Porsche is a broad church. One that spans everything from tractors to Grand Prix winners. Even aero engines, at one stage in its history. Yet such is the cult of the 911 that for many the only Porsches that matter are those with a flat-6 slung over the back axle.
If you’re on the Sports Purpose mailing list, there’s a high chance you’re a 911 fan boy (or girl). Rest assured there’ll be no judgement from us. Glass houses and all that. Besides, it’s fair to say that of all Porsche’s road cars, only the 911 has enduring star quality. The rest? Well, they’re either seen as stepping stones to ownership of a ‘proper’ Porsche, lucrative forays into mainstream high volume sectors or sporadic and somewhat anomalous supercars.
Sacred in so many ways, Porsche’s flagship sports car has long been Werk 1’s favourite child. Only now that the next generation of Boxster and Cayman are confirmed as EV-only have the run-out models received the RS treatment they have long deserved. Meanwhile, in the face of that transition to battery power, Porsche insists the 911 will only compromise to the point of a hybrid powertrain, at least for the foreseeable future.
I’d wager the primary reason Porsche has invested so much into the development and promotion of synthetic gasoline is to keep the 911 alive in all its forms, from early wayward handling ’64 short wheelbase to downforce-laden ’23 GT3 RS.
But what of ‘the others’? I’m sure we could all reel off painstakingly curated 3- Car Garages dedicated solely to the 911, but perhaps the more revealing test of your Porsche-ness is to pick a trio of non-911s. No era or price point is out of bounds. The only rule is they must be road cars, not racers. It’s more fun than you might think. Much like the cars, in fact.
The first of my trio would be a 356. I don’t profess to be an afficionado of these early cars and have only driven two examples – a lovely 1600 Super and a feisty four-cam Carrera GT – but was smitten by the idea of a 356 way before I first drove one. Thankfully seat time only served to confirm that they are every bit as special as you’d hope.
Sadly, 356 values have long since risen beyond my reach, that is unless I sold my 964 to fund a purchase. I’m not ready to do that just yet, but it’s a nice thought to conjure with, as these small, perfectly formed cars represent the essence of Porsche and are pretty much irresistible.
So that’s the rear-engined, air-cooled itch thoroughly scratched, but what of the front-engined transaxle cars? Clearly a 928 is very hard to resist - preferably a thoroughly sorted early manual 4.5-litre, in a suitably 70s colour and swathed in Pasha trim. Equally, it would be a no-brainer to nail my colours to a 968 Club Sport, in Grand Prix White with white wheels, red decals plus factory MO30 and cloth bucket seat options.
Ignore all of those, however, because despite never having driven one I am developing increasing hots for the 944 Turbo. There’s just something about them that’s so appealing. It helps that they come from an era when all German cars were built like bank vaults, but they also look so darned good.
I can remember a friend of my father’s having a string of them in the mid-to-late 80s. They appeared so classy and sophisticated, especially in a sober metallic blue with plush pinstripe velour upholstery. Much like Audi’s ur quattro, they exude a Teutonic superiority without ever seeming to try too hard. Weird crush? Perhaps. But tell me I’m wrong…
Third and final choice is a toss-up between a slim-hipped 914-6 and a 987 Boxster Spyder. Had I not already committed to a 356 then the 914 would be a shoe-in for its air-cooled engine alone, but there’s far more to it than the mid-mounted flat-6.
I like the fact the 914 and I are products of the early 70s. I’m also a sucker for an underdog. The VW connection meant it carried a stigma for decades, but look beyond that and the 914-6 is an intriguing and uniquely special car. Race versions were really beginning to shine, but road versions had yet to truly realise their potential before slow sales led Porsche to end production with a little over 3,000 cars built. Perhaps a gently resto-modded car could be something special.
No such struggles for the Boxster. A runaway success from launch, it has been a staple of Porsche’s sports car range for decades. The very latest Spyder RS is a sensational machine, but I’ve always loved the original 987 Spyder. Modest by modern standards it has admirable purity and simplicity, especially as a manual with the lightweight wheels and PCCB’s. Delete option stereo and air-con take weight savings to extremes, but given these Spyders are such great road cars I’d want those creature comforts as they’d make me drive it more. I’d pick one over the 914-6, but only just.
So, there we have it. Three fine Porsches and not a 911 in sight.
photos: provided courtesy of the Porsche archives