Nobody loved the early "modern" sports cars from Zuffenhausen, Germany. The first 911, the 901-series, was a thoroughly reengineered 356, which itself was a Volkswagen Beetle on steroids. Then came the turtle-slow 912, the neither-fish-nor-fowl 911T, the E with its capricious fuel injection, the Targa with the zippered plastic rear window that went blind after two summers, and the awful semiautomatic Sportomatics. The serious part of the 911 saga began in 1967 with the lean and quick 160-hp 911S. From day one, base-model 911s were never that special, the exception being the 1981-1989 cars and the particularly desirable, last-of-the-air-cooled 993-series. What made the ultimate metamorphosis of Ferdinand Porsche's Volkswagen such an icon over time were the sharper-edged variants. Charismatic suffixes like Turbo, SC, Clubsport, GT, RS, Carrera, Touring, and Speedster invariably make the hearts of 911 aficionados beat faster. Extra adrenaline is freed by such specials as the wide-body Turbo-look versions, the slant-nose cars that were available between 1983 and 1994, and the often substantially more potent factory high-performance kits (generally not available in the States) dubbed WLS, for Werks-Leistungs-Steigerung (Factory-Power-Increase).
Common to all variations of the breed is an unmistakable sound that didn't change dramatically when the air-cooled boxer was replaced by the water-cooled engine in late 1997; a less-than-ideal weight distribution combined with a high polar moment of inertia; compromised packaging with little room for luggage; and a driving experience dominated by phenomenal grip and traction - while it lasted. Beyond the limit of adhesion, however, 911s of all vintages have frightened us with fickle straight-line stability, a heart-stopping blend of power-on and lift-off oversteer, and the infamously terminal counterswing that punished those who applied too much or too little opposite lock too early or too late with a guaranteed visit to the ditch. Since the low-mounted engine is positioned aft of the rear axle in nearly every 911, this car practically owns the term tail-happy. Even the four-wheel-drive versions channel so little torque to the front wheels that there's never any doubt about which end of the vehicle will come unstuck first. Despite all these peculiarities, the Porsche 911 has become one of the most coveted cult cars in history. Why? Because it is such an involving and intuitive driving machine, and because mastering the monster is so rewarding.
I: 1973 Carrera RS 2.7
1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7: Is the 1973 Carrera RS the ultimate 911? Maybe so. I remember driving both the relatively comfortable Touring model with sunroof and the bare-bones Sport with race seats, a stripped-out interior, a plastic rear bumper, and double-decibel noise levels. To reduce the curb weight to an incredibly low 2150 pounds (2370 pounds for the Touring), Porsche used thinner-gauge sheetmetal, lighter glass, and body panels made of a synthetic material that wasn't very good at maintaining color or shape. The displacement of the engine rose from 2.4 to 2.7 liters, and power increased to 210 hp. The deeper front apron and the ducktail rear spoiler allegedly improved downforce at speed, but in combination with unequal-size tires, Bilstein dampers, and fatter antiroll bars, the RS was still the cannonball ride that its legendary reputation is based on. The phenomenal performance and relative affordability (it cost roughly the same as a 911S Targa) pushed the sales of this weekend racer from the originally planned 500 units to 1580. The fastest 911 of its time epitomized the early virtues of the breed: four strong disc brakes sans ABS, super-accurate and ultraquick steering sans power assistance, and telepathic throttle response sans traction control. The Carrera RS was the most honest, most transparent, and most unforgiving 911 I ever had the pleasure to spin - and spin again - thankfully without damaging anything but my own ego.
911 Carrera RS 2.7
Model year: 1973
Engine: 2.7L flat-6, 210 hp, 188 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62 mph: 5.8 sec
Top speed: 149 mph*
Weight: 2150 lb
Production: 0/1580 (U.S./total)
Original price: $10,200 (1973, est.)
