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Part 1: Origins of the Type 901 and Type 902 
IFerdinand Alexander Porsche and design team, 1963   © Porsche AGn the world of sports cars, the Porsche 911 and its variants have long been viewed as genuine classics.  Combining both modern and traditional elements, their family tree can be traced back to legendary forebears, from the Porsche Type 356 model (78,000 constructed) to the Volkswagen Beetle (another Porsche design).  As the 356 successor, expectations were high from the onset of design; Porsche needed a state-of-the-art car, even better, one ahead of its time.  The design of the car goes back to Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the eldest son of Ferry Porsche, at the time the President and Chief Executive Officer of what was then Porsche KG.  A 25-year-old designer back in those days, F. A. Porsche later remembered the great task of creating a successor to the Porsche 356: "The job was not to simply design some kind of new car within a large model range. No - this was to be the successor to a car which itself had become a classic after more than 1 1/2 decades in the market."  He described the 911 as a sports car with a clear and honest form, stating just as clearly that "a good product must be discreet in its good looks.  Design is not fashion".

Yet Porsche's traditional concept was to be almost unchanged: a high-performance flat engine fitted in the rear of the car would provide superior agility, optimum brake behavior and good traction on the rear wheels.  The luggage compartment would remain in the front, interior dimensions would be larger such that there would be room for a golf bag in the luggage compartment, and the cabin would still retain the 2+2 seating concept.  Rather than use the frame and the chassis from the 356, the Porsche engineers created a completely new, bold design - and therefore laid the technical foundations for the resounding success of the car.  Balancing interior space with performance, the designers planned space-saving McPherson suspension at the front to make the luggage compartment more spacious, and at the rear replaced the outdated swing axle with a semi-trailing arm suspension.

901 T8 Prototype S-CU-902, 1964  © Porsche AGThe launch of completely new models was also a great commercial risk for Porsche KG.  In 1963, during the production preparation phase, Porsche raised funds necessary to acquire the neighboring body supplier Karosseriewerk Reutter & Co. GmbH.  This was a considerable feat for the small sports car manufacturer, with Porsche KG taking on approximately 1,000 Reutter employees and their carried over years of service.

Porsche's decision-makers in Zuffenhausen chose the name Type 901 for the six-cylinder version and Type 902 for a subsequent four-cylinder car, in coordination with the Volkswagen-Wolfsburg spare part number ranges.  Production commenced as 1965 model year vehicles for both the 1965 Type 901/911 (in September 1964) and the Type 902/912 (in April 1965). 

The fact that Ferry Porsche recognized the potential for the future success of the extremely innovative 901 concept is one of his greatest achievements.
Part 2:   Type 902 Prototypes and Versuchwagens [Research Cars] >>
Part 3:   Renamed: The 901 and 902 become the 1965 911 and 912 >>
Coming soon: Part 4, Production of the 1965 912
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Rick Becker, PCA 912/912E Advocate
Pacific Northwest Region

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