The Humble 911

Musing on purity – Porsche style.

Boggo 911 (c) Porsche UK

By humble, allow me to draw your attention towards the base model – if indeed one can deign to call anything from the house of Porsche bog standard? Motor journalists of this world along with, it would seem, most people with blood racing fervently require the cream: the Turbos, the GTs, the ones immortalised in computer game-land.

£82,795 is the price of a basic Carerra typ 992 in the United Kingdom. For your hard earned, you get 385PS, and 182mph v-max. 0-62 mph takes a mere 4.2 seconds. Petrol consumption is mid twenties. Probably the most important figure however being the one perched behind the wheel of such a vehicle for just over £1200 per month. Don’t ask for the end-game value. And no, they don’t take wives, children, right arms nor camels as payment. I asked. 

All remarkable figures, for this is indeed one remarkable car. They even throw in four choices of colour for you – free. Black, white, Guards Red and Sport Yellow. As with most other extras on this Zuffenhausen produced, Michael Mauer designed express, you’ll pay handsomely. As you might expect, for this bloodline has been around longer than plenty of manufacturers.

When you purchase a 911, you are buying into history. No, that’s not just regurgitated rhetoric from the sales brochure, it’s pure fact. Considering this car is deemed the icon, the benchmark, the journalist, pub bore and aficionado’s reverential go-to, how come the base model is so overlooked?

Eons have passed since last giving the official website a glance. A vainglorious hope of one day being in the enviable position to buy a car with the Stuttgart stag on the front, fortunately now long gone. Only by researching this piece did I find that they now make a Panamera estate. And that the 718 is both Cayman and Boxster. How that shield has lost mine favour.

(c) RS Selection

Not fully, mind you. A book purchased direct from the heartland inspired today’s piece. The Porsche 911 Design Book – 992 The Next Generation, written by Michael Köckritz (a Ramp Design book) is a lavish, well crafted and entertaining tome. Superb photography and some learned words (with some of that rhetoric, admittedly) but it distils the essence of the nunelfer using its forbears to nurture its offspring.

We begin our journey from the days of yore. From Ferry’s initial 901, encompassing Anatole Carl Lapine’s G version, Pinky Lai’s fried egg lights 996 to the current (up to the publication date in 2018) eighth iteration. The whole book primarily concerns itself with that central core of being – pure, unadulterated engineering prowess.

Michael Mauer explains his stylistic input; he slaps several rolls of duct tape onto his team’s creation to accentuate various curves and radii that are frankly lost on me. Photography includes close ups, clay models along with sketches. Add in some workflow charts (in German) along with liberal use of colour. A great coffee table book, easily dipped into. Even Dieter Rams’ ten orders of design are listed.

By far the most quality item in the otherwise overly expensive Porsche Museum shop – add that shield, heighten those euros – a Porsche ethic of old that continues to this day.

Speaking of which, these days it is considered de rigueur to lavish thousands on extras for your new car. But what else does the 911 want for or need? Returning to the website for those answers we find the usual suspects but also the debasing process, adding to the coffers after all does not always equate to enhancing the appeal.

Poverty spec. (c) Porsche UK

From the book to the absolute latest model, my eyes were drawn to the exhaust pipes. Initially circular they are now trapezoidal, a more oval based pipe and switchable sound will set you back another two grand, should you require nanocoating. Seats: standard no good? Fourteen and even eighteen way memory seats can be had. Has contrast stitching ever been considered when thundering past that string of inconsiderately slower traffic? I expect not.

Talking power; £1700 gains you the ever popular Chrono Package, effectively altering your base nunelfer into a track weapon – with another dial, but with no actual power increase. The standard brakes can only be enhanced by painting the callipers a natty shade of gelb. Prepare to dig deeper than those ceramic discs can bite if they require changing, mind.

