1958 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.
1956 356 Speedster (McQueen)
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.
1956 356 Speedster (McQueen)
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 (£348,861).
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 windscreen 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-litre flat-six engine producing 214 bhp 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 rear quarter panels 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 totalled 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 colours – Pure Blue and Carrera White. All of them got power from a 3.8-litre flat-six producing 402 bhp, and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission was the only available gearbox. Adaptive suspension and ceramic-composite brakes came as standard.
A concept points the way
In June 2018, Porsche unveiled the 911 Speedster Concept. The new one had the special model's familiar features like a raked windscreen 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 gives the Speedster Concept a coat of red paint for a new showing at the 2018 Paris Motor Show, and the company finally confirms that a production example is on the way.
You need to act quickly because Porsche only intends to build 1,948 examples of the 991-generation Speedster as a nod to the year of certification for the first 356.
What to expect when you're expecting a new Speedster
Spy shots already provide a great idea of what to expect from the 911 Speedster in production guise.
Underneath the svelte body, reports indicate 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.
16 / 16