They might look like area codes, but Porsche’s numbering system has more meaning than that.
Porsche is known for its iconic sports cars, all designated with three-digit numbers. From the 911 to the 918, to the 914, to the 944, to the 718, to the 356, and so many more, it can start to get confusing which Porsche is which, let alone what the numbers might mean. This guide will help you understand the origin and system of Porsche’s nomenclature, and in doing so, Porsche’s history and heritage will be unlocked and explored.
It starts with the Porsche that started the brand: the 356. In his design house, Ferdinand Porsche had been giving consecutive numbers to each order he fulfilled, starting with 7 in 1931. In 1948, that number had come up to 356, and the car with that number was the first Porsche to be given the Porsche brand name. The iconic, mid-engined Porsche 550 came soon after in 1953. By the time Porsche had gotten to 900, the numbers 901 and 902 were designated for the six-cylinder and four-cylinder versions of a new sports car respectively. But Porsche ran into a problem: Peugeot had a naming system that also used three-digit numbers and already used the numbers Porsche wanted to, so Porsche had to come up with a quick solution. With the typeface for the “1” in 901 already created, they simply printed the letter twice on the brochure and other printed material. And thus the name of the new Porsche came about in 1964: 911.
After that came the 914, the 924, 928, and then the 944. Eventually, numbers starting with 9 became a major staple for Porsche. With there being only a limited number of three-digit numbers that start with 9, Porsche started to take a different approach, which is what we see in the brand today. While the 911 will still get an internal code, which was the system that caused the 911 name to be made in the first place, it will still be called a 911 in the market, hence the 964, 993, 996, and 997 generations of the 911, for example. The Carrera GT became the 980, the Boxster became the 986, and even the Cayenne, with a 955 internal code, received an internal code. So next time you wonder where the three-digit numbers on your Porsche come from, know that the name on your 911 has 91 years of history behind it.