It is another landmark year for the Stuttgart carmaker that currently makes the fastest road-legal track car in the world. This year marks the 70th year of Porsche sports cars, an identity that can trace its origin back to 1948 in Gmünd, Austria.

I’ll be honest with you readers that I have not closely followed the history of Porsche and only recently got interested in the brand so I’ll be using Porsche’s own list of milestones as a reference and bring their story to you on The Auto Loons.

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Porsche 356 “No.1” Roadster

We begin with the very first one which was the Porsche type 356 “No.1” Roadster with chassis number 356-001 in 1948 which then went into series production in 1950 at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. The new guy in the sports car game first got international acclaim with a class victory by the further enhanced 356 SL at the 24h of Le Mans in 1951. Then in 1953 Porsche changed to a mid-engine roadster design for racing in the 550 Spyder, one that went on to enjoy plenty of success. In just eight years since the first Porsche 356 “No.1” Roadster, the 10,000th 356 rolled off the production line.

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Porsche 718 RS 60

In 1960, the Spyder was given increased displacement and known as the 718 RS 60 and was quite successful, particularly in long-distance racing. The German carmaker was in Formula One as well and achieved success at the French Grand Prix in 1962 that was won by the Porsche 804. That was also the year the 50,000th Porsche left the factory – a 356 B.

porsche-911 1964
1963 Porsche 911

1963 was the year that was going to change everything. It’s the year that Porsche introduced the successor to the 356: a coupe with a 2+2 seating arrangement and a 130hp 2.0-litre flat-six engine at the rear. Thus, the legendary 911 was born but called the 901 at that time. The official name changed next year following the objection from Peugeot, and the 911 remains to date the core identity of the Porsche brand today. The same year, 1964, Porsche racing officially renamed the 904 as the Carrera GTS. The first cabriolet 911 entered series production in 1966 and was named as the 911 Targa.

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1967 Porsche 911 R

Porsche continued to enjoy success in motorsport as well through the years. Notably, in 1967, the Zuffenhausen works team securing a triple victory with Porsche 910 at the open road endurance race in the mountains of Sicily known as the Targa Florio. That was also the year that Porsche introduced a race spec 911 and called it the 911 R. Weighing just 800kg with a naturally-aspirated 6-cylinder, horizontally-opposed engine producing 204bhp meant the 911 R was quite rapid for its time. In 1968 Porsche took their first overall victory at the 24h of Daytona with the type 908 LH.

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1970 Porsche 917 at 24h of Le Mans

Then came the next production model from Porsche that would become a bit of an icon which was the 1969 VW-Porsche 914 mid-engine sports car. Back to motorsport successes, Porsche took the most endearing one on the racing calendar of every manufacturer and driver. In 1970, the motorsport legend called the 917 gave Porsche its first ever overall victory at the 24h of Le Mans and also the Manufacturer’s World Championship for the same year. A further iteration called the Porsche 917/30 was so good that Porsche cruised to victory in the Canadian-American racing series of 1973.

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1972 Porsche Carrera RS 2.7

In 1972 though, Porsche introduced the sportiest model of the 911 range which also went on to become an icon – the 911 Carrera RS 2.7. What followed was a representation of Porsche’s ability as a manufacturer to adapt to changing situations. In 1975 when the oil crisis was at its peak, they introduced the world’s first production sports car with exhaust turbocharger and pressure regulator – the first 911 Turbo. The following year, Porsche did another first for the brand and introduced the 924 — a front-engined sports car with a transaxle configuration and with galvanised body panels.

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Further motorsport glory was attained by Porsche as the 935 and 936, two very different race cars, won the World Championship in both the sports car and manufacturers’ rankings in 1976. The next year, the 936/77 was optimised for the 1977 World Championship with a large air intake just above the cockpit and high tail fins at the back. That same year, the Turbo Porsche won the Sports Car World Championship in its first attempt. 1977 also saw a milestone for Porsche production cars with the launch of the 928, a car that used new-age technology and design and was powered by a light-metal alloy V8 engine. The next car in Porsche’s production range was launched in 1982 – Porsche 944 which had a 4-cylinder engine capable of producing 163hp.

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The following years are also often referred to as Porsche’s golden era in motorsport. In 1982, Porsche introduced their first race car with a monocoque chassis, the 956, which also featured the so-called ground effect that generated a vacuum to create a downforce beneath the car and keep it glued to the tarmac. Electronic injection and new-tech ignition systems allowed Porsche to squeeze 640hp from the 2.6-litre turbo engine. By 1983, the extremely durable Porsche V6 TAG turbo engine became the most successful German F1 engine with 25 GP wins and three World Championship Titles. Pretty sure that Mercedes-AMG is the current holder of that title, no? The 956 was succeeded by the 962 in 1984 with modified aerodynamics and it had a 2.8-litre, two-halve horizontally-opposed engine fitted with one turbo. Off tarmac, Porsche took its first Paris-Dakar Rally win in 1984 with the 911 Carrera 4×4.

