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Driving an Icon – the Porsche 911

Icons are not born every minute. Some stand the test of time better – and more famously – than others.

Enter the Porsche 911, the gorgeous German sports car with the instantly recognizable curves, which this year celebrates 50 years of excellence. There have been seven generations of the 911 – each one considered a design classic and highly valued by enthusiasts.

At the time of its debut in 1963 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the then two door 911 defied convention.  For a start, the engine was at the back of the car, hanging behind the rear wheels.  The design should never have worked.  That excessive weight at the back would have – and often did – make the 911’s tail swing like a pendulum if driven too fast around corners. The pundits agreed the awful physics of the 911 would consign it to the scrap heap of nice ideas that would never work.  But Porsche, being the determined and focused German engineering company it famously is, proved the pundits wrong.

Today the 911 is revered as the greatest sports car of them all.  The engine still hangs out the back but its handling dynamics have been engineered over five decades to give it a degree of road holding that defies logic, and often the senses as well, with an expert behind the wheel. Think of a train on rails. A low slung, fast train where your backside is barely six inches above the track. Now hit the fast-forward button.  That’s how it feels to be in a 911 driven at the limit.

While most cars have morphed over time to align with changes in customer tastes and trends, the 911 has stayed remarkably true to the original concept of sporty design and performance with everyday practicality.   It may have grown in size over the years (just like us humans) but the formula is unchanged.

The 911 was designed by Ferdinand Alexander Porsche – or ‘Butzi’ Porsche as he was affectionately known.  Butzi’s father, also a Ferdinand, or ‘Ferry’ Porsche, designed the first ever road car to bear the family’s name, the Porsche 356. The company founder and Butzi’s grandfather, the first Ferdinand Porsche, was an engineering genius at the turn of the 20th century who also happened to later design the original Volkswagen Beetle.

Strangely, Butzi was initially not a car enthusiast and was more interested in industrial design.  There is arguably no better exponent of form and function than Butzi Porsche. It was he who created the Porsche Design entity, whose first product was a chronograph wristwatch. Chances are you will be familiar with Porsche Design through its boutique stores at major international airports where products include stylish sunglasses, beautifully made clothing and luxurious travel goods.

Some women buy the 911 purely for its looks.  Others buy the 911 because it’s traditionally seen as the exclusive reserve of successful men and therefore no better way to say “I’m here” to an executive world disposed towards males.  But we think for the “woman with drive”, the 911 is an automotive object of desire for those with discerning taste and an appreciation of precision and design. Once you’ve driven one, you tend to structure your life around acquiring one – it becomes a passion.

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