By Michael Hines

Porsche recently announced a milestone in its history: the millionth Porsche 911 just rolled off the production line.

The millionth 911 is a Carrera S, and is finished in a special shade of paint dubbed “Irish Green.” In addition to the special paint job, there’s a small numbered badge that lets everyone know just how special this 911 is.

Porsche says that the one-off celebratory 911 has numerous “exclusive features following the original 911 from 1963.” What those features are remains to be seen, as the German automaker didn’t go into specifics. One big thing could be an air-cooled flat-six. Since 1998, all 911s have been water-cooled, but if Porsche really wants to pay tribute to the first version of the car, this would be a cool way to do it. That’d be a tall order, though. Instead, expect the millionth 911 to have a retro cabin filled with wood (including the steering wheel), analog gauges, and of course, a stick sticking out somewhere from the floor.

Porsche said the millionth 911 would not be going on sale. Instead, it will take a worldwide road trip. Announced stops include the U.S., China, Scottish Highlands, and the Nurburgring. After the road trip is over, the millionth 911 will head to the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Porsche museum

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In announcing the millionth 911, Porsche gave a few reasons for the model’s longevity and lasting appeal. First and foremost, the automaker cited the overall quality of its cars. The company says that over 70 percent of all Porsches ever built are still road-worthy today. As far as the 911 goes, the sports car makes routine appearances on industry quality lists. But perhaps the biggest reason for the success of Porsche’s most iconic model is its motorsports pedigree. Porsche says that over half of its 30,000-plus wins in racing can be attributed to the 911. That’s not even counting the races won by private teams fielding the car either.

Another reason for the lasting appeal of the 911 is Porsche’s ability to mix technical innovation with nostalgia.

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Oliver Blume, CEO of Porsche, said, “We have continued to enhance the technology of the 911, refining and perfecting the sports car. That’s why it remains a state-of-the-art and technically innovative vehicle. We have also been able to expand the model line very successfully through derivatives.”

That last part, the bit about derivatives, has played a big role in the 911’s success. Porsche knows that its customers appreciate nostalgia, which is why it held off on water-cooled engines for 35 years and has kept the iconic flat-six engine sitting squarely in the rear of the car. However, the automaker isn’t afraid to expand the 911 lineup as the times change. All-wheel drive, turbocharging, convertibles, targa tops, performance models — the 911 has always offered something for everyone.

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Today, there are 20 different 911 variants on sale in the U.S. This willingness to expand the lineup is part of the reason why the 911 has been such a sales hit. Porsche sold 32,365 of them worldwide last year, a new record.

This sales boom may not continue, though. The U.S. market accounted for 27 percent of 911 sales in 2016. 2016 was also the third straight year where sales declined stateside, dropping from 9,898 in 2015 to 8,900 last year. If the 911 is to continue breaking sales records it’ll be China, where Porsche’s overall sales rose 12 percent in 2016, that’ll do the heavy lifting.

Looking ahead it’s easy to imagine the 911 celebrating its 100th birthday in 2063. Before that time, expect the icon to do what it’s always done: adapt to the times while staying true to its roots and offering a dynamic driving experience. That means a hybrid version sooner than later, although Porsche isn’t ready to go down that route just yet. It also means an all-electric 911 is inevitable at some point. Sacrilegious thoughts, yes, but Porsche deserves the benefit of the doubt here. Those eco-friendly 911s will be just as awesome as the ones before them.

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