Porsche 911 history: the codenames explained

Published: 15 March 2019

► Porsche 911 through the ages
► The full history of the sports car
► Chris Chilton is your guide

Where exactly does the Porsche 911 bloodline start? Which versions are which, and what made them shine?

We’ve gone to great lengths to give you the full story on every version of the sports car from the very beginning, through the ages of turbocharging, homologation specials and controversial decisions.

Read on for our full guide to the 911, and check out our guide to the 911 range and which flavours taste best.

901

1963-64

901

356 successor first shown at Paris in Sep ’63, but when the production version unveiled the following autumn Peugeot – which has patented three-digit names with a zero in the middle – objects, and it became 911 after 81 cars built. Only available as a coupe with a manual transmission and 128bhp 2.0 flat six.

1964-69

A, B-series

901 targa

Cammy 158bhp 2.0 S joins range in late ’66 along with first Fuchs wheels. Targa (with soft, removable, back window) follows soon after. 110bhp 911 T replaces 912; 138bhp E slots between that and S. Longer wheelbase for ’69. Sportomatic semi-auto transmission available from ’67.

1970-71

C, D

911 sticker

Big change is capacity increase to 2.2 litres for T, E and S (now 123, 153 and 178bhp).

1972-73

E, F

T, E and S switch to 2.4 litres (128, 163, 187bhp). Horn grilles beneath headlamps turn black for ’72. 207bhp Carrera RS 2.7 homo special lands for ’73, but only in Europe.

1974-76

G, H, I, J

911 impact bumpers

Chunky ‘impact bumpers’ fitted to meet US crash laws. Range simplified to 911 (148bhp) 911 S (173bhp) and Carrera (207bhp), all with 2.7 engines. Carrera switches to 200hp 3.0 for ’76. 

1977-83

K, L, A, B, C, D

911 sc cabrio

All models except Turbo replaced by 178bhp SC (boosted to 201bhp in ‘80). Targa now has black, not silver roll hoop. Sportomatic semi-auto finally dies ’79. First true cabrio 911 appears late ’82.

1983-89

E, F, G, H, I, J

911 clubsport

SC replaced by new Carrera. Engine grows to 3.2-litres and 228bhp. Wide body Turbo-look option from ’85; slicker G50 ‘box from late ’86; lightweight Carrera Club Sport from ’87; retro Speedster in ’89.

912

1965-68

912

All show, no go. Having moved upmarket with the 911, Porsche fits a 89bhp 1.6-litre flat four to the same shell to create the 912 – a true successor to the old 356. Coupe or (from ’67) Targa.

912E

1976

912e

By ’75 Porsche has killed the mid-engine 914 but the new 924 is still two years away. To tide budget US buyers over it revives the 912 for one year, dropping the 914’s VW-based 89bhp 2.0 flat four into the 911 shell. Manual-shift coupe only. 

930 (Original 911 Turbo)

1974-1989

930 turbo

Turbocharged 3.0 six’s 256bhp pushes the 911 into supercar territory – and several drivers into shrubbery. Faster again from ’78 with a 300hp intercooled 3.3 (tell it by the boxier engine lid and thicker spoiler). Targa and Cabrio options from ’87. Stuck with a four-speed manual til ’89.

954 (911 SC/RS)

1984

911 sc rs

Porsche builds just 22 of these little-known homologation specials to qualify for Group B. Changes include a lightweight Turbo-style shell and Kevlar bumpers. 3.0 six makes 251bhp in road trim, good for 0-62mph in 5sec.

959/961

1987-88

959

Taking the 911 from stone-age to sci-fi, 444hp 959 features a twin-turbo flat six derived from the 956 Le Mans racers’ with water-cooled heads, computer-controlled chassis and four-wheel drive. Top speed: 197mph. 961 is 959 modified for competition; finishes seventh at Le Mans in ’87.

965

1987

965

Porsche has plans for a junior 959 codenamed 965 powered by a rear-mounted water-cooled V8 and builds several prototypes. But new boss Ulrich Bez (later of Aston Martin) pulls the plug. Some Porsche fans now use 965 to refer to the 964 Turbo that did make production.

964

1989-93

964 RS

New smooth bumpers and retractable spoiler the most obvious but least important improvements. Under the skin there’s a 247bhp 3.6, ABS and power steering, while four-wheel drive (Carrera 4) and new push-pull Tiptronic auto are available. Turbo is back for ’91 with 320hp 33 (376hp for rare ’92 Turbo S); became 355bhp 3.6 Turbo for ’93 (379hp for 3.6 Turbo S). Lightweight RS (and ultra-rare widebody 3.8 RS) harked back to ’73 RS but US-only RS America was just a tarted-up C2. Speedster returned in narrow and wide-arch guises.

993

1994-98

993 Carrera

Curvy shell was a step-change for 911 design but real breakthrough was new multi-link rear suspension, a legacy of the stillborn four-door 989 programme, and more sophisticated, less understeery, opt four-wheel drive system. 268bhp from 3.6 boosted to 281bhp with addition of VarioRam adjustable intakes from ’95, the same year Porsche produces the 402bhp Turbo, the first four-wheel drive 911 Turbo. Race-raw GT2 homologation special is a 424bhp (later 444bhp) rear-drive monster. Targa intro in ’96 was basically a big sunroof.

996

1998-2001

996 Carrera

Water’ll she do meister? Porsche ditches the hips and goes water-cooled for ’98. Flat six drops to 3.4-litres but power up to 296bhp. Turbo back for ’00 with same 409bhp but now offers optional 5-spd Tiptronic auto. First GT3 (355bhp) landed in ’99; GT2 (462bhp, rear-drive, carbon brakes, no traction control) followed in 2001. Recognise an early (non-Turbo) 996 by its runny-egg headlamps.

996.2

2001-2004

996 GT3 RS

Back to 3.6-litres and onward to 316bhp for refreshed 996 recognisable by its Turbo-style headlamps. GT3 lost its split rims but gained 20bhp and more authentic-looking squared rear wing. Even tougher GT3 RS featured ’73 RS-style graphics, plastic window and carbon bonnet. Turbo available with optional 444bhp X50 power kit; becomes standard on new Turbo S in ’05. Turbo cabrio option from ’04.

997

2004-2007

997

Mildly updated 996 gets more visual muscle, opt PASM adaptive dampers and the choice of two engines: 321bhp 3.6 for Carrera or 350bhp 3.8 in Carrera S. Wider Turbo-look arches for C4. GT3 is a 3.6 with 409bhp, or a 429bhp 3.8 in RS trim. Turbo (available as a cab ’07) gets a 473bhp 3.8 – boosted to 523bhp in Turbo S and the (again rwd) GT2.

997.2

2008-11

997 speedster and SC

Direct injection plumps Carrera to 340bhp and S to 380bhp; optional active sports exhaust compensates for blander sound. Big news is seven-speed PDK dual-clutch ‘box for Carreras and Turbo, which is up to 493bhp, or 522bhp in the 2010-on Turbo S. GT3 a 429bhp 3.8; RS’s 3.8 pushed that to 444bhp. Legendary GT3 RS 4.0 thumps out 486bhp still without turbos, but 604bhp GT2 RS remains top dog. Other notable models: run-out Carrera GTS (wide arches, 402bhp, thinks it’s a junior GT3), Sport Classic (’73-style ducktail spoiler), Speedster.

991

2011-16

911 R

911 comes over all GT, gaining refinement and switching to electric steering. Reborn Targa has mandatory 4wd, clever – but heavy – retractable roof mechanism and cool ‘70s-inspired styling. Carrera’s new 3.4 makes 345bhp, S gets a 395hp 3.8 and tauter GTS puts out 424bhp. GT3 comes with new 370bhp 3.8; RS is a 493bhp 4.0. Both get four-wheel steer, but are PDK-only, just like 513bhp Turbo (and 552hp Turbo S). High point is 911R, basically a GT3 RS in civvies with a manual ‘box: speculators, and values, go crazy.

991.2

2016-2018

911 gt2 rs

New 3.0 turbo engines for Carrera (365bhp), S (415bhp) and GTS (444bhp) mean GT3 now only naturally aspirated Porsche. Blowers sap noise, but deliver masses more torque and little lag. GT3 (now 4.0 and 500hp) gets a manual option - unless it’s a 513bhp RS. There’s also a spoiler-free GT3 Touring, and a GT3-lite, the sportier-geared Carrera T. Turbo grows to 533bhp, or 552bhp in Turbo S trim and 599bhp for Liberace-spec Turbo S Exclusive Series.

992

2019-date

992

A very on-trend 911. Cockpit tech stolen from the Panamera, emissions regs that make for less noise and an all-aluminium body shaped for all versions to come. For now, Carrera S and 4S PDK models have 444bhp from engine much like 991.2 above, with manuals, a GT3, a Turbo and countless other editions waiting in the wings in the years to come.

Read our massive Porsche 911 (992) review here

By Chris Chilton

Contributing editor, ace driver, wit supplier, mischief maker

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