Best Porsche Models Of All Time

The first car to wear a Porsche badge, the 356, was created in 1948. Two years later, in the fall of 1950, New York businessman Max Hoffman became the first dealer to import these iconic machines to North America. Today, the brand is stronger than ever, and fall 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of Porsche in North America. To celebrate six fruitful decades in the world’s most important auto market, Porsche is pulling out all the stops with new collectibles and an all-new exhibit at its Stuttgart museum. We, with a bit of help from Porsche North America, decided to mark this occasion with a brief retrospective on some of the company’s most iconic rides. Every Porsche is a classic, but here are 10 that stand out a bit more than most.
No.10 911 GT3 R Hybrid
In 1900, 25-year-old engineer Ferdinand Porsche unveiled the first gas/electric automobile at the World Fair in Paris. One-hundred and ten years later, a gas/electric Porsche revolutionized motorsports -- the 911 GT3 R Hybrid. Using its ultra-hardcore 480-horsepower GT3 racer as a base, Porsche engineers added two 60kW electric motors to the front wheels to provide extra bursts of power when needed. That this system also saves fuel under race conditions is a more-than-welcome bonus. The 911 GT3 R Hybrid shows that going green doesn’t have to be boring, and you can expect to see the technologies developed for this car trickle their way down to street Porsches in the near future.
No.9 Cayenne Turbo
Those who complain about the Cayenne diluting Porsche’s identity typically aren’t Porsche buyers, and it was people not buying Porsches that almost caused the company to shutter its doors forever in the early 1990s. Yes, the Cayenne was a blatant attempt to cash in on the SUV craze and sell more vehicles, but it helped Porsche sell a lot more cars, which not only kept the company alive, but brought in record profits, allowing Porsche to fund projects like the RS Spyder.

The Cayenne Turbo shows that Porsche builds class-defining vehicles no matter what the segment. It’s a 5,000-pound, luxuriously appointed off-road machine that can knock out a 4.7-second 0-60 time on its way to a 170 mph top speed. It’s an amazing feat of engineering, and it more than deserves to wear the Porsche badge.

No.8 1965 911 Targa
Threats that the National Highway Transport Safety Association (NTHSA) would soon pass laws effectively banning the sale of convertible automobiles in North America prompted Porsche to create its 911 Targa, and subsequently a whole new vehicle type, in 1965. Porsche replaced the top of the 911’s roof with a removable panel to allow for an open-air driving experience, but everything from the B-pillar back remained in order to appease NTHSA safety regulations. Porsche went one step further and reinforced the remaining vertical pieces with an extra-thick steel roll bar -- just in case. Obviously the NTHSA never actually enacted its ban on convertibles, but the 911 Targa proved to be enough of a success that Porsche still sells a Targa version of the 911 to this day.

No.7 718 RS 60
Porsche’s 356 and open-wheel racing variants enjoyed a successful run throughout the 1950s, but as racing regulations changed and the competition improved, Porsche needed to create a new car to remain competitive. Enter the 718 RS 60. An evolution from the 356 and 550 racecars, the 718 RS 60 carried more size and weight in order to meet the trunk, fender and windscreen requirements enacted by major sanctioning bodies. Motivating this extra mass was an all-new quad-cam four-cylinder rated at 160 horsepower. This car may be considered underpowered by today’s standards, but in its heyday, the 718 RS 60 snagged a number of important wins for Porsche, including overall wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Targa Florio.

No.6 Carrera GT
Porsche’s 50-plus years of engineering innovations and achievements resulted in the Carrera GT. The jewel in the center of the Carrera GT crown is a 5.7-liter, 605-horsepower V10 engine originally designed for Le Mans duties, but tweaked to make it suitable for the street. Mated to a standard six-speed manual transmission, this lump helped propel the carbon-fiber-bodied rocket to 60 mph in less than four seconds and 125 mph is approached in less than 10 seconds. Top speed was rated at 205 mph. Though released less than 10 years ago, this road-legal race car is already considered a classic, and the world’s appreciation for this car will only continue to grow with time.

No.5 550 Spyder
Best known in the U.S. as James Dean’s fateful last ride, Porsche’s 550 Spyder was a formidable machine in its heyday. The successor to the original 356, the 550 was engineered to further Porsche’s status in the international racing community, and thus featured a more rigid frame, a lightweight, hand-built aluminum body and an engine mounted in the middle rather than the rear. Power output was modest at just 70 horsepower, but the overall package proved to be quite successful. Porsche 550s took home a one-two win at the car’s first ever race -- the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the car continued to dominate legendary events like the Carrera Panamericana.

No.4 Porsche 959 
 Not only did the Porsche 959 establish the blueprint for Porsche’s modern-day sports cars, it did so for the entire sports car industry. Unveiled in 1983, the 959 featured forward-thinking technologies such as an all-wheel drive system, a 450-horsepower turbocharged flat-6, magnesium wheels and run-flat tires. Even the body -- while common-looking today -- was incredibly advanced due to its slippery shape, flush headlamps and integrated bumpers. Porsche built a little over 200 models to meet FIA homologation requirements, but the car never achieved certification for North America. In 1998, a new U.S. law allowed cars like the 959 to be brought over under a “Show & Display” status, finally allowing us Yanks to enjoy a true icon of automotive history.

No.3 Porsche 917 
 Steve McQueen drove a Porsche 917 in the film Le Mans, and while that alone is reason enough to put this car on the list of the greatest Porsches of all time, the 917 itself has the goods to solidify its place as one of the greatest race cars of all time. Powered by a flat-12 engine capable of over 620 horsepower, the Porsche 917 was hellishly fast. Flying under the Porsche/Gulf Racing banner, the 917 gave Porsche its first overall win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970, a feat it repeated the following year. Porsche officially retired the car in 1971, but the car would go on to conquer racetracks around the world for another 10 years.

No.2 1966 911S
There are so many great 911s, it’s hard to choose just one. Introduced in 1964 as the successor to the 356, the original 911 wrapped leading performance, luxury and technology in a package that still looks fresh and modern today. 1966 saw the introduction of the more powerful Porsche 911S (for “Super”), which featured a more powerful 158-horsepower flat-6, bigger brakes and a revised suspension.

But it’s the wheels that help get this specific 911 onto our list. Porsche shaved five pounds of unsprung weight from each corner by using five-spoke Fuchs alloy wheels -- wheels whose design have come to define the classic 911 look almost as much as the 911 silhouette itself. A 911 with Fuchs rims is the car people imagine when they hear the word “Porsche” -- and for that reason we feel that the 1966 911S is the most important 911 of all time, and worthy of the second spot on our list.

No.1 Porsche 356
 Porsche’s 356 was the first Porsche to do, or be, anything. It was the first Porsche-branded vehicle ever built, the first Porsche to win a motor sports competition and the first Porsche to be sold in the United States. In other words, there literally would be no Porsche were it not for the 356. The car’s feathery weight and attention to performance made the 356 a formidable sports car, and owners on both sides of the Atlantic enthusiastically raced them to great success.

During its 18-year production run, Porsche created many variants of the 356, including the America Roadster, the Max Hoffman-inspired 356 Speedster and Karmann-built “Notchback” 356B. Racing versions took home numerous victories, including class wins at Le Mans and the Mille Miglia. No matter the version, the 356 was always beautiful, always fast, and always coveted by all who looked upon it. In other words, the 356 is the embodiment of everything a Porsche is, was and ever will be.

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