There’s hardly a brand more connected to sports cars than Porsche. To this very day, the iconic Porsche 911 remains a benchmark sports car with nothing but a few formidable competitors in the vast and ever expanding industry. While only a handful of cars came to rival it, many more have tried with limited or no success.
These ten sports cars were engineered to take on Porsche 911 in its various incarnations, but ended up either never reaching production, being manufactured in negligible quantities or severely lacking promised performance. That being said, all these cars are remembered as Porsche 911 killers that never were, one way or another.
#1: Fitch Phoenix
Porsche’s unique construction meant it rarely ever had a very direct competitor, but there was one more rear-engined, rear-driven car powered by an air cooled flat-six. On paper, the Chevrolet Corvair and Porsche 911 had the very same layout, but the Chevy was anything but a capable sports car. If you asked John Fitch, however, it was a car with a huge potential—hence the creation of the Phoenix.
The Fitch Phoenix used a modified Corvair platform, sporting a 150 cubic inch 170-horsepower flat-six and an all-new steel body designed by Coby Whitmore and built by Intermeccanica in Turin. The car was presented in 1966 in New York with the plan of building 500 pieces. Unfortunately for Fitch, Congress passed the Highway Safety Act the same year, and on top of that, the Corvair was under fire for its lack of safety, courtesy of Ralph Nader’s 1965 book ‘Unsafe at any speed’. Due to these unfavorable circumstances, the Phoenix remained a one-off car.
#2: Ford GT70
Following a victorious stint at the Le Mans, Ford got its eyes on the rallying world as well, with ambitions of challenging the Alpine A110 and, of course, the 911 in the World Rally Championship. The GT70 was thus born, a project carried out by Ford’s UK branch and the GT40’s chief designer Len Bailey. The fiberglass-bodied pint-sized version of the Le Mans winner was eventually designed by Ercole Spada, and it was powered by either a 2.6-liter Cologne V6 or a 1.6-liter Cosworth BDA inline-four, both placed midship.
Despite the company’s efforts, the Ford GT70 failed to score any memorable result from its debut in 1970 until it was scrapped after the 1973 season wrapped. During that period, Ford produced only six copies, meaning that the GT70 completely failed to rival the Porsche 911 both as a rallying tool and a street worthy sports car.
#3: Mercedes-Benz C111
Mercedes-Benz never really made an all-out sports car after shutting down its racing programme following the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, but its iconic C111 concept would’ve changed the German sports car market forever. Still, Mercedes-Benz was adamant not to put it into production, despite generating enormous interest from potential customers throughout the 1970s.
Had it appeared on the market in any form, the C111 could’ve easily eclipsed the 911 in every department that mattered, from straight-on performance and (over)engineering to reliability, daily usability and prestige. In that regard, this gull-winged Mercedes-Benz was the German sports car king that never was and one of the biggest missed opportunities in the history of the entire automotive industry.
#4: AMC AMX/3
America’s most misunderstood major carmaker almost presented a mid-engined sports car during the golden era of muscle cars, when all America wanted came down to raw power and V8 thunder. The project that could have become way more than a dragstrip sprinter brought together AMC’s own Dick Teague and a number of hot outside contractors, namely Giorgetto Giugiaro, Giotto Bizzarrini, Karmann and BMW. All these names greatly overlapped each other during the car’s genesis between 1968 and its 1970 debut in Rome.
The AMC AMX/3 featured a rigid unibody chassis with a mid-mounted 390 cui V8 and an amalgam of carefully selected parts sourced from European manufacturers. Having been designed, engineered, tested and fine tuned by some of the most accomplished names in the industry, the AMC AMX/3 had the potential to be one of the greatest sports cars of its era. In a way, the AMX/3 could have been the American 911, a sublime sports car coming from the industry’s avantgarde carmaker. Alas, that never happened, as it didn’t pass the prototype stage due to financial reasons.
#5: Chevrolet Aerovette
America’s most capable sports car followed the same front-engine-rear-wheel-drive formula up until 2019 and its eighth generation, but the Corvette almost went mid-engined thanks to the 1976 Chevrolet Aerovette concept. This wasn’t Zora Arkus-Duntov’s only mid-engined Corvette experiment, but it was the one that came the closest to fruition. It was based on the preceding duo of XP-882 and XP-895 prototypes, yet unlike the experimental rotary engine from the latter, it got a transverse mid-mounted 400 cubic inch V8.
The mid-engined Aerovette could have been a sports car that could go head to head with the Elfers of the era, both on the upscale sports car market and on the race tracks around the world, where the two would go on to compete anyway. Still, despite being almost cleared for production as the C4, GM decided to freeze the project, and the Aerovette came short of becoming the prospective 911-killer.
