Mans-winning GT1 engine as the GT3, but it also received twin turbochargers. The Turbo was fitted with different headlights than the Carrera, along with a rear spoiler and updated bumpers. The Turbo was only available in all-wheel-drive.
At first, the 996 Turbo made 415 horsepower. In 2002, however, Porsche released a special X50 package for the Turbo. It increased the power to 444 horsepower. It could sprint to 60 miles per hour in 3.9 seconds with the X50 package and had a top speed of 189 mph.
The 996 GT2 was engineered mainly as a road car, as opposed to the previous generation GT2s. Unlike the 996 GT3, the GT2 had a twin-turbo engine producing 456 horsepower in the first units, later increased to 476 in the newer units. Similarly to the GT3, The GT2 had different styling than the lower models. It came with wider fenders, a slightly redesigned nose, and different bumpers.
The 996 GT2 was praised for its lack of turbo-lag, which had been a major issue with Porsche’s older turbocharged engines.
The New Face Of The Carrera RS
Porsche caused a stir when the new, ultimate track-oriented 996 was released in 2003. It was the most hardcore 911 you could get at a time, even crazier than the 996 GT3. The German manufacturer decided to call it the 996.2 GT3 RS instead of the Carrera RS, as it was based on the GT3 and not the regular Carrera model.
The GT3 RS was as wild as a 911 could get. It had a carbon hood, ceramic brakes reinforced with carbon fiber and a rear wing that produced 77lb of downforce at 125mph. It was not sold in the US.
The Turbo Sport
With the new 911 generation on the horizon, Porsche decided to release the 996 Turbo S in 2005. It was offered as a coupe or cabriolet and had a limited production run of just 1,500 units in total.
The 996 Turbo S was essentially the 996 Turbo with the X50 package included as standard. It was pretty much the same as the Turbo, except it was more limited and was fitted with ceramic brakes, a 6-disc CD changer, and a slightly upgraded interior trim. These days, the Turbo S is favored by collectors and costs upwards of $60,000.
The Birth Of The Sixth Generation
After receiving lots of criticism for the fifth generation, Porsche went back to the older 911’s for inspiration. The sixth-generation, internally called the 997, shared less than a third of its parts with the 996. The “fried egg” headlights were replaced by a more traditional, bug-eye design. The 997 was released in 2005.
Initially, there were two base models available: The RWD Carrera and the Carrera S. The Carrera had a 3.6L engine that generated 320 horsepower, while the Carrera S came with a larger 3.8L that made 350hp. Some time later, Porsche released the 997 in AWD, Turbo and Targa variants.
2007 997.1 GT3
Praised as “The best handling car in America” by Motor Trend magazine, the 997 GT3 made its debut in 2007, two years after the launch of the sixth generation. It was the first GT3 to feature PASM, a track-oriented active suspension system that could electronically adjust the suspension.
Walter Röhrl, Porsche’s test driver and legendary rally driver, lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in just 7 minutes 42 seconds in the 997 GT3. Porsche claimed a 0-60 sprint in 4.1 seconds, though various sources tested that in reality, it could reach that speed in just 3.8 seconds.
2007 997.1 GT3 RS
Porsche released the second generation of the GT3 RS in late 2006 in Europe and 2007 in North America. Similarly to the previous GT3 RS model, the 997.1 GT3 RS was lighter than the regular GT3 and more race-oriented. The car’s larger rear wing also improved cornering but had a negative effect on the RS’s top speed.
Porsche made sure there was no way to mistake the GT3 for the ultimate GT3 RS. The automaker introduced two new colors (RS Green and RS Orange), especially for the GT3 RS. The European version of the RS even came with a factory-installed roll cage. A total of 1,168 units were produced.
The GT2 Makes A Return
The GT2 version of the 997 generation made its debut in 2007 alongside the GT3 and GT3 RS. The GT2 was powered by a 3.6L boosted with twin turbochargers, unlike the naturally-aspirated GT3 and GT3 RS. It was Porsche’s third production car that could exceed 200mph. It sprinted to 60mph in as quick as 3.3 seconds during independent tests.
Porsche’s design team made sure the GT2 was easy to distinguish from its base car, the 997 Turbo. The GT2 was fitted with a brand new wing, shark fin outlets in the rear and a titanium exhaust. The GT2’s production numbers remain a secret, but only 194 units were sold in the US.
Seventh Generation? Not yet
The 997 underwent a major facelift in 2009. Rather than releasing the seventh generation of the 911, Porsche decided to update its current model across all variants. The facelifted models are internally named the 997.2.
The major change in the updated 997 was the introduction of Porsche’s PDK gearbox. The PDK was a groundbreaking, dual-clutch automatic transmission that was, and still is, the fastest Porsche gearbox. The facelift also featured a brand new direct-injection system that improved the 911’s performance.
