I recently had the chance to drive the 2011 Porsche 911 Speedster, which is a rather unusual vehicle. Actually, "unusual" is putting it lightly. The 911 Speedster is downright weird, and it’s even weirder now that really pristine used examples are selling for something like $300,000.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here, because I want to provide a little background on the 911 Speedster. Back in the 1950s, Porsche came out with a sleeker, open-roofed version of the 356 called the Speedster, with a lower windshield, designed for open-top cruising. Porsche followed this up in the 1980s with the first 911 Speedster, and then in the 1990s with a second 911 Speedster. Although Porsche skipped several generations of "911 Speedster," Porsche revived it for 2011. The 2011 911 Speedster is a 997 model, limited to just 356 units worldwide and offered with a 408-horsepower version of the flat-six in the Carrera S. It’s the rarest "997" Porsche 911. It’s also the one you’ve probably forgotten about.
I say this because the 997 Speedster came from an era where Porsche was building GT3s, GT3RSs, the GT3RS 4.0 and the GT2RS. Porsche was about to unveil a new 911, so nobody really remembers the Speedster. But it was quirky, weird and very rare. And I drove one at CNC Motors in Southern California, which is precisely the kind of place to have such a vehicle, largely because they have basically every exotic car known to man.
I’ll start with the driving experience: it’s great. The 997 Speedster drives wonderfully, and it feels like the perfect combination of luxury and sport, and performance and utility. But this same statement could be made about basically every 997 GTS, which is pretty much what the Speedster is: A 997 GTS, which was an end-of-the-run model for the 997 generation. Except there’s one big difference: the roof.
Like previous 911 Speedster models, the 997 Speedster was designed to be used with the roof off, driving along in the California sun. There’s a top, but it’s truly atrocious: A button in the center console raises the lid over the top, then you have to do the rest yourself, which involves getting out of the car and requesting the help of another person, since you must handle two latches at once. When you get to the windshield, you have to latch it in place yourself. On a $300,000 vehicle.
With that said, the 997 Speedster wasn’t always a $300,000 vehicle: Back in 2011, it cost around $150,000, and something like 100 of them came to the United States. But like with all recent Porsche models, rare ones have seen a boost in value, and the Speedster has been included in that hike. They’re now highly sought-after, like other Speedster models.
And, frankly, they should be. The 997 Speedster may be weird, but it’s rare, and it’s certainly cool — and even though you could only get it with a PDK automatic transmission, it’s still a joy to cruise around in, top-down on a summer day, knowing that your 911 is just a little more special than the 911 owned by every other person in town. That is, until the rain starts to fall, and you’re stuck trying to figure out how to stick that top into place. Then, in that moment, you might wish you weren’t one of the "lucky" 356.