A truly special lifestyle
BY NADINE PELZER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 3 2016)
There are countless sports cars on the market, although for many people there is just one – the legendary Porsche 911. More than five decades have passed since the first model of the series was unveiled at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt. But the hype surrounding this car continues unabated.
The oldest son of Ferry Porsche, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, was responsible for the unmistakable shape of this iconic sports car. At the time, the remit was to develop a worthy successor to the Porsche 356, and it was his design that proved successful. With only two requirements – namely that the engine and the transmission had to be at the rear and the wheelbase had to be no longer than two metres – Ferdinand Alexander Porsche and his team created the Porsche 901, hence unknowingly laying the foundations for the tremendous and continuing success of this model. One year later, as a result of trademarks covering three-digit model names with a zero in the middle owned by Peugeot, the car was launched as the 911. This marked the birth of a legend with six cylinders, rear-fitted boxer engine, four seats and ignition to the left of the steering wheel. The rear engine design continued a classic construction principle that featured in earlier Porsche vehicles, such as the VW Käfer, and has persisted in virtually every 911 since.
What is surprising about this is the fact that the sleek elegance that so wonderfully reflected the vibe of the 1960s has managed to conquer hearts in every decade since then. Of course there have been external adjustments and constant further developments, and the performance of the engine has been consistently increased, but the traditional design has, thanks to just four heads of design over the years, remained unmistakable and unique to this very day. The timeless, classic shape of the original model is without doubt clearly tangible in each and every one of the continually improved 911 designs. Although there have been various body variants over the years – including the Coupé, the Cabriolet and the Targa – the original is and remains the number 1 for many. The Porsche 911’s long tradition is simply mesmerising. No sports car is as old or captivates more automobile fans and design aficionados across the globe. It is an object of desire, a myth and simultaneously an icon, whose stratospheric career has exceeded all expectations, both then and now. And: no other sports car has secured itself more race wins.
The most famous enthusiasts and owners of the car have included acting legends James Dean and Steve McQueen, as well as conductor Herbert von Karajan, to name but a few. We asked three self-confessed Porsche drivers of our times – actor Patrick Dempsey, racing driver Mark Webber and tennis pro Angelique Kerber – three questions about the icon.
What distinguishes the Porsche 911 from other sports cars?
PATRICK DEMPSEY: The Porsche 911 is iconic, accessible and reliable.
MARK WEBBER: Its timeless shape! The shape of the car hasn’t changed a huge amount in its 50 years, which is sensational to see. It’s always been a rear engine vehicle, so that’s a big statement as well. And it’s always been a very versatile car, whether as a beautiful street sports car or as a Rallye 959 at the Paris–Dakar. We’ve had so many versatile 911 stories that have made it an extremely powerful sports car decade after decade.
ANGELIQUE KERBER: The Porsche 911, regardless of which vintage, is instantly recognisable. This is down to the fact that its fundamental lines have not changed over the past 50 years. That makes it an icon. For me, there has always been something special about it, which is why it simply cannot be compared to other sports cars.
What can be compared to the feeling you have when driving the Porsche 911?
P. D.: It is exhilarating to drive a Porsche 911. Such a fun and thrilling experience. There is really nothing else like it.
M. W.: I love the seating position, you’re sitting quite low and your eyeline is low too, which is quite close to some of the racing cars I’ve driven. The 911 is a sports car that you can have different moods in. If you want to drive the car reasonably quickly on the road, it’s happy to do that or if you want to get the groceries or have your wife with you and go on a long trip – it’s the versatility of the car that gives you the feeling to be able to take on any type of trip or driving experience.
A. K.: Driving a Porsche always fills me with a sense of freedom. The sound of the Porsche 911 is fantastic and the performance impresses me again and again.
If you had three words to describe the Porsche 911 what would you say?
P. D.: Timeless, innovative, fulfilling.
M. W.: Versatile, timeless, tough.
A. K.: Sexy, icon, German engineering artistry. The Porsche 911 is, and remains, a car for all eternity.
Picture credits © Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG