In 2019, Porsche is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first 911 GT3 (pictured).
Named after a class of endurance race cars, this new series of motorsport-derived cars were designed to deliver a more visceral, harder-edge driving experience for the true enthusiasts. They've been delivering that ever since, and they're now the most desirable of all modern Porsches.
But the story of high-performance Porsches has a much longer and varied history - here's the story from the beginning to the present day:
Porsche 356A 1500 Carrera GT (1957)
This is where it all started for Porsche’s GT models, and the die was cast for all future models in the way this car extracted more performance. A small increase in power helped, but the big gains came from stripping out the sound-deadening material, replacing glass windows with Perspex and removing the heater. Porsche’s attention to detail also extended to lightweight bumper brackets, while the brakes were lifted from the RS racer for both the Coupe and Speedster versions.
Porsche 356B Carrera GTL Abarth (1960)
Porsche turned its petite 356 into a bespoke race car when it contracted Italy's Abarth to build an all-aluminium body for the car. The result was the 356B Carrera GTL Abarth, which was slightly shorter, narrower and lower than a standard road car. Performance was boosted by a 100kg saving in weight, while the Abarth’s improved aerodynamics helped it win the Targa Florio road race in 1960.
Porsche 356B 2000 GT (1960)
The big news for this model was a 2.0-litre engine in place of the previous version’s 1.5-litre unit. With 140bhp, this GT could hit 60mph from rest in 8.0 seconds and was clearly aimed at amateur racers with a range of gearbox ratios to choose from to suit different needs. These mechanical parts were also used in the low-drag 2000GS Carrera 2 GT Dreikantschaber where it won its class in the 1963 Targa Florio race.
Porsche 718 GTR (1962)
Porsches don’t get any rarer or more special than this 718 GTR. Based on the 718 RS racing car, it adopted a close coupe body to qualify for GT rule rather than open-top sports car regulations. Along the way, Porsche ditched the flat-four 1.7-litre engine of the RS and adopted the flat-eight as used in its Formula 1 machine that helped it to victory in the 1963 Targo Florio.
Porsche 904 GTS (1964)
Exotic the 904 GTS may be, but Porsche designed it to be simple so it could build the required 100 examples to enter it in international GT racing. The result was a chassis made of twin steel box sections with the glassfibre body bonded to it. This made it strong, while the four-cam 2.0-litre motor was the last hurrah of the 356’s flat-four design. With up to 180bhp on tap, this GT proved its worth on track and rally stages, even managing second overall on the 1965 Monte Carlo Rally.
Porsche 914/6 GT (1970)
This butched-up version of Porsche’s pretty 914 was based on the six-cylinder model and the GT version was a factory option rather than a standalone model. As a result, there wasn’t just one specification as some buyers chose to stick with the standard 2.0-litre engine, while others opted for more powerful units based on those from the 911.
The GT pack included the flared wheelarch extensions, oil cooler, 16-inch Fuchs alloy wheels and adjustable dampers. There were also lightweight glassfibre body panels.
Porsche 924 Carrera GT (1980)
Is there an angrier or more forceful looking Porsche than the 924 Carrera GT? This car is all purpose and no pose with flared wheelaraches, additional air scoops and fared-in headlights instead of the 924’s usual pop-up ones. All of this was concocted to homologate the 924 for Group 4 racing and a total of 406 were built.
Porsche also made smaller numbers of the even more extreme GTS and GTR models. All used a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine that produced 201bhp in the standard GT, and went up to 270bhp for the GTS.
Porsche 928 GT/GTS (1989/1992)
Derived from the 928 S4 that was already a formidable grand tourer, the GT model upped power from the 5.0-litre V8 to 330bhp. That was good for 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds and 170mph flat out, but for those who felt this lacked a little zing Porsche launched the GTS in 1992 (pictured). It gained a 5.4-litre motor and 350bhp to drop the acceleration time to 5.4 seconds, though top speed dropped slightly to 168mph. You can spot a GTS by its colour-coded rear spoiler.
Porsche 964 Turbo S LM-GT (1993)
When Porsche decides to go endurance racing, it doesn’t mess about – and that’s why we have the 964 Turbo S LM-GT. Based on the outgoing 964 Turbo, it started with a 3.2-litre twin-turbo engine making 475bhp. For 1994, that was enlarged to 3.6-litres, though power was pegged to 360bhp. Privateer teams bought up the 76 cars made and it performed well on tracks around the world.
Porsche 993 GT2 (1993)
If you need an idea of how desirable GT Porsches are, consider the £1.85 million paid for a 993 GT2 in 2016. That was for a road car, so not even a racer with provenance, although this car was immaculate, original and low miles. Whatever form a 993 GT2 comes, it’s one to grab if you get the chance.
Its 430bhp 3.6-litre turbocharged engine makes it quick even by current standards, while the handling is enhanced by the aerodynamic downforce from the jutting front and rear spoilers. And who doesn’t love those bolt-on wheelarch extenders?
Porsche GT1 (1996)
The GT1 was designed purely to win the Le Mans 24 Hour, but the sports car rules of the time required the firm to make a handful of road-legal versions. In standard trim, the 25 road cars had a 540bhp 3.2-litre twin-turbo engine, but race versions had 600bhp and could top 200mph depending on what aero package they ran with. All of this effort was worth it as the GT lifted 47 wins from 144 race starts.