997.2 GT3 RS 3.8
Along with the introduction of the PDK transmission, Porsche updated the base 997 Carrera as well as the GT3, GT3 RS, Targa, and Turbo models. The 997.2 GT3 RS came with a bigger, 3.8L flat-six that generated a whopping 450 horsepower.
Various journalists across the globe praised the updated GT3 RS for its exceptional performance. A road-legal 997.2 GT3 RS was slightly modified to compete in the famous 12 Hours of Nurburgring race in 2011. Although the GT3 RS did not win the race, it was driven to and from the race, proving its reliability.
The Turbocharged RS
In mid-2010, Porsche announced the first generation of the GT2 RS (pictured on the right), a crazy track-oriented variant of the 997 GT2. It made 612 horsepower from the GT2’s 3.6L twin-turbo engine along with 516 pound-feet of torque. On top of that, it was 154 pounds lighter than the regular GT2, enabling it to reach 205mph.
Some Porsche enthusiasts call the 997 GT2 RS the last true widowmaker, referring to the 930 Turbo which originally gained the frightening nickname. The first-ever GT2 RS remains a rare gem, with just 500 units produced in total. It is well on its way to becoming a modern classic.
997.2 GT3 RS 4.0
The final version of the 997.2 GT3 RS was released in 2011. It was fitted with a 4-liter flat-six, which is the largest engine ever put in a production 911.
The 997.2 GT3 RS 4.0 was the most advanced RS at the time. Its design was influenced by the previous RS models as well as the GT2 RS, and it also shared some parts with the Porsche RSR racecar. The RS 4.0 would peak at 493 horsepower, making it one of the most powerful six-cylinder engines in any production car ever. The GT3 RS 4.0 was limited to just 600 units.
The Seventh Generation
The Seventh Generation, Type 991 (the numbering can get confusing at this point), was released in 2012. Built on an entirely new platform, the 991 doesn’t have much in common with the previous 997.
The 991 was the first 911 built mainly from aluminum and not steel and the first in the entire industry to feature a 7-speed manual gearbox. It was fitted with electromechanical power steering, as opposed to the previous generations that had hydraulic power steering. The 991 came with a torque vectoring system that improved handling by braking the inner wheel when cornering. It was an extra option on the Carrera and a standard feature of the Carrera S.
991 Turbo S
Porsche made headlines when the seventh generation 911 Turbo S was released in 2013 alongside the 991 Turbo. Both the Turbo and the Turbo S shared the same 3.8L flat-six engine.
The Turbo S came fitted with Porsche’s dual-clutch PDK transmission, rear-wheel steering and, you guessed it, two powerful turbochargers. The 991 Turbo S peaked at 552 horsepower. Porsche claimed it could hit 60mph in 3.1 seconds, but independent tests later showed some units could reach it in less than 2.7 seconds, making it one of the fastest sports cars ever.
991 GT3 RS
The legacy of the Rennsport continued to the seventh generation of the 911. The 991 GT3 RS was released in 2016. It came with a 4L flat-six that made 500 horsepower.
The 991 GT3 RS had brand new intakes on each side, a massive spoiler and a roof made from magnesium. It also came with full bucket seats (inspired by the ones in the Porsche 918 hypercar), a factory-installed roll cage and pull straps instead of door handles in order to save weight. As crazy as it was, Porsche wasn’t done with the RS just yet.
991.2 GT2 RS
After the 991’s facelift in 2017 (post-facelift models internally named the 991.2), Porsche unveiled the second-ever GT2 RS in 2018. Unlike the previous generation, the 991.2 GT2 RS wasn’t based on a 991 GT2, as that model was never created. Instead, it came only in the RS variant. And it was wilder than any other 911.
It’s powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.8L flat-six that makes 690 horsepower sent just to the rear wheels! Its hood, front and rear spoilers, and many other elements are made from carbon fiber. The weight reduction paid off, as the car completed a lap around the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 6 minutes 47 seconds, beating every other production car at the time.
The eighth generation of the Porsche 911 was unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2018. It is internally named the 992. Its styling has been changed to look more up-to-date. The 992 has aluminum body panels and larger exhaust tips than the 991. The rear lights have been replaced by a full-length light bar.
Surprisingly, during the initial launch Porsche only unveiled the Carrera S and 4S, both powered by a twin-turbo 3L flat-six. The base model Carrera and Carrera 4 were unveiled in 2019, and are powered by the same engine.
The Future Of The 911
With just eight variants unveiled so far (Carrera, Carrera 4, Carrera S, Carrera 4S and a cabriolet version of each) there are lots of speculations regarding the future of the 992.
Will we see the comeback of the GT3 RS? The 992 GT3 has already been spied testing in Germany. Porsche fanatics caught a glimpse of the 992 GT3 in the automaker’s 2020 Superbowl commercial. The car is rumored to be powered by a naturally-aspirated 4-liter flat-six that will rev higher than 9000rpm, based on the engines currently used in the GT3 racing class. Porsche should unveil the GT3 relatively soon, as the car is due in the second half of 2020. Keep your eyes wide open!