Porsche 901 was the name originally intended for the Porsche 911.
At the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (Frankfurt Motor Show) in Frankfurt in September 1963, Porsche presented its successor to the Porsche 356 as the 901. It took several more months until the cars were manufactured for sale to customers. Between 14 September and 16 November 1964, 82 cars were built and the 901 was presented in October at the 1964 Paris Auto Salon. There, French car maker Peugeot objected to Porsche using any three digit number where the middle number was 0, asserting ownership of the naming rights in key markets, and having already sold many models with that scheme.
So, Porsche simply replaced the middle 0 with a 1, and called the car Porsche 911. Officially the 901s already constructed were used for testing and for exhibitions, and Porsche sold none to private customers. Nevertheless, several of the cars retained by Porsche at that time appear to have made it to private ownership subsequently: in 2010 it was reported that car number 37 was owned by a Porsche specialist named Alois Ruf.
Also, other Porsche models were affected, which were primarily intended for racing but also sold as road legal cars. Here, Porsche kept the internal part number of 90x, but sold the car with a name, like
Porsche enthusiasts continue to refer to these cars by their three digit design numbers.
Later, Porsche introduced pure racing cars which were not sold for road use, so not competing with any road-going Peugeot. These carried the design numbers
Additionally, the 901 number is used among Porsche enthusiasts as shorthand to identify the aluminum 5-Speed transmission used in early 911s, the part number for these transmissions used an 11 digit code that began with 901 as did many other parts on the early cars. Later 911s from 1969 used a different magnesium case and a part number beginning with 911.
- "Nachtschicht im Schloss: A report on a concours d'elegance at Schloss Bensberg". Auto Motor u. Sport. Heft 25 2010: Seite 27. date 18 November 2010.