#6: DeLorean DMC-12
Perhaps the biggest flop in automotive history, the Delorean DMC-12 reached iconic status for its pop cultural appeal rather than performance. The disappointingly sluggish coupé just didn’t have anything but looks to offer, so how was it exactly a failed 911 rival and why?
The key to this one lies in its development process. John Z DeLorean envisioned the DMC-12 as an agile sports car and to do so, he commissioned Lotus’ own Colin Chapman to conduct the chassis development. The original idea was to base the DeLorean on the mid-engined Esprit, so the two shared basic double-Y frame construction, and the car was engineered for a mid-mounted turbocharged inline-four.
Unfortunately, as a result of one of many hurdles during development, the DMC-12 got an underpowered rear-mounted V6 mounted behind the rear axle. Needless to say, the 130-horsepower engine was no match for the other rear-engined six-cylinder competition. Lack of power and questionable reliability were two main factors why the DMC-12 failed in being even remotely comparable to the 911, though it could have been in theory.
#7: Nissan MID4 & MID4-II
The Japanese industry’s relentless growth saw their goals being set at the very top of the sports car market during the mid-1980s. This zeitgeist ultimately gave birth to the Acura NSX, a formidable Ferrari and Porsche rival, but Honda wasn’t the only manufacturer aiming at these two prancing horses as Nissan produced two concepts: the 1985 MID4 and its 1987 evolution, the MID4-II.
The Japanese manufacturer used the MID4-II as a testbed for its advanced technologies, equipping it with ATTESA all-wheel drive and HICAS four-wheel steering. The engine was a mid-mounted 3.0-liter VG30DETT V6 producing respectable 330 horsepower thanks to two parallel turbochargers. Nissan ultimately pulled the plug on this project, but all the tech found its place in subsequent production cars. Still, the production variant of this car could have easily rivaled the contemporary 911, all the way to the 930 Turbo.
#8: Alfa Romeo Brera
Now you’re wondering how one modestly powered front-wheel drive coupé finds its way into the list, especially considering Alfa Romeo made 21,786 copies from 2005 to 2010, much higher than most other cars on the list, at least those which have reached production in the first place. Well, it’s the fact that the Brera was originally supposed to be something completely different than it eventually became.
In the concept phase, the Alfa Romeo Brera was a promising car that could have rivaled the 997 generation 911 that came out in 2004. It had a 4.0-liter, 400 horsepower Ferrari F136 and was rear-driven, which would have made it a solid 911 rival at the time. However, the production variant offered none of it, being either front-wheel or all-wheel drive and producing 256 horsepower in its most powerful trim, thus being reduced to a stylish coupé with no particular value as a sports car.
#9: Alpine A110-50
Celebrating 50 years of its fabled performance automobile, Renault introduced the Alpine A110-50 concept in 2012 with much public attention. The nostalgic show car was based on the Mégane Trophy, sporting a mid-mounted 3.5-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed sequential gearbox. Thanks to using a tubular frame and carbon fiber body, it weighed only 1940lb and its highly sophisticated suspension only cemented its race-bred DNA. Had it gone into production, such a car could have stirred things up as it would reignite a long forgotten rivalry between the A110 and the 911, but that sadly didn’t happen as the A110-50 remained only a prototype.
The Alpine A110 was eventually revived in 2017, though in a lot simpler package than the impressive semicentennary concept. Powered by a mid-mounted turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four, the 249-horsepower A110 couldn’t come close to the 991-gen 911, rather rivaling the baseline Cayman. The upcoming 2023 Alpine A110 R will get a significant uprate to 300 horsepower in a 2,429 lb car, but that will still hardly make it a 911-slayer.
#10: Every Other Porsche
This one takes some thinking outside the box and some looking into Porsche’s own ranks, especially from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. During this era, Porsche seriously considered replacing the 911, thus introducing the Porsche 928, a V8-powered bona fide grand tourer. Not only was the plan for the 928 to gradually push the aging sports car out of production, but Porsche also experimented with different layouts for the 911, potentially stripping it of its most recognizable feature: the rear-mounted flat six.
But instead of killing off the 911, every other Porsche the brand introduced merely coexisted with it until eventually being killed off itself. The 911 remained the company’s quintessential car to this very day, despite the fact that the range has expanded to SUVs, sedans and hypercars as well.
In fact, all other cars wearing the Porsche crest allowed the 911 to evolve and thrive further, remaining the greatest sports car in history and a first choice for thousands of enthusiasts worldwide. And we thank them for that.
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