Those cramming for your finals may not have noticed, but for the rest of us 2013 brings with it two notable anniversaries: This fall marks both the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, and 50 years since Porsche introduced its 911 to what we now call a global audience. While a Catholic president and rear-engined, high-performance GT were both historic anomalies, we’ll bet dollars-to-donuts there are more 20-somethings able to recognize the 911 profile than can identify a picture of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
As this is written in a Dallas suburb, I’m very aware of the Kennedy anniversary, and can even recall where I was when first hearing of the assassination. I’m less clear regarding the Porsche debut, as the link between Frankfurt and Lincoln, Nebraska – where I was attending the 4th grade – was a tad less direct. But Porsches were certainly on my radar, and if the 911 had not yet generated an emotional tug at the age of ten, it was certainly fully formed by the time I received my license, helped in no small part by hanging out at VW/Porsche dealers (remember them?) while getting my dad’s ’66 Beetle serviced.
Porsche, of course, is celebrating the 50th ‘anni’ with a host of events, not the least of which is an ‘exclusive limited edition model’ commemorating same. And since this is Porsche, we’re not getting a stripped down, elemental 911 evoking the minimalistic purity of the first 901. Instead, Porsche is pitching a 50th Anniversary Edition with a standard Powerkit, which – we’re told – increases horsepower to 430, and includes the Sport Chrono package. Notably, this extra-special 911 will feature the wide body architecture, typically reserved for the all-wheel drive Carrera 4. And the special edition ‘edition’ is limited to 1963 cars. Pretty clever, what?
The above news is all well and good, but one (at least this ‘one’) wishes for something from Porsche more in keeping with the 901/911’s original intent. For those not in Frankfurt in 1963, the very first 911 looks to be far closer to the Scion FR-S (iPads in Stuttgart are now being slammed shut – can you hear them?) than today’s 911. The FR-S isn’t rear-engined, but the Scion’s minimalistic spec and 2.0 liter engine come closer to recalling 1963 than today’s uber-911 does, regardless of press releases and/or subsequent hype. Of course, Porsche won’t be calling Toyota for a body-in-white Scion anytime soon, but Porsche does have the Cayman, and with a retro-spec’d Cayman the early 911 could be credibly recalled, with a price point well south of ‘incredible’.
Although today’s Cayman enjoys a displacement (2.7 liters) and power (275 @ 7,400 rpm) well above that of a 1963 911, the essential spirit of the two powerplants remains much the same. Both rely on revs and horsepower rather than prodigious torque. I’d take a standard-spec Cayman, strip it of any equipment beyond a/c and a base am/fm sound system, find some 17-inch rims and 55-series rubber from last year’s base Cayman (all the better to accommodate our slightly retro theme), and equip it with a ride/handling balance that maximizes the handling while – probably – compromising the ride. Also, tune the exhaust to better mimic the pre-catalyst sound of the 911’s early flat six.
For color selection, go with the color palette available to 911 customers before 1974. And I’d price it around $63K, again in commemoration of the 911’s debut (clever, what?). Finally, don’t limit production to some arbitrary number; rather, make it available to any and all takers, perhaps with a lease payment sympathetic to anyone under 50 (now ‘bout $500 per month?) with two or three kids still in school. If Porsche needs a more detailed spec sheet, Mazda provided essentially the same thing (as a commemoration of the Miata’s 20th anniversary) to SEMA audiences in both 2010 and 2011.
I have absolutely no doubt Porsche will be oversubscribed on its Anniversary Edition, even at something north of its $125K MSRP. And I’m equally sure I won’t remember where I was when I first heard about it…