Can someone briefly explain Posche models, body styles, and engines? What exactly does 911 or 996 mean, or why is the Boxter called the Boxter, and the Carrera is called the Carrera?
Former 911SC owner here…
In 1964 Porsche (BTW, the “e” is pronounced – how would you like it if people continually mispromounced your name?) created the model 901. Since Peugeot already had a car called the 901, Porsche renamed the 901 the 911 and began selling them in 1965. The 911 soon came in different levels. The 911T was the base model, the 911E (I think for einspritz – fuel injection), and the 911S which was the hottest “sport” model. Factory racing was big back then, and Porsche had the 911RS and the 911 Carrera around 1972 or 1973 which were more powerful than the normal production units. Carrera is Spanish for “race”.
Around 1974 the badges said 911 or 911S. 1974 was also the year of the first major styling change. (There had been more subtle changes before.) The bumpers got bigger and the bonnet got a little shorter. The engines, which had gone from 2.0 to 2.2 were now 2.7 litres. A turbocharged model was introduced around 1976 that had wide flares and a large spoiler, and a Carerra model had smaller flares.
In 1978 the 911S became the 911SC. It had the flared wheel arches of the Carrera and a 3.0L engine. Things stayed pretty much the same until 1984, when the 3.0L engine became a 3.3L. There were minor styling changes over the years, and then in the mid-1990s Porsche came out with the 993. Actually, this was the 911-993. Like a Phantom aircraft is an F-4, and specifically it is an F-4B or F-4J. So it was still a 911, but people started calling it the 993 to differentiate it from the earlier iterations.
The 993 was one of the prettiest 911s ever made (in my opinion – others disagree). It had wonderful, voluptuous flares and a nice nose treatment. In addition, it had the best mechanicals yet.
Then a change came…
Porsche created the Boxster. The “entry level” Porsches had always been the red-headed stepchildren. The 914 was badged as a Volkswagen in Europe and was not considered to be a real Porsche. The 924 was going to be a VW or an Audi, but ended up as a Porsche. The water-cooled engine (:eek:) was in the front (:eek::eek:) and it was really just an Audi. Porsche needed an entry-level car, and it needed to be more popular than the previous attempts and most importantly it had to be a Porsche. So they went back to their roots.
Back in the 1950s Porsche made the Speedster. This was a hot (for its time) little two-seater. James Dean had one. They were very popular with racing clubs of the day. Everybody liked the Speedster. So Porsche would make their new entry-level car along those lines. Since it kept the boxer engine, and they wanted to link it to the Speedster, it became the Boxster. Boxer engind + Speedster. It does have a liquid-cooled engine, but people didn’t seem to mind since it was still a “real live Porsche” and not a VW or an Audi. The Boxster was the right mix of performance, styling, nostalgia and price.
Which brings us to the 996. Again, it’s a 911-996. This was the biggest change to the 911 series yet. Gone were the wonderful flares. The sides were as smooth as they were from 1965 to 1973. Sports cars were extremely popular in the 1980s. If you were cool, you drove a Porsche. By the late 1990s sales seemed to be falling off and production costs were high. Porsche decided to use many of the same parts on their high-end sports cars as they use on their entry-level car. So the front-end of a 911-996 is the same as that on a Boxster.
With the success of the Boxster’s liquid-cooled engine, Porsche decided to make the switch in the 996. Purists didn’t like a liquid-cooled engine in their beloved 911, but by all accounts the new powerplant is the best one Porsche has ever made (and Porsche engines are known for their reliability and power), and the whole engine/drivetrain/suspension package is said to be the best ever.
That’s the story as I remember it. I’ll bet you can go to the Porsche site or any number of enthusiast’s sites to get a better (and probably more accurate) history. But that’s the way I remember it.
I should preview. Those smileys up there should be ( :eek: ) and ( :eek: :eek: ).
I know this is something of a hijack, but I can’t resist tapping JLA’s obviously vast store of knowledge:
What’s the story with the 928? I always thought it was a great-looking car, and the reports I heard said it performed well, too. But it appears that it never caught on, and I’ve heard of good examples selling for a song. Was it really a turkey, or just a marketing flop?