As one who appreciates the verve and mobile grandeur of this evolutionary sexagenarian, this entry-level 911 screams to my senses louder than any synthesised exhaust note that less really is more. In our dreams, we can mete out as prospective Walter Röhrls, but on today’s mean, modern-day streets, a car of such abundant capabilities needs no addenda, no fripperies and barring colour choice, none of the 241 options available. But perhaps for three final temptations: a £263 tool set, the £38 smokers package or the incredulously large roof box for £913. Shouldn’t that be £911?

Time to stand up, be counted, swim against the aggressive tide and place your faith (along with that eighty grand plus) in one base version that can only be described in one word – pure.

Author: Andrew Miles

Beyond hope there lie dreams; after those, custard creams?

20 thoughts on “The Humble 911”

  1. There is no Porsche with a stag on it. The animal in Stuttgart’s coat of arms is a prancing horse as a symbol for the city’s ancient name ‘Stutengarten’ – mares’ garden.

    I have enormous problems with seeing any relationship between a 011 like this

    and the current car bearing the same name.

    1. Hi Dave, you should have said there is not a complete stag, as there are parts of it, horns, which when glancing at the whole can lead to a fusion of features horse+stag. The whole thing develops in an interesting story.
      The underlying surface is parted quarterly, with use of the old Württemberg symbol of the three black stag horns on gold, coming from Duke Ulrich of Württemberg in 14th century, and of the colours of the land, red and black.
      According to Wiki this is the Württemberg-Hohenzollern coat of arms; this was a short-lived West German state created in 1945 as part of the French post-World War II occupation zone, with Tübingen as capital. In 1952, it was merged into the newly founded state of Baden-Württemberg.
      So, this is the origin of the underlying part. The superimposed part, as you stated correctly, is the black prancing horse symbol of Stuttgart.
      Car emblems are sometimes complicated…

  2. With all due respect, I’ll have to disagree with Dave on this occasion. I think the 911 lineage is very strong. Porsche have developed and refined the basic mechanical layout and the design iteratively over almost sixty years. Given the difficulties that must have presented in taming the wayward handling, Porsche must have been tempted to abandon the rear-engined layout (and contemplated doing so when it launched the 928 and 924). It is to the company’s credit that it persevered.

    A front-engined 911-shaped car would undoubtedly have been easier to engineer, but would just have been a pastiche of the original, like the New Beetle and 500. A mid-engined 911 would either have sacrificed the (admittedly, occasional) rear seats, or ended up looking misshapen like the unfortunate Ferrari Mondial. The Mondial and it’s predecessor, the Bertone designed 308 GT4, were the only mid-engined 2+2 cars ever made, and for a good reason.

    Regarding the logic of buying a base 911 without those shockingly expensive extras, doing so may come back to bite you when you come to trade it in. The vast majority of Boxsters, Caymans and 911s are loaded up with extras, which makes low-spec cars a difficult sell. When I was buying my (approved used) Boxster, I immediately discounted examples on the standard 17″ wheels with no extras, which were very poorly equipped for the price. They still would have been a brilliant drive, of course.

    Of course, if you buy your base 911 on PCP and hand it back at the end of the term, it becomes the deslership’s problem, not yours!

    1. There was also the Urraco from Lamborghini a year before Ferrari launched the Ferrari Dino 308 GT 4.

      And you are right, the mid-engine 911 – the Cayman – sacrificed the rear seats in order not to look misshapen.

    2. Also the Maserati Merak was a rear mid-engined 2+2. Now, I wonder if anyone outside of Italy built any rear mid-engined 2+2 cars? The Lotus Evora might qualify, though it could be argued it’s a 2+(2 x 0.5) seater!

      (There are more than a few front mid-engined 2+2s)

    3. Hi Paul and Fred. Thanks for putting me right. I better go and check what I wrote in an upcoming DTW piece on the Mondial!

    4. The Rootes Group very nearly made a mid-engined sedan! The Swallow prototype, which was abandoned and replaced by the the Arrow. Surely the answer to a question that had been mis-heard.

