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The Porsche 911, like the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Corvette, has pulled off the neat trick of remaining thoroughly modern yet utterly timeless. The latest models look a lot like the car that rolled into the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1963, making it instantly recognizable even to people with no interest in cars.

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You could fill a small library with the books written about the venerable sports car from Stuttgart, and the newest is Porsche 911: The Ultimate Sportscar as Culture Icon by the almost perfectly named Ulf Poschardt. It details, in beautiful detail, the evolution of the 911.

The car’s iconic status belies its humble origins with the VW Beetle, which Ferdinand Porsche designed. The Beetle begat the Porsche 956, which Poschardt describes as a “functionalist manifesto.” It emphasized aerodynamics, minimal weight, and practicality—characteristics his grandson, Ferdinand “Butzi” Porsche, emphasized when he set out to build a more comfortable, more powerful vehicle. That car, the 911, featured two doors, four seats, and a roof that sloped from the windshield to the taillights, nearly covering the engine out back.

The 911 didn’t get much attention at the Frankfurt Motor Show, according to Poschardt, but the design proved a winner. The details have changed in the five decades since, but the fundamental lines are just as beautiful today as they were then.

See the full (and beautiful) slide show at Wired

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