It’s certainly one of the most iconic automotive designs ever.
I’m sure that if you named just one thing about one of the air-cooled Porsche 911’s, it’s been written about. While being in and around the car is like watching a movie you’ve seen multiple times, it still has that mystical allure that reels you in each time.
Seeing the car is an experience that is hard to forget. It’s probably because you can’t compare the design to any other car on the road. It’s incredibly and undeniably unique.
Yes, it’s got a hint of VW Beetle and the Porsche 356 that preceded it, but we tend to forget those cars when we see one. The car was designed to carry four adults and their luggage around in comfort and style, yet be fun to drive.
Most “true” sports cars only have two seats, yet the 911 has four. This is odd, but somebody high up at Porsche presumably wanted something that could carry more than two people. Unless they wanted to make it incredibly long, the engine would have to be behind the rear axle.
However, this isn’t the universally-accepted truth. The idea that Porsche is wedded to the engine-in-the-back philosophy is one that you could seriously consider. The 911 was preceded by the mid-engine 550 Spyder, then followed by the mid-engine 914, the front-engine 924 and 928. The purpose-built racecar built by Porsche in the same era, the 904, was mid-engine. The car that truly preceded the 911 was the rear-engine 356, which was essentially a rear-wheel-drive VW Beetle with a nice interior. For all essential purposes, the 911 is the second and final Porsche rear-engine design, redone a few times. Even the 356 began as a mid-engine car.
This rear seat thing is why the driver sits higher than most other sports cars. It allows their legs to be slightly more bent, which gives more space to the folks in the rear seat. This is also what makes the roof so tall, as well as how far forward the windshield goes.
It’s flat-six engine is only three cylinders long, so the rear overhang is no longer than most front-engine sports cars. But, it’s also significantly lower overall than most other sports cars.
Most people rail on the car because of it’s rear-engine location, but the truth is, that’s not the most interesting part of the design. They should focus more on the tall and forward-positioned windshield, and the single sweep backwards to the tail end of the car.
The original Porsche 911 was a massive 15 inches shorter than the Jaguar E-Type, which is really the only comparable car in terms of cabin space and performance. In short, the 911’s proportions are more to do with the fact that it was designed to carry two people in the back, rather than having the engine in the back.
The real allure of the 911 for me is the fact that Porsche placed function over form, yet created an intensely beautiful and unique car that nobody else was capable offering. It is utterly unique, and nothing can quite compare to it.
The interior is nothing special, but there’s something beautiful and understated about it. It’s very simple, but owners say that the car is far from basic. The car may be small, but it’s far from cramped.
There is something that draws me to the surprising compactness of the original 911. It’s actually a small car. While I know that modern cars have grown substantially, the original 911 is about the same size as a stock 1930 Ford Model A. It’s really not a big car, yet it’s got an impressive amount of utility to it. I really want to drive one, or at least ride in one.