What's Wrong With This Picture: The Car That Dare Not Badge Its Name Edition

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth

Any Nineties-era German car fanatic worth his “D” sticker knows how to remove badging from the back of a car. Here’s a helpful link in case you don’t remember. A few minutes of one’s time can turn a BMW 323i or Mercedes S430 into a mysterious Autobahn machine of unknown potential puissance. Most of the time, it’s a visual improvement. There’s something nice about tidying-up one’s rear end. Ask Jessica Gottlieb if you don’t believe me.

It’s possible that the photograph above does not reflect what the Porsche “991” will actually look like in production. It could be Photoshop. It could be a guy in marketing having a laugh. It could have been a minor glitch in the prototype-production line that caused some machine to simply vomit a pound of chromey-plastic letters onto that car’s ass, and it could be pure chance that the aforementioned pound of garbage just happens to spell out “P O R S C H E 911 Carrera S”.

Don’t bet on it. Porsche clearly wants their letter-vomiting machine to spray every new 911 with a fine-mist alpha-numeric jumble, and I’ll tell you why.

Here’s a trivia question you can spring on your friends: Name a car with no visible model designation inside or out. We aren’t counting EPA/DOT stickers or individual parts labels, of course. One sure answer to that question is the Porsche 911. A few “anniversary cars” a few years back had chromed “911” badges on the decklid, but the last regular-production 911 to feature an actual 911 badge was the 1983 Porsche 911SC. That was twenty-eight years ago, just in case you were allowed to bring a calculator to the SAT or something.

The 911’s lack of badging was a subtle demonstration of both Porsche’s taste and the almost inestimably iconic power of F.A. “Butzi” Porsche’s original design. It sent a message that was both snobbish — if you don’t know what this car is, we do not care to inform you — and friendly — come on, it’s a 911, you know that, we won’t waste your time by putting a label on the thing. It was also a tacit reflection of the fact that the 911 was the core Porsche. The 944 and Boxster/Cayman have always carried specific badging, as have the Cayenne and Panamera. They may be Porsches, but the 911 is Porsche.

No longer, alas. The horrifying Panamera is Porsche’s core car now, offending environmentalists, aesthetes, and air-cooled owners in equal measure as its hippo-assed, Roadmaster-wide, fish-faced, trucky-rooted platform crawls with Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue traffic. The Panamera is such a Ipecacian* icthyosaur that Porsche had to reach all the way into its retro bag of tricks and slather pre-1973 chrome-letter “P O R S C H E” letters on its distended rear in the hopes that one out of every fifty buyers will be, not a bond trader or California real estate agent, but an actual former owner of a short-wheelbase 911 who is feeling both hopelessly nostaglic for his old car and too painfully gout-ridden to drive any vehicle that doesn’t share a hip point with the Volkswagen Touraeg. I’ll admit, even I find myself occasionally watching some repugnant double-handshaker weaving down the center lane in one and thinking, “You know, it isn’t that bad, IT HAS CHROME LETTERS LIKE A SIXTY-EIGHT.” The only safe way out of this delusionary trance is to either drive my 993 or, if said 993 is not available due to travel, driveway blockage, or inter-galactically expensive servicing, heat up some Mobil 1 in the microwave and sniff it a bit.

Porsche’s decision to reverse thirty-eight years of tradition and badge the 911 has to be a response to the success of its non-sporting vehicles. (Yes, I’ve driven a Panamera Turbo on a racetrack. Yes, it’s fast. So is a Southwest Airlines 737. What’s your point?) Demeaning the decklid with those three sacred numbers accomplishes a few things:

  • It reminds customers that the 911 actually exists. In an era where the Leipzig sewers discharge Panameras at a rate of something like six or seven to one 911, that’s probably necessary.
  • It plainly informs the blind, the stupid, and the tragically car-unconscious that one is not driving a Panamera. Imagine, for example, falling in love with a female friend of a friend, and having the girl ask your friend what you drive. “I think it’s a Porsche, don’t know what kind.” One upon a time, the worst association this could conjure up would be with an automatic-transmission 924, but it is now possible, in this situation, that you could be thought to be a Panamera 4 V-6 owner. If your entire body twitched upon completing the last sentence, you have an idea of why you might want a “911” badge on the back of your car. In fact, I may have to buy one myself in the aftermarket.
  • It provides a visual point of differentiation between the 997 and 991, if that’s necessary, and for some people it may be.

I’m sure the company has other reasons, and only time will tell if they are good reasons, like the reason for getting rid of the magnesium 2.7, or bad reasons, like the reason for putting fruit-fly-lifespan engines in nearly every sports car they made from 1998 to 2008. Regardless, there’s only one decent thing to do. The order form for your new Nine Eleven will, if it follows the practice Porsche has adopted for over a decade, have a box labeled “Badge Delete”. It’s a no-cost option, because not even Porsche can bring itself to charge you money not to put a badge on.

Check that box.

* From “Ipecac”, the famous syrup. An invention of the author.

Jack Baruth
Jack Baruth

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  • Sportyaccordy Sportyaccordy on Aug 20, 2011

    I think it is somewhat of a good thing that Porsches are known for more than 911s. The Panamera/Cayenne are abominations, but they enable all the 911 variations that should have been Caymen/Boxsters. Plus let's be honest, Porsches, like any expensive sports cars, have attracted their fair share of douchebags... they are in the business of making money... so why not cash in on the stupidity of people willing to buy double priced Touaregs to have a Porsche badge without the "hassles" of driving a sports car? I don't blame them one bit.

  • Slow kills Slow kills on Aug 21, 2011

    So double-handshaker is reference to paddle-shifters?

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.