The Porsche 911 is one of the most well-known cars in the world. For some people, it’s a dream car. For others, it’s just a cool ride they see on the street. Hell, even your grandma would probably recognize a 911 if she saw one. This rear-engined sports car has risen to fame with performance rivalling that of a supercar and it’s signature circular headlight style. Who wouldn’t want one?
Well, if you’re seriously looking for your own 911, make sure you check out our buyer’s guide to figure out exactly which version is right for you! In this article, we’ve put together a list of 10 surprising facts about the Porsche 911 that you probably didn’t know!
It’s Only Made in One Place
Stuttgart, Germany is home to both Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, two of the most respected carmakers in the world. The 911 has only ever been made in one factory, in a section of Stuttgart called Zuffenhausen, which is almost as fun to say as the 911 is to drive.
This factory is known for its precision and hand-picked employees. While Aston Martin takes days to hand-build their Vantage and DB11 in Gaydon, the well-oiled Porsche factory in Stuttgart can bang out as many as 110 examples of the 911 in a day. Insane.
If that surprises you, you should know that the Porsche factory would have been producing zero 911’s if it weren’t for all us enthusiasts!
It Was Almost Cancelled
With Porsche having recently announced that there would be a 2021 model of the 911, we can thank our lucky stars that this cult classic didn’t get cancelled. That’s right, in the 1980’s, Porsche was seeing a decline in 911 sales and decided to go a more traditional route.
The 928, considered a bit of a bastard child in the brand’s history, was engineered with its front-engine layout and meaty V8 to be an eventual replacement for the 911 Carrera. But enthusiasts and dealers both flipped out, and said there’s no way that Porsche could cancel a car that had such a strong cult following.
This meant the 911 stayed and the 928 was sold alongside it, but Porsche continued to work on and further develop the 911. And while the 928 got chopped from the lineup in 1995, the 911’s still going strong today!
And while we’re all glad that the super unique 911 is still alive, it’s got some major similarities with a car that you might not expect.
It Was Inspired by the Beetle
We’ve all seen the similarities between the pedigreed 911 and the People’s Car. Of course, the Volkswagen Beetle had an interesting history with a certain little-mustached man. And while we’re happy to say that the 911 was never a Nazi car, the two definitely share some design traits.
That curved, round coupe design, the round headlights, and of course, the air-cooled engines mounted in the back behind the rear axle are all qualities that both cars share. Of course, air-cooled engines went away with time, but both the 911 and the VW Beetle were designed by Ferdinand Porsche, who’s considered the father of the brand.
Although Ferdinand Porsche had the final say on the 911’s design, you might be surprised who actually drew up the original plans.
Porsche’s Son Was Originally in Charge
When the 911 was first being developed, Porsche put the founder’s son, Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, in charge of styling the first generation. It still was reviewed by his father with a fine-toothed comb, but Butzi did a lot of the penning and designing that went into the first 911.
As a result, a lot of those classic design traits that are still used on today’s 911 are the work of Ferdinand Porsche’s son. My dad barely even let me drive his car, let alone design one!
So now you know how the original design for the 911 came about, but do you know how the name came to be?
Originally Not Called the 911
911 is such a cool name. North Americans associate it with the emergency number you dial, and that has resulted in tons of slightly-funny-but-slightly-concerning vanity plates like “CALL 911” or “DIAL 911”. We like to think the number chosen for its name has a lot to do with the car’s popularity, and how easily it rolls off the tongue today, but it wasn’t always supposed to be called the 911.
Porsche originally wanted to call this car the 901 in 1963, but French automaker Peugeot had a little something to say about that. You see, Peugeot has a trademark on three-digit names with zero in the middle. They still use those names today, with popular models over the years like 404 and 607.
Porsche had to change the name to 911 to avoid lawyering up against Peugeot, but I’d say it worked out in their favor, especially when you consider how well they’ve sold. The 911 has hit some serious milestones in terms of popularity.
It’s the Most Popular Sports Car Ever
The 911 remains the most popular mass-produced sports car in the world of all time. That’s no easy feat. And to celebrate, Porsche sent the millionth 911, a beautiful green example, off the line in 2017 on a world tour, where fans everywhere got to see it and appreciate a milestone in this car’s long history.
