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PORSCHE 911 60 YEARS – The Beatles! LBJ! And, of course, Porsche’s 911

Photo by the Author, David Boldt

Book Review

PORSCHE 911 60 YEARS – The Beatles! LBJ! And, of course, Porsche’s 911


The Beatles! LBJ! And, of course, Porsche’s 911

For those of you not there, I gotta’ tell you: While both living it and – sixty years later – remembering it, 1964 was a big deal. In these United States we were beginning to work through (if we could ever work through) the assassination of President Kennedy, while meeting the Beatles – via Ed Sullivan, just over three months later – swept the country. Of course, with Kennedy’s passing Lyndon Johnson moved into the White House, and LBJ was able to spur legislation – specifically civil rights legislation – that hadn’t moved forward since post-Civil War Reconstruction. The World’s Fair in New York – also in 1964 – saw the debut of Ford’s now-iconic Mustang, while postwar West Germany gave automotive enthusiasts Porsche’s 911. By the end of that decade the Beatles had split and LBJ was retired to Texas, but the 911 continued to motor on – driving right into our collective hearts. 

The 911’s history, chronicled by model year, from its early beginnings to the present, is essentially all there in PORSCHE 911 60 YEARS by author Randy Leffingwell. As you might know if you’ve assembled an even smallish library devoted to Porsche history, Mr. Leffingwell knows of what he writes, having authored several books on the marque, which include both historical overviews and coverage of specific models. His books are always informative, and sometimes almost granular, but written in an accessible, comfortable – and readable – style.

From its beginning in 1948 through the 911’s launch in 1964, Porsche was essentially a one-trick pony, having produced its 356 from those early days through 1965 – concurrent with the 911’s 1964 introduction and overlapping by two model years. The need for a replacement was recognized by the late ‘50s, and Leffingwell provides detail – and perspective – on what transpired in the planning of what was initially called the 901. And he then proceeds to take a decade-by-decade look – in seven chapters – at what Porsche has produced for both the consumer and competition. 

The highlights, of course, are many. The essential simplicity of the early 911 (and its 4-cylinder stablemate, the 912) are amazing. These platforms, when compared to the 911s of today, are absolutely tiny, but then, in the first iterations its flat six displaced but 2.0 liters and delivered just 130 horsepower. Within a couple of model years the 911 S would be introduced, and that – of course – was more sporting, bumping the horsepower to 180, significant power for a normally aspirated air-cooled six displacing two liters.

Leffingwell also digs into various specials and one-offs. I had forgotten that Bertone produced a custom body in partnership with California distributor Johnny von Neumann. Mr. von Neumann wanted an open Porsche, and this was before Porsche would offer its own 911 and 912 Targa. The result is far more Italian, looking not unlike an open, rear-engined variant of Bertone’s later Dino coupe. There’s also attention given to Porsche’s slant-nose variants (few cars speak to ‘80s performance motoring better than a slant-nose 911) and its racing variations, such as Moby Dick. Yup. Moby Dick.

As a long-tiime reader of Road & Track I was able to stay informed, even if I didn’t become a 911 owner until much, much later. Working on a BMW showroom in the early ‘80s and managing a Ferrari showroom (briefly) later in that same decade, I had a chance to drive 911 trade-ins, and they were always enjoyable. I found the manual linkage back in that day less than precise, and the floor-mounted pedals reminded me (too much) of my ’66 Beetle, but there was nothing else like a 911 on the road – and that remains the case some 40 years after my first behind-the-wheel introduction.

In 2019 I made a bargain with my wife. In exchange for not buying another motorcycle she agreed to the purchase of a pre-owned Porsche. I vacillated between a Boxster, Cayman or 911, and the decision was made when we saw an ’08 911 Targa 4S in dark green metallic with a saddle interior. The car was stunning, its 350+ horsepower close to explosive; ultimately, however, I’m too middle-class for Porsche ownership, even if the model purchased at the time was over a decade old. That 911 morphed into a new Miata, which looks far more appropriate on the driveway of our very middle-class casa, while its 181 horsepower (almost identical to the original 911 S! – is more appropriate to Virginia’s speed limits and congestion. 

Randy Leffingwell’s  PORSCHE 911 60 YEARS is available through your local bookseller for $60 U.S., $80 Canadian. It is published by Quarto, and the publisher generously provided the review copy. And that copy, in the absence of my own 911, I’m keeping.

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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