What do Porsche model names mean?
Do you know what a ‘macan’ is? What about how the 911 got its name?
Sunset view of Porsche models next to the sea
From miniature crocs to epic South American races – as well as more down-to-earth reasons – discover the stories behind the names given to each of the current Porsche models
Why have so many Porsche cars been named with numbers? What do now iconic names like Cayman and Taycan signify? And why is Porsche even called ‘Porsche’ in the first place. Our comprehensive guide explains why Porsche cars are called what they are. It begins at the very foundation of the company itself. Why is Porsche called Porsche? Quite simply, it wears the name of its founder, Ferdinand Porsche. Set up in 1931 to provide engineering consultancy services, the firm’s first major contract came in the form of a brief from the German government to design a car for the people – a Volkswagen. Thus, the Beetle was born. Although it wasn’t until 1939 that Porsche completed the car acknowledged as its very first – the Type 64. By then an intriguing numbering system had become well-established in the company.
Founder Ferry Porsche sits on bonnet of red 356 B
Ferry’s Porsche: the pioneering founder of the company built the sports car of his dreams
This in-house method gave every project and order a consecutive number. By 1948, the numbers had reached 356, as well as a significant milestone – this was the first-ever number given to an automobile under the official brand name. And it didn’t stop there. The numbering system is still seen on Porsche vehicles of the modern day, including that most famous Porsche of all…911As business boomed at Porsche, the numbers rose until the successor to the 356 led Porsche to end its use of this custom typology. 1964 saw the ‘Type 901’ launch, making its debut at the Paris Motor Show. After the show, however, an unforeseen issue came to light as Peugeot laid claim to the legal rights of using three-digit numbers containing a zero in the middle. Already mid-launch, the opportunity to create a new number had passed. With a typical display of Porsche ingenuity – and the ‘1’ typeface had already been designed for the new model – a decision was made to rename the vehicle ‘911’, and a legend was born. With models such as the 924, 928 and 944 joining the 911 over the ensuing years, the three-digit figure starting with a ‘9’ has become synonymous with the sporting character of the Porsche brand.
Close-up rear view of emerald green Porsche 911
Three very special numbers: the one-millionth 911 made was this Irish Green Carrera S, inspired by the first 911 owned by Ferry Porsche himself
As business boomed at Porsche, the numbers rose until the successor to the 356 led Porsche to end its use of this custom typology. 1964 saw the ‘Type 901’ launch, making its debut at the Paris Motor Show. After the show, however, an unforeseen issue came to light as Peugeot laid claim to the legal rights of using three-digit numbers containing a zero in the middle. Already mid-launch, the opportunity to create a new number had passed. With a typical display of Porsche ingenuity – and the ‘1’ typeface had already been designed for the new model – a decision was made to rename the vehicle ‘911’, and a legend was born. With models such as the 924, 928 and 944 joining the 911 over the ensuing years, the three-digit figure starting with a ‘9’ has become synonymous with the sporting character of the Porsche brand.SpyderOriginating from a time before cars even existed, the term ‘spider’ or ‘spyder’ has become widely used by many manufacturers when referring to a roadster. Its journey to becoming associated with convertible cars dates back to the era of horse-drawn carriages in the 1800s, coming from a coach-making term to describe a two-person, lightweight open carriage. At Porsche, the term is assigned to its open, mid-engine sports cars. In 1953 – back when the original number-naming convention was still used – the legendary 550 Spyder dominated in racecar form, winning class victories at the likes of Le Mans and the Carrera Panamericana.718The 911 model range is not the only numbered model in today’s Porsche line-up, of course. The 718 range comprises of the Boxster, Cayman and, yes, the Spyder. Its significance harks back to the legendary 718 mid-engine, four-cylinder racecar that first made its appearance at the 1957 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nowadays, the 718 is a mid-engine roadster that take the sporting spirit of that racing icon and transfers it to the roads of today.Targa
View of Porsche 911 Targa S cockpit, roof down
The unmistakeable styling of the open-top 911 Targa is considered a timeless classic
Instantly recognisable through each of its eight generations since the first appearance of the Targa name in 1965, this open-top version of the 911 is characterised by its distinctive roll-over bar and innovative roof concept. The name was inspired by the legendary Sicilian road race, the Targa Florio. The Italian word Targa means ‘plaque’ or ‘plate’ in English.
