Seven generations spanning five decades, the Porsche 911 is an enduring sportscar icon. Around 70 per cent of those ever built remain on the road to this day, the 911 being responsible for over 30,000 race wins around the globe. It has remained stubbornly wedded to a formula that is outdated, not just featuring a rear-mounted engine, but one that’s a flat-six layout, that defining its form as much as it does its handling characteristics. Porsche’s defiant engineering talent has refined it, the modern 911 really can be anything to everybody, just like the first car was, though with a breadth that better represents its contemporaries, it is little wonder that Porsche has built one million now.
An incredible number for a sportscar, Porsche celebrated by taking the millionth car off its production line and creating a one-off special that evokes the earliest cars. It’s painted Irish Green because it’s reminiscent of Ferry Porsche’s original 911, that green being his favourite colour, offered from 1964 and still available as an individual colour today.
Even if you don’t know your old 911s you’ll revel in the little details of the millionth car. The centre of the sports wheel features the company crest from 1964, while the rim is finished in the wood that would have adorned the cars of the era. Likewise there’s mahogany accents in the switch panel, while the Houndstooth cloth, the gold Porsche 911 badging on its engine cover, the white Porsche script on black brake callipers, behind wheels that play homage to the classic Fuchs five spoke alloy which are synonymous with the 911.
The millionth car is rich in its details, its 1,000,000 status highlighted in the instruments, a plaque inside and pair on the B-pillars. When I first set eyes on the pictures of it I genuinely wasn’t convinced. Here, in reality, sitting outside Edinburgh Castle’s Esplanade, in the city I grew up in, alongside a greatest hits of 911s spanning everything from a 1967 Targa to a GT1 race car, a 959, 911R to the latest GT3, the millionth 911 captivates and enthrals. The work Porsche’s Exclusive department has put into creating it works as a cohesive whole, a fitting tribute to an enduring legend, that mixes retro cues with the modernity if the current 991 series of the 911.
The wooden steering wheel might look odd in what, a few details aside, is a modern cabin, but it’s warm
to the touch...
It’s a manual — and that is the correct choice for a car that’s paying homage to its history. The seven-speed unit mated to the Carrera S’s 3.0-litre flat six, which as with all the second generation 991 engines, features turbocharging in a bid to mix the expected performance with a nod towards the modern demands of economy and emissions. Fittingly, that engine’s not the standard S unit, but coming with the optional power kit (this bringing bigger turbochargers, bigger brakes, active engine mounts and a sports exhaust system as standard) it effectively the same technical specification as a 911 GTS, so there’s 450 horses, 0-100kph time of 4.1 seconds and a top speed of 312kph. Exclusive hasn’t gone the whole hog and adopted the sports chassis, instead keeping the PASM standard set-up, which is in keeping with the rounded appeal of the 911.
It’s in Scotland to kick off a world tour, a celebration of that millionth milestone, setting off in convoy north to some of Scotland’s finest roads. I know them well, having driven them in my youth, and it’s not lost on me that 35 years ago, just a few miles of where I’m standing I took a green 911 model into junior school to show to my classmates. A boyhood dream fulfilled, yes, the seven year-old that remains in all of us jangling with excitement at the prospect of actually driving this car. I’ve driven countless, there’s a green 993 example parked in my own garage, but the significance of the millionth car isn’t lost on me. There’s little over 950km on its odometer when I get the keys to it, in the carpark of Scotland’s most famous racing circuit, Knockhill.
The track’s a fitting backdrop, though it’s the roads I know well around here that I’ll be driving, mindful that this, more than any 911 I’ve ever driven before, is effectively irreplaceable. Porsche is able to do clever things, but it cannot turn back time and create another millionth car if anything happens to it. That said, the significance is lost after a few minutes. The wooden steering wheel might look odd in what, a few details aside, is a modern cabin, but it’s warm to the touch, though hilariously the 1967 Targa I’ve just sampled doesn’t feature even a splinter of wood inside, the wheel being Bakelite and the dashboard trimmed in aluminium.
The engine fires and I’m off, the seven-speed unit quick and light, if a bit reluctant in the fifth through to the seventh movements. Those doubters of the 991’s turbocharged engine need to try it with the power kit, or in the GTS. It’s ferociously quick, the response sensational, the low rev urgency bringing flexibility, though achieving it without denying you reason to go exploring the upper reaches of the rev-counter needle’s arc.
More than any sportscar it can be everything to everybody, a car that’s stood the test of time and remained utterly relevant.
It sounds like a 911, it drives like a 911, the lightness of the steering, the delicacy of the controls, all these defining 911 characteristics, even the view out is similar to that of the cars before it. There’s huge grip, masses of traction and unerring brakes. The engine’s so quick, so fast, the sound retaining the underlying note of its characteristic flat-six note, that you can sense the history, and the technical make-up of the 911 that is so important to its appeal.
Yes, it’s become bigger and more refined, the millionth 911 absolutely dwarfing its air-cooled predecessors and even early 996 models. It’s even more capable that the 911 has evolved, as is necessary to survive in a competitive environment, and it remains very much at the top of its game as it’s always done.
The supporting cast in Scotland demonstrate that, from the very latest GT3 that takes the 911 sub-species specialism to its most focused extreme, to its ancestors that so beautifully describe the journey from that very first 911 to the millionth car I’m sat in. More than any sportscar it can be everything to everybody, a car that’s stood the test of time and remained utterly relevant despite a changing automotive landscape. It’s taken nearly 50 years to get to this point, I doubt that we’ll have to wait another 50 before the second millionth 911 car rolls of the line.
Irrespective of whether that’s the case, we can be sure of one thing, it’ll remain a 911, which means it’ll be unique, a tremendous achievement considering they’ve produced so many. My inner seven-year old will undoubtedly approve.