Looking Back on 60 Years of the Porsche Speedster
For over 60 years, the Porsche Speedster has served as the apex of driving dynamics. The German sports car maker gave itself the best 70th birthday gift it could possibly get with the unveiling of the 911 Speedster last year. With just 1,948 units produced, the limited-edition car makes 502 hp and 470 Nm while hitting 0-100 kph in just 3.8 secs.
Of course, this recent 911 Speedster is just the latest in a long line of Speedsters that dates all the way back to 1952. Since then, each iteration has delivered on the promise of open-top driving pleasure, luxurious comfort, and more. Let’s reminisce on the top five moments in the Porsche Speedster’s history.
Porsche 356 America Roadster
The 356 America Roadster is the forefather of all Speedster models. Made famous by Hollywood heartthrob James Dean, it had a hand-built aluminum body that allowed it to weigh 160 kgs less than the 356 Coupe. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder boxer engine had a 69 hp rating and 180 kph top speed. Only 16 of these cars were built, and they were all developed exclusively for the US market. The Roadster featured slot-in windows for the doors, a folding rain-cover top, and lightweight bucket seats. The 356 Speedster, as it later became known, reached its zenith with the introduction of the 356 A 1500 GS Carrera GT Speedster in 1957. Its 110 hp 1.5-liter vertical shaft engine became the first Porsche production model to hit 200 kph. Only 140 units were produced.
911 Speedster (G Series)
Based on the 911 Carrera Cabriolet, the 1988 Porsche 911 Speedster featured many styling cues from the 911 Turbo (930 Series), including a shortened windscreen, brakes, suspension, front valance, and humongous body-colored ‘double bubble’ cover to stow the soft-top roof. A total of 2,104 G-Series Porsches got made, including 171 narrow bodies, 139 right-hand drives, and 1,933 with the wider Turbo-style haunches. All were powered by a 3.3-liter flat six linked to a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox. At 286 hp, it was the last 911 to use the G-series platform, signaling the end of an era.
911 Carrera Speedster (964 Series)
The Speedster range became exclusive again with the arrival of the 1993 911 Carrera Speedster. Basing the car on the 964 Series 911, Porsche built 936 units of this particular model, with 14 units in right-hand drive and 20 in wide-body Turbo configuration. The innovative soft-top mechanism and plastic cover became a lot easier to operate than before. Designed to be open-top most of the time, Porsche did away with the air conditioning system and electric windows during the early years of this particular Speedster, but brought them back in later versions. The car drew power from a 3.6-liter flat six producing 247 hp and 310 Nm, with a choice between five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
911 Carrera Speedster (993 Series)
Even rarer than the 964 Series Speedster was the 911 Carrera Speedster, with only two examples made for special customers. The first was developed in 1995 for Ferdinand Alexander Porsche himself. Based on the Carrera body, this particular 993 Series came in green, with 17-inch alloy wheels and a Tiptronic S transmission. The second was made for American sitcom actor Jerry Seinfeld, who himself is an avid collector of Porsche vehicles. Seinfeld’s 993 was a silver Speedster with manual transmission. According to Porsche records, Seinfeld’s Speedster was either a 4S Cabriolet or Targa that was redesigned into a Speedster by the Porsche factory, as per the comedian’s request.
911 Speedster (997 series)
Speedster versions of the 997 Series were not offered until after six years of the model’s existence. While the 997 was introduced in 2004, it was only in December 2010 when its Speedster variant debuted. The debut marked the launch of the 25-year anniversary celebrations of the Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur in early 2011. The two-seater featured a 70mm-lower raked windscreen, manual soft-top roof, and distinct ‘double bubble’ convertible cover. It was powered by a water-cooled 3.8-liter six-cylinder boxer that churned out 400 hp, 306 kph top speed, and 0-100 kph acceleration of 4.2 secs. Only 356 units were made.