You know I just make this stuff up as I go along, right?
When it was introduced, the 928 was supposed to be Porsche’s “flagship” model. The 928 had a liquid-cooled V-8 engine and a very nice interior. I had a magazine in the 1980s that compared the four “supercars” of the day – the Lotus Turbo Esprit, the Ferarri Testarossa, the Lamborghini Countach and the Porsche 928. The article said the Countach (then about a 12-year-old design) was showing its age and was really not competitive. The Lotus was nice, but you couldn’t see its corners. The Ferarri Testarossa was the fastest. How did the 928 stack up? It was second-fastest in the test, and the writer said that between the four cars the Porsche 298 was the best overall package.
I often see 928s in movies from the '80s. I remember seeing a few on the streets of L.A. But the 928 was not a big hit with Porsche affeccionados. Cars become fashionable for a while and everybody wants one. As the cocaine-and-MBA-fueled boomers of the 1980s gave way to the X-generation of the 1990s, fashions changed. In the 1980s it was techno-rock “New Wave”, Huey Lewis, sharp dressing, and material success. In the 1990s we started seeing plaid flannel shirts and hearing “grunge” music. Porsche’s didn’t fit in.
Which left Porsche selling to its core buyers – the 911 drivers. 911 fanatics generally tend to think that a real Porsche has the engine in the back, and it’s air-cooled. When fashions changed, people sold their 928s and started buying Jeep Cherokees and Ford Explorers. I’m probably being a little unfair. It’s more than fashion. People were getting married and raising families. They needed larger vehicles. But changing fashions didn’t help any.
Porsche still sells a lot of cars. Some go to whatever we call “yuppies” now, and some go to middle-aged men who are trying to recapture their youth. Some are sold to racers, and some are sold to people who appreciate a fine sportscar. But it seems there just weren’t enough people who wanted to pay eighty grand for a “fake” Porsche.
Too bad. It was a good car.
[sub](IMHO. YMMV. CA emissions extra. See dealer for details. Always wear a seat belt. Professional driver on closed track. MSRP CIA FBI FNORD LAPD)[/sub]
So wait a minute, how exactly do the 911 and 996 differ? Can you go more in depth on how the 911 and the 996 compare to one another?
And is the Boxer considered the light-weight Porsche? I was reviewing the website, and from a busienss standpoint that’s what it seems to be.
BTW, I’m more of a born/raised BMW enthusiasts, I’m just trying to break into all sorts of car scenes. I race a 1988 535i.
Which 911? And the 996 is a 911. I’m really not an expert; I just did a bit of reading when I had Porsches. Anyway, the major change between the “traditional” 911 and the newest version is the engine. Since its inception, the 911 had had an air-cooled six-cylinder boxer engine. The 996 still has the horizontally-opposed six, but now it’s liquid cooled.
The other really noticeable thing is the sheet metal. The 996 lost the fender flares that Porsches had worn since the 1970s. The front end shares Boxster parts, and in the rear-view mirror it’s hard for me to tell at first glance whether the car behind me is a 996 or a Boxster. The rear end is different as well, being more… something… bulbous? than earlier models. Not really sure, but it’s different. One thing is that earlier models had wrap-around reflectors (1974-1997) whereas the 996 don’t. (I just went to the Porcsche website, and there’s a photo that looks like one of the cars has the rear reflector, but I’ve never seen one IRL.) The taillights seem bigger and more complex than earlier. Also, later 911s have a retractable spoiler.
I can’t say exactly what the other changes are, since it’s been a while since I read about them. Changes to the cockpit, some suspension changes, tranmission improvements…
I haven’t read the site except for a brief look a minute ago. Do you mean “light-weight” as in “entry level”? Or “light weight” as in “not heavy”. If the former, then yes; it’s Porsche’s entry-level machine. It replaces the 944 (later 968). But the Boxster was not a departure from Porsche’s roots as the 924/944/968/928 were, and it’s not “bargain bin” like the 914/916.
