Wikipedia defines a “supercar” as a very expensive and high-performance sports car or grand tourer. Another definition, more comprehensive if you will, was sent to us a while back by a reader who thought a supercar was one that is in the top percentile of all cars from its era with regard to acceleration, top speed, braking and price. No matter how you define it, Porsche has made a number of them with at least one getting developed each decade.
Each and every Porsche on the list below was ahead of its time, performed better than all or most of its peers and are still highly prized to this day. Sure, you could argue that other models should be on the list, but each of these Porsches below have the following in common:
- The brought/bring racing technology to road users
- Successful for achieving the best times in their respective categories and eras
- Featured trendsetting designs and technologies that were ahead of their time
- Used ideas and concepts that drove key innovations in other Porsche models (and even for the automotive industry as a whole)
The 1950’s: Porsche 550 Spyder
The 550 Spyder holds the distinction of being the first Porsche built specifically for racing. Sure, you could drive it to the track on the streets it was street legal after all), but it’s 110 hp four-cylinder, four-cam engine was more at home on the track. Weighing in at only 550kg the 550 Spyder managed to take a class win, and an overall ranking of third, in the 1954 Carrera Panamericana, despite the competition being equipped with much larger engines.
The 1960’s: Porsche 904 Carrera GTS
Designed by Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche, the 904 marked 2 “firsts” for Porsche. It was the first time in Porsche’s history that a closed-top, mid-engined model would be sold to the public as well as the first Porsche model to have a plastic body. Available with either a four, six or eight cylinder engine, the 904 could produce as much as 240 hp. Five months after it was released it went on to win the Targo Floria and performed well at both the Monte Carlo Rally and Le Mans.
The 1970’s: Porsche 911 Turbo
Sales of production 911 Turbos didn’t start until the 1975 model year. However, prior to this, Ernst Fuhrman -using the knowledge gained with turbo chargers on Porsche’s race cars – thought it would be possible to transfer that technology to a 911. His early experiment with a turbo charged 911 was first displayed in Europe at a number of automotive shows. The first production turbo to go on sale in 1975 was powered with a 3.0 liter flat-six that made 260 hp and had a top speed of 250 km/h.
The 1980’s Porsche 959
The Porsche 959 was so far ahead of its time that’s it’s only within the last five to ten years that we’ve seen some of its technological features (kevlar and fiberglass-reinforced plastic body panels, aluminum doors, zero-lift aerodynamic package, all-wheel-drive with adjustable torque split, 6-speed manual transmission, variable shock damping and ride height, etc.) make their way down into the rest of the luxury and sports car market. It’s sub 4-second zero to 60 times would make a number of new sports cars blush and its limited build numbers (292 production units) have driven prices so high that most of us will be lucky to ever see one let along drive or own one. This technological benchmark of the 911 series is everything that’s right about Porsche.
The 1990’s: Porsche 911 GT1
Designed as a purpose built race-car, rules required a street legal version be built for homologation purposes. Porsche obliged with the creation of 20 units, each hand built by the racing department in Weissach. Like the 959 before it, the 911 GT1 Straßenversion hit 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds on its way to a top speed of 191 mph. As the engine on the GT1 was “mid-mounted” this makes them the only non rear-engined 911s to be produced.
The 2000’s: Carrera GT
Whenever a new Porsche comes to market we hear about it’s lap-times on the Nürburgring. The ten-cylinder Carrera GT, originally developed so that Porsche could race with it in Le Mans, set a lap record for road cars with a time of 7:33 minute around the Nordschleife. With an original MSRP close to $450,000 this limited production run Porsche (1270 units) could be purchased for as little as $225,000 just a few short years ago. Today, we see asking prices on CGTs of more than $750k for cars in good condition with low-mileage.
The 2010’s: Porsche 918 Spyder
The 918 Spyder is the penultimate Porsche supercar and could more accurately be referred to today as a “hybercar”. It’s unique plug-in hybrid drivetrain produces a total of 887 hp for what can only be described as insanely incredible performance numbers. Released in a limited edition of just 918 units, the 918 Spyder is completely sold out. It’s also the first production Porsche to beat the 7:00 minute mark on the Nürburgring with a time of 6:57 seconds around the Nordschleife.