The 959 wasn’t just one of the most progressive sports cars of its time, it was also one of the most expensive. Each of the 300 examples sold for an incredible $225,000 — a lot of money in 1986 — but that was less than half what it cost Porsche to make the car. Today, they’ll fetch well over $1 million at auction.
Porsche 911 Carrera RS
One of the most highly-sought 911s ever, the 911 Carrera RS is an icon among icons. Designed built to meet motor sport homologation requirements, the “Rennsport” models were lighter, more powerful, and more focused than other 911s at the time, and the car’s styling reflected its thrill-seeking nature. Generally fitted with a spartan cabin, stiff suspension, and big brake kit, the 1973-1974 Carrera RS was a driver’s car through and through, which is partly why they’re almost impossible to find.
In the last decade, the 911 Carrera RS’ value has increased by an unbelievable 699 percent. According to the Telegraph, the Carrera RS 2.7 represents the best classic car investment over the past 10 years, as variants of the car have fetched nearly $2 million at auction. If there were a Mount Rushmore for classic sports cars, this thing would be on it.
Porsche 550 Spyder
The 550 Spyder was Porsche’s first purpose-built racecar, so the vehicle represents Porsche’s first steps in a long and storied journey through motor sports. It also saw Porsche rethink the Volkswagen Beetle’s rear-engine layout in favor of a rear mid-engine setup, one where the 550’s flat-four sat in front of the rear axle and transmission instead of behind them. This improved balance and agility tremendously but killed the back seat, much to the chagrin of exactly zero people.
Despite its impeccable performance and looks, the 550 Spyder has a bit of a troubled past. Perhaps the most famous example was James Dean’s “Little Bastard,” which the actor fatally crashed while on his way to a race in 1955. Today, the vehicle is one of the most common kit cars around.
Porsche Carrera GT
If you need an example of how much supercars have changed over the last 10 years, simply compare the 918 Spyder with its ancestor from 2005, the Carrera GT. Both cars are ungodly fast, but while the 918 offers a variety of operating modes, four-wheel steering, and all-wheel drive, the Carrera GT was raw. Fitted with rear-wheel drive, a manual gearbox, and no electronic stability control, the 605-hp GT made most 911s look tame, and it was something that demanded respect. Porsche was riding off the success of the 986 Boxster and Cayenne at the time, so the Carrera GT served as a reminder that Porsche could still build a hardcore driver’s car. And that it did.
It also made something incredibly beautiful, because the Carrera GT is one of the sexiest automobiles to ever wear a Porsche badge. It’s exotic, well-proportioned, and wonderfully sculpted right down to the rear engine vents and prominent spoiler, and it’d fit right in on a bedroom poster next to Ferraris and Lamborghinis. In 2004, the vehicle cost a whopping $448,000.
The Boxster is often knocked for being a watered-down version of the 911, but it’s actually one of most important cars the company has ever released. Put simply, Porsche might not be around if it weren’t for the 986 Boxster’s success in the late 1990s, because the company was facing serious financial troubles as the time.
Due to a recent recession and the poor sales of the 928, Porsche needed an influx of cash. To get it, the automaker combined the classic mid rear-engine layout of the 550 Spyder with a 911-style flat-six engine and called it the Boxster. The result? A spike in sales that put Porsche back in the green.
Without the Boxster, we’d have no Carrera GT, no 918 Spyder, no Cayman, and no 911 R, so we have a lot to thank Porsche’s entry-level model for.
When the 928 debuted at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, Porsche purists were appalled. Billed as a successor to the 911, the 928 was more of a grand tourer than an outright sports car, and to make matters worse, Porsche went and put the engine at the front. How dare they?!
History has been kinder to the vehicle than the community was initially though. Why? Because the 928 is secretly great. The car offered a level of comfort and splendor unavailable in any other Porsche at the time, and it actually had a usable back seat. Would it keep pace with a 911 around a track? Absolutely not, but that wasn’t the 928’s wheelhouse. This was the car you drove to the circuit while your Carrera RS 3.0 was in the trailer. And with a 316-hp V8 on board – the company’s first, by the way – you’d have plenty of fun doing it.
Porsche 930 911 Turbo
Porsche is the 911, and while the vehicle is still evolving, the addition of the turbocharger in 1975 may go down as the car’s biggest watershed moment. The addition of forced induction elevated the 911 to true supercar levels, as its boosted flat-six made 260 hp, almost 90 more than the standard Carrera. Yes, there were plenty of great 911s made before ’75, but the 930 — known to most as the 911 Turbo — offered a level of speed that was unheard of for the time.