If you mean “light-weight” as in not heavy, then I don’t know. My 911SC weighed over a ton, which surprised me. I’ve always thought of sportscars as being light, so it surpeised me when I had my car weighed and it tipped the scales at 2,400 pounds. (Or 2,200. I’ve forgotten.)
Porsche always wanted a less expensive car to lure buyers. When they started they had various models of the 356, and then various models of the 911. They did have the 912, which was a four-cylinder version of the 911 but they needed something less expensive. They came out with the 914 which, as I’ve said, was badged as a VW in Europe. I don’t know if they all were, or if they sold under both badges there; but here in the U.S. they were sold under the Porsche name. The 914 was supposed to be a fun little car (I remember the commercials from when I was a kid in the '70s) instead of an all-out sportscar like the 911. The 914 proved to be fairly pouplar with its mid-engine and good handling, and it was sold through 1976 when it was replaced by the 924 in 1977. But it still suffered the stigma of its VW connections.
The 924 was going to be a VW or Audi sportscar, but it wound up with the Porsche name when it finally hit the market. Unlike all previous Porsches, the 924 had the enging in the front and it was liquid-cooled. Many people bought 924s so they could enjoy some of the benefits of owning a Porsche, such as speed and handling, but without the high price of the 911. The 924 wasn’t very fast, but it was quick. I can attest from personal experience that the 924 was a great handling car. It was much more solid, and was faster and handled better than the MGBs I’d been driving as a teen and young adult. I got my 1977-1/2 924 around 1984, and as a young 20-something I had a blast. I’d heard people talk derisively about it not being a “real” Porsche (and the truth be told, it wasn’t), but I liked it.
After selling the 924 for a few years, Porsche improved it. They gave it a better engine than the one that was originally from (I think) the Audi 100, and nice fender flares to accommodate the wider tyres. This was the 944. It looked a lot better than the 924, had a nicer cockpit, and better performance. Later the 924 was reintroduced as the 924S, and it had the 944’s engine and drivetrain. The 924S was actually a mile or two per hour faster than the normally aspirated 944 because it didn’t have the draggy fender flares.
Sales were poor (after all, why have the 924S and the 944 when they are so similar?) and the 924S was dropped. In the meantime, Porsche developed the 968. This was a 944 that was offered in a cabriolet version and which had the rearward-folding headlights of the 928. The 968 was a very pretty car, and I see one now and again on the 405 in L.A.
But the 944/968 still suffered from the “not a real Porsche” syndrome, and after almost two decades of production (including the 924) Porsche needed something new. Hence, the Boxster.
FWIW I sold my 911 in 1999. I had to do a photo shoot up by the Hollywood sign with three girls. It was a tight fit getting all of is in the little “2+2” 911. I finally decided that if I only had one car, I needed something more practical; so I went down to the Jeep dealer and got a new Cherokee. It’s not as much fun as the Porsche, but I’ve taken the Cherokee offroad and camping. I couldn’t do that in the Porsche. Still, I miss the awesome accelleration and the tight handling, and the manual transmission…
According to a girl I dated a long, long time ago when I was still in college, whose father worked for a German car company that was not related to Porsche (but who appeared to have a lot of contacts in the industry), the model number was the project number assigned to the car when the design process was started (or something like that). Porsche called the 993, and now the 996, the 911 for marketing reasons (due to the 30+ year history of the car).
So this means that overall the model number doesn’t really tell you anything about the car. Contrast this with most other manufacturers that use model numbers rather than names, such as:
BMW: 1st digit is the series, 2nd & 3rd engine displacement
Volvo (up through the 850) 1st digit series, 2nd digit # cylinders, 3rd digit # of doors (they stopped using the 3rd digit with the 7 series, although I believe it was still used internally; there were also some inconsistencies, such as the 780)
Lexus: letters = series, digits = engine displacement
I’m sure someone can come up with loads more examples. But you won’t find them with Porsches.
The Boxster is less of a light weight Porsche than it is a lower-end Porsche. Both are within 300 lb. of each other, which is an admittedly broad spread. This year, the manual 2002 Boxster weighs in at 2778, while the 911 Carrera manual weighs about 3075, (from a quick Google census).
