Few cars lay claim to a more fervent fan base and following than the Porsche 911. Every time a new generation 911 breaks cover, each detail, no matter how minute, is pored over with incredible scrutiny by Porschephiles around the world. Of course, some detractors say the 911 hasn’t changed at all since 1963, to which the Neunelfer faithful will scoff.
The most significant change in Porsche 911 history, the switch from air-cooled engines to liquid cooled engines caused the largest divide in the camp and probably the most heated arguments when it comes to discussing which 911 holds the title of ‘Best in History.’ Volumes of books that would put Encyclopedia Britannica to shame could be written on the arguments, talking points and opinions that make a good case for any one model. Performance and handling is one thing — the constant development of technology will always drive that forward — but the design of the 911 is iconic, and when Porsche messes with it mobs grab their pitchforks and gather outside Stuttgart. No two 911s have caused a bigger upset than the 930 Flactbau (flat nose or slant nose, ’75-’89) and the 996 (’98-’04) with its ‘fried egg’ shaped headlights. The question is: which one is worse?
The argument recently cropped up in the office Slack channel after I put together an installment of my used-car gems shopping guide ‘Found‘ and the theme happened to be Porsche-centric. Now, I’m firmly in the camp that the 930 slant nose is a good-looking car. Slightly more controversial is that I prefer it to the regular, non-slant 930, with the iconic front fenders and round headlights — I’ve been yelled at before because of that opinion. But I’m not entirely alone. Our watch writer and self-professed “quirky car lover,” Andrew Connor, says, “it’s neat, but I prefer the regular 930. You have to lean into ’80s-ness for the slant nose to appreciate it though.” GP’s Photo Editor Henry Phillips is a little more clear-cut, saying the slant nose is “objectively not as pretty as a ‘normie’ 930.”
“Normies” aside, there’s a good reason the slant nose has a, well, slanted nose instead of the conventional Porsche design: racing and aerodynamic efficiency. In the ‘70s, Porsche engineer Norbert Singer found a loophole in the rulebook for sports car championships in which the 911 was taking part. As it turned out, significant modifications to the front fenders were allowed, and for the 934 race car this meant the front end could be flattened entirely. Vents cut into the top of the fender would decrease drag and increase downforce — two vitally important modifications if you’re interested in turning out quick laps at high speeds.
Through a ‘Special Order program’ at Porsche, beginning in 1981, customers could order their roadgoing 930s with the flat nose specification. Only 948 slant noses were ordered that way from the factory, though those low production numbers might be attributed to the $30,000-plus mark up for the in-house modification. Some owners went so far as to get the modification done by aftermarket means, but what is almost unheard of is an owneer doing the opposite: reverting a 930 slant nose to a “normie” 911 body style. I don’t think the disgust with the design was ever so strong that customers resorted to “fixing” it in such a way. For that specific behevaior — retrofitting parts to a new 911 design — you have to look to the 996 and its infamous ‘fried egg’ shaped headlights.
Not only does the 996 generation mark the end of the air-cooled 911 engine (the planets were not aligning in the 996’s favor), but Porsche designers decided to make a drastic change to the 911’s iconic headlights as well. The resulting shape became the literal and figurative face of the most hated 911 of all, a sentiment that may be the one thing the majority of Porsche fans can agree on. Associate editor Nick Caruso agreed, quipping “a couple beat up Maglites are slightly more preferable than 996 headlights.” But, unlike the slant nose, there are aftermarket kits to get rid of the un-Porsche amorphous blob headlights. Granted, most of those kits look awful and cheap, like they came off the back shelf at Pep Boys. Plastic pieces block out the majority of the headlight, giving the appearence of a round headlight. As if the driver couldn’t stand making pedestrians stare at the awkward projectors anymore.
After some digging, I found there a couple of custom shops out there that make a ‘Slant Nose’ kit for the 996, completely negating the spilled yolk-look altogether. And I don’t know if it’s because I’m a fan of the flactbau style or if the 996’s curves and silhouette lend themselves to the steeper profile, but a slant nose 996 is a damn-good-looking car. Which settles it — the only way to make the most controversial 911 better looking is to turn it into the second-most controversial 911.