Porsche 901 is First Produced
Porsche 901 was the name originally intended for the Porsche 911.
By the early 1960s, Porsche project design numbers had reached into the 800s. For instance, Porsche's 1962 F1 model was called Porsche 804.
At the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (Frankfurt Motor Show) in Frankfurt in September 1963, Porsche presented its successor to the Porsche 356 as the 901. It took several more months until the cars was sold to customers. In late 1964, after having sold about 82 cars, the 901 was presented at the Paris Auto Salon. There, French car maker Peugeot objected to Porsche using any three digit number where the middle number was 0, owning the naming rights and having already sold many models with that scheme.
So, Porsche simply replaced the middle 0 with a 1, and called the car Porsche 911.
Also, other Porsche models were affected, which were primarily intended for racing but also sold as road legal cars. Here, Porsche kept the internal part number of 90x, but sold the car with a name, like
Porsche 904 as Carrera GTS
Porsche 906 as Carrera 6.
Porsche enthusiasts continue to refer to these cars by their three digit design numbers.
Later, Porsche introduced pure racing cars which were not sold for road use, so not competing with any road-going Peugeot. These carried the design numbers
Nearly three decades later, a 905 was entered in the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans, but not by Porsche (which then had won over a dozen times already), but by Peugeot: The Peugeot 905 won twice, in 1992 and in 1993. A Peugeot 908 Diesel was entered in the 2008 event, and won in 2009. Peugeot never used the number 901, though.
Additionally, the 901 number is used among Porsche enthusiasts as shorthand to identify the aluminum 5-Speed transmission used in early 911s, the part number for these transmissions used an 11 digit code that began with 901 as did many other parts on the early cars. Later 911s from 1969 used a different magnesium case and a part number beginning with 911.
Years of development preceded the Porsche 901 introduction at the 1963 Frankfurt Motorshow. It was only the second all new production car ever launched by the German sportscar manufacturer, but it would turn out to be the most important. Only a very few production cars used the 901 designation and today is best known as the 911. This name was adopted a year later to avoid conflicts with Peugeot, who had been using the digit-zero-digit naming scheme for years.
Porsche basically only offered one road car, the 356, which was available in various different versions. It was absolutely vital for the continuation of the company that its replacement would be a success. No risks were taken and the work of designing the all new car started in the second half of the 1950s. Between 1959 and 1961 a number of rolling protypes were constructed, of which the four seater Type 695 T-7 was closest in design to the eventual 901/911.
In its design, the 901/911 chassis followed the original unitary structure used for the 356. Completely new was the front suspension, which consisted of a lower wishbone and strut type coil spring over damper unit. In modified form the trailing arm rear suspension was carried over from the 356. The disc brakes were identical to those fitted on the 356C. Although the body design included many cues of the 356, it looked very modern and was an immediate hit. Until this day the silhouette penned by Ferri 'Butzi' Porsche is still found on the latest 911 model.
Where the chassis and body design was a logical and gradual evolution, the engine design was much more of a struggle. Keeping future developments in mind, a six cylinder configuration was chosen, but the displacement remained 2 litre. A very complicated flat six (Type 745) was designed and built, featuring two central camshafts opening the valves by pushrods. A more logical solution was adopted for what was to become the Type 901. The camshafts moved to an overhead position, removing the need for pushrods. Unlike previous Porsche OHC designs the 901 engine used chains to drive the camshafts.
Breathing through two Solex Carburetors, the air cooled engine produced 130 bhp. Judging by the price and performance of the 901/911 it was clearly a replacement for the most powerful and expensive 356 model, the Carrera 2. A proper 356 replacement was introduced in 1965, when the 912 was unveiled. It was similar to the 911, but had a less luxurious interior and used a 356 derived four cylinder engine. The 912 was a big sales success, but it was the 911 that has grown out to be the quintessential Porsche, a true icon.
Pictured is one of the very first few 911s constructed, which still used the 901 name. It is seen here at the 2004 European Concours d'Elegance in Dusseldorf, where it was displayed after a thorough restoration by Alois Ruf.
The legendary 911 first took a bow in 1963 and was actually built alongside the older, outgoing 356C. Originally the 911 was to be known as the 901, however French manufacturer, Peugeot, had already registered this name and Porsche were obliged to re-name their new baby - 911. Of coarse the model name 911 is now practically a household name across the world, it lives on in, albeit much changed format, production today.
Powered by a 1991cc air-cooled, flat 6 engine the 911 came with dual-circuit disc brakes and triple choke carbs. Originally only available as a fixed head coupe a new body style joined the range in 1967. This new body featured a removable roof center section that turned it into a semi-convertible. This new model was known as the 911 Targa and would become a successful model in its own right.