When Porsche unveiled what was then called the 901 at the 1963 IAA Auto Show in Frankfurt, Germany, there was no way of knowing that half a century later, not only would the model survive, but it would become a cherished automotive icon.
The original 911, renamed after Peugeot claimed it had exclusive use of the numeral "0" in the middle of model numbers, came from fairly humble roots. Designed to replace the venerable Porsche 356, the original 911 made just 128 horsepower from its air-cooled six-cylinder engine and had a top speed of 131 mph.
Since then, the Porsche 911 has evolved through seven distinct generations and gone on to become the most successful sports car ever made, with sales of more than 820,000 units since its inception.
Not surprisingly, Porsche is hosting a series of events to celebrate the 911's 50th birthday.
The first was a visit to Paris and February's Salon Retromobile auto show - always one of the more interesting events of the year - where a vintage 1963 Porsche 911 was put on display.
Porsche will also send a 1967 model 911 to a total of five continents, with stops scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland, Shanghai, China, Sao Paolo, Brazil, Melbourne, Australia, Pebble Beach, Calif., and Los Angeles, among other locales.
In March, at the 2013 Retro Classics Stuttgart show in Germany, four 911-related models were on display: one of the first 911 Turbo coupes; a 1981 911 Cabriolet concept car; a 1997 911 GT1 supercar; and the fabled Type 754 T7, which was the chassis Ferdinand Porsche used to develop the original 911.
The Porsche Museum in Stuttgart will celebrate "50 Years of the Porsche 911" from June 4 to Sept. 29. There will be a special edition book to go with it.
Closer to home, the 911 will also be celebrated in the United States.
On March 8, the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance (Florida) hosted "The 911 Porsche Seminar: Porsche's Flagship at 50." The event included some names with true star power, including Hurley Haywood, who drove Porsches to victory three times in the French 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race and five times in the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance event.
Also on the bill were former Porsche racers Vic Elford and Brian Redman, as well as former Porsche Auto Group CEO Peter Schultz and Porsche designer Harm Lagaaij.
"The Porsche 911 is one of those classic shapes, instantly recognizable from any angle, in any light and at any speed," said Amelia Concours founder and Chairman Bill Warner. "I've owned and driven 911s for decades. Visually and dynamically, there is no other car like the 911. It is the car that made Porsche. It's more than Porsche's flagship, it's the heart and soul of the company and one of the most desirable automobiles in the 127-year history of the automobile."
The prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in Northern California will include the 911 as one of its judging classes this year.
"Only very rarely does a model that is celebrating its 50th anniversary have the ongoing ability to raise genuine excitement over its latest offerings in the showroom and to score record-setting victories on the racecourse," Pebble Beach officials wrote in naming the 911 as one of its classes. "But the Porsche 911 does exactly that. The Concours is pairing with the Porsche Museum to exhibit some of the cars that have made this model iconic."
Of course, one big question remains unanswered: What exactly will the inevitable 50th Anniversary special edition Porsche 911 include? And the answer to that question is still very much up in the air, or perhaps more correctly has not been made public as of yet.
Ten years ago, Porsche built 1,963 40th anniversary models, all with custom metallic silver paint, lowered ride height, special exhaust system, hopped-up engine and limited-edition accents.
Expect something special for the 50th anniversary as well, with Porsche likely to pull out all the stops.
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