A quick guide to the decades of Porsche’s famed sports car
There’s no denying the significance of the Porsche 911. From its iconic shape to its racing pedigree, the 50-plus years have cemented the rear-engined Stuttgart special into the pages of history. Over five decades of the 911 also means there were a lot of changes and evolutions along the way. Let’s take a look at the different generations of the 911 and what makes each of them unique.
Long Hood (1964-1973)
The first generation of the Porsche 911 was introduced for 1964 as a replacement to the 356. Originally to be called the “901” (until Peugeot made a fuss about naming conventions), the 911 was a big upgrade for Porsche fans. In addition to a sleek new body, the big changes brought by the 911 was the introduction of the air-cooled flat-six engine and five-speed transaxle.
First-generation 911s are referred to as “long hood” cars, and are usually split between short and long wheelbase cars. Cars built from 1964 to 1968 feature the short wheelbase, while the cars built from 1969 to 1973 utilize the longer wheelbase intended to improve handling. During this time Porsche launched models such as the 911T, 911E, and 911S, but arguably the most famous model from this era is the 1973 Carrera RS with its unique ducktail spoiler.
The 911 underwent a big change in 1974 with the introduction of the G-Series. The immediate difference was the introduction of the impact bumpers to align with U.S. regulations. Earlier cars (through 1977) retained the narrow body, which were later followed by the flared fendered 3.0L 911SC for 1978. Eventually the 911SC gave way to the 3.2L Carrera in 1984 with additional performance.
Simultaneously, the G-Series also marked the introduction of the first 911 Turbo in 1975, which featured the iconic “whale tail” rear spoiler (later cars got the “tea tray” spoiler) and extra wide rear fenders. To differentiate itself from the standard 911, the original turbocharged 911 is referred to by its internal designation of “930”.
Despite sharing many proportions with the G-Series, the 964 generation brought a lot of technical changes to the 911. The torsion bar suspension was replaced with MacPherson struts up front and coil springs for the trailing arms out back. The big news for the 964 was the addition of all-wheel drive to the lineup with the Carrera 4 model. Also a first for the 911 were the additions of anti-lock brakes, power steering, and the optional automatic transmission.
In recent years, the 964 has become a popular platform for companies such as RWB and Singer. The RWB cars are famous for their extreme fender flares and wheel fitment, while the Singer cars pack the performance of a modern 911 with a backdate inspired exterior.
Marking the end of the air-cooled cars, the 993 generation of the 911 featured smoother, wider shape than the previous 964. Under the skin, the rear suspension received an entirely new multilink setup to further improve stability, plus a new six-speed manual as standard equipment. The 993 would also be the first time the extreme GT2 model would appear as well. Limited production numbers and the final iteration of the air-cooled engine makes the 993 very desirable among collectors.
One of the biggest changes in the evolution of the 911 came in the form of the 996. With tighter emission standards, Porsche was forced to retire the air-cooled engine and switch to a water-cooled design. The exterior of the 911 also received a radically new rounded appearance that shared a lot of design cues from the contemporary Boxster. It was a rough start for the 996, but it soon developed its own groove and gave way to models such as the GT3 and all-wheel drive powerhouse 911 Turbo.
The classic 911 round headlights returned with the 997 generation. Initially the 997 was mechanically related to the previous 996, but starting in 2009, the updated 997.2 saw a revised engine design that eliminated the IMS bearing, and the introduction of the automatic PDK transmission. In addition to the different Carrera, Turbo, and GT car models, the GTS joined the family as a rear-wheel drive Carrera featuring the wider bodywork normally found on the all-wheel drive models. The 997 remains popular with drivers who enjoy the small 911 proportions in a modern package.
Larger than its predecessors, the 991 generation would pave the way for another segment of “firsts” in the 911 lineage. Like a lot of automakers, Porsche made the switch to electric power steering on the 991. Initially, the GT3 models were only available with the PDK transmission, but Porsche proceeded to release the limited production 911 R that brought back the manual transmission to the GT3 drivetrain. The 991 also introduced the new seven-speed manual transmission to the Carrera, Targa, and Turbo models for improved fuel economy and lower cruising RPMs.
In 2016, turbocharging made its way to the standard Carrera and Carrera S variants for the updated 991.2, while the GT3 received the option for a six-speed manual transmission. For buyers that wanted a toned appearance, Porsche also released the 911 GT3 Touring, which added leather upholstery and deleted the GT3’s large fixed rear spoiler. At the end of 991 production, Porsche created a Speedster model that packed the GT3 drivetrain into a cabriolet body.
The 992 marks the latest chapter in the 911’s evolution, with wider rear fenders for all models and a distinctive rear LED light bar. Turbocharging continues throughout the model range (apart from the naturally aspirated GT3). The standard PDK transmission now features eight gears, while the upmarket Carrera S models can be optioned with the seven-speed manual.
The 992 GT3 brought even bigger news — standard 911 models utilize a front strut suspension, while the GT3 boasts an all-new double wishbone design to further increase the grip during hard cornering. Like the previous GT3, a Touring model and manual transmission will be available as well.
All things 911
There you have it! Now you’ll be able to spot each generation of Porsche 911 and understand what makes each model unique. However, nothing beats experiencing one firsthand, so if you fancy a rip behind the wheel of the most successful sports car of all time, filter your search for the 911 and see why the nameplate has become legendary.