Porsche 901 to 911

From 901 to 911, the real reasons for the name change of the most famous Porsche

Although the official excuse continues to be that Peugeot had registered numerical denominations with a 0 in the center, there are numerous examples that refute this. To find the real reason, we must look to the United States.

1963 In September, the Porsche 901 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, name inherited from the internal development number. Designed by Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche, it was in charge of replacing the already veteran 356. Series production of the car began just a year later, in September 1964, although sales did not begin until November. Curiously, almost immediately, the name went from 901 to 911.

Officially, and this is how it continues to be maintained by the Stuttgart brand, The reason was a claim from Peugeot after being displayed on Porsche 901 at the Paris Motor Show in October 1964. In theory, the lion brand had secured the rights to all the numbers with a “0” in the middle to name their models. For example, at that time, I had 403s for sale and 404 and in 1965 he would launch his 204.

Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche with his creation, the Porsche 901, later 911.
Ferdinand Alexander “Butzi” Porsche with his creation, the Porsche 901, later 911.

Without a doubt, the excuse used by Porsche to change the name from 901 to 911 seems to have a solid basis. Or not, because, as we will see below, several brands used numbers with a “0” in the middle before and after to name their cars, both on the street and in competition… Including Porsche itself. Not to mention that Peugeot never sold a car named after the 900, numbers that he only used in competition (905 and 908) from 1990 onwards…


Starting with the Stuttgart brand, in competition it used a whole series of nomenclatures that should have been vetoed by Peugeot. We are talking about models like the 804, 904, 906, 907, 908 and 909, that is, it was not an exception, but the norm for the brand in racing cars. Curiously, there was no complaint from Sochaux.

We can argue that, since these are competition prototypes, Peugeot turned a blind eye, but of course, there are more examples. The British Bristol also named several of its cars that way. street between 1948 and 1982. It marketed models with denominations 401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408 and 409. To top it off, it also put its 603 on the market. Bristol used the 401 and 402 which Peugeot had already used in the 30s, in the same way that the French later did not hesitate to call their vehicles after some Bristols (404, 405, 406, 407…).

In the 50 years, BMW He also employed a numerology for his models that Peugeot could well have claimed. We are obviously referring to the 501, 502, 503 and the convertible 507. Are more examples needed? We are going to Italy to find the following courtesy of Ferrari, which between the 60s and 80s also used the “0” in the middle to call several sports cars. Starting with the Dino 206, 208 and 308 and the Ferraris 308 and 208, the latter only for the Italian market. There were even the 308 GT Rainbow prototypes or 408 4RM. Thus, it seems clear that the name change from Porsche 901 to 911 must respond to another reason.


As we have already mentioned at the beginning of this article, to find the real reason for the name change of the most important Porsche of history we have to look to the other side of the Atlantic. And who was there, in the United States? Nothing less than the first importer of the brand for the Yankee country, Maximilian Edwin Hoffman.

When we talk about Max Hoffman we talk about a genius. The American importer was key in the birth of models like the Porsche 356 Speedster, BMW 507 that we mentioned previously or the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL. He had a special nose for detecting new market niches or devise models that will work very well in the United States market, then of capital importance for European luxury and sports brands. There is a theory that implicates him in the name change from Porsche 901 to 911.

Hoffman would have recommended that the Stuttgart brand rename its recently launched sports car. Under his discretion, 901 or "nine-o-one” didn't sound particularly good, so he suggested a name change to 911, or what is the same, “nine eleven". There is no doubt that this name was more musical and sonorous and even catchy. This theory makes perfect sense, since the German firm took Hoffman's opinion very seriously. Be that as it may, After just 82 units produced, the Porsche 901 became the 911. The rest is history.

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Written by Ivan Vicario Martin

I am lucky to have turned my passion into my way of earning a living. Since I left the Faculty of Information Sciences in 2004, I have been professionally dedicated to motor journalism. I started in the magazine Coches Clásicos in its beginnings, going on to direct it in 2012, the year in which I also took charge of Clásicos Populares. Throughout these almost two decades of my professional career, I have worked in all types of media, including magazines, radio, the web and television, always in formats and programs related to the engine. I am crazy about the classics, Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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