Porsche's million to one 911

What irritations might make a Monday morning commute even more tiresome? A new set of road works and resulting tailback? Delayed trains? The classic 'wait for one bus then two turn up at once' scenario?

Or how about a convoy of self-entitled motoring hacks in a priceless collection of Porsche 911s, whisked past you and the rest of the queuing masses with an escort of police motorcycles? Yeah, that'd be pretty annoying wouldn't it. Sorry Edinburgh.

At the head of this group of special 911s a very, very special one. Perhaps not as jaw dropping as the fully liveried GT1 looking like it had taken a wrong turn off the Mulsanne Straight. Maybe not as hardcore as the various GT3s present, including a mint gen-one 996, Porsche GB's 'HBY' 997 3.8 RS press car and its equally hard-worked 'XLG' 991 RS successor. But, given what it represents, a pretty significant Porsche 911.

Yes, it's that one millionth car, unveiled recently and now making selected public appearances around the world before retiring to live out its days in the Porsche Museum. Even with the temptation of all of the above cars, the added distraction of rarities like a 997 Speedster and that one-off 3.2 Clubsport prototype, the bunfight for a turn at the wheel wasn't pretty. Mine didn't come until the closing hours of the two-day event and after some fairly undignified sharp elbow tactics. For all the attractions of the other cars we all realised, symbolic as it was, the chance to drive this car was going to be as one-off as its status implied. The thought that, some years hence, we'd all be able to go to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, point at this Irish Green 911 and tell whichever long-suffering companion we are with 'driven that one' is, perhaps, rather selfish motivation. But motivation enough.

Here, step by step, is my path to that very special car. Taking in a few pretty cool ones along the way.

The 964 Turbo
The police escort was fun. But immediately upon the bikes peeling off a navigational snafu split the group, my dedication to staying close to the millionth car seeing me follow it up what was intended as our return leg. A stop for map-based head scratching was then exploited as a chance to swap the silver 991 Carrera I'd started with for something a little more exotic.

Bad Boys? Perhaps not any longer
Bad Boys? Perhaps not any longer
Into the 1991 964 Turbo it was then. Now although I've been having a bit of a 911 Turbo epiphany of late, up to this point I'd never driven an 'old' one. If not an original 930 the 964 is the next best thing, using essentially the same 3.3-litre single turbo engine as the late model cars, albeit clothed in more contemporary looking 964 bodywork.

We all know the 'widowmaker' reputation of the original of course. But by modern standards 320hp isn't a whole lot. And the near-1,500kg kerbweight still is. You understand where it comes from though, given how tough and substantial this car feels. Timeless on the outside, 964s feel more dated within thanks to the scattergun switchgear, floor-hinged pedals and general old-school vibe.

It has one way it wants to be driven - steady and deliberate, the boost building on the digital display a lot faster than it does in terms of meaningful acceleration. Get the timing wrong and it probably will show you a more spiteful side but this car encourages a methodical, disciplined driving style. And proves both relaxing and deceptively rapid as the scenery opens out and the roads get interesting. I like it. But I'm keen to try something a little more ... involved.

The 3.2 Clubsport
Something exactly like this car! This prototype for the limited run G-series Clubsport, the GT3 of its day and previously underrated template for the lightweight, track-focused 911s that have become such icons. And hot property.

I've driven this car before; nearly five and a bit years ago in fact, when it was fresh out of a full factory restoration and present on the launch for the original 991. Back then the leather on the steering wheel was matt and freshly stitched and the 915 gearbox unusually precise compared with others I've driven. Since then it's obviously been driven a little more, the patina and more lived-in feel giving it extra character. And what character.

There special 911s and then special 911s...
There special 911s and then special 911s...
Production Clubsports in the UK got the red Fuchs and side decals, rarity now gifting them celebrated status not recognised at the time given the modest performance improvements. This one's a bit different, the shell bumpers saving a claimed 20kg off each end of the car and the claimed 231hp clearly delivered by some very healthy horses.

It's fabulous. The shell feels so stiff and substantial yet the car so nimble. It's got that curious old 911 combination of requiring some fairly brutal inputs and yet being so light on its feet and rewardingly transparent about its knife-edge balance. The chuntery tickover picks up quickly and from 4,000rpm onwards it howls with that lovely flat-six crescendo, the lack of soundproofing offering an intimate relationship with the mechanical mayhem behind you. A lovely, lovely car. If you're going to backdate a 3.2 Carrera then please, please use this as your inspiration rather than turning it into some bastardised vision of an older car.

The 1967 Targa
After politely declining the chance to drive the Tiptronic 993 Targa, losing what I'd understood to be a guaranteed seat in the 997 3.8 RS and then ending up in a 991 Carrera 4 S, I'm suddenly upgraded to the 1967 Targa. It's raining. And quite a lot that is dribbling into the cabin.

Half a century old!
Half a century old!
This is the oldest 911 I've ever driven. And, charming as it is, it wouldn't be top of my wishlist. But it soon wins me over. The plastic steering wheel is huge and skinny of rim but gives you something to hold onto when sliding about on the flat seats. And, although I'm going about it in a bit of a random order, the genetic link to the later 911s is clear enough. Especially in the engine.