The Carrera name is these days synonymous with the 911 model range
The Carrera name is these days synonymous with the 911 model range
CarreraOriginally the name of the Type 547 four-camshaft engine designed by Dr Ernst Fuhrmann, Porsche would eventually use the name Carrera to honour its more powerful engine versions – most notably, these days, in the 911 model series. The name Carrera (Spanish for ‘race’) ultimately commemorates the success of Porsche at the Carrera Panamericana – the famous border-to-border Mexican endurance race where Porsche achieved such great success with the 550 Spyder in the 1950s.Boxster
First Porsche Boxster in yellow parked beside Boxster 25 years edition
The ultimate Boxster bookends: a first generation model (top) and the Boxster 25 years edition
When Porsche presented the mid-engine Boxster concept study to the world in 1993 it became an instant crowd-pleaser, touching the hearts of sportscar fans from the outset with its pure roadster appearance. Its name is a portmanteau. The word Boxster derives from a merging of its Boxer engine type (so-called because each pair of pistons move in and out like a boxer’s gloves) and that punchy roadster design. This water-cooled, six-cylinder-engine car, with its internal Porsche designation of the 986, roared off the production line for the first time in 1996. It immediately set new benchmarks in performance and safety for the roadster segment. The Boxster retains a reputation to this day as the epitome of top-down driving fun.Cayenne This unmistakable SUV powerhouse packs intense performance and precise dynamics – in other words just the kind of vehicle deserving of a name with a bit of a kick to it. When the Cayenne debuted in 2002 it became, at the time, the third model in the Porsche product line-up alongside the 911 and the Boxster. The name itself derives from the piquant cayenne pepper – a bold and relevant choice for this intrepid traveller with a fiery nature.
Porsche Cayenne E1 in metallic orange parked besides the ocean
Named after a type of chilli pepper, with the launch of the Cayenne, Porsche spiced up the SUV market
CaymanThe Cayman boasts a name with real bite – its snappy title derives from the crocodile-like South American caiman. Powerful yet agile, when it launched in 2006 it joined the Boxster and 911 as another stand-out sportscar in the Porsche range. It now sits with the former of those two models under the 718 umbrella.PanameraIt’s fair to say that Porsche owes a great debt to the legacy of the Carrera Panamericana, however short lived the now infamous race was. Besides the Carrera name we now associate with the 911, it’s also from where the Panamera got its name. The race, which was held in its original form between 1950 and 1954, was about endurance, speed and reliability – attributes you could easily describe this car with. MacanWhen the Macan went on sale in 2015, people were immediately left scratching their heads about the provenance of the model’s name… unless you spoke Javanese, that is. The name comes from the language’s word for the Indonesian tiger and acknowledges the fierceness that lies beneath the car’s elegant exterior. The lively nature of the Macan is the reason why that today it’s universally considered the sportiest of compact SUVs.Taycan
Electric Porsche Taycan Cross Turismo drives along road next to sea
Soul: electrified. The Taycan character is true to its name, inside and out
When it was launched in 2019, the first all-electric Porsche warranted a name worthy of its electrifying qualities. The word Taycan derives from two terms of Turkic origin, translating approximately to “soul of a spirited young horse”. It’s a phrase that epitomises the personality of the electric Porsche – lively, vigorous, agile, free-spirited and tireless. The name also reflects both the brand’s roots and its future simultaneously, with the ‘horse’ reference reminiscent of the iconic silhouette on the Porsche crest itself. Even since its launch, the word has taken on further positive associations across other languages. In Japanese, for instance, ‘taikan’ roughly means ‘physical experience’ – something you won’t fail to agree with once sat behind the wheel of the Taycan.
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