Porsche 996 911 GT3 (1999)
Hardcore 911 fans got their wish when the GT3 badge was introduced in 1999 - 20 years ago. Like Porsche GTs before, it stripped weight out by doing away with fripperies such as sound-deadening, sunroof and air conditioning. The engine was also much changed as it was based on the Mezger unit from the previous 993, though updated to use water cooling. It gave 355bhp and customers could choose a Clubsport pack that brought a single mass flywheel, racing seats and half roll cage.
The Gen 2 version has more power and the option of carbon ceramic brakes, while the RS derivative had these as standard along with 400bhp.
Porsche 996 GT2 (2001)
Taking the engine from the 911 Turbo and installing it in a rear-drive only package created the 996 GT2. The 3.6-litre unit offered 456bhp, later going up to 476bhp, which took the car from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds and just shy of 200mph. Handling was improved over the Turbo thanks to a 10mm lower ride height and a fixed rear wing for better downforce.
Porsche Carrera GT (2003)
The Carrera GT had a convoluted route to becoming a production reality. It’s rooted in a V10 engine originally destined for Formula 1 in 1992, a project that was shelved. Another attempt to build a version in 1999 ended when Porsche decided to focus on the Cayenne, so it wasn’t until 2003 the Carrera GT made the light of day. Its 5.7-litre V10 came with 603bhp and a delectable yowl. In the end, 1270 we made, making this mid-engined fancy one of the more numerous GT models Porsche has produced.
Porsche 997 GT3 (2006)
With the formula tried and trusted, Porsche launched the 997 GT3 in 2006 with a 409bhp 3.6-litre motor. As before, it was pared of any unnecessary extras, but it did come with electrically adjustable shock absorbers for the first time. Customers could also order the Sports Chrono option pack. Power increased to 429bhp with the 3.8-litre Gen model.
Porsche 997 GT3 RS (2006)
Taking an extreme model and pushing the idea further is what the RS is all about. So, the 997 GT3 RS is 20kg lighter than the car it’s based on and it’s 64mm wider to accommodate its wider track. Under the rear engine lid, the flat-six engine started with 435bhp and ended up at 450bhp in the 2010 Gen 2 version. Then the GT3 RS 4.0 arrived (pictured) with 493bhp to take this car around the Nürburgring in 7 mins 27 secs. When our own Andrew Frankel drove the 4.0, he concluded that it was "the finest Porsche ever to wear a number plate."
Porsche 997 GT2 (2007)
As the latest hypercars trade figures, the Porsche 997 GT2 has been there, done that and worn out the T-shirt. How come? Well, 523bhp from its twin-turbo 3.6-litre engine was enough to propel it from rest to 62mph in 3.6 seconds and on to 204mph. The RS version improved on those numbers with 612bhp, 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds and 205mph flat out.
Porsche 997 GT3 R and Hybrid (2010)
Just in case you were in any doubt, that ‘R’ stands for racing and this track-only GT3 sports a 480bhp engine and six-speed sequential manual gearbox. With 30bhp more than the Cup model and tipping the scales at 1200kg, this was a race-ready car from the factory.
The Hybrid is another motorsport-only machine and has carbon fibre bodywork, built-in air jacks and an electric motor between the front wheels that can power them or regenerate a battery as the car slows. Most importantly, it adds 100bhp to the car and sees it from 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds.
Porsche Cayman GT4 (2015)
This Cayman is notable for being the first GT model from Porsche in 25 years that’s not from the 911 range or something even rarer. It pushed the Cayman to its limit with a 0-62mph time of 4.2 seconds, but what mattered more was the feeling this was a bespoke model that deserved its title alongside some very illustrious ancestors. It's already a collector's item.
Porsche 911 GT3 (2017)
How do you improve on a car that’s already stolen the headlines in its previous guise? Porsche didn’t have any problems when it launched the 991.2 GT3 in 2017, complete with 475bhp 3.8-litre engine that revs to 9000rpm. Not everyone is a fan of the PDK dual-clutch gearbox, but there’s no arguing with how quick, responsive and agile this car is to drive.
Porsche 911 GT3 RS (2017)
The GT3 is arguably the sweet spot of the current 911 line-up is this. It’s started with a 475bhp 3.8-litre engine that revved to 8250rpm. Nobody ever moaned that wasn’t enough, but Porsche thought a Gen 2 car was needed, so it comes with 500bhp from its 4.0-litre motor and spins to 9000rpm. If that doesn’t satisfy you, then the RS will with its magnesium roof, carbon panels and even lightweight door handles that enables it to lap the Nürburgring seven seconds faster than its predecessor.
Porsche 911 GT2 RS (2017)
With 690bhp on hand, you could forgive Porsche for not bothering with weight saving in the RS. However, there’s a magnesium roof, and a bonnet, wings and boot lid crafted from carbon fibre. There are also polycarbonate side and rear windows and a titanium exhaust. Okay, all-up it still weighs 1470kg, but 0-60mph in 2.7 seconds and 210mph make that a moot point.