It's only a 2.0-litre in this car with a modest 130hp. But the sound is more 911-like than I'd expected, with that familiar gruff bark at lower revs and an appetite to pile them on as you work your way through the gears. That takes some thought though, the play in the lever feeling like you've left it in neutral even when you're actually in gear. For a 50-year-old car on a wet Scottish A-road it's remarkably confidence inspiring though, zinging along through the spray happily enough. I'd still rather a coupe, but it's an interesting demonstration of how far the 911 has come. And yet how honest to the formula it remains.

The 3.8 RS
From 1967 2.0-litre Targa to Cup-shod 997 3.8 RS is quite a leap. The conditions don't favour the car, especially with the knowledge of quite how relaxed the stability control is, even with everything switched on.

Best of the best?
Best of the best?
This is a truly fabulous 911 though. A long-serving press car that has somehow avoided being defleeted this RS has been ragged hard - and loved - by every wannabe hand in the British motoring journalistic community. Me included. It's won countless car of the year tests, been tracked relentlessly in its career and has recently been treated to a cosmetic refresh after the stone chips and milky-looking Polycarbonate had gone from charming patina to just looking a bit knackered.

I'd have still loved it in that state. There's more to say on this car too...

The 996 GT3
Now one of 'those' 911s - as in the ones you wish you'd bought before people cottoned on - the chance to drive a low-mileage, factory fresh and totally original first-gen 996 GT3 isn't one to be sniffed at. And the Guards Red museum car is a beauty.

The first GT3 - the best one?
The first GT3 - the best one?
Fancy seats apart the interior is rather more sober. But it feels so small compared with the 991s as to be from another age, the wheel oddly large and free of silly protrusions or distractions. This is a car refreshingly free of gimmickry, leaving you to focus on the sensations. In this respect it feels rather like the 3.2 Clubsport, though in terms of creature comforts and refinement it's more like the 964 Turbo in comparison.

By heck is it stiff too. And I thought this was meant to be the mellower one compared with the gen-two car! Debate still rages over which is the better 996 GT3 but, personally, I dig on the fact this is the first GT3 (that 'something' Harris alludes to in his Tell Me I'm Wrong) and prefer the curvy rear wing to the flat plank on the later car.

It's not an immediately fast car, at least not in terms of acceleration. Once up in the revs though that Mezger engine takes on a harder, more serious edge that sets it apart from regular Carreras. It's not the loudest or most outgoing GT 911 out there but there's a fuss-free simplicity to it, and an undiluted link to cars like that 3.2 Clubsport, that makes it the most classic feeling 'modern' Porsche I've ever driven. Worth the incredible hype and premium over regular 996s? I'm not sure, but the rarity value and badge are enough to guarantee it celebrity status. Much as I love it I don't find it getting quite under my skin quite as much as I'd expected. Or maybe I'm just getting complacent...

The Millionth 911
And at last here we are. The one millionth Porsche 911. Of all the cars in the 991 line-up, credit to Porsche for basing it on a manual Carrera too.

All things relative but choosing the 'basic' Carrera (albeit in S spec with the Powerkit 450hp upgrade) as the starting point for a project like this is rather cool and honest to the history of the car. Some of the Porsche Exclusive additions like the mahogany wheel and gold badging sound a bit tacky when written down, but this really is one of those cars that actually makes sense as a complete package.

Wonder if anyone's actually ordered that wheel
Wonder if anyone's actually ordered that wheel
In the clear Highland sunshine the Irish Green paint - inspired by Ferry Porsche's personal early-series 911 of 1964 - really pops. Never shy of realising a promotional opportunity when it arises, the millionth 911 is as much a demonstration of the personalisation options offered by Porsche Exclusive as it is celebration of this production milestone. But then you don't get to sell a million sports cars without understanding how to make them both appealing to customers and profitable to the company bottom line.

And what's it like to drive? Well, like a Carrera GTS really. And no bad thing there. You're reminded of both how far the 911 has come since 1963, but also how cleverly it clings on to just enough of the original's eccentricity and character to stand out as something different even now. Lovely thing. But not the nicest 911 on the trip. More on that shortly...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (17) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Krikkit 17 Jun 2017

    BeillyNoy said:
    I've never been a fan of 911, to be honest, but the 3.2 Clubsport could convert me.
    The Clubsport, a 964 Turbo and the 996.1 GT3 are the ones that would make my lottery garage, the rest I'm not that fussed about (although the 997.2 GT3 sounds mega).

  • biggles330d 17 Jun 2017

    While respecting all the specials and more extreme versions, the basic carrera unadorned just looks fabulous in that green.
    Is it a standard colour option?

  • DPSFleet 17 Jun 2017

    I first caught the 911 bug back in 1968 when I used to see a yellow 911s passing my school gate in Winchester.
    Since then I have always loved the 911, the style, the noise, the practicality and the reliability. Eventually a few years back, I got my chance and in retirement (among other cars) still own three old Porsches including a 997.2 GT3, and an 89 clubsport. To me, and I have driven many, many cars, nothing quite works as well as these rear engines minxes. The latest cars are getting a bit big now and although very competent are too perfect for my taste.

  • Brompty 17 Jun 2017

    While I love the exterior of almost any Porsche 911, the interiors can be atrocious and this one is no different - and Porsche is trying hard here.

    What is strange is that Boxter and Cayman are relatively unaffected, but the 911 from almost any era looks dated, unpleasant (lots of brown corduroy), and most recently just too many buttons for a sports car.

  • Plug Life 17 Jun 2017

    Glorified VW Beetles with lineage to Tatra designs stolen by good old Ferdinand.

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