The Porsche 356 Speedster
If you want to understand the new 911 Speedster, it's important to look back to the very beginning.
Launched for the 1955 model year, the original Porsche Speedster used the 356 as a starting point. American sports car importer Max Hoffman saw a hole in the brand's lineup for a stripped down version of the sports car that could function both for regular use and for an occasional trip to the race track. He thought the machine would appeal especially to buyers in the Southern California market.
Hoffman judged the market correctly, and the 356 Speedster was a success. The models featured a basic roof, no side windows, and a tiny, removable windshield. The lack of amenities meant this version had a lower base price than the conventional cabriolet. The Speedster was available with 1.5- and 1.6-liter flat four-cylinder engines in multiple tunes.
Not much power by modern standards
Porsche 356 Speedster buyers could get their sports car in two outputs from the factory. Both versions used a 1.6-liter flat four-cylinder engine and a four-speed manual. In base form, the mill made 60 horsepower (44 kilowatts), but the S variant, sometimes called the Super Speedster, pushed the number to 75 hp (56 kW).
While this doesn't sound like much by modern standards, the stripped down Speedster's lower weight made the most of the modest output.
Porsche produced 3,676 examples of the 356 Speedster from its launch to the end of production in late 1958, including a single-year peak of 1,171 cars in 1957.
While the 356 Speedster started as a lower cost way to get a Porsche, they have become quite a valuable vehicle since then. For example, the one pictured above was the only 1956 example in Polyantha Red, and the seller was asking €399,500 ($461,000).
Porsche waited until the 1989 model year to revive the Speedster moniker. At this point, the 356 was decades into its retirement, so the name went on the 911.
The company incorporated a more steeply raked windshield onto the standard Carrera. At the back, humped tonneau cover gave the special edition a much different silhouette than the standard 911 Cabriolet.
Mechanically, these cars were identical to the 911 Carrera of the time with a 3.2-liter flat-six engine producing 214 horsepower (159 kilowatts) and running through a five-speed manual.
Wide or skinny
Porsche offered the 1989 911 Speedster in two forms: a standard body or a version with wider fenders dubbed the Turbo Look (above).
The turbo-inspired body proved far more popular with production totaling 1,894 units of the model's total volume of slightly over 2,000 examples.
Following the one-year-only 1989 version, the 911 Speedster returned once again in 1994.
Superficially, these models look similar to the 1989 variant but with a nose more akin the to 911 of the era. In this case, most examples had a narrow-body look, but the Porsche Exclusive department created a handful of widebody units.
There are far fewer 1994 911 Speedsters in the world, too. Production reportedly totaled only around 931 units, less than half as many as the 1989 example.
The rarest yet
The 993-generation of the Porsche 911 holds a prized place among the brand's fans as the final generation to have an air-cooled engine. The rarest among these models is the 911 Speedster.
The Porsche Exclusive department created just two of them. A dark green example was a gift from the company to 911 designer Ferdinand "Butzi" Porsche.
Comedian and Porsche collector Jerry Seinfeld commissioned a silver example (above).
The 996 generation of the 911 never received a Speedster variant, but the humpbacked roadster returned for the 997 model. Porsche continued to keep production low by building only 356 of these vehicles for the 2011 model year.
Cool in blue
Porsche offered the 2011 Speedster in only two colors – Pure Blue and Carrara White. All of them got power from a 3.8-liter flat six making 402 horsepower (300 kilowatts), and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission was the only available gearbox. An adaptive suspension and ceramic-composite brakes came standard.
A concept points toward new iteration
In June 2018, Porsche unveiled the 911 Speedster Concept. The new one had the special model's familiar features like a raked windshield and double-bubble tonneau cover. The chrome, bullet-shaped side mirrors evoke the past. The glazed headlights have an X in the model to refer to racers putting tape over the glass on classic sports cars to keep them from shattering in a crash.
Power comes from a 911-GT3-sourced flat-six that pumps out 500 horsepower and offers a 9,000-rpm redline.
Porsche 911 Speedster Concept
Porsche gave the Speedster Concept a coat of red paint for a new showing at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, and the company finally confirmed that a production example is on the way.
Buyers needed to act quickly because Porsche reportedly only intended to build 1,948 examples of the 991-generation Speedster as a nod to the year of certification for the first 356.
Porsche 911 Speedster Spied
Porsche reportedly planned to unveil the new 911 Speedster at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in July. However, these photos provided a look at the upcoming droptop without any camouflage. The company only plans to build 1,948 of them – a reference to the year of the automaker's founding.
What to expect when you're expecting a new Speedster
Spy shots already provided a great idea of what to expect from the 911 Speedster in production guise.
Underneath the svelte body, reports indicated the Speedster shares a lot in common with the 911 GT3 but with the ability for drivers to really feel the wind in their hair.
2019 Porsche 911 Speedster
Here it is! The 2019 Porsche 911 Speedster finally arrives at the 2019 New York Auto Show.
Unfortunately, the styling doesn't come as much of a surprise because of so many spy shots and the concept providing such a good idea of how the new model looks.
A great place to be
Rather than using the new 992-generation of the Porsche 911 as a starting point, the new Speedster has the 991-gen model as its basis, specifically the 911 GT3. The 4.0-liter flat-six 502 horsepower (374 kilowatts) and redlines at a heady 9,000 revs. The only gearbox choice is a six-speed manual.
And a watch, too
Being one of the 1,948 people who get a 911 Speedster comes with the extra bonus of receiving a special watch to match the new model. It features a carbon fiber dial and a winding rotor that takes inspiration from the vehicle's center lock wheels. The perforated black leather strap has red stitching in a style that evokes the car's interior.
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