60 years on, the Porsche 911 remains a cultural icon - Hindustan Times

60 years on, the Porsche 911 remains a cultural icon

By | Posted by Parmita Uniyal
Sep 29, 2023 01:09 PM IST

Unveiled in 1963, the Porsche 911 continues to inspire dreams and serves as a status symbol. Here are some of the stars and movies celebrating the famous car.

Since its creation in 1963, the Porsche 911 has wooed car enthusiasts worldwide, proving its worth on the racetrack and serving as an iconic status symbol over the past decades. Frank Jung, head of Corporate Archives and History Services at Porsche AG, describes the Stuttgart-manufactured car as "the heartbeat and core of Porsche to date."

Unveiled in 1963, the Porsche 911 has become a cultural icon, with stars and movies celebrating the famous sports car. (Heritage Images/picture alliance)
Unveiled in 1963, the Porsche 911 has become a cultural icon, with stars and movies celebrating the famous sports car. (Heritage Images/picture alliance)

An early change of name

Unveiled at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September 1963 as the Porsche 901, the model's number was quickly changed to 911 since French automotive manufacturer Peugeot owned international rights to all car type numbers with a zero in the middle.

Six decades later, over a million Porsche 911s have rolled out of the assembly lines, with different adjustments over the eight generations of the model.

Built to this day in Zuffenhausen, a borough of Stuttgart in southern Germany, the sports car gained global recognition by first entering the American market, with the first 911s exported to the US in February 1965.

"Export was always one of the driving factors behind the success of Porsche 911, especially to the US market in the first place but today worldwide," Jung tells DW.

Cultural icon

As the 911 is "the face of Porsche worldwide, this might be one of the reasons why it has that iconic status globally," Jung points out.

The fact that it appears in movies, music videos and artworks and is driven by celebrities has also contributed to the model's desirability.

In "Downhill Racer" (1969), Robert Redford plays a professional skier who drives through the Alps in a yellow 911T.

The first sequence of the 1971 movie "Le Mans" shows actor Steve McQueen, known at the time as the "King of Cool," driving a Slate Gray 1970 Porsche 911S. He bought the car after the film shoot for his own collection.

The plot of "No Man's Land" (1987) centers on thieves who exclusively steal Porsche 911s.

The bombastic 2017 spy thriller "Atomic Blonde," set in East Berlin on the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, features a supporting character driving a modified Type 964 911 Carrera 4.

And a 911 crashes through a showroom glass in the opening scene of the 2000 action heist movie "Gone in 60 Seconds."

Artworks and museum exhibitions worldwide have also paid tribute to the iconic car.

Recently, Porsche AG has partnered with musicians, artists and designers to diversify the model's reach and brand engagement. Designers have expressed their creativity on different models by designing interiors; artists were invited to showcase different paint jobs.

Numerous past and present music videos feature the car, depicting it as a status symbol and a key ingredient to the "living large" lifestyle.

Among them, the music video to Billy Ocean's 1988 classic "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car" has the singer in a Porsche 911 Turbo Cabriolet.

Notable personalities who drive the Porsche 911 include actor Keanu Reeves, rapper Eminem, model Kendall Jenner, football player David Beckham, basketball legend Michael Jordan, fashion designer Ralph Lauren and pop stars Harry Styles and Justin Bieber.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld is said to own several 911 sports cars in his collection.

In Germany, singer Udo Lindenberg, politician Christian Lindner and classical music conductor Christian Thielemann, who has just been named director of Berlin State Opera, are also known as Porsche 911 owners.

A recent faux-pas

An ad to promote the launch of the new 911 S/T and celebrate the 60-year history of the iconic sports car was released in August 2023.

In the video, a famous Portuguese landmark, the Cristo Rei — a statue of Jesus Christ that gazes over the nation's capital, Lisbon — was initially digitally removed from the backdrop in one driving scene, sparking controversy on social media.

Meanwhile, the video has been replaced with a new version, where the statue has reappeared.

"This was a mistake, and we apologize for any offense caused," says Porsche in a statement accompanying the re-uploaded YouTube clip.

Looking to the future

Beyond its timeless design, the model continues to evolve through engineering innovations.

Facing the climate crisis, Porsche has pledged that 80% of its lineup would be fully electric by 2030. But the company is also pushing its research and investment in e-fuels in order to maintain one exception: the 911.

"We will produce the 911 as long as possible with a combustion engine," Porsche's e-fuels team leader Karl Dums told press agency Reuters in July this year.

For now, the famous sports car remains an item for the privileged class: The 2024 model costs upwards of €120,000. Yet the car company reports high demand and customers having to wait two years for deliveries.

The most expensive new Porsche 911 sports car sold at auction is the one-off Porsche 911 Sally Special, which fetched the exorbitant price of $3.6 million at the RM Sotheby's Monterey Auction in August 2022.

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier

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