So, my fellow Porsche and specifically 911 drooling enthusiasts, just what is in a name? Have you ever wondered how that spiffy little bullet of class came to get named 911? Well, first, I can tell you it was long before there were any sad attachments to the 911 designation and has nothing to do with 9-1-1, though you might need emergency help if you do not strap in and hang on in this zippy little ball of fun. There were some haggles and changes that took place along the path to production and release of the then newest model in the 1963 Porsche line-up. As in all things Porsche, flexibility and adaptability were key along with a fair dose of practical in how the legendary 911 got its moniker.
The powers that be (as in were) at Porsche 1963 decided to introduce a new model based on the previous Model 356. It had a similar fastback and made use of a rear engine flat six that was air-cooled. Targeting the high performance market, Porsche AG of Stuttgart was stoked about adding a six-cylinder model to the line that would crank out 130 mph. They knew the new design built with a stronger engine for performance would be a hit, especially with newly designed suspension and improved ride. Being built at the Wolfsburg Volkswagen plant, which had never produced a Porsche or a 900-series car before, the practical Deutsch thing to do was name the new car “901”. The new Porsche 901 was the wow of the 1964 Paris Auto Show…that is, until Peugeot got wind of it.
It seems Peugeot, a French automaker (are they still making cars? You never see one here, except on a flatbed…) claimed there was a trademark infringement as they had “reserved” all 900-series numbers (turns out they claimed any 3-digit number with a zero in the middle) for their car lines. The interesting thing was there was no filed trademark for the 901 designation or any 9-zero-anything, but hey, they squawked anyway. Porsche was already mid-production and changing their name and vehicle labeling was going to be a pain. Again steps in German practicality.
Porsche planned to have the 901 in gold lettering on the dash glove box and on the rear end. They already had all the “9”s and “1”s, and rather than face a lengthy, messy legal squabble with their Francophile neighbors, they did the most practical thing – used the materials they had, making a “911”. The rest, as they say, is history. You can now get a new 911 in a mind boggling twenty configurations.
In fairness to Peugeot, they are still producing cars, even though their early days included many things ranging from steel rods and coffee grinders to bicycles. They never did build a street drivable car with the 9-0-something designation. In 1990 they built a 905, and in 2011 a 908. Both are prototypes for LeMans Racing. They continue to push Porsche to build better and better track and LeMans type racing vehicles, and are strong competitors worldwide.
As for Neunelf, that is the German “syllabic” word for 911. Nine-eleven. Porsche 911 enthusiasts around the world are affectionately referred to as “Neunelfers” by those jealous they don’t have a Porsche 911, too.