As with many classic Porsches, the company’s first turbo street car was a white-knuckle experience. It had a very low margin of error in terms of traction, and developed a now-infamous tendency to oversteer on liftoff. Given the extreme potency of the Turbo’s right pedal, inexperienced drivers lifted off a lot, which caused the heavy tail to swing around and a reputation for rowdiness to arise.
To tell you the truth, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
With its flat nose and cartoonish fender flares, the 935 is one of the most unusual-looking race cars ever to come out of the Porsche factory — but also one of the most effective. Between 1976 and 1984, the 935 dominated sports-car racing, helping to build the 911’s reputation as a serious performance vehicle.
Yes, underneath the crazy bodywork sits the basic chassis of a 911. Rules that went into effect in the mid 1970s allowed manufacturers to extensively modify the bodywork of production cars for racing, as the basic roof outline remained the same. This allowed Porsche engineers to create a more aerodynamic body, which was paired with a powerful, turbocharged engine.
The 935 bridged the gap between race cars based on production models and purpose-built prototype racers. That turned out to be a good niche, as the 935 racked up numerous class wins and victories, including an overall win at Le Mans. But the car’s iconic design — the most extreme version was nicknamed “Moby Dick” — probably made the biggest impression of all.
In the decades prior to the introduction of the 956, Porsche steadily built up a reputation as a contender in racing. But this car turned it into a dominant force.
The 956 debuted in 1982, and subsequently evolved into the 962 largely so Porsche could race it in the North American IMSA series. The 956/962 racked up six of Porsche’s 19 Le Mans victories –seven if you count the win by a road-going version from German firm Dauer in 1994. Given it raced competitively for more than a decade, the 956/962 also had a remarkably long career.
In addition to being brutally effective on the track, the 956/962 is also one of Porsche’s most attractive race cars, and it represents an exciting era in motor sports history. In the 1980s, cars were faster than ever, but they weren’t defined by technology the way more modern race cars are.
With its mid-engine layout, hardtop body, and compact proportions, the Cayman has plenty of performance potential. Porsche has traditionally reigned in this “entry-level” model, however, in order to keep it from stepping on the toes of the 911. Thankfuly, Porsche finally let the Cayman fulfill its potential in 2015.
The Cayman GT4 was a limited-edition, hardcore performance model that made the most of the Cayman platform. Porsche equipped it with choice bits from various 911 models, including a 385-hp, 3.8-liter flat-six engine from the Carrera S, and suspension and brake components from the GT3.
The result was a Cayman purely focused on driving, and the kind of car enthusiasts had wanted Porsche to build since the Cayman first appeared. It was also a fitting swan song for the naturally-aspirated six-cylinder Cayman ahead of the introduction of the turbocharged four-cylinder 718 series.
Porsche 911 GT1
Before the Carrera GT propelled Porsche into the world of mid-engine supercars, and before the 919 Hybrid inaugurated a new era of Le Mans success, there was the 911 GT1. As both a hyper-exotic supercar and a Le Mans-winning race car, it was like nothing else Porsche had ever built.
Few cars live up to the cliché descriptor “race car for the road,” but the 911 GT1 is one of them. In an era when the line between race cars and road-going supercars was more blurred than ever, Porsche decided to simply build a race car and sanitize it for the road.
The result was the 911 GT1, which, despite its name, had more in common with Porsche’s 962 race car than the 911. Unleashed in 1996, the 911 GT1 was the most extreme road car Porsche had ever built, at least until the Carrera GT came along. Its 1998 Le Mans win was also Porsche’s last for 17 years.
Porsche 911 R
Like any other automaker, Porsche has to consider the needs of a wide variety of customers. But sometimes it produces a love letter aimed at its most hardcore fans.
Packing a 4.0-liter naturally-aspirated flat-six engine, a six-speed manual transmission, and a minimum of electronic aids, the 911 R had all of the ingredients for the ultimate driving enthusiast’s Porsche. The performance figures were pretty astounding, too: 0 to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds, and a top speed of 200 mph. It also eats hill climbs for breakfast.
The only downside to the 911 R was its limited production run; the car was only available in 2016. But the positive response the R generated seems to have had an impact on Porsche. As part of a recent update, it restored the 911 GT3’s manual transmission.