II: 1978 Turbo 3.3
1978 930 Turbo 3.3: For more than ten years, this 911 Turbo remained in production in Europe almost unchanged, with only minor modifications introduced in 1983, '85, and '88. It became a legend simply by being there. The Euro-spec model developed a healthy 300 hp, but the catalyst-equipped U.S. version was rated at a comparatively breathless 265 hp. Although a five-speed gearbox had long been standard in lesser 911s, the Turbo had to make do with a four-speed, which ran out of cogs at high revs and spun too fast at a leisurely pace. This was very much an old-school turbo that suffered from enough throttle lag that one was inclined to rethink every second passing maneuver. Its Matterhorn-shaped torque curve peaked 1500 rpm below maximum power, and it employed one large turbocharger that took ages to build full boost pressure but practically exploded when all 300 horses crashed the gate at once. Starting in 1982, Porsche offered a WLS pack, which added a conservatively rated 30 hp. This version, too, was hampered by Jekyll-and-Hyde running characteristics caused by the fact that the center-mounted blower was connected to the six horizontally opposed cylinders via a spiderlike network of extralong intake pipes. Since test cars at the time were dispatched only to major media, former racing drivers, and friends of the house, I had to wait thirty-two months for my first Turbo experience, but it got me hooked for good. Twenty-three years later, my garage was graced by a 996-series 911 Turbo Cabriolet. It lacked luggage space for my Samsonite, which traveled to and from Munich International strapped upright into the passenger seat, and it was fitted with the lethargic Tiptronic gearbox to make the car drivable for my wife, who tried it one wet winter evening, promptly got scared, and never went near the Turbo again.
930 Turbo 3.3
U.S. Model years: 1978-1979, 1986-1989
Engine: 3.3L turbo flat-6, 265 hp, 291 lb-ft
Transmission: 4-speed manual
0-62 mph: 5.4 sec
Top speed: 163 mph
Weight: 2867 lb
Production: 5817/15,022 (U.S./total)
Original price: $36,700 (1978)
| By Don Sherman
The second-generation 911 began building muscle by upping the engine size and power output from that of the original 1964 model's 2.0-liter SOHC air-cooled flat six. Stepping daintily to 2.2-, 2.3-, and then 2.7-liter displacements and switching to more sophisticated Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection for the 1974 model year, Porsche mustered the courage to launch the first 911 Turbo in the States in 1976. Code-named 930, it delivered 234 hp, nearly double the output of the 1964 engine. In 1978, the addition of an intercooler and a boost of displacement to 3.3 liters brought 265 hp. Closing out the decade with a bang, a race-prepped 935 version of the 911 with water-cooled heads and four valves per cylinder earned Porsche its fifth 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in 1979.
III: 1981 SC Targa
1981 911SC Targa: I can already hear the debate beginning to rage: Why the 1981 to 1983 model . . . why not the much more complete 1984 to 1989 Carrera 3.2? Why the stupid Targa and not the classic coupe? Because. The SC featured the most evolutionary, 180-hp (204 hp in Europe) version of the normally aspirated 3.0-liter flat-six and was the last truly affordable 911 before American-educated president and CEO Peter W. Schutz stepped in and added $20,000 to the price in five years. And because Porsche's controversial targa body style is such an interesting conceptual failure. A functional oddity, the Targa is neither pretty nor practical, but it was the car in which my wife Raphaela announced to me that she was pregnant with our first son, so we took the roof off and drove into the sunset, vexed with emotion. I tried to buy that particular blue metallic car from the press fleet but couldn't afford it, so Sebastian's first ride in a Porsche owned by his father took place in a rather more humble 924 Turbo.
U.S. Model years: 1981-1983
Engine: 3.0L flat-6, 180 hp, 175 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62 mph: 6.8 sec
Top speed: 147 mph
Weight: 2560 lb
Production: 5143/9837 (U.S./total)
Original price: $29,815 (1981)
Walter Röhrl | By Jason Cammisa
Walter Röhrl is a living legend among rally drivers. Although he won World Rally Championship titles (in 1980 and again in 1982), Röhrl has said that it was never his intention to be on top - his only motivation was to win the legendary Monte Carlo Rally, which he did, four times, each time in a car from a different manufacturer. Most impressive, however, was how Röhrl utterly dominated the sport even when his chariot was, on paper, vastly inferior to those of his competitors. Today, automotive inferiority is no longer a problem, as the sixty-two-year-old now works as Porsche's factory test driver. He's often present on press trips, where he's always happy to give journalists very fast, very sideways fun runs - but his real job is to set scorching lap records around the Nürburgring Nordschleife. And his daily driver is the 911 Turbo that's on his personal top-ten list.