  3. Well, there was a complete new 911 chassis a dozen or so years ago to upset the evolution since the ’60s. Upon reviewing the then latest whacko US EPA mileage standards, it became plain that the larger the shadow cast on the ground by the noonday sun, the poorer the fuel economy could be without further “gas guzzler” purchase tax penalty. It was a sop for pickup truck drivers. And so the 911 grew quite a bit, because its biggest market was in the USA. Daniel probably knows those details.

    Personally, I gave up on the idea of ever getting a 911 in about 1989. My structural engineer acquaintance from decades ago and involved in the same hobby of serious scale R/C model car racing, being water ski champion of our province, and now national senior champion, almost winning the Daytona 200 motorcycle race in the later ’70s and one of those pleasant but incredibly talented people who can fashion anything by hand in his garage from scratch, took a bog standard second-hand ’72 911 and rescued it to his specs during the 1980s.

    Stripped down to its elements, the car eventually sported huge wheel arches, all made by hand and lovingly welded with proper fairing in, had a new kind of fuel injection from later engines added. The engine was taken apart and put back together half-a-dozen times as he carefully considered things. An utter perfectionist for detail, you couldn’t tell what the car was in the end, because it was better than any factory example I ever saw. He got some input from me as to how to modify the mountings for the torsion bars to get even weights side to side, because changing by one spline was too coarse.

    My one and only ride in it as a passenger resulted in him scaring the living you know what out of me. Yup, no grinning rich bore with a Shelby Mustang and no skill, he. Manoeuvres that a normal driver could never imagine were all perfectly reasonable to him, and afterwards I realized that no, he hadn’t come close to endangering anyone else. Why bother trying to compete by getting a factory 911 job in our little neck of the woods? It would never be good enough.

    I beat him for our club scale electric R/C championship one year, but truth be told, he had to miss a few races; otherwise it was 8 in a row for him, but he then treated me as someone worthy to ask an opinion of. Not because he’s a snob and won’t chit chat, but when it comes down to “business” well, most people have not a clue, so I was chuffed by his attention that I was serious enough to consult. I then made two of my own design hi-fi stereophonic Class A amplifiers, one for him in 1988. Still working 32 years later, but both now completely rehoused in anodized work of art grey and light maroon cases made by, guess who? All made in the garage. His wife adores him.

    He ‘s now 70, and drives a 2010 MINI to work 30 odd miles down country roads each way to his engineering company he inherited from his Dad. That’s when the Ducati isn’t deployed on nice days. I won’t get in that MINI. It’s been THOROUGHLY got at. He’s of small stature, so I don’t really fit anyway in the special seats, that’s my excuse. Much like the modified Chevrolet V8 engine in his speedboat that hauls waterskiers at national championships he organizes on the lake his house borders, its speed regulated to ridiculously close limits as the skier swings or jumps by a box a local electronic genius who invented the system sells worldwide. The Porsche comes out on special weekends. Sometimes you just realize it’s not worth competing, but instead appreciating the talent that some few people naturally have. Not much point in a bog standard 911 for me. It would never meet the standard I know can be achieved. Even better that in my dotage I couldn’t afford one anyway, especially given the cynical way Porsche lards gotta-have overpriced options on the car.

  4. Thanks Andrew, but I couldn’t continue reading after seeing the redundant apostrophes. When you refer to Turbos and GTs, you are using the plural and not the possessive, and no apostrophe is required.

    When in doubt, don’t.

    Thank you.

    A grammar pedant.

    1. Oh dear. Isn’t everyone rather grumpy at the moment?

      I know we’re all living through stressful times and our anxieties are perhaps manifesting themselves in our interactions with others, but I would like to take a moment to gently remind our more disgruntled readers that life sometimes just isn’t fair. But at least, tuning into DTW remains very much a discretionary act (we considered making it compulsory but Mr. S.A. Kearne lost us that particular vote – asleep as usual).

