The Porsche 911 celebrates its 50th anniversary. What an incredible run. The 911 has always served as special inspiration to those who believe in long-term iteration. Excellence takes its time.
The Porsche 911: An ode to iteration
Jason Fried wrote this on Feb 08 2013 28 comments
muson 08 Feb 13
For the desing, ok.
Speeding was not a good idea 50 years ago and it has not changed.
This said, spending a lot of money just to be able to travel 2 people from A to B is a waste of furnitures and brain.
Kyleon 09 Feb 13
3 design interations in 50 years…
Swizzleon 09 Feb 13
THAT’S SOME FOOLISH SHIZ YO!
In all seriousness, wow. That’s some amazing design history right there.
GeeIWonderon 09 Feb 13
I believe you’re trying to emphasize incremental improvement/refinement through long term iteration rather than long term iteration itself (as you might say, for instance, that fashion houses emphasize).
Paul Christianon 09 Feb 13
Here’s the catch though… they started out with something already brilliant, design-wise. I mean look at it… that early model Porsche is still more beautiful than 90% of todays cars. And its 50 years old…
Josh WCon 09 Feb 13
I so sorry that some people forget about the Volkswagen Beetle, when talking about Porsche.
Daveon 09 Feb 13
Sold my ‘91 911 when I moved :( Just an absolute handful of a car to drive (properly) but was amazingly rewarding when done right. The old adage that if you can drive a 911 fast you can drive anything is true I think. Loved the overly mechanical feel of everything and the direct connection to everything (road, steering throttle etc). It constantly reminded you at the task at hand (to drive fast lol). Love the design and love that they still put the engine in the wrong end.
Benjamin Alexanderon 09 Feb 13
Contrast to the design and styling of most cars on the road today. Why aren’t they all this beautiful? Why don’t they all have a language that pushes forward to the future while reminding us of the past?
Mass production changed the economics of aesthetics. A beautiful thing costs less than an ugly one. To design, to build, to sell and to own.
The things we use change us.
Danon 09 Feb 13
I’ve owned a couple. They are getting outrageously large for me now, but I think they will reverse eventually as tech changes. And the 991 (even 997) drives like an electric car/video game. Just point and shoot. No passion left in these. Also they won’t last past their warranty anymore, my trusted dealer manager told me “the old days of 150k miles are gone, its all about just lasting the warranty period, now. Corporate dollar cost analysis.” But the BRAND is clearly still alive, since nobody knows/believes any of this and still lusts after them.
Who careson 10 Feb 13
They are no longer innovative! Etc., etc.
Rob Dyrdekon 10 Feb 13
Nothing says “Dickhead”... like a Porsche.
marcus grobon 10 Feb 13
To me the design got worse not better. The lines on the old one are a bit playful and intelligent the new one is aggressive and a bit dim. The old one had pedigree the new one is more nouveau riche.
Jean-Laurent Gaïdeon 10 Feb 13
The objectives are not to emphasize what we like or not in a 2 seats Porsche (which can be a 4 seats as well if you put a little glance at it). The objectives are not to consider the improvement to perform a A to B trip in the most safety unbalanced car you can find in the world. The objectives are not to mention or not from what or what initial brand the 911 comes. The objective is to touch and feel a 50 years old car load of history and to point out that generation after another major manufacturing decisions have been taken without changing the major feelings like eyes and drive pleasures. Because through this 50th birthday or design “iteration” this car grows up like us in the world we are living and our minds are still the same when we see one.
Daveon 10 Feb 13
For Rob, I had the same opinion before I owned one and joined the PCA (Porsche Club of America). In the process I got to know many members that love their cars. Not in a strange obsessive using a diaper to clean it kinda of way (there were those types obviously) but more in a real passion for the art of the car and the pedigree. Most of my exposure to them was through DE (Driver Education) where basically we all went out and flogged the hell out of the cars. Came away with it with a ton of appreciation of both the cars and the people that loved them. While I agree nothing is as unappealing as some trust funder driving a new 911 cab, not everyone that owns them or finds beauty in them gets the stamp of being a dickhead. Probably the most shocking bit was that not everyone was drinking crytal and eating caviar. Many (myself included) had normal jobs and older cars that we took great appreciation in really driving. Would we love the new gadgets etc? Course but many were normal blue collar folks. I also used to do alot of running with the bmw groups and I will be polite and not comment on them ;)
Oluseyion 11 Feb 13
I love the 911. Unusually, I particularly love the 991 because I’m 6 feet, 6 inches tall, and the proportions are finally getting comfortable.
I frequently come across derisive comments about the 911, many rooted in the speaker’s perception of the drivers of the cars; listen to what @Dave says above. Others stem from a lack of consideration of the challenges of building an everyday performance sports coupe in today’s technical and regulatory environment. Some people just aren’t car guys.
What Porsche has done, not only with the 911 but with each vehicle in its line-up, is attempt to express a very specific point of view. All Porsches are essentially approximations of the 911 in varied packaging (which is amusing because, in many respects, the Boxster is now the best Porsche for the average buyer), and while that doesn’t always work aesthetically—the front of the Cayenne, the everything of the Panamera—Porsche refuses to adjust its philosophy, in much the same way it refuses to move the 911’s engine from over/behind the rear wheels.
(Ok, the engine on the 991 sits in front of the rear axle, technically making it mid-engined. Fine.)
