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Ask any Porsche purist what their favourite Porsche is, chances are the answer would revolve around mostly two generations, the 993, or the 964. Or both.

There is something infinitely lovely about a classic 911. Like their uniquely similar yet varying silhouettes, Whether your choice of flavours are simple Carreras, or something more spicy like the legendary Rennsport or Turbo models. To each of their own, they all carry a different tune.

The air-cooled era is a time where purists cherish the most, some even go as far as having these cars as their only preferred choice of Porsche, but of course, it does make one wonder.

What were the origins of Porsche’s beloved powerhouse?

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The birth of the air-cooled engine came from the neccesity of a civilian vehicle capable to suit the conditions where resources were hard to find.

There were two key reasons for using an air-cooled engine: ease of maintenance and winter weather. In those days not everyone had access to a garage, so this design meant fewer parts for easier maintenance and repair.

Winter on the other hand touched the second factor. Water freezes, and in those days anti-freeze was not yet used in automobiles. Taking water out of the equation meant the engine could operate trouble-free through the harsh German winters.

The first of the many alterations of this famous air-cooled engine came in the form of an air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer engine mounted in the rear of a Volkswagen Beetle. Penned down in 1934, the project was initially dubbed "Project 60".  Along with his son Ferry, Porsche came up with the core concepts for what would be Porsche's most beloved engine.

As the war came and went, The Beetle would survive through it as one of the most successful cars ever made, and it continued production for years later. But as of the end of WWII, Porsche had his hands full of making cars for everyone else, but himself.

It was his son, Ferry Porsche that updated the concept of the Beetle, and also proceeded to use many of it's mechanical features for the birth of the Porsche we know today.

The basic engine architecture was identical, with an air-cooled turbine placed between two rows of cylinders. The design began in 1945 and the first version saw the light of day three years later. Named the 356 as a nod to the 356th project carried out by Ferdinand Porsche's design office, the car owed its shape to Erwin Komenda. The initial model underwent some notable modifications before heading into production: first a convertible, it became a coupe, and its engine, originally central, was installed cantilevered behind the axle of the rear wheels.

In October 1950, the marque showcased the 356 at the Paris Motor Show, with the Grand Palais inadvertently hosting an informal discussion that would forever associate the Porsche name with Le Mans.

Porsche grew quickly and built a reputation on the tracks of Europe, including class wins at Le Mans in 1951 and Carrera Panamerica in 1952. The 356 engines were getting more powerful through more displacement, upgrades to cylinder heads, camshafts, crankshafts, intake and exhaust manifolds, and dual carburetors. 

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Porsche’s very first car – the 356 – was starting to grow outdated as the sixties rolled around,

The new model was to gain two more seats, a couple of extra cylinders, and a bump in engine capacity from 1.6 to a beefier two liters. Upon its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show of 1963, the car we now know as the 911 could extract up to 130 air-cooled ponies from its rear-mounted, six-cylinder boxer. 

The rest, is pretty much history.

It would take ages to mention every single great model this lineup had to offer over the years. The 1972 210-bhp 2.7 Carrera RS being one of them, which included a rear-spoiler from factory, a world’s first for a production car.

The 1980's then introduced us to the immortal icon, the 911 Turbo (dubbed 930). A three-liter flat-six making 260 force-fed ponies was the first powerplant to occupy its engine bay, but this would make way for a larger 3.3-liter mill good for up to 300 hp.

This beauty would end up becoming a 911 incarnation that would sell just under 200,000 copies and stay in production until 1989 – longer than any of its forerunners or successors. 

Then came the 964, A car that was more streamlined, and was basically 85% new. But what made it stand out the most, was the addition of all-wheel drive on the Carrera 4. But let's face it, the 964 was the very generation that got the modern crowd into loving classic 911s. You can thank all the restomods and Instagram builds you've seen through your feed for the sudden demand for this specific generation.

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The last of the air-cooled 911s. The purists' Holy Grail.

We could write a whole book about them (some people have), this was when the notorious pendulum effect, an inherent trait of powerful rear-engined cars, finally swung in favor of the driver. It even looks like the perfect Porsche, as if the older generations were leading up to this point.

The beloved 993 hit the assembly line as a 1994 model, and this is the generation that many enthusiasts would regard as their favorite. Beneath its restyled bodywork sat an all-new aluminum chassis, multi-link rear suspension for extra handling stability, and a beefed-up version of the tried-and-true 3.6-liter flat-six with variable-length intake runners. This power unit boasted 268 horses on tap, and it could once again be had with either a rear- or all-wheel drive setup.

Porsche spawned a myriad of exceptional cars throughout the 993’s lifespan. With a mere 200 copies produced, the GT2 homologation special of 1995 was one such model and will nowadays fetch well over half a million bones in USD at least) at auction. Then there was the Turbo specimen, freshly armed with all-wheel drive and not one, but two turbochargers for a total output of 408 hp.

This thing was nothing short of an absolute monster, but the top-spec Turbo S from ‘97 reached even greater heights with bigger compressors, 450 ponies, and a zero-to-sixty time of just 3.7 seconds. On the other hand, Targas saw their removable tops discarded in favor of sliding electric glass roofs for 1996 – another development aimed at bringing the 911 into the modern age.

Ah, but what the 993 is typically remembered for has nothing to do with the twin turbos, multi-link suspension, or crazy limited editions; oh no. This generation marked the end of an era when production ceased in ‘98, as it was the last to employ one of the traits which defined the 911 since day one – air cooling.

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On the 25th of September 1998, the final 993 dubbed ‘The Last Waltz’ rolled off the production line at Zuffenhausen

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A car forever imbedded as the ultimate sports car.

The history of the air-cooled engine dates all the way back to 1896, when Carl Benz first came up with a flat engine.

Porsche first joined the flat-engine fray when Ferry Porsche put a VW Beetle 1.1-litre, four-cylinder engine into his Porsche 356. In the hunt to find a new engine for the 356’s successor, a six-cylinder flat engine with an axial fan was developed. The 356 became the base upon which the Porsche 911 could thrive, and after almost 60 years, the 911 is still recognised as the quintessential sports car.

Generations have come and gone, and now water-cooling has taken over the 911 affair. But the air-cooled favourites of the past have been kept alive by hundreds of die-hard lovers around the world.

There is simply just no substitute. The newer gens have no negative impact at all, they’re equally loved even. But the indescribable feeling from a classic 911 is just other-worldly.

For us at OneCorsa, we understand that perfectly. So with our latest addition of the 964 Cabrio to the family, we eagerly anticipate what is to come to our inventory. Stay tuned.

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