"Water Pumper" is the derisive term coined by 911 enthusiasts back in the late '70s when Porsche first tried its hand with water-cooled production engines. Front-engine cars such as the 924, 944 and 928 had their moments, but they never became legends like the 911.
Little did the 911 devotees realize that the day would come when their beloved air-cooled, rear-engine coupes would also sprout radiators and water pumps. After all, several of Porsche's own racecars were water-cooled and eventually that technology trickled down to the forward-looking 959 road car.
That day came for the 911 in late 1997 when the Type 996 coupe made its debut in Germany as a 1998 model. For the U.S. it was spring 1998, when the 996 was unveiled as a 1999 model.
In addition to its new water-cooled engine, the 996 also created some controversy, with a front end shared with the entry-level Boxster and a series of engine problems, some of which took a few years to sort out. It gave the air-cooled crowd some "we told you so" solace.
But the secret to the 911's longevity for almost five decades is its evolutionary adaptability. Porsche made the changes necessary to upgrade the styling, engineering and material quality to improve the 996 over its lifespan. And by the time the 997 debuted in 2005 with a muscular look that harkened back to its air-cooled days, even the hard-core had to admit that the latest 911 is indeed the best 911 to roll out of Zuffenhausen.
See for yourself in our gallery of the water-cooled Porsche 911.