I admire Porsche for refusing to change certain fundamental philosophies, while at the same time adjusting to the realities of a changing economic and technology reality. Some “purists” bemoan the loss of direct physical linkages between your controls and the car’s internal mechanisms. Not I, for I accept that iteration on these drive-by-wire systems will eventually create a whole new realm of driving sensation and performance equal and arguably even superior to the steering column and throttle wire—not to mention preserving the existence of these vehicles in an energy- and environment-conscious world incresingly hostile toward them.
It’s a marvelous engineering narrative and an inspiring story of persistence, perseverance and iteration, but also an odd one to be lauded by a technology business such as 37s, given that all that persistence is necessitated primarily by stubbornness. Porsche could easily have been Audi or VW; Ferry designed the Beetle, after all.
Anyway, thanks for an opportunity to muse about my favorite sports car in a different context. Its story is a bit more complex than the aspirational present here, but that just serves to give it character. :-)
Daveon 11 Feb 13
Oh speaking of the hunt for the perfect every day car: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJQ4hQSusjE&list=PL239B84BD346EEEFA&index=4
27 minutes long but is quite enjoyable. Oluseyi, @ 6’ 6” I can’t believe the 991 would accommodate you, awesome. I know that the non-sunroof RSA’s (so 964’s) were always the goto cars for tall folks. I am a touch under 6 and at times found my 964 to be too small a cabin. Anyway back to work I too can muse about 911’s all day long…
Jason Friedon 11 Feb 13
@Rob… “Nothing says “Dickhead”… like a Porsche.”
Nothing says “Dickhead” like someone who judges someone else by their car.
Ken Sotoon 11 Feb 13
Thanks Jason, and others for standing up for something beautiful on its own. I too saw Porsche owners as gold-chained asses, but the car – the car was beautiful and I hated that the perceived owner group had tarnished what was for me the most beautiful car built in mass quantities (as opposed to designed and prototyped). A few years ago I decided to say to hell with it and bought a 73 911 in excellent condition, and dammit, every time I drive the car I look forward to the experience. That’s all I care about.
Ryanon 11 Feb 13
With this iterative approach most people could pick out a 911 from any year in a photo correctly.
Still, it’s hard for me (and hopefully any rational person) to look at these photos and see anything other than human-killing, pollution-machines. Beautiful killers, but killers for sure.
ploogmanon 11 Feb 13
this love affair with the company known as VW/Audi/Porsche continues nothing wrong with that, but its as if no other cars have ever been carefully designed and iterated over the years and as if everyone thinks that the old or new 911 is a good looking design some folks definitely do not care for its lines, past or present, and there are other examples of automotive design iteration even if the makers did not keep using the exact same model name/number year after year, take Saab for example or Land Rover or Mercedes or Ferrari, etc. long histories and sometimes micro changes are not so great when something better is available, Basecamp is an example, no micro changes between old version and new one, really a totally new version, users have to choose which to use because it is so different
also have to agree with the first commenter “mus”, he has a point, much ado about something that some people find collectible
ploogmanon 11 Feb 13
last thing, the only similarity between the cars in the photo is the emblem, round headlamp shape (from front perspective only), and gray color, that’s really it, period
without those in common, these could be a lot of other 2 door sporty cars cheers
Lucas Rockwellon 12 Feb 13
Thanks for posting this. I have been telling people this for years and compare it to the Mustang (and other Ford vehicles). The Mustang has certainly redeemed itself in recent years, but just imagine how it great it would be if it when through the same process as the 911. But, of course, it never would have happened because the culture at Ford is completely different than the culture at Porsche.
Jenson 13 Feb 13
The 911 was and is still beautyfull. I love my 997 :-)
passerbyon 13 Feb 13
Goat acquired, target locked, fire …
Alaksiej Nieścieraŭon 14 Feb 13
I would certainly prefer the first iteration.
Peteon 14 Feb 13
There is just something about a 911 – the way it looks, and the way it drives.
I have owned a 993 for about 12 years now – and I still linger to look at it, and enjoy it every single time I drive it. It is just wonderful.
I worry as they get bigger, and even more worried that the evolution will one day exclude manual cars. But for now, so many glorious models to enjoy – even from a distance.
Rob, if you do truly enjoy cars – be open minded and try one. Life’s too short.
Oluseyion 14 Feb 13
@Pete: Manual transmissions are not long for this world. American automotive enthusiasts fetishize them because the majority of cars here are automatics and so being able to drive a stick confers some sense of higher mastery, but in other countries where all your run-of-the-mill hatchbacks are 4-speed manuals, few people paying six figures for a supercar want to row their own gears. Further, dual-clutch semi-automatic transmissions like Porsche’s PDK provide control and performance while preserving a smooth ride (Formula 1 sticks with single-clutch transmissions because they’re faster, and driver comfort isn’t a primary concern).
And you know what? I’m ok with that. Manuals are simple enough, mechanically, that a dedicated hobbyist could build a decent 4-speed from scratch given time and patience. It’s alright if they sunset as a generally available consumer option.
@ploogman: There are precious few other individual models that have remained as nameplates and been iterated for as long as the 911 has. The Land Rover Defender comes to mind, as do Corvette and Mustang, but none of them have quite the cachet that the 911 possesses (rightly or wrongly; given the Mustangs of the 1980s and early 90s, I say rightly).
Manuel E.on 15 Feb 13
The original design its original, the new one looks like any korean car.
This discussion is closed.