Monday, 7 October 2013


"I couldn't find the car of my dreams," Mr Ferdinand "Ferry" Porsche once said. "So I built it." Fifty years and more than 820,000 cars later, and the German car giant is still building, improving and perfecting what has been described as the quintessential sports car. Despite all the success of the Porsche 911, however, it was a difficult birth. 

Originally called the 901, Porsche swapped the '0' for a '1' because Peugeot claimed a patent on three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle

At the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, Porsche unveiled the 901. And if it wasn't for the fact that Peugeot complained about the name - the French manufacturer claimed a patent on three-digit numbers with a zero in the middle - we would probably still be talking about the 50-year longevity of the 901. As it was, Porsche simply swapped the "0" for a "1".

Mr Steve McQueen had a switch fitted on his 911 Carrera Turbo that cut the rear lights, just in case any highway patrolmen were following him.

Not only is the 911 an iconic car, it has always been beloved by legends. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr Steve McQueen owned three slate-grey 911s, deliberately making them inconspicuous so that he could race around the LA Canyon without attracting too much attention. Mr McQueen even had a switch fitted on his last Porsche (the 911 Carrera Turbo) that cut the rear lights just in case any highway patrolmen were following him. (The 1970 911S Porsche that Mr McQueen drove at the start of the film Le Mans was sold for more than £830,000 in 2011.)

Comedian Mr Jerry Seinfeld is another fan, happily describing himself as a "Porschephile". With a collection of more than 40 classic cars, Mr Seinfeld is well placed to explain the success of the German automotive giant: "'Cool' is what sells sports cars. I mean, can you name another company in the history of companies that could get a positive PR spin off [James Dean's death]?" For Mr Seinfeld, the 911 stands out as the definitive driver's car. "If you ask me, the front of the 911 reminds me of a human face," he said recently. "Yet, I find the location of the speedometer much more significant. This was what impressed me the most when I sat in a Porsche for the first time. This car's priority is speed. Period."

For Mr Ferry Porsche, however, speaking shortly before his death in 1998, he saw the appeal of one of the most recognisable cars on the planet like this: "The 911 is the only car you could drive on an African safari or at Le Mans, to the theatre or through New York City traffic."


Words by Mr Paul Henderson, health & sport editor at British GQ

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