With production having started in 1964, no other mass-produced high-end sports car has been met with so much real world success. Cars like the Mazda Miata have seen over a million sales, but it doesn’t even come close to the quality offered by the 911. The 911 outsells similarly priced models like the Audi R8 and Aston Martin Vantage over and over, year after year.
And while the 911 has consistently been a hot commodity, all models were not created equal.
991 Was the Biggest Redesign Ever
So, the 911 is now in its 7th generation over 56 years of production. The 7th generation car, called the 992, was introduced last year, but it’s by no means the most significant model ever produced. The 6th generation car was called the 991, and was the biggest redesign ever.
As always, the styling was more of an evolution than a revolution, but the technology behind the 991 was a serious upgrade. It was the first Carrera to get an all-aluminum chassis making it much lighter. The 991 also was the first full generation to get the PDK dual-clutch transmission that’s an industry benchmark to this day. Notice I said full generation. The 997.2 came with a PDK, but that was the second half of the 997 generation. The 991 also came with Porsche’s magical torque vectoring system.
On the downside, the 991 was the first 911 to get an electric power steering system replacing the hydraulic one, which lost some of the driving engagement. When the 991 was facelifted in 2016, it also was the first 911 to give up its naturally-aspirated flat six-cylinder engine for turbocharged units. It’s a better performer overall, but was kind of lacking the pure experience of driving a 911.
The 996 wasn’t the only model that was rejected by 911 enthusiasts, however, they once tried to make an entry level version that absolutely flopped!
There Was Once an Entry Level Model
The 911 has never been an every man’s car, with a price point significantly above entry level models like the Boxster, Cayman, and even the 914. But the idea of a “poor man’s 911” has been tried before. Porsche built something called the 912 between 1965 and 1969.
It used Volkswagen four-cylinder engines and was just 2,100 pounds, and was supposed to be a basic version that anyone could afford. The 912 did okay, but with just 90 horsepower, it went away until it was brought back in 1976 as the 912E after the 914 was discontinued.
When it was on the market, the 912E was $3,000 cheaper than the 911S. Unfortuately, that 1976 revival was short-lived, as people realized the 912E was an awful car and was cut from the lineup that very same year.
But Porsche didn’t just try to move the price of the 911, they actually tried to move the engine too.
There Was Once a Mid-Engined 911
We know and love the 911 for its rear-engined design. And those who don’t know the difference between rear-engined and mid-engined will want a quick lesson. There are plenty of supercars out there with engines behind the cabin, but as long as it’s in front of the rear axle, that’s a mid-mounted design, like the Boxster and Cayman, or even the Audi R8. Cars with the engine behind the rear axle, like the 911 or the original Beetle, are considered rear-engined.
Porsche developed the 1997 911 GT1 for the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1996, with a mid-mounted 3.2-liter twin-turbocharged water-cooled flat-six. It had a six-speed sequential manual, and of course, they needed a street legal version for homologation purposes, which was the 911 GT1 Street Version.
Rather than creating a race version of their roadgoing 911, they opened a whole new book and started fresh, developing the GT1 specifically for race use. The 911 GT1 hit an insane 205 miles per hour top speed on the Mulsanne Straight during LeMans practice sessions.
So, you may not have heard about the different engine setting they tried for the 911, but you’ve probably heard about this next cosmetic change that left 911-heads outraged.
They Tried Going Away From Round Headlights
Every road-going version of the 911 Carrera for the past 50 to 60 years has had round headlights, with one exception. The 996 Carrera that came out in 1999 tried to venture away from this tradition, going with what’s now called a “blob-eye” design, or the “fried egg“.
They did okay, but let’s remember that the 996, especially the early versions of it, is now known as the least desirable 911 of all time. Porsche got so much backlash over this headlight design that the next generation of 911, the 997, which came out in 2005, had to go back to a more traditional round design.
I guess people just weren’t hungry for fried eggs. That being said, I’m definitely more of a round headlight guy.