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Now an established sports car name in both production and racing, Porsche needed to build something that was even more remarkable, and stupidly fast for its time. And it did. At the IAA in 1985, the brand unveiled a high-performance sports car for the road based on the 911 – the 959. With a limited production run of just 292 units, the Porsche 959 was the fastest road-legal vehicle of its time.

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After that moment at the top, Porsche returned its attention to more sensible but still quick road cars with the introduction of the 911 Carrera 4 with all-wheel-drive in 1989. That year was also the 25th anniversary of the 911 and so they also brought back a beloved name from 1954 and gave it a splash of updates – the 911 Carrera 3.2 Speedster. A car built to offer a purist driving experience with a low windscreen and spartan interiors, and an emergency soft-top too.

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The Porsche 968 was introduced in 1991 and heralded the final development stage of the four-cylinder transaxle models for the Stuttgart carmaker and in 1993, the study for a roadster with a horizontally-opposed mid-engine layout was displayed to the public: the Porsche Boxster. Further new models with new powertrain choices were introduced in the 90s, including the 1995 911 Turbo – the first twin-turbo 911 with all-wheel drive; and the 1997 911 Carrera with the first water-cooled 6-cylinder horizontally-opposed engine. The 1 millionth Porsche badged car rolled off the Zuffenhausen assembly line on 15th July 1996 and was a gift for the Stuttgart police force.

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The 911 GT1 of 1997 was a high-tech racing concept and became the first 911 to have a mid-engine layout and later in 1993, the 911 series was rounded off with “an exceptionally sporty version”: the 911 GT3. Damn, that’s just a year before I came into existence.

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The new millennium saw big changes for Porsche, starting with the Carrera GT Study, a car so exquisite, they displayed it at the Louvre in Paris in 2000 featuring its carbon-fibre chassis as well as a naturally-aspirated V10 in the back. But it wasn’t until 2003 that the Carrera GT commenced its limited production run in Leipzig and by 2006, 1270 units of the 330kph supercar had been built. Before that, Porsche introduced a new 911 GT2 in 2001 with 462hp that came with PCCB (Porsche Ceramic Composite Brake) as standard.

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Crucially though, in 2002, Porsche started the THIRD line of its product portfolio (in addition to the basic sports cars and really fast sports cars): a sporty, horrific-looking, off-road SUV called the Cayenne. A new generation of the 911 series was introduced in 2004, one that retained the traditional look of Porsche’s iconic sports coupe. In the following year, it introduced the Cayman S which had a flat-six mid-engine layout.

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2009 Porsche Panamera

Then in 2009, Porsche entered yet another car segment: the four-door premium luxury super sedan with the new Panamera that was a very capable car but still suffered from aesthetic disadvantages over rivals like the Maserati Quattroporte and the Aston Martin Rapide S.

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A full decade after the phenomenal Carrera GT, Porsche exhibited the 918 Spyder Concept Study at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, featuring high-performance hybrid technology befitting the 21st century, and was in many ways, the first hypercar of today. Another car that Porsche added to their roster that year was not as fast but still focussed on offering a sublime driving experience – the Boxster Spyder, one that harked to the origins of the roadster with enhanced performance, open roof and two seats only.

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In 2011, Porsche gave the 911 a thorough upgrade to bring it up to speed with 90% of the car being fundamentally redesigned without losing its traditional characteristics. Then in 2013, they claimed the only lap record that matters in the world of productions sports car and supercars – the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The Porsche 918 Spyder became the first road-legal car to do a lap in under 7 minutes posting a time of 6 minutes and 57 seconds, a clear 14 seconds quicker than the previous record.

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The world of motorsport was abuzz in 2014 as Porsche was returning to Le Mans with its LMP1 prototype 919 Hybrid which was the result of two full years of intensive work and complex development programmes. It paid off and in 2015, Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy in the 919 Hybrid took the chequered flag to take the 17th overall victory for Porsche at Le Mans, exactly 45 years to the day after its first overall victory at Sarthe. In 2017, after three consecutive overall victories with the 919 Hybrid, the 24h of Le Mans trophy found a new permanent home in the Porsche Museum and the team withdrew from the LMP1 category.

