While waiting for his father to be released from a French prison after WW2, Ferdinand ‘Ferry’ Porsche made what would be the inspiration for the 356, by tuning a Volkswagen cabriolet with a supercharger. With all of the large and fast cars in Germany confiscated for the war effort, Ferdinand learned how a small car with plenty of power could be more fun to drive than the large sports cars that ruled the road.
That simple realization was the seed that eventually evolved into the 911, but first the 356 went racing.
As a simple car with a build philosophy Colin Chapman would approve of, the 356 required few modifications to be made into a proper competitor at any rally or race at the time.
As it developed the 356 began to become less of a race car with plates and started to enjoy more padded fabric, chrome and even back seats.
When the first generation 911 was released in 1964, it was sold alongside the 356 for a year and despite the roughly 50 percent larger price, was a big step forward for the brand. Six cylinders, suspension that wasn’t shared with VW beetles and a fifth gear made for a machine Car and Driver called in their 1965 review ‘a superior car in every respect… the stuff legends are made of.’
Over the next decade, Porsche developed a 911 for every type of owner: Targas for the cruisers, coupes for the commuters and enthusiasts and the Carrera RS for the racers and future auction stars.
Not satisfied resting on their laurels, Porsche started production on the 930 in 1975, this time equipping the 911 with a turbocharger and wide hips hiding equally wide tires. Originally planning to churn out the 500 minimum to meet homologation numbers, the 930 started selling like hot cakes, so they kept making them. With handling best described as ‘temperamental’ and notorious turbo lag, the driving experience of the 930 rewarded good driving and punished mistakes.
While the 930 was bringing home trophies, the 911 Classic was funding its efforts, offering a more relaxed experience that was still undeniably Porsche to a wider range of customers. Over the years the 911 received a number of improvements like a completely reworked flat six in 1984, relying on computers to manage its fueling and perpetual improvements to its handling.
In 1989 the 964 took up the mantle, this time offering modern equipment like all-wheel drive and ABS. With divisive bumpers and more weight (and power) than ever before in a 911, the 964 has only recently come into the good graces of the Porsche community having come to appreciate the classic silhouette.
But no matter your opinions on 964’s looks, the next generation of turbos offered more speed than the 930 without feeling like a knife was held at your throat on the limit. As collectors become more ravenous for old Porsches, 964s have started to become more desirable than ever before.
Harkening the end of an era and unknown to the public, the last air-cooled 911 generation was released to the public in 1994, the much loved 993.
Combining futuristic technology like twin turbos with the classic air-cooled flat six the 993 is seen by many as the quintessential 911. With almost 50 years of development going into the rear-engine design, the 993’s suspension was developed to curb its predecessors’ tendency to lift-off oversteer.
Heresy to some and a welcome arrival to the 21st century to others, the 996 debuted with a water-cooled engine. Overshadowed by its more prestigious siblings and reputation for IMS bearing failure, the 996 is heavily debated by the Porsche community.
Luckily the ‘worst’ 911 is still a 911 and an excellent car all around. With plenty of examples on the market and every potential issue well documented and likely already addressed in each car, they are the best bargain of the lineage.
Seen as a return to form by many, the 997 addressed many of the complaints about the last generation with a nicer interior and an updated but distinctly 911 design that has set the template for the next two generations (at least).
The best version of the Mezger was also available in the instant-classic GT3 RS 4.0, that will inevitably make headlines in the next couple decades at auction.
Morphing into more of a GT car than its predecessors, the 991 placed a higher emphasis on comfort and luxury compared to the 997 adding more noise deadening and changing over to electric steering. Some owners have commented on it losing some ‘rawness’, but that being said the 991 is more than capable enough to nip on the heels of the 997 around any track.
With fatter tires and features like rain mode and night driving assist, the current 992 is packed with more tech than any previous 911. Car generations are often judged by what comes before and after them. Only time will give perspective to the 992.
BIO: Garrett Long is the Digital Marketing Editor at Car City Wholesale. He has written for Sports Car Market and the National Auto Sport Association. When he isn’t writing, he’s crashing motorcycles and lusting after FD RX-7s.