Röhrl's Favorite 911s
1973 911 Carrera RS 2.7
1989 911 Carrera 3.2
1990 964 Carrera 4
1991 964 Carrera RS 3.6
1993 964 Turbo 3.6
1995 993 Carrera RS 3.8
2008 997 GT3
2010 997 Turbo
2010 997 GT3 RS
IV: 1987 Clubsport
1987 911 Clubsport: This was the time Porsche discovered that less could be more - as in more money for less weight and less equipment. The 1987-89 Clubsport cost about five percent more than the standard coupe, which was not exactly lavishly equipped, either. Missing from the Clubsport (or CS) were such items as rear seats, door trim, a parcel shelf, insulation, electronic heater controls, the passenger's sun visor, a radio, a glove-box lid, power windows, and foglamps, netting a savings of 220 pounds. While the engine delivered a nominally unchanged 217 hp, lighter intake valves pushed the rev limit from 6570 to 6840 rpm. Together, these measures knocked 0.4 second off the 0-to-62-mph acceleration time. Even more significant was the urgent kick-in-the-butt midrange punch, the sharper handling due to a variety of suspension tweaks, and the enhanced directional stability thanks to the whale-tail rear spoiler. Despite a fetching delete-option CS decal that straddled the entire right front fender, Porsche's increasingly comfort- and convenience-hungry clientele failed to see the attraction of the go-faster-by-taking-out-weight concept. In the course of three model years, Porsche sold a mere 339 Clubsport coupes and only a single CS Targa.
U.S. Model years: 1987-1989
Engine: 3.2L flat-6, 217 hp, 195 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62 mph: 6.1 sec
Top speed: 153 mph
Weight: 2555 lb
Production: 28/340 (U.S./total)
Original price: $48,895 (1988)
1980s TECHTONICS | By Don Sherman
The 911 family expanded with the first convertible in 1983. The 959 Group B concept also debuted with a wealth of technology that would trickle down to regular production models. From this acorn, the 911 family tree's branches eventually sprouted electronically controlled four-wheel drive, twin turbochargers and intercoolers, dual overhead cams, adjustable damping, cast-magnesium center-lock wheels, highly functional aerodynamic appendages, aluminum body components, and a six-speed transmission. A total of 292 examples of the 444-hp wundercar were built; the factory brought a few to the United States for track duty, and gray-market importers courageously sold some for road use. In 1989, a third-generation 911 code-named 964 arrived with air bags and ABS as standard equipment and all-wheel drive as an option.
V: 1989 Speedster
1989 911 Speedster: We're talking here not about the anemic and considerably more rare slimline version, but rather the much better and much better-looking wide-body Turbo-look car, which also swipes the brakes, wheels, and suspension from the Turbo. The roof, which stows away beneath a bubble-shaped plastic lid, is very much a manual operation. After a lot of pulling and fiddling, it should eventually attach to the special cut-down windshield frame that offers about as much rollover protection as a baseball cap. The Speedster arguably looks prettier with the top up, but in that configuration, it is hard to see out of and headroom is virtually nonexistent. When it rains, the cabin steams up and the canvas roof is prone to leak. Although it lacks power windows and standard A/C, I still love the Mark 1 Speedster (but not the comparatively ungainly 964-based model) for its rare mix of street presence, driving pleasure, and investment appeal. I came very close to buying the car we borrowed for an "On the trails of James Dean" story [March 1988], but at the eleventh hour, the PR guy let it go to auction - or so he said.
U.S. Model year: 1989
Engine: 3.2L flat-6, 217 hp, 195 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62 mph: 6.1 sec
Top speed: 137 mph
Weight: 2756 lb
Production: 818/2103 (U.S./total)
Original price: $65,480
Hurley Haywood | By Jason Cammisa
When his name is mentioned, it's usually followed by the assertion that American Hurley Haywood is the most accomplished endurance racing driver of all time. And it's no wonder, as he's racked up five overall wins at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, three at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and two at the 12 Hours of Sebring. If there ever was a Porsche lifer, it's Haywood: the length of his forty-year relationship with Porsche is almost more impressive than his scorecard. All of the above wins were accomplished while driving Porsches - so it's no surprise that Haywood, 61, is the chief instructor at Porsche's Sport Driving School in Alabama. Like Walter Röhrl, Haywood often makes appearances at press launches - but whereas Röhrl loves to show off behind the wheel, Haywood prefers to shine from the passenger side. Make the same mistakes a few times and, with your permission, Haywood will grab the steering wheel with his left hand and show you how it's supposed to be done.