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Turning back the clock to 2014, Porsche entered a new car segment yet again, one called the Compact Utility Vehicle or CUV segment and that’s how the Macan joined the family. Another quick and capable car, though ugly, that allowed Porsche to actually sell in volumes and make profits, profits from which they could make more cool cars in limited numbers. In 2015, Porsche conquered another sports car category with the mid-engined Cayman GT4, a monicker that claimed an impressive lap time of 7min40seconds at the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The success of the Cayman GT4 brought on the track-only version dubbed the Cayman GT4 Clubsport that had more aero and tuned to 385hp.

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Porsche Mission E Concept 2015

That was also the year that the debate over the future of automobiles and alternative energy/fuel sources was reaching its peak. With VW dealing with the diesel-emissions scandal, the world was looking to the best of the best for their response to the need of the hour and Porsche had something it was already working on. Like everyone else, they were jumping the electric-vehicle train and at the 2015 IA, Porsche unveiled its first all-electric four-door concept study, one that combined remarkable driving performance and everyday driveability without drinking dino-juices: the Mission E.

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It’s been a busy couple of years at Porsche and the brand has been churning out one impressive car after the other. In 2016, the 718 monicker returned with the 718 Cayman and 718 Boxster, both two-door mid-engine sportscars that bore reference to the pioneer of this concept from 1957. One little hitch. They were quicker and more powerful than previous models in this Porsche segment, but the flat-six had been replaced with a turbo four-cylinder engine, one that simply did not offer the excitement of the six-cylinder guzzlers. It was a necessary step to stay with the times and the public opinion eventually got over the initial disappointment thanks to the growing aftermarket exhaust scene. The very same year, Porsche also introduced the second generation of the Panamera, redeveloped and redesigned to the very last detail and it is better in every way. It even introduced the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo with 680hp in 2017.

porsche-911r 2016
2016 Porsche 911 R

Many motoring enthusiasts who were worried by Porsche’s practical approach were worried about the future of the iconic sports car brand also had their cries answered in 2016 itself. How? By the resurrection of another iconic badge, the 911 R. A purist model featuring a 500hp 4.0-litre horizontally-opposed naturally-aspirated engine paired to a 6-speed MANUAL gearbox. Only 991 units were made and as every auto journalist lucky enough to test one concluded, it was probably the best modern 911 yet in terms of driver engagement and thrills per second.

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The 991.2 generation of the Porsche 911 GT3 also offered an optional manual gearbox in response to the acclaim that the 911 R had received before it. It and the more hardcore 2018 GT3 RS (PDK transmission only) both sport a 4.0-litre naturally aspirated flat-six that revs almost till 9000rpm in two different power outputs. The GT3 was then offered in a touring package sans rear wing and with manual transmission for those who seek driving pleasure on open roads. 2017 was also the year the 1 millionth Porsche 911 came off the production line Zuffenhausen, looking stunning in the Irish Green spec. The options for 911 purists increased further with the introduction of the Carrera T which is a lightweight and more engaging variant of the standard 911 but not quite as mad or fast as the GT models.

porsche-911 GT2 RS 2017
2017 Porsche 911 GT2 RS

But it’s the 2017 GT2 RS that is the quickest and most powerful Porsche 911 till date. The 691bhp 3.8-litre flat-six turbocharged engine sending power to the rear wheels via the 7-speed PDK, combined with the special tyres, suspension, chassis, rear-wheel steering, aerodynamic elements and weight reduction enabling it to achieve the current Nürburgring record lap time of 6min47seconds.

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Porsche Mission E Cross Turismo Concept

Another highlight from the Porsche family in 2017 was the introduction of the third-generation Cayenne with new engines, new chassis, many technological updates and slightly improved looks over the previous one. Still ugly but superbly capable as a fast SUV while still offering practical usage as well. That brings us to the 70th year, which has been appropriately highlighted by two ends of the Porsche spectrum: the GT3 RS for driving performance on track; and the Mission E Cross Turismo concept for a forward thinking automotive solutions while maintaining the Porsche DNA. The brand will also be debuting in the world’s premier single-seater electric racing series, Formula E, in the 2018-19 season as a factory team.

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2018 Porsche 911 Speedster Concept

But to mark this special occasion itself, Porsche has unveiled the 911 Speedster Concept which is a wonderful tribute to the original Porsche 356 “No.1” Roadster and we will be looking at in more detail in a later post. But this is where we end this journey through the highlights of 70 years of Porsche sports cars. It’s been a long timeline but then it’s a highly-accomplished brand that we’re celebrating.

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Which is your favourite Porsche sports car over the years? Track or road-legal? What are your hopes from Porsche as we step closer to the future of e-mobility? Share your thoughts in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to The Auto Loons for plenty more updates on cool cars, Formula One and Formula E.

In the beginning I looked around and could not find quite the car I dreamed of. So I decided to build it myself. ~Ferry Porsche

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