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Cars From the Vault: 1964 Porsche 901

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While Porsche enthusiasts will be familiar with the Porsche 901, for everyone else let me describe. It’s fairly simple actually…the Porsche 911 was originally named the Porsche 901. Less than 100 were sold before Puegot put a stop to it, as they had reserved all three-figured numbers with a ‘0’ in the middle sometime before WWII.

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This 1964 Porsche 901 can be found at the Petersen Automotive Museum’s exclusive Vault. You can arrange your own visit to Petersen’s Vault, which is well worth it—or let these hold you over until you can make it to Southern California.

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As one of the first 911s, the Porsche 901 was the beginning of what is now a 50-year legacy. First appearing at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September of 1963, the Porsche 911 has gone through half a century, without major design changes, and continues to prove modern and timeless.

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As Ferry Porsche puts it in the Porsche 911 Story Foreword, “The 911 proved itself to be not only a practical road-going sports car, but also the most versatile competition car ever to roll on the world’s roads and tracks. Be it in near standard or specifically modified form, it has won nearly every event for which a sports car is eligible, being as much at ease on the snowbound roads of the Monte Carlo Rally as on the desert tracks of the Paris-Dakar, on the winding roads of the Targa Florio or in the grueling Le Mans and Daytona 24-Hours Races, all of which it won."

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By the time Porsche created the 911, they were already a well-known name by their multiple racing endeavors as well as the popular sports car, the Porsche 356, which had come out in 1948. Whereas the 356 was basically Porsche styling on a modified Volkswagon base and drivetrain, the 901/911 was a creation made entirely by Porsche.

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The Porsche 901/911 offered a more aerodynamic shape than the 356, a longer wheelbase, more interior space, MacPherson front suspension, disc brakes, and a six-cylinder boxer engine with axial-fan air cooling which was found underneath the rear lid.

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Designed by Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi”, Ferry Porsche’s oldest son, the project would include a number of different designers and engineers by the time it was finished. One of the non-negotiable design requirements given by Ferry Porsche? Adequate luggage space to carry a set of golf clubs!

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The Porsche 911 shows no signs of going away, and as Paul Frère puts it, “The 911 is a perfect example of how racing improves the breed…But a virtue of the [911] development staff is that they recognized that, however much a well-engineered sports car can benefit from racing, a road car must fulfill some basic requirements not directly related to the sport, such as comfort, flexibility, silence, durability and, more recently, fuel economy. The blend achieved from these requirements is what makes the Porsche what it is today and its development story so fascinating that we felt it deserved to be told.”

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For a visit to the Petersen Automotive Museum’s Vault, see their webpage for more info.

*Frère, Paul. Porsche 911 Story. London: Patrick Stephens Limited, 1989. Print.

See even more details below, then check out this Porsche 911.

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Editor's Note: Article originally published 9/26/13 has been updated and republished.

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