Haywood's Favorite 911s
1963 901 prototype
1976 930 Turbo
1992 964 Turbo S
1993 964 America Roadster
1999 996 Carrera
2005 997 Carrera
2007 997 GT3 RS
2008 997 GT2
VI: 1992 Turbo S
1992 964 Turbo S: Fear comes in strange shapes and sizes, like bucket seats that look like professional torture elements, semislick 265-series rear tires, a huge slatted rear wing, and yellow paint that's blinding in its intensity. There I was, a forty-one-year-old automotive journalist and a seasoned 911 pro - but still scared shitless at the mere sight of this machine. The limited run of eighty-six lightweight 911 Turbo S coupes would top a creepy 181 mph, a speed our photographer refused to record on film because he, too, was pale-faced with angst. Having sampled almost every street-legal 911 variation ever made, I still get goose bumps from the mere memory of this particular 964 version. How come? Because the Yellow Peril incorporated the worst of all worlds. It tramlined horribly, its suspension was about as compliant as a cast-iron street lamp, its aerodynamic performance suffered from latent liftoff fits, and the operating forces required to work steering, brakes, clutch, and transmission called for athletic abilities I never pretended to possess. An evil thing through and through, the 1992 Turbo S confirmed, corner by corner and crest by crest, that the difference between hero and idiot can be frighteningly narrow.
964 Turbo S
Model year: 1992
Engine: 3.3L turbo flat-6, 375 hp, 362 lb-ft
Transmission: 5-speed manual
0-62 mph: 4.6 sec
Top speed: 181 mph
Weight: 2844 lb
Production: 0/86 (U.S./total)
Original price: $118,935 (est.)
VII: 1995 Carrera RS 3.8
1995 993 Carrera RS 3.8: Back in the old days, they would have called this version the 993 Clubsport. But the new Clubsport designation stood for an even more extreme, track-oriented concept featuring a factory roll cage, six-point belts, race bucket seats, a fire extinguisher, and strategic body reinforcements. The Clubsport package was available for the 300-hp Carrera RS, which plugged the gap between the 272-hp base model and the 408-hp twin-turbo edition. Fitted with a bigger-bore, 3.8-liter engine, a close-ratio five-speed box, and a limited-slip differential, the RS weighed 220 pounds less than the Carrera 2. Its suspension was lower and firmer but not quite as low and firm as that of the previous-generation RS and Turbo S. Again mind-bogglingly quick and nimble, the 1995-96 RS turned out to be more user-friendly than its harder-core predecessors - thanks to new power steering, more generously assisted brakes, and a slick new six-speed gearbox. Although it was a whopping twenty percent more expensive than the Carrera 2, the RS found more than 1000 takers. Sporting eighteen-inch Speedline aluminum wheels and a subtle yet effective aero kit, the no-frills 993-series RS is arguably the prettiest and most pragmatic 911 of them all.
993 Carrera RS 3.8
Model years: 1995-1996
Engine: 3.8L flat-6, 300 hp, 262 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62 mph: 5.0 sec
Top speed: 173 mph
Weight: 2800 lb
Production: 0/1014 (U.S./total)
Original price: $105,000 (1995, est.)
VIII: 1998 Turbo S
1998 993 Turbo S: Inspired by the European WLS performance package, this car's uprated, 3.6-liter engine delivered an extra 16 hp over the standard Turbo. Porsche would later increase the output to an even brawnier 450 hp with the WLS II package, thereby matching the numbers of the rear-wheel-drive GT2. The 993-series Turbo was the first of its kind to feature four-wheel drive as standard equipment, and the S version - although it weighed about 450 pounds more - outaccelerated the rear-wheel-drive GT2. There are those who claim that it takes a big heart and even bigger cojones to push any 911 CS or RS to the limit, while any wimp can slide a four-wheel-drive 911 Turbo like Walter Röhrl on a good day. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Although a four-wheel-drive 911 is better balanced, more neutral, and easier to drive fast than a rear-wheel-drive 911, power oversteer on dry tarmac is about as alien to its DNA as ski jumping is to a zebra. You need a lot of road, plenty of inertia, and the determination of a hangman to make this four-wheel-drive 911 Turbo waltz the way its notoriously loose predecessors danced in their sleep.