      My desperate apologies to Dave and Jacomo for falling short of our normal standards. I can assure you that the guilty parties will be exposed and ruthlessly humiliated for their transgressions, which I trust will go some way to assuage the feelings of stark betrayal you must currently be experiencing.

      Abjectly yours, The Editor.

  5. Hello Andrew,

    Hear, hear. By strange coincidence, I recently watched the latest 911 review by Carwow. They reviewed the Turbo S model and all the way through, I was thinking ‘I’m sure I’d prefer the standard model’.

    I actually visited Porsche’s website subsequently and configured a ‘basic’ 911, but couldn’t resist adding the darkest blue metallic paint, slightly larger wheels and a lighter interior. That added £2,443, which I don’t think is too mad. My only doubt about the 911 is that it might be a bit wide for everyday use (e.g. in multi-stories).

    I do like Porsches and have fond memories of being taken for a fast cross-country drive in a gold coloured one by a friend of the family in the mid 1970s. Once in the passenger seat, the friend asked whether I’d like to see what it could do; it seemed to handle very securely and rocketed around bends. In retrospect, I think he was a skilled driver.

    I now need someone to stop me from browsing Porsche’s used vehicles section.

  6. Great article, thank you.

    Hasn’t it always been the case that the basic 911s were the most appealing? As a child I was obsessed with the 356 and 911 models but even in those days of the whale-tail Turbos, it was difficult to imagine preferring them to the ‘humble’ Carrera.

  7. I have to say that the last 911 I liked was the 993 – still small and light but modern. They now look huge.

    1. I agree, the 993, last of the air-cooled. in the coastal town my parents
      retired to in the 80s the community was served by an admirable couple of
      doctors, Meg and James Lawless. Jim’s only indulgence, he claimed, was
      having a good car, and in the mid 90s he finally bought a 911. once a week
      he and Meg would head off to Melbourne for the day, 200km away, and
      Jim liked to get it up to 200kph at least once. on one visit he’d called in to
      check on my mother, and offered to take me for a spin. the road was
      damp when we headed off down the infamous Great Ocean Road and I felt
      a little trepidation – was this septuagenarian a competent driver?
      indeed he was, and the car was super-competent. the traction, acceleration,
      sound effects, brakes, the solidity and comfort – a wonderful experience.
      perhaps the 911 has evolved into decadence, but I’ll forgive it.

  8. Andrew, thank you for a fantastic article. It paints, with almost worrying honesty,
    a very vivid picture of what lurks in the (often irrational) minds of people like us.

    With its profound heritage, the 911 can be probably forgiven for the dimensional
    excess it developed in its more recent iterations. And especially so if we consider
    the resolutely clean lines of the current 992, a styling that shines both at convincingly
    masking the car’s untoward size and capturing the essence of what the 911 visual
    ‘coding’ is all about.

    As to the point Daniel made that Stuttgart persisted in keeping the rear-engined
    spirit, I’d just add that it was the market that kept it alive – it was mostly the true,
    keen drivers (but also, to a fair extent, the halo-effect of the Yuppies wanting
    a share of the true keen drivers’ glory). Zuffenhausen was rather hell-bent
    on ending the ‘anachronic’, “Beetle Inside” layout, yet the market didn’t
    receive well the intended replacements (developed at probably obscene costs).
    It was arguably the cult-like following that kept the layout alive to this day.

    Base models 911? A resolute Yes.
    Once I have the chance to spec a new 911, my checked options list will be
    of a length that’s inversely proportionate to the time that has to pass
    before it actually occurs.

  9. Another enjoyable article Andrew which took me back to my 60th birthday. My wife had arranged for us to go away for the week end and on the way to our destination I was instructed to go off the chosen route. We ended up at a garage where what I believe to be a Porsche 912 – registration no TYG 99F – was waiting for us. 1991cc engine , manual gearbox, rear engine, lots of noise but not much oomph to be honest. It certainly got a lot of attention and was a great experience. The only time I have ever driven one.

    1. Who cares if it’s slow when it’s that pretty?

      What a great birthday present!

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