Porsche has made lightweight and racing models in the past . I was stable-boy for a Carrera 2 Cup Car, which was stripped of most of its components in order to shave the weight down. Didn’t even have door handles–just a pull-strap.
Before that, the early (1967-1973) 911S was intentionally trimmed down. There are all sorts of rumors about how the body panels were hand-stamped a little thinner, with thinner window glass as well as lots of non-critical aluminum parts. After getting a good, long look at one, I don’t know if those stories are true. They were the fastest large production Porsches until the 911 Turbo.
Unfortunately, the 911S was oil/air-cooled, and the external oil fill cap was placed just where you would expect the gas cap to be on a normal car. The result is that an already rare 911S is practically a dodo bird after the full-service 1970s (kids, cooling with gasoline is a bad idea). I once flew up to New England and appraised one that was a Lime Rock bitch for 20 years, flogged like Simon Legree’s nag, and the guy felt completely comfortable asking 40K for it.
You’re one of those Roundel guys, eh? Tres bitchin. Just as the BMW Z8 is intentionally reminiscent of the 507, the Boxster is intentionally fashioned after the 550 RS. Yep, that’s James Dean standing next to the Lil’ Bastard. Apparently, that car did not like its monicker.
Although both Boxster and 911 share the pancake six, there is almost a full one-liter difference in displacement between the Boxster and the 911 Carrera, plus an infinitude of engine refinements only for the 911. Porsche plays a very slow-paced, deliberate game with its models, giving them an extra 0.1L every couple of years. When the Boxster first came out it started at 2.5 liters, and has already crept up to 2.7. The 911 did something very similar, growing from about 2.0-2.5L to 3.6L over its long history. You can expect the Boxster to do the same, but always a few steps in performance behind the 911 flagship (now that the 928 is no more).
I think that the 911 still technically qualifies as a rear-engine car, while the Boxter is pure mid-engine. However, Porsche plays a lot of tricks to get the new 911s center of gravity as close to neutral as possible. Still, I’d want to be in a Boxster when things break loose, because when a 911 plays ass-tag, it’s about as scary as things get (especially when it’s someone else’s car).
That’s how mine was. No chunky door panels with armrests and pockets. Just a flat RSR panel with a red nylon strap to unlatch it. And Bilstein sport shocks that wouldn’t absorb bumps until after you got it past 70 mph.
Dude, you had a Cup Car? What number? I want to hear about it!
Oh, and I was wrong about the current maximum displacement of the Boxster. It is at least 3.2L, according to these guys. These guys are whining in a realm of performance I can only dream about, but we need those guys to make cars as cool as they are and have been.
No, it wasn’t a Cup Car. I was going to turn it into a little street racer, but I never got around to doing anything more serious than the suspension. That, and the RSR door panels and the Momo steering wheel.
I miss that car; but dammit, I need something that has more room in it than just for two people and a verbal message.
Love thinking about Porsches. I had a 1966, 912. It had the 901 body style but a 4 cylinder engine.
A friend had a 914-6 (the 6 cylinder engine 914 model, I think some people called it the 916)
Then a friend got into financial trouble and I bought his 924.
I wish I still had both cars. They were the most responsive cars I ever drove! It was like they read your mind, or you became one.
flygirl99 (A girl pilot? Hiya! ) : I’ve heard that the 912 handled better than the 911 because it had less weight hanging off of the back, and thus was better balanced. My old 924 handled very well too. I think my 911 handled better than the 924, but that’s because I like to use power to help change direction. Sure, you have to be careful not to get the back end unstuck (I never did, but then I never got around to racing it), but the 911 was perfectly capable of handling aggressive street driving.
I love my Cherokee. I’ve been offroading with it, camping with it, towing with it… but I sure miss the power and responsiveness of the Porsche. Maybe when I have a place where I have room for another car I’ll get another one. (But I’ve got to get a flying machine first.)
I’ve always like the 928 best.
Well, I don’t want to turn you away from a fine Murriken car, Johnny, but have you read of the Porsche Cayenne?
I don’t know what to think of it myself, but it’s worth a look.