993 Turbo S
U.S. Model year: 1998
Engine: 3.6L twin-turbo flat-6, 424 hp, 400 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62 mph: 4.3 sec
Top speed: 186 mph
Weight: 3307 lb
Production: 181/336 (U.S./total)
Original price: $161,720
1990s TECHTONICS | Don Sherman
The fourth-generation 911, coded 993 by the factory, arrived in 1994 with a more sophisticated multilink rear suspension replacing semitrailing arms, a six-speed transmission, variable intake-valve timing (VarioCam), and 270 hp from 3.6 liters. The Turbo followed in 1996 with the same displacement; twin turbochargers upped its output to 400 hp delivered via mandatory all-wheel drive. In quick succession, the fifth-generation—a.k.a. the 996-series—arrived for 1999 with water cooling, DOHC four-valve combustion chambers, and 296 hp from 3.4 liters. The new five-speed Tiptronic S automatic transmission provided shift buttons mounted on the steering-wheel spokes. Porsche 911 GT1s—carbon-fiber-bodied pure-race editions—finished 1-2 at Le Mans in 1998, earning Stuttgart its sixteenth victory at the Sarthe. A 360-hp, 3.6-liter version of that race engine powered the first 911 GT3. The brand’s first electronic stability control system, called Porsche Stability Management, was introduced on the 1999 Carrera 4.
IX: 2004 GT2
2004 996 GT2: This was a different animal, in a different league, with different ambitions. The GT2 was a question not many well-to-do 911 customers dared to ask. The company sold some 200 993-based GT2s; only 963 examples of the early 996-derived GT2, which was available from summer 2000 to winter 2001; and no more than 324 late-model GT2s, built between 2003 and 2005. I drove my first GT2 in November 2000. It was shod with shaved tires, and I was explicitly told to bring it back in one piece, since a couple of Greek journalists had recently destroyed the only other GT2 in the press fleet. As we crossed the Swabian Alb heading for Munich, it started to snow. Those were the days when Porsche fitted ceramic brakes as standard to the GT2 but still charged extra for stability control. I had no choice but to pull over and wait out the snow for several hours. Thankfully, the weather improved over the next few days, and there were plenty of opportunities to relish the car's awesome performance. Unlike other 996-based versions of the 911 - such as the Carrera 4S and the GT3, which felt suspiciously light and unstable through very fast autobahn bends - the GT2 was rock solid and much more confidence-inspiring than its rear-wheel-drive layout suggested. For the inevitable cornering trials, we waited for the weather to move on, headed to an industrial park under construction, and played hooligan between two virginal roundabouts.
U.S. Model year: 2004
Engine: 3.6L twin-turbo flat-6, 477 hp, 472 lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62 mph: 3.9 sec
Top speed: 198 mph
Weight: 3131 lb
Production: 29/324 (U.S./total)
Original price: $192,465
2000s TECHTONICS | Don Sherman
The world's first ceramic-composite brake rotors arrived as optional equipment on the new 2001 911 Turbo, now hiked to 415 hp thanks in part to the introduction of variable valve lift (VarioCam Plus in Porsche-speak). A new, sixth-generation 911, the 997-series, continued the power ascension for the 2005 model year. A DOHC 3.6-liter six produced 325 hp in Carrera models, and Carrera S editions enjoyed 355 hp from a 3.8-liter engine. Carrera 4, Targa, and 480-hp Turbo models followed. The notable 2007 advancement was the addition of variable-nozzle turbochargers to expand the blowers' effective operating range. The third major redesign of Porsche's water-cooled six-cylinder engine gave the face-lifted 997-series direct injection along with 345 hp for base 2009 models and 385 horses for S versions, while the 2010 Turbo rings in the next decade with a nice, round 500 hp. The new two-piece block is lighter, stiffer, and simpler in design. A ZF seven-speed dual-clutch transaxle (PDK in Porsche lingo) arrived with the latest 911 engines.
X: 2010 Turbo
2010 997 Turbo: Until Porsche introduced the new 911 Turbo, velocity was a term used within more modest dimensions. The quickest-ever pre-997 GT2 would do the 0-to-62-mph sprint in four seconds flat, the fastest Turbo S would top 190 mph, and the most extreme GT3 RS would storm from 0 to 125 mph in 14.0 seconds. But then the 2010 Turbo was launched, and all of a sudden these evolutionary boundaries didn't apply anymore. After all, this 500-hp road rocket can beam us from 0 to 62 mph in 3.4 seconds, does an honest 194 mph, and still averages 20 mpg at more modest speeds, thereby easily eclipsing any GT2, GT3, or GT3 RS. What we have here is a new level of accessible performance, total practicality, and absolute user-friendliness. The new Turbo explodes like a bomb from the word "go" all the way to the limiter at 7000 rpm. It can be ordered with the highly efficient PDK automatic, and it is as enticing to whip through the twisties as it is to chase the horizon on an empty autobahn. Thanks to the latest stability control software and the new four-wheel-drive hardware adopted from the Carrera 4S, the 2010 Turbo is now even oversteer-friendly up to the point where the traditional tail-out, opposite-lock, whoopee! antics come full circle. This is the most complete contemporary Porsche 911 that money can buy.
