It'll Never Fly - Porsche 911

If you wanted to create one of the world’s most enduring sports car icons, would you start with a VW Beetle?

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

If you wanted to create one of the world's most enduring sports car icons, would you start with a VW Beetle? That's what Ferry Porsche did with the very first Porsche 911 in 1963. From the bugeye headlights at the front to the overhanging, aircooled engine at the back, its humble Beetle heritage was stamped all over the new car. Not the best start for a pricy number expected to compete with sinuous, handmade rivals from Ferrari and Aston Martin.

The 911's biggest bugbear, however, was neither looks nor pedigree but handling. Putting the engine at the back created a tail-heavy car that wanted to swap ends even when it was going in a straight line – early 911s left many a first-time driver more shaken than stirred. The tyre-smoking, 160mph Turbos – beloved of red-braced sporting '80s City boys – sealed the car's winebar notoriety, as tall tales of spectacular power slides were swapped over a glass or three of Beaujolais Nouveau.

But for all its faults, the car's deliberate flouting of fast-car design conventions struck a chord with buyers, and the 911 gradually became one of the most successful supercars ever. Numerous painstaking redesigns have created one of the best-handling cars you can buy and – more than 40 years after that inauspicious start – the 911 remains a top seller, having outlived all its contemporaries and several newer Porsche models, to boot. Proof that – in cars as in showbiz – if you've got star quality, everything else can be fixed.

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