The Porsche 911 is one of the most enduring and legendary nameplates in the automotive realm. Even non-fans know it by its familiar teardrop shape, which has remained virtually intact in the past 55 years and through seven model generations.
Or make that eight, because the upcoming model, to be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, features the same silhouette and lines. As will all 911s until the end of time, no doubt. It’s one of life’s certainties, right up there with death and taxes.
But apart from that, how well do you know the various iterations of Porsche’s rear-engined icon? Before the eighth-gen 992 breaks cover (officially, that is—raise your hands if you’ve already checked out the leaked images), here’s a quick review of all its predecessors:
First introduced in 1963 as the 901, the original 911 made its market debut a year later as a successor to the 356. At launch, it featured a 2.0-liter air-cooled flat-six that was capable of 130hp and a top speed of 210kph.
Two new variants appeared soon after: the open-top 911 Targa, dubbed the world’s first ‘safety cabriolet’ thanks to its 20cm-wide rollover bar, and the 160hp 911 S, which was first to wear forged-alloy Fuchs wheels.
The ‘G model,’ first launched with a 2.7-liter air-cooled flat-six, went through a series of engine upgrades over its 16-year lifespan—the longest of any 911 generation. By 1983, it was available with a 3.2-liter unit that made as much as 250hp in the 911 SC/RS.
This model, however, is best known for launching the 911 Turbo variant, aka the 930. The first version introduced in 1974 made 260hp courtesy of a 3.0-liter engine. In 1977 came the 911 Turbo 3.3, which produced a best-in-class 300hp.
The third-generation 911, internally designated as the 964, made a highly impactful debut in Carrera 4 guise, with an all-wheel drivetrain developed originally for the 959 sports car. Porsche said the model featured 85% new components, despite the aerodynamic bumpers and the automatically extending rear spoiler being the only obvious exterior changes from the preceding model. A Tiptronic gearbox, standard ABS and power steering, a completely redesigned chassis, and electronically controlled, hydraulically regulated power distribution were some of the 964’s new features.
Two special editions were launched in 1993: the 911 Speedster, with a shortened windshield, a modified roof structure, and a double-bubble cover behind the front seats; and the 911 Jubilee, which was limited to 911 units and combined the Coupe body with the Carrera 4 drive unit and the 911 Turbo’s 17-inch wheels.
The 993 is perhaps best remembered as the last 911 model to use air-cooled engines. From 1995, the standard flat-six delivered 285hp, and was even offered in 300hp form. This was mated to a new manual transmission, now with six forward gears.
The sleek and elegantly designed body, with integrated bumpers, a low-slung front section, and polyellipsoidal headlamps, rode on the lightweight LSA aluminum chassis that provided better stability and agility than the previous underpinnings. The Targa body style for this generation also traded in the removable hardtop for a retracting glass roof.
The 996 generation brought about a number of big changes, not least of which were bigger dimensions: This model, with its all-new platform, was 18.5cm longer than its predecessor, and also 3cm wider. The exterior, too, had a lower drag coefficient of 0.30, while retaining the classic 911 shape.
Initially powered by a water-cooled flat-six engine displacing 3.4 liters and making 300hp, the 996 later received a 3.6-liter unit that produced up to 345hp in the 40th-anniversary edition. The twin-turbocharged 911 Turbo variant generated 420hp, making it the first Porsche series model to break the 300kph barrier.
Twenty-four—that’s the total number of variants in the 997 range. The GT3 RS alone had two versions. For those hit with choice paralysis, the new GTS spec put together some of the best features of the other variants.And it wasn’t just body styles and drivetrains and exterior kit that Porsche couldn’t leave alone. By the time the German carmaker was done fiddling with the 3.6- and 3.8-liter engines, the most powerful 997 variant—that would be the GT2 RS—was making 620hp, thanks to direct fuel injection and variable turbine geometry.
And of course, no 911 generation is complete without limited-edition offerings. Among the special 997 variants were the 911 Sport Classic, 250 units of which were sold out in two days, and the 911 Turbo S Edition 918 Spyder, for those who couldn’t wait for their 918 Spyder units to roll off the production line.
For only the third time in its history, the 911 received an all-new platform, making the 991 significantly longer and wider than the previous model. Despite this growth spurt, the steel-aluminum body construction yielded a weight reduction of about 45kg and a marked improvement in handling and overall agility. Features like adaptive aero from the 918 Spyder and optional rear-wheel steering also elevated the car’s athletic prowess.Of note is the Targa body style of this generation. First launched in 2014, it took the classic design of the original Targa but incorporated a fully electric folding-roof mechanism that lifted the rear glass out of the way and allowed the front canopy to be tucked into the trunk at the push of a button.
The base engine was a 3.4-liter unit at launch, but upon the 2015 release of the facelifted model, dubbed the 991.2, the standard motor became a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged flat-six in three different states of tune. The Turbo and GT2 variants got a bigger mill displacing 3.8 liters; in the top-spec GT2 RS, it made 700hp. The naturally aspirated 4.0-liter powerplant in the GT3 variants produced a maximum of 520hp.
It was with the 991 that Porsche reached the one-million production milestone for the 911 in 2017. To date, around 218,000 units of this model have been produced, including special-edition variants like the 911 Carrera T, the 911 R, and the 50th-anniversary edition.