Porsche 911 Love at the California Festival of Speed
FONTANA, California — When the Porsche Club of America puts on an event like the California Festival of Speed, a weekend long extravaganza at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, you best believe you’re going to see Porsches — lots of Porsches. Everywhere. From the parking lot to the track, where streetcars and purebred racecars from every era in Zuffenhausen’s history did battle. 356s. 928s. 944s. 912s. Even the mighty Carrera GT made a star turn.
And then there were the 911s. So many 911s, with air and water cooled flat sixes hanging out back. Whale tails and wide bodies, two and all-wheel drive, turbos and targas. At this year’s festival, the PCA crew put together a special display of 911s from every generation, a mind-blowing collection spanning 54 years of history. Below is just a small sampling of some of the fantastic 911s we encountered during what turned out to be one heck of a day.
The Original: 1964-1973
Primarily the brainchild of Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, the 911 was initially developed as a larger, more powerful, replacement for the popular 356 and came out to the world in 1963 at the Frankfurt auto show. The initial engine of the first “long-hood” 911, built from 1964-1969, was an air-cooled overhead-cam flat-six that made 128 hp in its original 2.0-liter configuration. While the 911 has undergone myriad changes in its 50-plus year history, the long-hood body style, produced from the 911’s inception until 1973, set the standard for the cars to come. Thanks in large part to its graceful, sloping silhouette and bug-eyed mug, Butzi’s creation would turn out to be one of the most recognizable automotive designs of all time.
The Targa: Coupe, convertible? You make the call
Can’t decide if you want the aerodynamic superiority of a coupe or the wind-blown freedom of a convertible? With the 911 Targa, first introduced for the 1967 model year, Porsche offered both. Conceived as a response to the possibility that American automobile safety standards would lead to the discontinuation of the convertible car, the Targa initially featured a soft, unzippable rear-window and a central section of roof with a fixed roll hoop structure in between. By the late ‘60s, the removable soft window was replaced with a fixed glass window. Translated as “plate” in Italian, the Targa was named for the Targa Florio road race in Sicily where weather was often finicky. While not as popular as the later full convertible variant, the 911 is still available in the Targa body style, with the 991 series car featuring a slick retractable hard-top design.
SC: The return of the Super Carrera
According to Porsche lore, toward the end of the ’70s and the early ’80s, there were plans afoot to replace the aging 911 with the new 928 model. As it turns out in a now-apocryphal story, the 911 was saved when the then-CEO of Porsche, Peter W. Schutz, made a late hour decision to extend the 911 indefinitely, selling concurrently with the 928. Best. Move. Ever. Although it was almost the “last” 911, don’t count the “Super Carrera” out. Powered by an all-new, 3.0-liter aluminum mill with 180 horsepower and Bosch’s K-Jetronic fuel injection, it was the first time the SC designation was used since the 356SC in the mid ’60s, and it proved worthy of the moniker.
The 964: The 911 gets fancy new hardware and all-wheel drive
Like the hairstyles back then, in 1989 the 911 underwent a major, and crucial, redesign with the 964 series model. Introducing a retractable rear-wing, a new suspension with coil springs instead of torsion bars, ABS brakes, and an updated, bigger 3.6-liter flat six, the 964 was launched as the Carrera 4 (the 4 for all-wheel-drive, which helped reduce the 911’s oversteering tendencies). With a turbo joining the party in 1991, boosting the engine to 315 horsepower, followed closely in 1993 with a 355 horse, 3.6 Turbo, the 964 proved Porsche’s commitment to serious sports car engineering.
911 50th Anniversary Edition
Yes, this is just one car, but we think it’s so special it deserves a category all its own. Designed by Tony Hatter, the 911 50th Anniversary Edition, one of the first special editions of the 991 series, is in a word, sublime. Based on the 911 Carrera S but with the wider body usually reserved for the all-wheel-drive Carrera 4, this rear wheel drive coupe puts down a respectable 430 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque and rushes from 0 to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds. Top speed maxes out at 186 mph. But it’s not just the engine that makes this car so special. The limited edition, of which only 1963 were made, a number that represents the year the 911 made its world debut, includes iconic features such as 20-inch wheels that nod to the classic five-spoke Fuchs wheels, houndstooth upholstery reminiscent of the original “Pepita” tartan design, and throwback gauges. Even the special badging is special. This 50 is a perfect 10.
Blue good by us: 911s in blue don’t make us so
We dare you to come up with an automaker that’s done the color blue quite like Porsche has over the years, and some of our favorite blue-hued 911s of all time were out in force at the California Festival of Speed. Colors like Ossi on a 1971 911T 2.4 we spotted, which should be German for “gorgeous color.” (It’s actually German for “a citizen of the former German Democratic Republic, but we like our meaning better). There was a 1988 Carrera Cabriolet in Venetian Blue Metallic that suddenly became our favorite Roman. Midnight Blue Metallic on a 1996 911 Carrera Coupe makes us want to stay up all night. We welcomed the Azzurro California on the 2006 Carrera, a shade of blue exclusive to the California Club Coupes — such a lovely color. We’d happily go swimming in the Aqua Blue Metallic that sparkled on a 2013 Carrera S coupe. Finally, no Porsche “blues” collection would be complete without the “not found in nature” Miami Blue, which might be the best unnatural color since the Twinkie.
Look at me! Vanity!
So yeah, there were some amazing Porsches at California Festival of Speed. But since it’s a car show, you’re also going to find lots of custom metal. We mean license plates, of course. Show ’em off, folks. Some of the best vanity plates we’ve found show up on sports cars. We found a couple for your viewing pleasure.