The low-slung Porsche 917 racecar could hit a 250 mph top speed. Via Canepa
The 1960s was an important period for the automobile industry. In the States, the classic muscle cars were in the so-called golden phase, bursting with oversized engines and raw horsepower. On the other side of the Atlantic, German carmaker Porsche was also riding a wave, building the blocks for lasting success. It wrapped up the production of the 356, a car that put the company on a global pedestal, and replaced it with another icon, the 911.
The ’60s also witnessed the 50,000th Porsche roll off the assembly line, another important milestone. Then there were the legendary machines, road-going and race cars alike, rolled out by Porsche during this period, performance machines that helped shape Porsche’s legacy, rightly positioning the carmaker for its charge into the future.
Read on to know more about some of the Porsche creations that helped define its ’60s.
1964 Porsche 911
Starting this list with anything less than the legendary 911 would be nothing short of a crime. After all, it is the biggest symbol of Porsche’s enduring legacy and arguably one of the greatest performance cars ever built.
The sports car was first introduced in September 1963 as the Porsche 901, with production kicking off the following year. However, production barely began before Peugeot cried out, claiming exclusive rights to the ‘901’ badging. Porsche had to change the name to 911, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Porsche 911 is now in its eighth generation and is currently offered by the German carmaker in more than twenty model variants. Over 1.2 million units have been made since inception, and the Porsche 911 still shows no signs of slowing down.
1965 Porsche 912
Porsche executives were worried about losing market share when the expensive Porsche 911 was introduced to replace the 356. The solution was to come up with an ‘affordable’ model. That car was dubbed the Porsche 912.
It shared the same technical underpinnings as the 911 but was cheaper and less powerful. The Porsche 912 had a 90 hp 1.6-litre flat-four engine instead of the 130 hp flat-six unit that powered the first 911. It turned out to be a smart move. The Porsche 912 was a commercial success, even outselling the 911 in the first few years of production.
1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS
Porsche withdrew from Formula One at the end of the 1962 season, but the carmaker was still interested in competitive racing. To enable it to participate in the FIA-GT class racing, it developed the 904 Carrera GTS.
In official circles, the ‘904’ badging was omitted for the same reasons that prompted the carmaker to change the name of the Porsche 901. The 904 Carrera GTS was originally propelled by the same quad-cam 4-cylinder engine found in the 550 model. However, there were other variants that got either the 911’s 6-cylinder or the 2.0-litre 8-cylinder racing engine. The Porsche 904 Carrera GTS delivered on the racing circuit, notching up 4 class wins at Le Mans in 1964 and 1965.
1969 Porsche 917
This hardcore Porsche sports prototype race car was only introduced at the tail-end of the ’60s. It rightly deserves a spot on this list, though. Shortly after its introduction, the Porsche 917 would carve its name into racing folklore by achieving Porsche’s first overall Le Mans victory. That was in 1970, a year after its debut.
The Porsche superlight spaceframe chassis weight only 93 lbs (42 kg) and was built around a 4.5-litre air-cooled flat-12 engine that originally made about 520 hp. More variants were much more powerful, reportedly boasting over 1,000 hp. The Porsche 917 could rocket to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds and had a top speed hovering around 250 mph.
1964 Porsche 356C
The 356 was Porsche’s first production vehicle, and the last iteration, introduced for the 1964 model year, was designated the 356C. The 356 had an air-cooled flat-four-cylinder engine like its lookalike, the Volkswagen Beetle.
However, Porsche doubled the carburetor count and upgraded the heads, cams and valves. The 356C also had the most powerful pushrod engine that Porsche produced at the time. The Porsche 356 was a very popular model, and the carmaker continued production well into 1965, even after the introduction of its replacement, the 911.
1967 Porsche 911R
In 1967, the limited-series Porsche 911R was birthed as a thoroughbred racing version of the production 911 sports car. Weight reduction was a priority during the car’s design.
The monocoque was made of thin-gauge steel, and fibreglass was used extensively for the fenders, decklids and bumpers. The side and rear windows were made from plexiglass, and the floorboards were drilled to lighten them. Creature comforts were non-existent.
The result was a car that weighed 450 lbs (204 kg) less than its road-going counterpart. The 911R had its competitive debut at the 500km race for sports cars at Mugello, Italy, where it finished third. Its first victory came the following month at the 86-hour Marathon de la Route held at the Nurburgring.
1966 Porsche 906 Carrera 6
The 906 Carrera 6 was a street-legal race car that replaced the Porsche 904 in 1966. It was introduced in January of that year, and 50 units were consequently produced. That satisfied the FIA homologation requirements for participation in the Group 4 Sports car racing category.
The 906 boasted a slippery profile designed in a wind tunnel and could reach 170 mph top speeds, impressive for a 2-litre engine car. The race car’s first outing was at the 1966 24 Hours of Daytona, where it won the two-litre prototype class and emerged 6th in the overall standings.
1969 Porsche 914/6 GT
The Porsche 914/6 GT was introduced in September 1969 and was a collaborative effort between Porsche and Volkswagen. The nimble sports car was purpose-designed for racing with a ram-tuned 2.0-litre flat six 110 hp Porsche engine previously used with the base 1969 911T. A 5-speed manual transmission fed the power to the rear wheels.
In the ’70s, the 914/6 GT would go on to participate in several famous races. It was at the 1970 24 Hours of Le Mans where it finished 6th overall and only behind hardcore prototype race cars like the V12 Ferrari 512S and the Porsche 917K. The car also raced at the Monte Carlo rally and Daytona International Speedway.
1966 Porsche 910
The Porsche 910 was yet another race car that underscored Porsche’s involvement in competitive racing during the ’60s. It replaced the Porsche 906 and was lighter and with a more compact profile. Porsche only produced 29 units of the 910 in 1966 and 1967. The cars had a mix of 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines that made anywhere from 200 hp to 275 hp.
Porsche only raced the 910 for about one year, with one of the most memorable outings being the 1967 1000km Nurburgring race. Porsche fielded six 910s for the event and scored a 1-2-3 finish, giving the carmaker one of its major victories at the World Sportscar Championship during the ’60s.
1968 Porsche 911T
Yes, we already mentioned the Porsche 911 on this list. However, Porsche did make a few variants in the ’60s, and this one, the 911T, deserves some mention. Introduced for the 1968 model year, the 911T replaced the 912 as the entry-level Porsche. The car was powered by a 2.0-litre air-cooled flat-six making 110 horsepower.
It cost $5,195 when it launched, about $2,700 less than the pricey but more powerful 911S. The 911T marked the first time Porsche would offer its cars with different body styles. There was the coupe model, and then there was a Targa option, which had either a glass or soft folding rear window and a rigid Targa bar. The sports car started off strong commercially, and over 2,100 models were produced in its first year.