997 Turbo PDK
U.S. Model year: 2010
Engine: 3.8L twin-turbo flat-6, 500 hp, 516 lb-ft
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
0-62 mph: 3.4 sec
Top speed: 194 mph
Weight: 3516 lb
On sale: Now
Kacher's own counterpoint: What kind of incomplete and highly subjective list is this? No GT3, and no GT3 RS, either? Why did I pick this particular 996-series 911 GT2, and not an earlier or a later version? Why have none of the many Turbo-look body styles made the grade? How could I forget the GT1 and the 964/993-series Speedster? Let me explain. I never drove a 993-series GT2, so I must reserve judgment. I did sample the latest 530-hp GT2, which is a fair bit quicker than the 477-hp model. But it has mellowed a little, put on weight, traded some of the rawness for an extra dash of perfection. A better car, yes. A more rewarding drive, perhaps not. I don't have much affection for the GT3 RS because I don't fit in those bucket seats. On the other hand, I do love the GT3, in all its iterations, the most recent specimen even more than the earlier ones.
But in a top-ten list that considers a time span of forty-six years and already lists eight emphatically sporty 911s, I didn't want to kick out the admittedly less dramatic SC Targa for one more current hot-shoe special. And as much as I like the idea of a 911 Speedster, neither the 964-based proposal (not even the fifteen Turbo-style one-offs) nor the 993-derived model (of which only a single unit was built) make my personal top-ten list. Although the GT1 (above) deserves an honorable mention, it is in essence a hyperexpensive race car in disguise. And by the standards of today's Turbo, it isn't even exceptionally fast anymore. This leaves us with all those wide-body variants - which are exactly that: expensive derivatives of mainstay models, products of the styling department, not the R&D division.
Porsche Bookshelf | By Eric Tingwall
Porsche: Excellence Was Expected
Hardcover, 1688 pages, $300, bentleypublishers.com
You'd expect a sixty-six-chapter, three-volume tome by the venerable Karl Ludvigsen to be definitive, and it is. First published in 1977, the latest edition offers in-depth information on everything Porsche, from the Type 356 through the yet-to-be-introduced Panamera Hybrid. But while other authors focus only on the cars, Ludvigsen crafts wonderful prose about the people - executives, designers, and engineers - who make the company that builds the cars. Even if it's too daunting to read cover-to-cover, you can open to any page and expect to learn something new every time with this unimaginably complete work.
The only shortcoming is that Ludvigsen's narrative concludes just before Porsche's shocking financial collapse and takeover by Volkswagen this past summer. We can only assume that this will provide plenty of grist for Ludvigsen's insider storytelling in a future revision.
Porsche 911 Buyer's Guide
Paperback, 304 pages, $28, motorbooks.com
Randy Leffingwell has authored several Porsche books, but his Porsche 911 Buyer's Guide is one of our favorites for its accessible style and focus on the American market. It's titled as a buyer's guide, but the year-by-year coverage is still a great quick-reference guide for the enthusiast who doesn't own one of Stuttgart's sports cars. Introductions to each year detail the nitty-gritty - when the 911SC received a new alternator, for example - and are nicely complemented by thorough spec panels.
For 911 shoppers, there's a broad range of topics to evaluate a particular model's significance, character, and shortcomings. There are excerpts from period reviews and lists of parts costs. Leffingwell uses a five-point scale to rate acceleration, comfort, handling, parts availability, and reliability. Finally, a two-page spread for each year is devoted to common problems and improvements versus previous models.
The Porsche Book: The Complete History of Types and Models
Hardcover, 1504 pages, $300, bullpublishing.com
If Ludvigsen has written the Porsche bible, this is the encyclopedia. Without the lore and legend of the people and the company, The Porsche Book provides a comprehensive examination of every model built by the German automaker, starting with the 1939 Type 64. Originally published in 1977, the volume has finally been updated and reissued in English after a twenty-five-year hiatus.
The text details model-year changes, engineering motivations, and unique models, punctuated with a wealth of technical diagrams and photos. Authors Jürgen Barth (1977 Le Mans winner) and Gustav Büsing also provide production charts from every generation, capturing the specs and sales numbers. Fanatics of all things Porsche will also appreciate the breadth of the books; the three volumes are separated for rear-engine cars and their racing variants, mid- and front-engine vehicles, and purpose-built racers.